Court battles over City of St. George begin

Fight over St. George moving to courtroom

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Both sides of a lawsuit involving the incorporation of the City of St. George walked out of the courthouse March 2 without knowing when the next hearing would be scheduled.

The hearing primarily focused on who can be a plaintiff in the lawsuit seeking to halt the incorporation of St. George. Judge William Morvant ruled both Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome and Councilman Lamont Cole would remain as plaintiffs in the suit.

Morvant, however, did rule Baton Rouge resident, M.E. Cormier, could not remain, citing her residency outside of the proposed city limits did not give her an actual interest, nor would she be adversely affected by the incorporation of St. George.

Voters approved the incorporation in October of 2019. A lawsuit was filed by Mayor Broome Nov. 4, 2019.

The suit challenges city organizers' ability to provide services to voters in the proposed new city.

“Organizers are ill-prepared to operate a city as well as the adverse impact on the City of Baton Rouge and citizens who live outside the arbitrary boundaries of the proposed City of St. George," a statement from Mayor Broome reads.

A spokesperson for St. George, Andrew Murrell, says the lawsuit does nothing more than undermine the decision of the voters.

“We went to the ballot box, we voted in a lawful election, and the citizens of St. George voted to incorporate our city,” he said. “Nothing could be louder and clearer than our rights being exercised and this lawsuit is just undermining those rights.”

Broome says “the incorporation of St. George will have a significant and adverse impact on the remaining 364,000 residents of the parish.” And, "if allowed to incorporate, it will drive the proposed town of St. George to suicide by bankruptcy.”

While the fight has moved from conference rooms and social media to an actual courtroom, efforts are being continued by residents who do not want to be included in St. George to annex themselves into Baton Rouge.

Ralph McMahon has signed onto a petition to remove his neighborhood, Barkley Place near Perkins Road and Siegen Lane, from the limits of St. George. He does not want any part of the new city.

“I just don’t like the taking away from Baton Rouge,” McMahon told WAFB.

“I feel like the new City of St. George is going to take away from Baton Rouge, from funding and finances for Baton Rouge, so I’m just opposed to it,” McMahon said.

Cormier is heading off these efforts. After the hearing, she said she expects petitions to be filed soon, saying entire neighborhoods will likely be annexed into the City of Baton Rouge.

Andrew Murrell, a spokesperson with St. George, said he does not believe there’s enough support for entire neighborhoods to join Baton Rouge.

The process requires 50% of the property owners and one in a proposed area that’s adjacent to the existing Baton Rouge city limits.

Currently, only businesses have filed petitions. St. George organizers have filed suit to stop those annexations.

Attorneys now go to the discovery stage in the legal fight of the incorporation.

No date has been set for the next hearing.

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