The St. Martin Parish Council is considering appealing a recent court ruling that favored a swamp tour business on Lake Martin. The council will go into executive session tonight to discuss the matter.
Three years of litigation between the St. Martin Parish Government and the owner of Champagne’s Cajun Swamp Tours came to a head last month when a judge made a controversial decision.
He ruled that the swamp tour business on the banks of Lake Martin could continue operating even though it isn’t zoned in a commercial area.
“The Parish Council will now have to decide on whether it would be prudent to challenge the trial court’s decision by way of appeal,” said St. Martin Parish President Chester Cedars. He was the attorney for St. Martin Parish Government when the lawsuit against Champagne’s was filed in 2016.
He also testified in court during trail.
The local business opened in 2011 and received additional permits in 2013 to expand. The lawsuit states that Champagne’s rights would be violated if the injunction would be enforced to shut him down.
“It puts you in touch with nature. You come out here you can look at alligators and you can look at wildlife, what do you expect. It would be a shame to see this go,” said visiting tourist Chuck Sharpe.
It also mentions the zoning ordinance in the case was “poor at best.” The lawsuit read there was no evidence the Constitution of Louisiana has been violated.
“The courts ruling is not in left field. I just don’t think they are right,” said Cedars.
Even though Champagne’s was given permits to conduct business, Cedars say there were problems with the permit and they should have never been given.
“I don’t think anyone is concerned about the tours of the lake,” said Cedars. “In fact, we invite that. We want people to savor the lake and what it has to offer. We want to give people that opportunity to see what’s out there, but I believe when you start putting banners, selling alcohol, and bringing groups of people to park everywhere, you begin to erode the tranquil aspect natural aspect that this lake brings to the community.”
Cedars says the property surrounding Lake Martin is considered wetlands and is only zoned for portable business operations.