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University Place residents pleased, not totally satisfied, after buyout approved

Wednesday, January 23, 2013 - 11:38pm

After 17 years, residents of the University Place subdivision have a deal in place to allow them to move away from the nearby sewer treatment plant.

The East Baton Rouge Metro Council voted 8-4 in favor of a long-debated buyout plan, at a cost of roughly $6 million. It would pay for dozens of people to move out the neighborhood and what they call substandard living conditions.

"Very excited," said Vallery Thierry. "About time."

"We're ready to get out of this horrible situation," agreed Greg Mitchell.

But the deal is not everything they were looking for.

There is not an exact number on the settlement because it had to be passed by the council before appraisers could look at the dozens of properties involved.

That is the part of the agreement that made homeowners there the most nervous.

"I'm wondering, will they give me the value to buy me another house like this one" Thierry said. "Same size and everything."

The Metro Council said yes, that would be the case. Because of the way the settlement was written, the homeowners are protected by federal laws, so the parish is forced to pay fair value, ignoring the impact of the plant.

"Hopefully it gives us security as residents," Mitchell said, "to know that the government just won't step over and misuse this community any more."

But Mitchell was disappointed that only a few blocks of University Place were included in the buyout, and not the entire neighborhood.

"The plant affects the whole community, everyone," he said. "As the mayor has stated in his testimony that this sewage treatment facility. The smell doesn't stop at the stop sign."

Not only do the residents there not know how much they'll get for their homes, they have no idea when the appraisal process will start, or how long it will take.

"We really can't see a finish line," Mitchell stated, "because actually, this is just a beginning step."

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