Proposed public vote on red-light cameras blocked
LAFAYETTE — The City-Parish Council on Tuesday moved forward a proposal to pay $5.8 million to the University of Louisiana at Lafayette for the 100-acre Horse Farm, a large undeveloped tract on Johnston Street set to be transformed into a park at the heart of the city.
“Great cities have great parks, and we are about to take an important step to becoming a great city with the Horse Farm,” said Elizabeth Brooks, who has been a central figure in a campaign to spare the property from future development.
The proposed Horse Farm deal also calls for city-parish government to trade the university the 8-acre Youth Park next to ULL’s main campus.
The Horse Farm Property has been appraised for $6.6 million, equal to combined value of the $5.8 million payment and the $800,000 appraised value of Youth Park.
The vote on Tuesday moves the proposal along for a final council vote next month.
City-Parish President Joey Durel said that the next step will be to negotiate an agreement with the Community Foundation of Acadiana, a philanthropic group that will raise the money needed to build and maintain the park.
There are no firm plans for what will take shape there.
The agreement with ULL stipulates only that the land will be developed as a park within 10 years and that there will be no tennis courts and fields for basketball, baseball, softball, soccer or football on the Horse Farm property.
City-parish and ULL officials have long said the plan is to develop a so-called passive park, which could include ponds, gardens, hiking trails, picnic areas and large green spaces.
It will likely take several years to fully develop the park, but Durel has said he expects trails or some other form of public access there within three or four years.
The University of Louisiana System Board of Supervisors approved the Horse Farm deal on Monday.
ULL officials have said Youth Park will remain a public park for now, though the university may eventually use that land for expansion. The Youth Park has sports fields, a picnic area and a dog park.
In other business, the council voted 6-3 to block a proposal by Councilman William Theriot to allow a public vote on whether to scrap the city’s traffic-camera enforcement program.
The call for a public vote came after the council in May voted 6-3 against a proposal to end the program by Theriot and councilmen Andy Naquin and Jared Bellard.
The new proposal would have bypassed the council and sent the question to Lafayette voters, but City-Parish Attorney Mike Hebert advised against the move.
He told council members that Louisiana law and local law bar the council from calling a public vote except on specific issues, such as tax proposals.
“I think the law is pretty consistent on this point,” he said.
Hebert said the only way for the issue to be brought up for a public vote is through the initiative and referendum process, which would require 15 percent of registered voters to sign a petition calling for a vote on traffic cameras.
Lafayette city-parish government launched the automated traffic enforcement program in 2007.