By James Minton
March 05, 2013
ST. FRANCISVILLE — A dispute over the ownership of land near the old Mississippi River ferry landing now includes the West Feliciana Parish Police Jury’s allegation that the jury president’s family is violating the parish nuisance ordinance.
A Police Jury “notice to abate nuisances” dated Feb. 8 alleges Lambert Gravel Co. is violating the ordinance with its placement of “abandoned refuse, junk, abandoned metal and concrete culvert material” to block vehicle access to land along the old ferry road that the Lambert family claims it owns.
Merrick “Ricky” Lambert is the Police Jury president.
The abatement notice also claims the nuisance conditions include one that “provides harborage for rats, mice, snakes and other vermin.”
Paul Lambert Jr., Ricky Lambert’s brother, disputes the contention that the metal objects are junk and “abandoned metal.” He said Thursday the objects can still be used, if needed, in the sand and gravel business.
Although a lawsuit over ownership of the land is pending, Paul Lambert said the nuisance complaint can’t be ignored.
“We’ll probably ask for a hearing,” he said.
Juror Lea Williams asked the parish Economic Development Board to discuss the nuisance complaint at its meeting Thursday night, but the board decided to stay out of the dispute.
Williams said earlier that the barricade is an economic development issue because tour bus operators who pick up and deliver riverboat passengers at the landing have trouble turning around.
The request for the Economic Development Board discussion includes a written complaint to the jury from Kenneth Yoes, who wrote that the material “is an unsightly mess and is an embarrassment to the residents and visitors of our area.”
Yoes said fishermen who use the boat ramp the jury built last summer have been accustomed to parking in the area, but now the parking is barricaded.
Some jurors began questioning whether the estate of the late Paul Lambert Sr. owns the property last year, shortly after the state gave the parish the road that led to the former ferry landing.
In August, jurors voted to hire an abstractor to determine if the public has a claim to the property in the old town of Bayou Sara.
After the boat landing was completed, the Lamberts erected a barricade that included some large concrete highway barrier blocks.
When the jury removed the blocks in December, claiming ownership of the barriers, the gravel company and Lambert heirs filed suit against the jury, asking that they be recognized as possessing the property and for an injunction requiring the jury to state its claim of ownership.
The Lamberts amended the suit in January to add an allegation that the jury “disturbed” the plaintiffs’ possession of the property and led to the end of negotiations with a potential lessee and the loss of rental income.
The amendments also allege the jury disturbed their ownership by building the boat launching ramp and claiming ownership of the property in public statements.
The jury’s attorney filed an exception to the Lamberts’ suit, alleging vagueness and ambiguity because it fails to include maps or plats to identify the specific properties claimed by the Lamberts.
A hearing on the jury’s exception is scheduled March 13 before 20th Judicial District Judge George H. Ware Jr.
The jury’s pleading also says some of the property mentioned in the lawsuit is either in the bed of Bayou Sara, a navigable stream owned by the state, or is owned by property owners on the west side of Bayou Sara because the stream has moved to the east into the old town over the years.