June 18, 2014 09:46 PM

That's what happens when money and good government have a conflict.


Cognitive Dissonance is defined as "the excessive mental stress and discomfort experienced by one who holds 2 or more contradictory beliefs, ideas or values at the same time." This sounds like the perfect description for the problem we have with comprehensive planning and the new Costco development here in Lafayette. They are polar opposites in public policy. That's what happens when money and good government have a conflict.

The Comprehensive Plan Citizens Advisory Committee, created by City-Parish President Joey Durel and others (of which I am a member) just adopted the Comprehensive Plan for Lafayette Parish. Next, the LCG council will be asked to adopt the same Plan. The Plan says no more super box store development in the city, specifically along Ambassador Caffery and Kaliste Saloon. The Comp Plan Future Land Use Map literally has a bull's eye target on that very intersection.  

The Comp Plan calls for a "mixed use" development of this area (think River Ranch), including "retail, office, services, restaurants, and residential. The mixed-use centers are envisioned as walkable districts served by transit, sidewalks and bike paths." The plan is to utilize zoning and code restrictions (by law) to stop developments just like this.  (ex: Target Center on Kaliste Saloom)

At the exact same time the Comp Plan is being adopted, Mr. Durel, Don Bertrand and others asked the LCG council to approve a resolution (which they already did) asking that the Industrial Development Board, a non-elected board, to give away the future property taxes which are dedicated to schools, fire and police protection, streets, airport, etc. (to run everything), to the developers to help pay for their development. They call it the PILOT program. This PILOT program is designed to pay for a substantive portion of the cost of this big box store retail development. No "mixed-use" here.  No one is even sure how much future property tax revenue we will be forfeiting because they didn't give the council a plan or cost estimate of how much of the future property taxes they will not be paying.

And just to be clear, the money is not going to Costco to entice them to move here, the money is going to developer and owners of the land to pay for their development so they can sell or rent to Costco and others at a greater profit. All this does is increase the value of the most valuable land in Lafayette. So you can see our city's leadership must be suffering from some cognitive dissonance.  

But don't worry, they have it figured out They will do both.

How you may ask? Wouldn't the leaders of the Comprehensive Plan tell the Zoning and Planning board  to not approve the development?  If they do approve the development, shouldn't the leaders of Zoning and Planning tell the Comprehensive Planning Commission that they do not agree with the Comprehensive Plan? What about the LCG council who is going to approve both?  

Does it even matter? The Industrial Development Board doesn't have to listen to any of them, because they have the power to give away the money without the community's consent. What a confusing conundrum they must all be in?

Here's the really interesting part. They have no conundrum. You see it's all the same people... some are literally the same people among the different groups. Many of the same people or their supporters are on the LCG Council, Comprehensive Planning, Planning and Zoning and/or the Industrial Development Board.

Personally, I am against giving subsidies to any business, period. It is not economic development; it is political power turned into money, period. And, I am the recipient of some of these subsidies.  It should all be stopped. Even Mr. Durel has said he is philosophically and ideologically against this special interest PILOT deal, but feels the pressure to go along with it for the good of Lafayette. Well trust me, I feel the pressure to go along with it also, but this is not about me or Mr. Durel , this is supposed to be about what is right for this community.

It really boils down to this, do you want enormous future property taxes to go to the landowners and developers of Costco, or to Lafayette? And please don't be misdirected by terms like "economic development" or that having Costco is a "quality of life issue" for Lafayette. It is much more simple than that. It is really about transferring money to the landowner/developer to pay for their private development.

Mr. Durel by his advocacy, the Comprehensive Planning Commission by their silence, and LCG by their vote to support the PILOT, have already picked the landowner/developer over your schools, fire and police protection, parks & etc.

What about you? Can you help our leaders out of this Cognitive Dissonance? Ask questions and start the conversation before it is too late!

Tim Supple
Member Comprehensive Plan Citizens Advisory Committee


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