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Wednesday, November 13, 2019

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Councilman wants answers to blighted property problem

Councilman wants answers to blighted property problem

At Tuesday’s Lafourche Parish Council public meeting, Councilman Daniel Lorraine again wanted answers about abandoned houses, tall grass, and derelict structures on several streets in the 10th Ward.

Lorraine was particularly upset about the amount of time it takes legally to clean up or demolish abandoned structures or unimproved properties and the costs encumbered by the parish in the meantime.

According to Lorraine and parish attorney Henry Lafont, there are 100 such properties across the parish, which have cost Lafourche over $600,000 to date.

“It takes too long to get something done,” he said.

In reference to one abandoned structure at Safari Heights Road in Galliano, Lorraine noted that grass around the house has been cut several times by the parish’s Department of Public Works.

“The grass was cut in November, now cut again, and in three months this will happen again.  It’s always the same people, the same thing,” Lorraine said.

On April 23 this year, the Council passed a resolution to demolish this structure.

“We followed protocol, but it’s still there,” said Lorraine, noting that equipment was in place to tear down the house but the work was blocked at the last minute by the legal maneuvers.

Public Works Director Jerome Danos presented a series of pictures showing his department’s cleanup of the house in Safari Heights, and also at sites on East 148th St., West 177th St., and at a burned house below the town of Golden Meadow on Hwy. 1.

Attorney Henry Lafont was called by parish administration to address the issue and what remedies are possible.

The solution, said Lafont, is to add all parish costs to the ad valorem tax on the property.   Essentially, the landowner or anyone who buys the property would be required to reimburse the parish for those costs.

“Although we don’t have the process in place yet, by the time the next tax call comes out, we will have the mechanism to add the parish’s costs to valorem taxes for those properties,” he said.

Lafont said that all parties involved in this matter--the parish assessor, the sheriff, the legal advisor, and parish administration--must iron out the details of the process in order to avoid problems.

Lafont advised Lorraine and the Council to have patience. “Give it time. The system is not in place, but it will be soon,” he said.

In other action, the Council unanimously approved an Act of Sale between Lafourche Parish and the state’s Department of Transportation and Development for the purchase of property for the Leeville Public Boat Launch - the last piece of the puzzle in making the launch a reality.