City Council rejects Washington, La., blight ordinance

, La. Debate about blight in Washington is expected to take new turns after the City Council rejected a proposed ordinance to deal with substandard properties this past week.

The proposal outlined a procedure to urge property owners to clean or repair blighted, unkempt or dangerously decrepit structures and for the city to take legal action against them for noncompliance.

It was modeled after ordinances such as one in Opelousas that allow municipal governments to seize blighted properties.

Rand Speyrer, a member of the town’s Historic District Commission, has long lobbied for such an ordinance.

“The consensus is that this is a very good document,” he said. “It’s been tested in the legal system and works very effectively.”

Town attorney Chad Pitre said he agreed the ordinance was well-prepared.

“It’s as safe as it’s going to get,” he said.

But Mayor Joe Pitre was more cautious, saying he wanted assurances the ordinance was legally sound and didn’t conflict with other ordinances, including the historic district requirements, before adopting it.

“If we are going to be aggressive about pursuing something, I want to be darn sure we are on the right side of the law,” he said. “I’m not about making hasty decisions.”

Historic district rules require committee approval for any modifications to a property or structure within the commission’s purview, and Pitre said he didn’t want that to interfere with a resident being in compliance with an issued warning.