After issuing all necessary building permits to local business owner Bryan Champagne to construct his commercial business, St. Martin Parish Government filed suit to enjoin his business claiming it was in violation of St. Martin Parish zoning ordinances.
Champagne owns and operates Champagne’s Cajun Swamp Tours and the Wharf on Lake Martin. The businesses are located on property he leases on Rookery Road in Breaux Bridge.
In 2011, Champagne was operating his tour business out of his truck and wanted to expand. After receiving permission from the property owner, he applied for and received a building permit from the St. Martin Parish Government to build a “Grocery Store/Bait Shop.”
Champagne continued to find success with his business. In order to accommodate his growing business, he applied for and received building permits to build an additional deck with a roof covering.
For years, Champagne operated his business without objection from St. Martin Parish Government. In 2016, however, he received a cease and desist letter from the parish. The parish claimed his business was operating in violation of St. Martin Parish zoning ordinances.
St. Martin Parish Government then filed suit against Champagne. St. Martin Parish Government sought to enjoin his operations alleging he was in violation of the zoning.
Gibson Law Partners was hired to handle Champagne’s defense. Two arguments were presented on Champagne’s behalf:
(1) Champagne obtained a “vested right” in his business operations because he constructed and operated his business, expending substantial money in the process, in good faith reliance on the building permits he received from St. Martin Parish Government; and
(2) St. Martin Parish Government’s zoning ordinances were void or ineffective. St. Martin Parish Government enacted zoning ordinances that divide the parish into various “use districts.” The boundaries of the “use districts” are defined by reference to a “zoning map.” The ordinance states the “zoning map” is on file with the St. Martin Parish clerk of court’s office. No “zoning map,” however, was on file with the clerk of court’s office. As such, the zoning ordinances were void or ineffective.
During live testimony it was confirmed:
(1) The parish issued all necessary building permits to Champagne to construct his business; and
(2) The “zoning map,” referred to in the St. Martin Parish zoning ordinance, was not filed with the clerk of court’s office until roughly two weeks before trial.
On April 8, 2019, the Court ruled in Champagne’s favor. The Court agreed with both defenses and dismissed/denied St. Martin Parish Government’s petition with prejudice.