West Feliciana to consider ferry landing settlement

Possibly ending protracted litigation between West Feliciana Parish and the family of Councilman Ricky Lambert, the council tonight will consider a proposed settlement in the dispute about use of land bordering the former St. Francisville ferry landing.

The Lamberts filed a lawsuit against the parish in December 2012 about the property along La. 10. The parish had built a concrete slab at the end of the road, which was meant to serve as a public boat launch.

The settlement was negotiated between Parish President Kevin Couhig and the Lambert family, according to a recent story in The St. Francisville Democrat. Documents posted on the parish’s website show that the parish would claim about seven acres bordering the Mississippi River under the deal, while the Lambert family would get almost 70 acres.

Exactly who could rightfully claim the property has been a matter of fervent contention. Councilwoman Lea Williams said she disagrees with the proposed settlement, which she characterized in a phone interview as severely restricting the public’s access to recreational areas they have always used, especially along Bayou Sara.

Williams said the land was given to the parish by the state after the John James Audubon Bridge opened and the ferry closed. But she noted that the parish had paid $1,000 a month to the Lamberts to lease some of the land since 1998 — saying she wanted the parish to get that money back as the property actually belonged to the state.

The tension between the Lamberts and the parish escalated in 2012, when the family put up concrete barricades on a parking lot that the parish attempted to remove.

“They prevented people from being able to use the property as they have been using for hundreds of years,” Williams said.

But in a presentation on the parish website, Couhig underscored that the parish has spent $300,000 on the lawsuit. He also wrote that the issue is about “possession” of the property, not ownership of the land.

The lawsuit filed by the Lambert Gravel Company argued that the company and the family have “exercised uninterrupted, continuous, peaceful, public, and unequivocal possession over the property since at least 1960.”

The Parish Council meeting starts at 5:30 p.m. on the second floor of the Courthouse Annex at 4785 Prosperity Street in St. Francisville.