Judge lets Broussard continue with suit

Show caption

A judge on Wednesday declined a request by the city of Lafayette to throw out Broussard’s challenge to the larger city’s annexation of more than 200 acres in southern Lafayette Parish.

Lafayette argued at a court hearing last week that Broussard’s lawsuit should be dismissed before trial, but 15th Judicial District Judge Durwood Conque ruled Wednesday that critical questions remain about whether Lafayette’s annexation is legal.

The judge’s ruling does not answer those questions.

“Obviously, we are disappointed with the decision, but all it means is that further proceedings will be required,” Lafayette City-Parish Attorney Mike Hebert said.

Broussard officials contend that Lafayette’s annexation was a land grab for frontage along the new four-lane stretch of Ambassador Caffery Parkway that runs through areas bounded by Broussard, Lafayette and Youngsville.

At stake in the dispute are the sales tax dollars from what is expected to be a major commercial corridor in future years.

Conque notes in his ruling that the areas annexed by Lafayette “conspicuously and without wavering follow the Ambassador Caffery extension, a major thoroughfare that carries the promise of intense future development and enormous potential benefit to any political entity that is able to incorporate it within its boundaries.”

Broussard argues that the annexation does not meet the legal standard of being “reasonable” because it is not a natural extension of Lafayette’s city limits, but rather a forced attempt to capture land along Ambassador Caffery.

Broussard attorney Allan Durand described Lafayette’s C-shaped annexation as a “leap frog” and said state law requires that Lafayette provide some reasonable explanation for why the outline of the annexation is so irregular.

Conque wrote in his ruling that evidence in the case “mandates an inquiry as to whether the irregular configurations constitute an unreasonable use of the legislatively granted power of annexation.”

Durand also argued that a large chunk of the property that Lafayette annexed is owned by people who wanted to join Broussard instead.

The annexation dispute has been festering since the new 6-mile stretch of Ambassador Caffery opened in 2010, extending the four-lane from Verot School Road to U.S. 90.

Half of the road was already in Broussard, and the other half cut through mostly vacant land that had been in the unincorporated area of the parish before Lafayette’s annexation.

The annexation litigation has been an ongoing source of tension between Broussard and Lafayette.

City-Parish President Joey Durel cited the lawsuit last year when he opted not to renew a contract for city-parish government to provide animal control services in Broussard.

“They made a choice,” Durel said of Broussard officials at the time. “… The choice was, ‘We would rather sue you than use the services.’”