The City-Parish Council on Tuesday passed an introductory ordinance that, if approved in a final vote in two weeks, would authorize local government to negotiate with the Less Pay Motel owner to purchase the property or, if negotiations break down, to acquire the property by expropriation.
The motel, at what has long been known as Four Corners — the intersection of North University Avenue and Cameron Street — is seedy, rundown and (presumably) frequented by prostitutes. City-Parish President Joey Durel, Councilman Brandon Shelvin and others want to raze the motel and build a police substation and public plaza in its place. According to published reports, the owner of the property has expressed an interest in selling. Lafayette Consolidated Government, however, is prevented by law from paying more than fair-market assessed value. If purchase negotiations break down, LCG can legally compel the motel owner to sell.
Durel’s office sent letters to residents in neighborhoods adjacent to Four Corners informing them of the ordinance. Twenty citizens signed so-called “blue cards” at Tuesday’s meeting to express their support for the ordinance, and La Place de Creole Coterie, a neighborhood association, also submitted a letter in support. The ordinance was approved unanimously by the council “in globo,” meaning it and 20 other introductory ordinances were voted on as a batch.
The issue, however, will no doubt be debated when it comes up for a final vote on Jan. 20. At least one councilman, Kenneth Boudreaux, has expressed reservations about the deal.
Reached by phone a couple of hours before yesterday’s meeting, Boudreaux told The IND he is hesitant to sign off on a deal that could lead to local government seizing a business that is “in commerce,” its reputation notwithstanding. “I haven’t heard of actual illegal activity that is taking place there,” he said. “I’m not sure exactly what this is based on.”
Boudreaux pointed to other properties in Lafayette that are abandoned, adjudicated or otherwise available for a project like the one proposed for the Less Pay site that LCG should consider first, namely the old city-owned power plant on Pinhook Road, the nearby abandoned Trappey’s plant on the river and the abandoned Ramada Inn on I-49, which Boudreaux says has become a go-to destination for homeless squatters.