[StBernard] St. Bernard OKs sale of Louisiana Land Trust lots for home construction

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Wed Jul 18 06:59:08 EDT 2012

St. Bernard OKs sale of Louisiana Land Trust lots for home construction

Published: Tuesday, July 17, 2012, 10:30 PM

By Benjamin Alexander-Bloch, The Times-Picayune

The St. Bernard Parish Council on Tuesday passed a resolution that allows
interested individuals the first bite at buying Hurricane Katrina-ravaged
vacant lots with full development rights. The Parish Council also approved a
Nov. 6 special election to establish a parish ethics board. And, with little
discussion Tuesday -- though the issue had been hotly debated previously
over whether the newspaper met the legal qualifications -- the council
finally approved the contract renewal for the parish's official journal, The
St. Bernard Voice.

Rebuilt houses next to vacant lots in St. Bernard Parish were photographed
in 2008.

The state acquired about 4,500 lots in St. Bernard under the Road Home
program from homeowners who decided not to rebuild, and the Louisiana Land
Trust in turn sold about half of the lots to neighboring property owners in
what was dubbed the Lot Next Door program.

But under the Lot Next Door program, properties only could be used as a yard
or for home expansion, such as a pool, garage or an attached guest house,
not for new home construction.

The state now holds the deeds to about 2,400 properties and the Parish
Council on Tuesday gave the state permission to sell about 500 of them to
people who want to build homes there. The state is hoping to transfer the
deeds to all of the lots to the parish as soon as possible, because
maintaining the lots is costing the state about $400,000 a month.

The parish meanwhile hopes to sell as many as possible before that transfer
to cut down on its own financial burdens.

The parish's three-year redevelopment and disposition plan, still awaiting
approval by the state, estimates that about 1,300 LLT properties will be
sold for private redevelopment and the remainder either maintained by the
parish or used for public, recreational, environmental or ecotourism

Last month, the state threatened to auction about 275 properties in August,
but the parish administration and council fought hard against that because
the auction likely would not have guaranteed fair market prices.

A recent resolution passed by the council states that properties would
either be sold at fair market value or in "a fair and competitive bidding
process where there are multiple parties involved in the purchasing of a

On Thursday, the administration and some council members are participating
in negotiations over the parish's Louisiana Land Trust disposition plan and
a cooperative endeavor agreement with that Land Trust and the state Office
of Community Development.

While there are no restrictions on how many properties an individual can
purchase, individuals who buy five or more properties must complete
construction on at least one of the sites, 20 percent of the total purchased
properties, within two years. Failure to meet that quota allows the parish
or the state to demand the properties' return.

If authorized by voters, the new parish ethics board would include members
appointed by the leaders of area colleges. The parish administration had
suggested that five members be selected from nominations submitted by
presidents or chancellors of the University of New Orleans, Loyola
University, Tulane University, Xavier University and Holy Cross College.

But the council on Tuesday replaced Holy Cross College with the Nunez
Community College. While the administration had not included Nunez to
maintain independence of the body, Council President Guy McInnis said, "I
really do think (Nunez) can put someone in who would be independent."

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