New regulation targets rural areas
LAFAYETTE — Travel trailers can no longer be used as permanent homes in rural Lafayette Parish.
The Lafayette City-Parish Council voted 5-4 on Tuesday to approve a new regulation that bans travel trailers from being used as a residence for more than 180 days in any calendar year in unincorporated areas of the parish.
Zoning laws already prohibit living in a travel trailer within the Lafayette city limits.
Planning, Zoning and Codes Director Eleanor Bouy said the new regulation was prompted in part by a growing number of complaints about homeowners renting space in their driveways for travel trailers to house itinerant workers.
“We really never imagined that things like that would happen,” she said.
Alvin Narcisse, a north Lafayette resident, pleaded with the council to pass the new regulations, complaining one of his neighbors moved an unsightly travel trailer into the yard three months ago and has allowed someone to take up residence there.
“You don’t want it in front of your house, and I don’t want it in front of mine,” he said.
Council members who opposed the new regulation questioned whether it might be too broad, possibly blocking construction companies from providing employee housing for long-term projects or preventing families from offering temporary housing on their property for relatives in need of a place to live if they fall on hard times.
The ordinance has a hardship provision that allows for exceptions, said Richard Becker, as assistant city-parish attorney.
Councilman Jay Castille, who helped craft the new law, said it is not safe to allow people to live permanently in travel trailers and that city-parish inspectors need an effective tool to address the issue.
“We need a starting point,” Castille said. “He needs a stick to swing.”
The regulation drew opposition from Gauthiers’ RV Center owner Jim Gauthier, who said about 30 percent of his business is selling travel trailers to people who use them to live in or to house workers.
Gauthier said he acknowledges an issue with some travel trailers, mainly old FEMA trailers being used for long-term housing.
He said the travel trailers he sells are high-quality, safe units that are built for permanent housing.
He added many “are nicer than a lot of houses in Lafayette Parish.”
Councilmen Jay Castille, Kenneth Boudreaux, Brandon Shelvin, Don Betrand and Kevin Naquin voted in favor of new regulation.
Voting in opposition were councilmen Jared Bellard, Andy Naquin, Keith Patin and William Theriot.
City-parish government could enforce the new prohibition by cutting utilities to the travel trailer and pursuing a cease-and-desist order.