LAFAYETTE, La. (KPEL) -- The rights of landowners versus the perceived benefits to the public took center stage Tuesday night as Lafayette City-Parish council members gathered for their regularly scheduled meeting.

The council discussed for nearly two hours a resolution from council member Don Bertrand which would ask the zoning commission to come up with a plan to obtain the rights-of-way of at least 55 feet on either side of the southern portion of Ambassador Caffery Parkway.

Under Bertrand's plan, that land would be used to improve the roadway, such as adding bicycle and walking paths and other aesthetics, as well as providing for the burying of utility lines.

The resolution received immediate backlash from council member William Theriot, who questioned whether Consolidated Government would simply take the land from property owners without reimbursing them.

"So basically, what we have, we have government taking property...that belongs to private individuals...but we're not going to reimburse them for it," Theriot said.

Theriot also felt creating the overlay district, which would prevent developers from building anything within that 55 feet, amounted to government dictating to developers what they could and could not do with their own property.

Bertrand said action on the proposed overlay district needed to be taken sooner rather than later. He feared new construction and development along the section of Ambassador Caffery between Verot School Rd. and Bonin Rd. necessitated the need to take action now.

"I am of the opinion that if we don't address this issue now, we will very very soon reach a point where it is too late," Bertrand said. "We've already had new construction on the corner of Verot and Ambassador Caffery South. When I checked last month, I believe there were some six or seven permits out there now."

Theriot also questioned how the project would be financed and worried that a Tax Incremental Finance district might be implemented.

"Why would we come in and create a TIF district on one of the most priciest piece of properties in Lafayette Parish?" Theriot asked. "I can assure you this, I will not support a TIF district in that area. I currently do not support this resolution."

Council members initially took issue with the starting point of the proposed overlay plan, which began at the Vermilion River and down to Bonin Rd. Bertrand offered an amendment to his resolution, changing that starting point to the Verot School Rd. intersection.

Two members of the public, including the owner of a gas station on the corner of Verot School Rd. and Ambassador Caffery, spoke up against the plan. Three others, representing bicycling groups and the Lafayette comprehensive planning commission, spoke out in its defense.

The resolution passed on a 6-3 vote. Theriot, Andy Naquin, and Jarred Bellard voted against the measure. The resolution must go to the zoning commission for them to create an ordinance for the planning commission. The ordinance would then go to the full council for adoption.

RedFlex Amnesty Period

After months of debate, the council approved on a 7-2 vote an amnesty program for anyone who owes more than $125 in red light or speed camera fines.

Theriot and Bellard voted against the ordinance.

Under the program, violators with unpaid fines will have until the end of June to pay their fines without the penalty of a late fee. After the end of the amnesty period, council attorney Mike Hebert said he would begin bringing violators to court.

The amount of the fine owed would determine in which court attorneys would bring defendants. Those who owe smaller amounts could be taken to small claims or city court, Hebert said, while those with much larger fines could be taken to state district court.

A related ordinance would have determined the amount by which Consolidated Government and RedFlex would split revenues and the cost of pursuing violators in court. LCG would have received 60 percent of the revenues, while RedFlex received 40 percent. The same structure would have applied for the paying of court costs.

Council members voted to table that ordinance for 30 days.