The “Proper” Use of the Expropriation Process


At the Lafayette City Council meeting of February 2, 2024, an ordinance was introduced declaring the 12th Street Corridor Streetscape Project a “public necessity” authorizing the acquisition of property rights, “either on an amicable basis or through the use of the expropriation process.” Over the preceding four-year term of former Mayor-President Josh Guillory the residents of the City and Parish of Lafayette witnessed numerous ordinances of a similar, broad nature brought before the Council(s) for approval. Despite many allegations of properties being improperly expropriated the language and process remained much the same. However, on this particular evening a change in the language was proposed and adopted, the insertion of the word “proper”.

Louisiana Expropriation Law

Several provisions in state law allow for the expropriation of property by the government. Under Louisiana Revised Statute 19:102 when a price cannot be agreed upon between the property owner and municipal entity the government agency may expropriate property when the governing authority determines it to be necessary for the public interest. This involves the initiation of a civil suit in a court of law and a judgment by the court before the expropriation occurs.

On the other hand, there is Louisiana Revised Statute 19:139 which has come to be known as “quick take.” It is another method in the law that allows for expropriation, but exclusively for Lafayette. This particular statute permits the governing authority to take the property before any judgment by a court. In all instances, the expropriation must be a “public necessity” and serve a “public purpose.”

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What is the effect of the word “proper?”

Section 2 of Lafayette City Ordinance CO-015-2024 reads: “The Lafayette Mayor-President is hereby authorized to acquire such land, immovable property, rights-of-way, servitudes, or other property rights as are determined to be necessary under good engineering standards to provide for the construction of said project; and she is authorized to do so on an amicable basis or by the proper use of the power of expropriation granted to municipalities under applicable State law.”

The insertion of the word “proper” into the title of the ordinance only appears to be nothing more than political grandstanding by City Councilman “Comedy Hour” Kenneth Boudreaux. In effect, it makes no substantive change to the direction that the governing authority has provided to Mayor-President Boulet. The governing authority is still authorizing the Mayor-President to obtain the land, whether amicably or through a form of expropriation. Whether an expropriation is performed properly would be a question a court would have to decide. In inserting the word “proper” Boudreaux seems to be implying that he doesn’t trust the Mayor-President with the power of expropriation.

There is a real solution

Instead of relying on a single word in the title of an ordinance to somehow curtail the Mayor-President from abusing their authority in the expropriation process why don’t you just do your job? Article II – Section 2-01(A) of the Lafayette City-Parish Government Home Ruel Charter reads:

“The legislature power of the City of Lafayette shall be vested in a Lafayette City Council…”

It is the body of the City Council that is vested with the policy-making authority for the City of Lafayette, and the City-Parish Government, jointly with the Parish Council. It is only through the explicit granting of the power of expropriation to the Mayor-President by ordinance that she is authorized to do so. The governing authority could still declare a project a “public necessity” and specify the “public purpose” to be served. The governing authority could still authorize the Mayor-President to acquire property amicably. Granting the power of expropriation to the Mayor-President before any attempts to amicably procure the property is just a way for the Council(s) to wash their hands of it. Insertion of the word “proper” into the ordinance title is effectively the same thing.

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If our Council members are truly concerned about the abuse of the expropriation process they should simply withhold and reserve that authority until such a time as it becomes absolutely necessary. If the Mayor-President were to fail in her attempts to amicably acquire property she would simply have to go before the appropriate Council and explain the situation. The Council would then have to determine whether to proceed with expropriation. Based on the priority of the project, they could also determine which method of expropriation is best suited. The options are the very unpopular quick-take or the standard method which allows property owners due process in advance before our courts.


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