Idle Lafayette School Board land could be leased soon

Advocate staff photo by BRYAN TUCKThe Lafayette Parish school system is seeking a tenant for its Section 16 property along the high-traffic area of Ambassador Caffery and Ridge Road after the lot has been vacant since 2007. Included in the lot is a former gas station.
Advocate staff photo by BRYAN TUCKThe Lafayette Parish school system is seeking a tenant for its Section 16 property along the high-traffic area of Ambassador Caffery and Ridge Road after the lot has been vacant since 2007. Included in the lot is a former gas station.

— Lafayette Parish School Board-owned property along Ambassador Caffery Parkway may soon provide more revenue for the district after sitting idle for the past six years because of environmental concerns.

The School Board is accepting proposals for new tenants’ plans for the property, which includes an existing storefront once used as a gas station convenience store and an adjacent acre of undeveloped property. The School Board will review the bid finalists in June and it could award the lease by July, according to the school district’s timeline.

The property at the corner of Ambassador Caffery and Ridge Road was last used as a gas station, bringing in about $6,700 a month to the district, said Matt Dugas, district finance director.

A pending assessment from the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality led to a delay in finding a new tenant for the property, Dugas said.

A leak in a pipe that led from an underground storage gas tank to a gas pump led to a clean-up in the site. However, problems stemming from miscommunication between the tenant, sublease holder and School Board led to an initial site clean-up that only met “industrial standards,” and not standards set in the lease agreement, Dugas explained.

“We finally got the DEQ to give us clearance,” he said. “They’ve come to the conclusion finally that it is without deed restriction — which is what we wanted them to tell us, so basically, anyone who locates on there will not have an issue. There is no recordable evidence to worry about at this point. We couldn’t lease the property not knowing the status of the environmental issue.”

The building used for the store is still on the property and an open houses for interested tenants are scheduled April 8 and April 15, he said.

The School Board also owns adjacent property on Ambassador Caffery where two restaurants, Arby’s and Logan’s Steakhouse, operate. Those leases produce about $100,000 annually for the district, Dugas said.

In total, the School Board owns seven different Section 16 properties in Lafayette Parish, which includes some land in St. Martin Parish. Some of the property is leased for sugarcane and rice farming. Charles Burke Elementary in Duson sits on Section 16 property, while the remaining acreage in the area is used for farming, he said.

About 36 acres in St. Martin Parish is used for shooting ranges used by the Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Office and the Lafayette Police Department, Dugas said.

Last year, the board’s Section 16 property contributed $302,000 to the general fund.

Proposals must be received by May 8 and the board could hear from bid finalists at its first meeting in June with a decision on a lease award made in July.