Legal Matters

Acrimony over Ambassador Town Center flares again

by Walter Pierce

The latest dispute between prominent Lafayette families and the developer of the ambitious retail center concerns a most prosaic point of contention: maintenance of a retention pond.

This massive retention pond is at the center of the latest legal dispute between Town Center's developers and the prominent family members who sold their land for the project but retained ownership of the adjacent property.
Photo by Robin May

The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal has sided with Stirling Properties — and its legal spinoffs created for construction of Ambassador Town Center — in an ever-evolving, acrimonious legal battle with two prominent Lafayette families that have extensive real estate holdings in the Hub City and with whom Stirling entered into a legal arrangement it no doubt regrets.

In the latest legal entanglement between the parties, the appeals court backed a lower court ruling by 15th Judicial District Court Judge Ed Rubin in favor of Stirling in a dispute over a retention pond installed to jointly benefit drainage at Ambassador Town Center and the adjacent, still-undeveloped land owned by GBB Properties Two and DBR Properties. (The B in both companies’ names stands for Boustany; the R in DBR is short for Reggie — powerful, politically connected families that have intermingled by marriage, own lots of land in Acadiana and whose progeny include prominent members of the business and legal communities, a former Lafayette coroner and most famously his son, former Congressman-turned-DC lobbyist Charles Boustany.)

According to the 3rd Circuit opinion released last week, the parties “agreed they would maintain the pond jointly and share expenses pro-rata and negotiated a written agreement that the reflected same titled ‘Pond Maintenance and Drainage Servitude Agreement’ (PMDSA). This agreement was never signed, however, because the parties entered into discussions with the Parish of Lafayette to have the pond dedicated to the Lafayette Consolidated Government (LCG) and for LCG to maintain the pond.”

More from the 3rd Circuit opinion:

Consequently, the parties then entered into a Drainage Servitude Agreement (DSA) on December 19, 2014, which contained the same terms as the PMDSA, but with all references to maintenance removed. It is not disputed that the DSA is the only written agreement between the parties and that it is silent regarding pond maintenance, but explicitly states that it “contains the complete understanding and agreement of the parties hereto with respect to all matters referred to herein, and all prior representations, negotiations, and understandings are superseded hereby.” After learning that LCG would not accept the dedication, Town Center requested that [GBB/DBR] jointly maintain the pond and share expenses as originally agreed upon, which [GBB/DBR] refused to do.

Thus began the suit and counter suit that wound up before Judge Rubin, who opined at the conclusion of the case in state district court that the “evidence indicates that there was a meeting of minds, such that maintenance of the ‘Pond’ became an asset which benefits all of the property owners. As such, all parties are responsible for, and shall jointly share in the expenses related to the Pond’s maintenance.”

The fight over the retention pond is just the latest salvo in an ongoing battle between GBB/DBR and Stirling.

As ABiz reported almost exactly a year ago in a story titled “Disturbing Development”:

In June (2016), a pair of companies — GBB Properties and DBR Properties — filed suit against the Ambassador Town Center developers led by Stirling Properties, accusing the developers of reneging on an agreement to add infrastructure improvements to 65 acres GBB and DBR own adjacent to Ambassador Town Center. Those 65 acres were included in the PILOT — payment in lieu of taxes — deal Stirling got from the Industrial Development Board in 2014 to help bankroll the public infrastructure needed for the development to work.

Stirling filed a counter suit that revealed GBB/DBR’s legal sleight of hand arising from a controversial application of the “agricultural” property-tax classification. Read that ABiz story here.