Lafourche considers crackdown on blight

Several members of the Lafourche Parish Council say they are fed up with derelict buildings and tall grass on local properties and want to strengthen blight regulations.

Councilmen Daniel Lorraine and Jerry Lafont said they have been working with the parish assessor, the Sheriff’s Office, the district attorney and the parish administration to create an ordinance to add all parish upkeep costs to property taxes on such parcels.

Lorraine said his biggest problem with the current regulations is there is no way to force violators to pay for the citations and maintenance costs.

“It’s not fair to the ones that have to keep up their property,” he said. “I cut my grass, why should he or she that doesn’t be treated specially? And why should the parish have to pay for it?”

If the measure is approved, the landowner or anyone who buys the property would be required to reimburse the parish for those costs when paying the property tax bill.

Lafont said council members hope to have the regulation in place by Christmas.

By of the end of August, the parish had received 183 blight-related complaints for the year.

More than 85 have been handled, including the demolition of five houses and the towing of 10 abandoned cars. Six houses are pending demolition.

The parish has spent $87,820 on those complaints and collected $11,280 in citation and maintenance money.

“We have a very limited staff. We’re trying to deal with an area that’s 90 miles long and 20 miles wide with 95,000 population and 35,000 homes. There’s a lot of blight houses,” Jerome Danos, solid waste department manager, said. “We’ve improved some areas, we’ve beautified some neighborhoods and we’ve made some people happy.”

Danos’ department budgets $200,000 every year toward cleanup of nuisance properties.

Overgrown grass is the more common complaint, and the parish doesn’t strictly enforce the 12-inch rule, Danos said.

Lorraine has pressed for stricter regulations, saying Lafourche often deals with the same properties because current regulations are too soft and easy to get around.

According to Lorraine, the parish hasn’t been able to collect on about $600,000 in back charges for blight abatement work.