Leslie Turk

Horse farm bill passes House committee

by Leslie Turk

The Louisiana House of Representatives’ Natural Resources and Environment Committee this morning took an important step in the process for authorizing the sale of UL Lafayette’s horse farm acreage to the Community Foundation of Acadiana for development as a passive recreational park. The committee voted 11-2 for Lafayette state Rep. Joel Robideaux’s bill to authorize the president of the UL System to sell the state-owned land to any governmental entity or nonprofit corporation. Anonymous benefactors have offered to gift to the CFA $5.7 million for the purchase of the park if an equal amount can be raised for its development and ongoing maintenance.

Lafayette state Rep. Nancy Landry, who also serves on the committee, spoke in favor of the bill and the plan to convert the acreage to a passive park, a proposal that has garnered widespread support throughout the Acadiana community and also has the backing of the activist group Save the Horse Farm.

The plan was also strongly supported in committee by Bobby Badon of Carencro and Jack Montoucet of Crowley, according to Robideaux. Voting against the bill were Jerry Gisclair of Larose and Sam Little of Bastrop.

Robideaux believes Gisclair and Little may have been swayed by Harold Schoeffler, a local environmentalist/preservationist who attended the committee meeting and questioned the appraised value of the property. The 100-acre tract of undeveloped residential land was valued at $5.7 million in the past year by a state-approved MAI-certified appraiser. In a phone interview with The INDsider yesterday, Schoeffler mistakenly thought the front of the property was zoned commercially. When informed that the entire acreage is zoned for residential use, he still maintained that the university could get more money for the land.

“I’m not opposed to that property being a park,” Schoeffler said, noting that he wants the property to remain in the hands of the university or Lafayette Consolidated Government, rather than a private entity (i.e. the not for profit CFA), and has concerns about who will pay for maintaining it as a public park.

All of those details are still being worked through by the university, the CFA and LCG.

The bill should be taken up by the full House next week. Before it reaches the Senate, Robideaux plans to ask for co-authors and fully expects many more members of the Acadiana delegation to sign on to show their support for preserving the acreage as a central park for Lafayette.