[StBernard] Federal judge orders St. Bernard Parish to issue occupancy permits

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Thu Dec 22 20:50:28 EST 2011

Federal judge orders St. Bernard Parish to issue occupancy permits

Published: Thursday, December 22, 2011, 2:19 PM Updated: Thursday,
December 22, 2011, 2:45 PM

By Benjamin Alexander-Bloch, The Times-Picayune

U.S. District Judge Ginger Berrigan today ordered St. Bernard Parish to
issue occupancy permits to the four contentious mixed-income Provident
Realty Advisors apartments in Chalmette by Friday or the parish will be
fined $50,000 a day. Berrigan's ruling came after a brief hearing Thursday
morning to determine whether construction issues remain for the buildings at
the Magnolia, Parc Place, Riverview and Woodcrest sites.

Berrigan said that based on the evidence, testimony and arguments produced
at the hearing, as well as court-appointed expert's reports, that
construction issues have been resolved or will soon be resolved based on
agreements, so the apartments can be rented.

Berrigan has allowed construction on all four sites to continue despite the
parish's opposition, which she has labeled as discriminatory against
African-Americans and thereby in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act.
Provident has to put the buildings in service by Dec. 31 to use the
low-income housing tax credits that will enable the subsidized housing.

Damages, attorneys' fees and costs associated with St. Bernard's multiple
attempts to stop the 288 apartment units' construction likely will not be
finalized until February, but Provident and Greater New Orleans Fair Housing
Action Center attorneys have proposed about $1 million in combined damages
and fees.

Although the parish attorneys did note a few remaining issues, including an
argument regarding a public sidewalk at the Woodcrest site, 7900 W. Patricia
St., they stated in court filings that "Provident has satisfied all of the
requirements for a certificate of occupancy... except for those items that
the court has previous ordered are not required."

Berrigan, however, said in her order Thursday that the 4-foot-wide sidewalk
and 2-foot-wide grass median along Patricia are completed, and that they
comply with the parish code and pose no safety concerns.

Parish Councilman Wayne Landry, who is holding the reins of St. Bernard
government until Parish President-elect Dave Peralta steps in on Jan. 10,
arranged it so that Councilman Frank Auderer officially will give the
go-ahead for the occupancy permits. Landry said he did not want any part in
approving the apartments, which he and other parish officials have fought
tooth and nail since they were proposed in 2008.

Outgoing President Craig Taffaro, who lost the election to Peralta, resigned
the post earlier this month to take a job in Gov. Bobby Jindal's
administration. Landry stepped in when Taffaro's chief administrative
officer, who had taken on the reins since Taffaro's resignation, also left
parish government.

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