The gist: Taking aim at Mayor-President Josh Guillory’s broken promise and a conflict of interest for the project’s engineer, District Judge Valerie Gotch Garrett today ruled that LCG’s quick-take expropriation of Bendel family land for a massive detention pond project was improper. She ordered that work on the 370-acre tract “cease immediately” and assigned court costs to LCG.
Garrett ruled that LCG met its burden of proving a public purpose for the project, saying it is “indisputable” that reducing water levels in local channels until volume level is decreased will benefit the public.
But she found that LCG fell short in its analyses, data collection and modeling for the Homewood project, which is estimated to cost as much as $60 million. This is the second time in less than a year that a district judge rules against LCG in a land grab case for detention pond construction. The first, involving Randol family land near Costco, is awaiting a decision in the Third Circuit Court of Appeal.
Garrett found that LCG was selective in using parts of a UL study to support the project, all but ignoring some of the same report’s suggestions that other projects would be more beneficial.
She also said LCG relied too heavily on the work of consulting engineer Pam Granger, who stands to make millions on the project, and was critical of Guillory’s promise to residents in the Homewood Drive area last March that he would repeal the public necessity ordinance that allowed for the quick-take expropriation if final engineering plans were not completed within 90 days. The plans were not completed in that time frame, and Guillory did not move to repeal the ordinance.
Garrett said LCG failed to analyze other possible locations “to the extent that the Bendel property is considered, which suggests to this Court that LCG decided first that it would expropriate the Bendel property and then conducted studies to support its decision. Unfortunately for LCG, those after-the-fact studies do not sufficiently justify the expropriation either.”