Legislator works to revive redevelopment group

State Rep. Vincent Pierre, D-Lafayette, is sponsoring a measure in the upcoming legislative session to revive a dormant group that would focus on redeveloping north Lafayette.

A companion piece of legislation would set the stage for a tax on vehicle rentals to support the North Lafayette Redevelopment Authority, but the tax would need voter approval.

Pierre said Wednesday he envisions the authority as a “one-stop shop” that would work with local government and nonprofit groups to address a wide range of issues, including economic development, blight and crime.

Lafayette City-Parish Councilman Kenneth Boudreaux, who represents the area, said he is well aware of the problems but questioned how involved the Legislature should be in working toward a solution.

Boudreaux said he has not taken a stance on Pierre’s proposal but believes “this is a local issue, and I think the charge needs to be led by the local government.”

The North Lafayette Redevelopment Authority was created in 2008 through legislation sponsored by former State Sen. Don Cravins Jr.

Cravins stepped down from his seat in 2009 to take a job in Washington, D.C., and the authority, although approved by the Legislature, never took shape.

Pierre’s proposed legislation would essentially revive the authority with some changes in who has the authority to appoint the board members who would oversee the group.

Pierre characterized north Lafayette as the “front yard” of the city and said more attention needs to be given to its appearance and the quality of life of the residents .

“How would you like your front yard to look at home?” he said.

Pierre said he decided to push the redevelopment authority idea because it seems little has been done to address such issues as abandoned property, empty storefronts and abandoned cars.

Boudreaux said city-parish government has stepped up efforts to address those issues through his own “Operation Blight Out” initiative.

“I don’t know if representative Pierre was fully aware of what we were doing,” Boudreaux said.

The North Lafayette Redevelopment Authority would be overseen by an appointed board of 11 members and have the power to levy taxes, hire staff, and buy and sell property for redevelopment projects.

The authority would work in an area made up of City-Parish Council districts 3 and 4, which take in most of the northern portions of the city of Lafayette.

A separate bill that Pierre is sponsoring in the upcoming session sets the framework for a tax on automobile rentals in Lafayette Parish of up to 3 percent of the gross rental proceeds with an exception for vehicles rented by people whose cars are being repaired or serviced.

The bill proposes that the proceeds would be dedicated to the North Lafayette Redevelopment Authority.

Pierre said he is uncertain at this time how much revenue the rental tax would generate.