The city of Lafayette has withdrawn its opposition to a lawsuit filed by citizens who object to the way five new economic development districts were created in December.
"The administration is not going to defend these taxing districts," Jamie Angelle, Lafayette Consolidated Government chief communications officer, said Tuesday. "The mayor-president was never in support of these districts and is not going to impede the people's right to follow through with action" against something that denies citizens the right to vote.
In December, the former City-Parish Council, at its final meeting before being replaced by separate city and parish councils, adopted ordinance to create five new economic development districts in Lafayette.
The districts were supported by former Lafayette Parish Mayor-President Joel Robideaux. Current Mayor-President Josh Guillory, who replaced Robideaux in January, opposed the districts in part because the districts' boards can impose sales and hotel taxes without a vote of the people. City Council members sit as the economic development districts' boards, but not as the council.
In December, six citizens filed a legal challenge to the way ordinances were introduced and adopted, claiming officials did not provide sufficient notification to residents.
Assistant City-Parish Attorney Mike Hebert in February filed a motion asking the judge for a summary judgment, arguing the lawsuit had no merit because it cited a state statute for public notification requirements instead of the Lafayette Parish Home Rule Charter. In April, Hebert withdrew the motion on behalf of Guillory.
The city's withdrawal leaves the Downtown Development Authority the only entity currently defending against the lawsuit. The authority joined the city in March in seeking a summary judgment and dismissal of the citizens' lawsuit.
The economic development district boards signed partnership agreements with third-party entities of the five districts, including the Downtown Development Authority, and voted to collect additional sales and hotel occupancy taxes in those districts.
The money collected in each district is to be used for economic development in that specific district with investments to be determined by the district board.