Police Jury supports $20,000 discount for developer’s permit

A Pointe Coupee Parish police juror asked local and state officials Wednesday to weigh in on the legality of the Police Jury’s decision to give a local developer a more than $20,000 discount on a building permit to construct a nearly $8 million nursing home.

Juror Justin Cox has asked the parish’s District Attorney’s Office, as well as the state attorney general and legislative auditor, to look into why the administration only collected $17,549 from the developer for the building permit when the parish’s ordinance mandates the developer be charged $39,415.

Cox said he believes the developer, Gerard LaCour, is getting special treatment, thanks to “good ole boy politics.”

“You cannot make special rules for certain people,” Cox said Wednesday. “(Juror) Kyle Olinde just wants to help this man because he lives in his district.”

Olinde called the situation “unique.”

“I’m not going to shut down an $8 million project while we bicker back and forth,” Olinde said Wednesday.

Olinde admitted he authorized Parish Administrator Jim Bello to charge LaCour the lesser fee.

“I told (Bello) to go ahead and issue the permit so (LaCour) could stay within his budget for the project while we see what we can come up with to amend our ordinance,” Olinde said. “I’m definitely not trying to do anything illegal.”

Cox emailed state officials after the Police Jury voted Tuesday, 8 to 4, to ratify Bello’s directive to the permit office to allow LaCour to pay the lesser amount, which was based on fee rates the parish had before the jury amended its building permit ordinance in May 2013.

Jurors Allen Monk, Russell Young, Janet Vosburg, John Pourciau, Melanie Bueche, Cornell Dukes and Clifford Nelson voted in favor of the motion.

Cox, Albert Dukes, Glenn Ray Cline and Kurt Jarreau opposed it.

LaCour said Wednesday he asked to pay the lower amount because officials failed to notify him that permit rates had increased before he submitted his permit application in December 2013.

“I’ve been working on this project for seven years and no one bothered to call me about the permit fee going up,” LaCour said. “I felt like someone should have picked up the phone to call me. (They) knew I was trying to get my equity position up while I was working on getting bank and federal financing.”

He said he had the Police Jury’s support.

“They didn’t want to stop a project that was going to benefit the parish and employ 40 to 60 people,” LaCour said. “Evidently, Mr. Cox has a problem with that.”

But Cox said he believes the jury’s action Tuesday is unfair to the other 40 applicants who have applied for building permits since May 2013 and had to pay the increased fees.

“This is not about economic development,” Cox said. “(LaCour) held this project up for $20,000 — that’s how it should be looked at,” Cox said. “This is the law of the land that needs to be followed.”