[StBernard] St. Bernard's Lot Next Program waits approval from LRA

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Thu Oct 2 00:47:52 EDT 2008

St. Bernard's Lot Next Program waits approval from LRA

10:36 PM CDT on Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Bigad Shaban / Eyewitness News

It is a delay some residents say their community can't afford. The surplus
of empty lots in St. Bernard has residents scrambling to buy them up, but
the program is still in limbo.

"I think it could be a better place for people," said Kim Beaver, a resident
of Arabi.

Beaver came back after Hurricane Katrina, but many on her Arabi block
haven't. Now she is hoping to pick up the land her neighbor left behind.

"We'd like to purchase the lot next door," said Beaver. "Unfortunately, we
just got to cut the red tape."

The parish's Lot Next Door Program was supposed to be well underway, but the
Louisiana Recovery Authority, the state agency that oversees the Road Home
Program, still hasn't given the official okay.

"It was supposed to be approved in September," said Craig Taffaro, St.
Bernard Parish President.

Taffaro says that meeting has been delayed now three times, most recently
because of staff changes at the LRA.

"The board was downsized, so it was a matter of getting new members in and
trained and getting a quorum together."

The fate of the parish's Lot Next Door Program is now expected to be on the
LRA's agenda in two weeks, and if approved it will open the door for the
parish to eventually receive as many as 5,000 lots from the Road Home

Once the plan begins, the parish wants homeowners to the left of abandoned
lots and those living to the right to get first priority in buying it up.
If they both want it, the land gets split in half. If neither of them do,
then the homeowner living in back of the property gets the next chance to
buy it.

"We would hope that by early November, mid-November we could actually start
seeing closings in place," said Taffaro.

In the meantime, Beaver is trying to enjoy the lot as best as she can.

"And make use of the property that is sitting here doing nothing," she said.

All until the parish and the state can officially make the land her own.

"The quicker they get started the quicker people can move on with their
lives," said Beaver.

Slab removal is also creating concern in St. Bernard. Since FEMA doesn't
consider the slabs a safety risk, the agency isn't footing the bill to
remove them after they demolish a home.

Now the state, through the Louisiana Recovery Authority and the Louisiana
Land Trust, hopes to spend millions of dollars removing slabs in coastal
parishes over the next year and a half. If slabs in St. Bernard are not
removed in time for the start of the Lot Next Door Program, Taffaro says the
land would be sold at a discounted rate.

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