City-Parish Council to revisit ordinance
LAFAYETTE — City-parish government soon might begin towing away abandoned vehicles left rusting in yards and driveways — reviving an anti-blight effort suspended after a lawsuit challenged its constitutionality.
The City-Parish Council is scheduled to introduce a revised “junked vehicle” ordinance Tuesday that has been crafted to address issues raised in a 2007 legal challenge from a man who fought the city’s seizure of vehicles on his property.
The case never went to trial, but city-parish government settled with the man for $70,000 last year after a judge’s pre-trial rulings painted a dim prospect for the city’s defense.
The revised junked vehicle law sets the stage for the anti-blight effort to get back on track after a six-year hiatus, said Councilman Kenneth Boudreaux, who has been pushing to revisit the old law.
“As we continue to enhance the quality of life here, we are just going to make them aware that those inoperable, immovable cars are creating eyesores,” Boudreaux said.
City-parish officials had frequently wielded the old law to address blight, tagging about 1,600 vehicles for removal when it was last enforced in 2007.
The owners removed most of those vehicles, but city-parish government towed away roughly 25 trucks and cars.
Enforcement came to a halt in 2007 when George Phillips Jr. challenged the city-parish government’s right to seize four seemingly inoperable vehicles sitting on rental property he owned.
One change in the new junked vehicle law, and a result of Phillips’ lawsuit, is a provision that gives vehicle owners the right to an administrative hearing to challenge the city’s enforcement action.
The lawsuit also questioned the vagueness of the city’s criteria for what is considered a junked vehicle.
The revised law lays out several specific standards for what qualifies as junk, including provisions that the vehicle be inoperable, be at the same site for more than 30 days and show signs of disrepair such as missing parts, body damage, broken glass or rust.
City-Parish Attorney Michael Hebert wrote in a memo to council members that the new criteria for junked vehicles was pulled from several other similar laws in other areas.
Another legal issue raised by the judge in the lawsuit was an exemption in the old law for junked vehicles kept in some type of enclosure, such as a garage or shed.
The judge said the exemption might discriminate against people who don’t have an enclosed area to keep their junked cars and trucks. The new law would remove that exemption.
The new law would also add an exemption for vehicles owned by members of the military on active duty.
The new junked vehicle law is set for a final vote on Nov. 19.