Two owners seeking damages in Rouzan servitude dispute

Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- A road adjacent to the Creekside Neighborhood area of the Rouzan development leads to homes of two property owners who want unspecified amounts of money for the alleged improper taking of their 30-foot-wide servitude to Glasgow Avenue.
Advocate staff photo by TRAVIS SPRADLING -- A road adjacent to the Creekside Neighborhood area of the Rouzan development leads to homes of two property owners who want unspecified amounts of money for the alleged improper taking of their 30-foot-wide servitude to Glasgow Avenue.

30-foot-wide servitude at center of disagreement

A pair of unhappy homeowners in the middle of the Rouzan tract in Baton Rouge continue to win court judgments against the development and the Metro Council.

Developer J.T. “Tommy” Spinosa continues his efforts to attract buyers for single-family homes, multifamily lots and commercial projects in the development adjacent to Southdowns, south of Glasgow Avenue and west of Perkins Road.

However, veterinarian Bob Welch and Danny Hoover, agriculture manager for the Louisiana Department of Corrections, want unspecified amounts of money from both the Metro Council and Spinosa’s 2590 Associates for the alleged improper taking and obstruction of their court-filed, 30-foot-wide servitude to Glasgow.

Welch and Hoover hold both a Feb. 26 decision by the 1st Circuit Court of Appeal and a May 30 denial by the Louisiana Supreme Court of 2590’s request for reversal of the 1st Circuit in the six-year-old case.

But Assistant Parish Attorney Lea Anne Batson said Tuesday that neither the 1st Circuit decision nor the Supreme Court refusal to overturn it should affect the Metro Council.

Spinosa and one of his firm’s attorneys did not reply to requests for comment Tuesday.

Rouzan Marketing Director Kelly D. Vastine did not address questions about the disputed servitude, but emailed a comment in which she suggested Alex St. Amant, the attorney for Hoover and Welch, is using the court suit “to abuse the judicial system for his own personal gain, gaining more press as the ‘giant slayer.’ ”

Vastine said Spinosa’s goal “is to create a place for the people of Baton Rouge to benefit from and enjoy.”

In February, Circuit Judges John T. Pettigrew, J. Michael McDonald and James E. Kuhn ruled the Metro Council had wrongly granted Spinosa’s firm a change in zoning from A-1 single-family residential to traditional neighborhood development.

The 1st Circuit panel concluded TND rules required Spinosa to own or control all 124 acres in the tract, including the five acres surrounding the Hoover and Welch residences.

Added Pettigrew, McDonald and Kuhn: “We find the existent (30-foot-wide) servitude of passage prevents 2590 Associates from having the complete, unified, and legal control necessary for compliance with the (Unified Development Code).”

Hoover and Welch have long complained that their servitude to Glasgow was wrongly taken over, damaged and permanently obstructed by 2590.

Through an amended petition filed Monday by St. Amant with state District Judge Wilson Fields, Hoover and Welch seek money from both the Metro Council and 2590 for restoration of their servitude. They also seek removal of all structures, including a townhome, from that servitude.

Welch added, through St. Amant, the Rouzan project resulted in his loss of “hundreds of yards of natural gas pipe.”

St. Amant noted in the court filing: “Bob Welch was without natural gas supply for 14 months.”

Welch and Hoover are asking Fields for an injunction that would prohibit the Metro Council from issuing 2590 “a permit to construct anything” in Rouzan that is not in compliance with A-1 zoning.

In an email Tuesday, Batson noted the Metro Council took action after the 1st Circuit decision.

That action enabled Spinosa’s firm to omit the acreage owned by Welch and Hoover from the Rouzan development.

“So, the (Supreme Court) denial is of no consequence at this point,” Batson said.

The Metro Council changes in TND rules did not, however, address the issue of the Hoover-Welch servitude that now is blocked.

Said Batson: “With regard to the supplemental petition (by Hoover and Welch), the Council cannot ‘take’ a servitude by virtue of the approval of a re-zoning application.”

Batson also said, “Any claim (Welch and Hoover) may have for damages due to interference with the servitude is an issue between them and 2590.”