Thursday, August 31, 2006

Freetown Lost, again! What Next?

As people may have heard by now, at the Lafayette City-Parish Council meeting on Tuesday night, the Capstone Phase II development was approved, once again going against the opinion of the Planning and Zoning Commission. It seems that in this City, when residents and big money disagree, big money will win. This is a shame and should be kept in mind when it comes to election time. Although many members of the Council are term limited, should they have further political aspirations, their treachery should be remembered.

There were few heros in this debacle. One was Rob Stevenson. He was not at the meeting on Tuesday and thus counted as a 'no' vote. As his sided with residents the first time, it seems that he can be trusted. Louis Benjamin also voted against Capstone. He too is trustworthy. As for the rest, draw your own conclusions. One other individual who deserves mention for his strong support of residents is Fred Prejean of the Planning and Zoning Commission.

So, what next? It seems that we have little choice but to learn to live with Capstone. On the plus side, we will have $200,000 to try and mitigate against their impact. One problem that was mentioned at Tuesdays meeting was the fact that the Freetown District Commission lacks any African-American representation. This is an important problem, given the history of Freetown. The Commissioners have indicated that they are very aware of this issue, which is reassuring. However, suggestions about what may be done about this would be very welcome. Please feel free to post comments on this, or any other relevant topic. Another thing that would be very welcome would be concrete suggestions for the commission. Please post these too.

There were a few good things that came out of Tuesday. Capstone indicated that Oats and Hudson, their lawyers, would be happy to handle mail outs and other mundane tasks for the Commission. This is a real help, as this kind of thing is difficult without the right kind of infrastructure.

There is also one clarification, based upon a previous post. At the 'Meet Capstone' meeting, they claimed that they would only make a profit of $300,000 per year from their project. This claim was somewhat skeptically received. However, we have learnt that, after the Council meeting, a Capstone person approached Freetown Commissioner Dr. Istvan Berkeley with a spread sheet print out. Dr. Berkeley tells us that, although his view of the document was short, it did appear to indicate that the $300,000 figure was approximately correct. Actually, the figure is closer to $330,000, but it is close enough. The skeptical may wonder whether this document was a fake. However, we hear that it could have been a candid admission. You decide.

So, by way of conclusion, please think about how we the people of Freetown, as a community, work to mitigate the effects of the Capstone development. Talk to your neighbors. Talk to the Commissioners (they are in the phone book). Freetown has survived for nearly 200 years and has faced adversity before. We will have to work together. However, this situation is one that hopefully the resilience and resourcefulness of the community will be able to deal with, as we have handled adversity before.

Monday, August 28, 2006

An Evening With Capstone

This evening, residents of Freetown met with Capstone, the developers of the proposed student housing project. Capstone provided pop and pizza. As was quite natural, residents had a great many questions for Capstone. Engineer Paul Meyers was particularly helpful in explaining the various details on drainage and traffic concerns. A variety of other interesting bits of information came out in the course of the dialogue. The highlights will be provided here.

  • Capstone are not prepared to offer any further funds to residents, over the $200,000 already promised.

  • Further details of the secret meeting at which the deal was agreed emerged. Apparently, the meeting was attended by Glenn Armentor, a Mr. Edwards (representing Capstone), Steve Oats (Capstone's lawyer), City Councilors Chris Williams and Bruce Conque.

  • Capstone claim that the project will make them $300,000 per year. This figure is almost certainly a lie.

  • Capstone have bought the house behind the trailer park, as they needed more space for drainage ponds.

  • Capstone are willing to meeting with a Freetown community group on a monthly basis to address issues and impacts from their development. We will have to see whether this actually happens.
  • All comments about the Capstone project should be directed to Michael Mouron, the President of Capstone. His direct line phone number is (205) 414-6423, his cell phone number is (205) 936-6423 and his e-mail is

Probably the most odd part of the whole meeting was the fact that some man showed up from J an J Exterminating, trying to get the contract for the proposed development! Needless to say, this individual spoke highly enthusiastically about the development. Residents found this whole episode bizarre. If J an J are your exterminator, now might be a good time to change companies.

Tomorrow will be the City-Parish Council meeting, which will vote on the Capstone II proposal. Hopefully, the stooges Conque and Williams will not be able to hold sway this time. As many people as possible should show up to voice their opinions against this pernicious development.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Meet The Developers! Plus Coterie News

At a meeting tonight, the members of the LINC 7 neighborhood Coterie were selected. The Coterie will have nine members. Details on the members will be announced shortly. The first meeting of the Coterie will be at 5.30pm on Tuesday the 12th of September, at the Rosa Parks Center.

At the same meeting, it was announced that on Monday the 28th of August, representatives of Capstone Development will be at the C.J. Angelle Hall, at the corner of Jefferson and Taft Streets between 5.30 and 6.30 pm.

The purpose of this event is to permit residents of Freetown to let the developers 'know their concerns and thoughts about their proposal to build 600 student apartments in the neighborhood'. It is claimed that refreshments will be served. It is important that as many people as possible attend and let these people know how they feel about their plans. Residents of the trailer park on Stewart Street should take this opportunity to let these people know how they feel about losing their homes. There are reasons to believe that these individuals seldom get to meet the people they hurt in their quest for money. This is the reason why this is an important event, which should not be missed. This meeting was arranged by the Freetown District Commission. It is your chance to tell the developers what you think of them. So, please do so. Feel free to vent spleen! As one individual at tonights meeting remarked about this meet "This is a chance to meet the face of evil".

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Freetown Commissioners Appointed

At the City-Parish Council meeting on the 8th of August 2006, the people who will be responsible for administrating the $200,000 'impact fee' to be paid by Capstone Development in order to build their misconceived student apartments in the Freetown neighborhood. The appointed commissioners are Dr. Istvan Berkeley, a contributor to this site, and David Domingue. A third commissioner will be appointed by Capstone.

The charge of the commission, according to the motion approved by the City-Parish Council derives from the following text:

On or before June 27th, 2006, the Developer [Capstone Development, of Birmingham, AL] shall either (a) deposit the sum of $200,000.00 into an escrow account to implement the conditions set forth below, to be administered by the Committee in its sole discretion, or (b) submit to the Director of Planning, Zoning and Codes Department an agreement, executed by the Committee, to effectuate (sic) the off-site improvements as determined by the Committee which are consistent with the cultural and historical nature and significance of such District [i.e. Freetown].

Comments and suggestions for the Freetown District Commission should be posted to the comments section of this site, until another method to hear from members of the Freetown Community can be set up.