Thursday, October 13, 2005

Field of Reams

UL sides with Alan in the green-space/Greenspan debate

From The Independent:

In an interview last Friday morning, UL President Ray Authement and Wayne Denton, director of the University Research Park, said the university will exchange 35 acres of the horse farm land for four acres of Girard Park Drive property owned by Lafayette attorney Jimmy Davidson III and his family. BRE-ARD is purchasing the property from Davidson for the swap with the university. Authement says UL Lafayette is in desperate need of land closer to campus for expansion of its nursing program and additional student housing. He says both properties are worth $3.25 million, a valuation that has some developers and real estate professionals questioning the financial wisdom of the transaction for UL.

If you've had the fortune not to drive down Johnston Street, here's a tasty of morsel of what you see (courtesy of The Independent). Imagine six or seven miles of architerrifying saturation, among some of the worst gridlock and the most inattentive drivers you've ever seen, and you have this road.



So many signs pack this thoroughfare, that an illiterate man can begin at the Evangeline Thruway and read at a fifth-grade level by the time he reaches Bennigan's.

By contrast, the field, used as UL's Equine Center until about 1999, is a pleasant, enclosed 100-acre pasture with a barn and several magnificent oak trees. It is a welcome (and, frankly, jarring) sight among the cramped clusterfuck of businesses that makes Johnston Street one of the ugliest eyesores in the United States.

So, in a numerical nutshell, here's everything that's wrong with this deal:

1) It was clandestine, and approved by the University of Louisiana system despite its usual instant rejection of such deals;

2) It's received almost universal outcry from university students, surrounding residents and the local press;

3) The land, in the middle of a commercial and middle-income residential area, is being appraised far too low, while the property for which UL wants to swap is appraised at almost double the rate of the most posh neighborhood in town;

4) If Girard Park residents once thought placing a business on the property UL wants would present a disturbance, imagine how much they'll love the frenzy of nursing school and the unlimited coed ruckus of student housing;

5) The field is in the middle of Johnston Street, and has not yet been blessed by Pope Benedict XVI despite its shoo-in status as a certified miracle.

Authement claims that part of the land (for which he intends to swap the field) would be used to construct facilities for nursing majors. Well, judging by the need for nurses here (it's virtually the only job around), I'd say a mere four acres isn't going to be enough. Why not just build another University Medical Center? Or another Cajundome?

If Authement is so desperate for space, then why doesn't he consider the Abdalla's building? It's right next to the University Art Museum, and thanks to the Bush economy, Abdalla's is about to go under anyway! Hell, with local business trends being what they are, UL will have its pick of half of Lafayette's existing property soon enough.

I understand it's a reflex for Lafayette developers to turn every blade of grass into Taj Mahal, Inc., but just this once can't we leave one field alone? Please? And anyway, I hear cops hide in that field with radar. Just a rumor I heard from a high-ranking police officer. Cough.

Despite the sad fact that most of the bull sessions concerning this affair have already passed (thanks for the head-up!), Vermilion features editor Rachel Worthy captured both the secretive and the antagonized moods in one spectacular sentence:

This news was released with little time for campus publication reaction before the Monday, Oct. 17 meeting at 5 p.m. at building B of the Clifton Chenier Center, located at 220 W. Willow Street.

[I said spectacular, because at this point she originally said something like, "So much for keeping that a secret," though that sentence has since mysteriously been deleted from the article. Just when I thought I saw a little backbone at the Verm!]

Worthy invites anyone interested in fighting back to e-mail Zoning Commissioner Coordinator Jim Parker at jparker(at)lafayette gov.net. Poor guy's probably in for an avalanche. After all, it seems like the only people who like this deal are the two people who stand to profit most from it. Unfortunately for Lafayette, that might just be enough to make this ugly deal a reality.

8 comments:

PusBoy said...

Appraisals are among the most bullshit of all practices. The fact that you have to be a licensed bullshitter doesn't mean much. I've had four mortagages in my life, and it's amazing that every appraisal has come in at the EXACT dollar amount needed for the mortgage. Everyone I know says the same thing. The appraisers work hand in hand with the people in the deal to make sure that no deal is ever busted by a low appraisal.

This is all fine and good, until you try to sell your home a few years later and your buyers find the one honest appraiser in the U.S., and she says, "Are you crazy? This home isn't worth the asking price."

Hooray for capitalism!

Michael said...

You should send the Johnston St. pic to James Howard Kunstler, who runs the Clusterfuck Nation blog--it might be a finalist, if not a winner, for Architectural Eyesore of the Month.

Geez. I'd forgotten how much I hate driving on that street. Thanks for reminding me.

Nick said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Nick said...

Icon:

1. "If you've never had the fortune not to drive down Johnston Street..." Doesn't that mean the person you're talking to has already driven down there? I think you have too many negatives, but then again, I'm not the English grad.

2. Abdalla's is not closing b/c of the "Bush economy." Businesses, which you tend to dislike, were given tax breaks. And, before you say big corporations which knock the little guys out of business, like Wal-Mart, are encouraged by the Bush economy, you need to understand and admit that ALL of our national politicians (at least 90% of them) encourage big corporations. Dems in Washington are in bed with them just as much as Repubs. in Washington. They like their businesses like they like their government, big and everywhere.

Ian McGibboney said...

Pusboy: tell me about it. Today I was offered $50 for my truck by a junker, and the tow bill comes to $48. Life is good, huh?

Michael, at least they blacktopped it last summer. But during that time, it wasn't as easy to navigate as it is usually.

Nick, you are absolutely right! I've changed the sentence. You, correcting me on English. Go fidgure, it's a wide world. I appreciate that.

As for your other comment, of course all politicians are in corporations' pockets. But I think I'm fair in blaming the Bush economy because so many (presumably GOP-owned) businesses have collapsed here in the past four years. The Bush business-tax cuts, like their personal counterparts, helped bigger businesses a lot more than smaller ones. Read the Abdalla's letter and you'll see a shy implication of such.

Nick said...

1. I didn't get into honors English in college for nothing, also, having a mom, maw-maw, and aunt who are all gramar teachers also helps in my gramar deciphering.

2. You're right, I'm sure big businesses have been helped more than small businesses. However, your party is just as much to blame as the Repubs. I'm still dumbfounded as to why you don't get that. The Dems. in DC don't care about you. The Repubs. in DC don't care about me, of course, that's why I'm not resgistered for any party.

Ian McGibboney said...

Nick, I blame the Republicans in 2001-05 because they are the party in power, and they are the ones responsible for implementing the regressive tax scheme that we don't enjoy today. Of course, the Democrats didn't really fight back on that one either; but I still think the Democrats are somewhat better at trying to represent people other than their richest constituency.

Rachel Worthy said...

Thanks Ian, for taking this matter under discussion. You are just one of many concerned citizens of Lafayette I have confronted in the past weeks as Student/ROTC Liaison for Save the Horse Farm, a group that has been combatting this since we heard the news. Be it said, there has been an overwhelming majority of people who are opposed to this land swap than those who are in favor.

I just wanted to say that the original zoning meeting was postponed and relocated to Monday, Dec. 5, 2005 at 5 p.m. at City Hall. This means the city has taken a vested interest in preparing for our case which we will present to the Zoning Commision. I am personally inviting anyone who wants to attend this meeting, it will mean a great deal to our cause and to me, personally.

I did have a question, about the editorial I wrote...how did you know about the 'so much for keeping it quiet,' which I really liked and so did my managing editor, Tim. I didn't even realize it was ommitted until I stumbled upon this blog when I Googled myself, looking for any possible Internet criticisms about this horse farm ordeal.

Thirdly, I would like to say that we are currently gathering online signatures for the petition against the hasty business decision which will affect our community in more ways than traffic. If you want to sign the petion, Click Here.

Lastly, for anyone who questions my journalistic integrity/the integrity of The Vermilion: I am a tax-paying citizen and resident of Lafayette, first and a journalist second. I care about the place I live in and it's worth fighting for in my opinion. As for the integrity of The Vermilion....no comment.

Thanks again,
Rachel Worthy