Additional funds needed for land

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 30, 2002


HAHNVILLE – More money for land expropriated for the East Bank hurricane protection levee in St. Charles Parish will be needed, after one case was recently settled and the other is coming up for trial in mid-January.

It could have been much worse.

Tess Percy, attorney for the Pontchartrain Levee District and St. Charles Parish in the most recent case, said Larry and Charles Ostarly Jr. originally proposed an appraisal of $129,000 per acre for the 34 acres of their 80-acre tract used for the Interstate 310 access ramp to Airline Drive near St. Rose.

Levee district board member Steve Wilson of Destrehan added the original appraisals required by law for the expropriation years ago came to $400 per acre.

The case finally headed to 29th Judicial District Court in Hahnville, before Judge Kirk Granier in a jury trial. There, the jury set a price of $1,266 per acre for each of the 34.157 acres actually used. Wilson continued that the appraisers used by the levee district equated the site in question, on the north side of Airline Drive, to be wetlands and unlikely to ever be available for development.

The Ostarly brothers, on the other hand, argued the potential was there at the site for a development similar to James Business Park.

The jury ended up awarding the Ostarlys approximately 1/100th of what they asked for.

“The levee district is very pleased with the verdict,” Percy continued. “The jury was very attentive, and we are totally in support of the decision.”

Next, the levee district will face off against St. Charles Air Line Lands, a corporation of which members of the Monteleone family of New Orleans are the majority stockholders.

Their case involves approximately 105 acres, plus 24 acres of temporary buffer use, and a $11 million demand for compensation. It will come before Granier’s bench Jan. 13-15, according to Percy.

The case involves four different takings, starting in 1991 and completing in 1998, and involves four projects.

The Cross Bayou drainage structure, a $2.3 million project at Destrehan, was originally awarded to Crawford James Construction but they were unable to complete it due to their own financial difficulties. The job was re-assigned to Circle Inc. and due to be completed in January.

The St. Rose drainage structure contract was awarded in November 2002 and will take a year to complete.

The Reach I structures at Almedia and Walker canals are scheduled for contract awarding in January and will take 18 months to complete.

The Reach 2B, second lift, is scheduled for contract awarding in February and will take a year to complete.

The four cases were combined by the court into one and will be ruled upon as one, Wilson said.

“We don’t take the land until we need it,” Wilson added.