ST. MARTINVILLE — The St. Martin Parish Council has decided it is not going to accept a Third Circuit Court of Appeal decision last month supporting a vendor’s right to operate a store and tour business on the shores of Lake Martin, instead seeking to have the Louisiana Supreme Court decide the matter.
In a 3-2 decision, the appeal court said Bryan Champagne could continue to operate his business even though there were issues bothin the application for his licenses (the address had it on the other side of the road from the lake) and errors in the parish’s approval of the permits and licenses for him to operate.
Clifford Hebert, whose family owns a large part of the land near the public boat launch at Lake Martin, spoke in favor of continuing the fight to control commercial activity on the lake and reopen it to recreational use.
“We never meant for it to be closed off from fishermen, from hunters, from people who want to enjoy the beauty of the lake,” Hebert said in a passionate defense of the natural landmark, calling it the “Jewel of Louisiana” and the “Jewel of St. Martin.”
“If we let it be ruined by people who knew the parish ordinances and just walked over them,” Hebert said. “We wanted it for the public. We still want it for the public.”
Hebert said that he and members of his family had been in discussions with the parish government to set up part of the family’s land as a park, to include a portion of the public boat launch on the lake.
After a 20-minute executive session, Parish President Chester Cedars made a few comments before the council voted on a resolution to move the case forward to the Supreme Court.
“We are continuing to work on a plan with Mr. Hebert,” Cedars said. “They are not complete. We are still seeking a mechanism to reopen the lake for public use.”
In regards to the parish seeking a writ of certiorari to review the Third Circuit decision, Cedars said the grounds for continuing the fight were twofold.
“Under Article 9, Section 1 of the state constitution, you are charged to protect the natural resources and natural habitat of our state,” Cedars told the council. “You also are required to protect your provenance and sovereignty. That was the basis of the dissent.”
The council members voted 9-0 to move forward with the litigation.