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Port officials fire back at locked out landowners

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BATON ROUGE - A heated confrontation about a land dispute took center-stage at Thursday's Port of Baton Rouge commission meeting.

"They had the audacity to file suit," commission attorney Barry Wilkinson said. "They try to paint the port as an obstructionist and unwilling to work with them that is simply not correct."

In 2010, port officials put up a fence that denies landowners access to about 1000 acres of land near Devil's Swamp just north of the old bridge off Scenic Highway.

During the meeting, Wilkinson gave his reasoning for the fence.

"It was fine until there were holes shot in the side of the building until there were gates torn down," he said.

The people who are locked out sued the port demanding the fence be taken down so they can get to their land other than by crossing the Mississippi River.

"It just boggles my mind they won't do what they should," landowner James Cox said.

In the 1950s, landowners donated the land to the port and signed an agreement that states property owners must must have access to and from their land.

"If they have a problem with tresspassers and a person doing damage, to me the port's problem should be with that person," Cox said. "Prosecute them on damage to their property. Don't deny somebody's rights."

"If they can take that away from us, they can take anything away from us," fellow land owner Mac Cazedessus said.

Wilkinson argued the only thing the fence does is keep landowners from the port's property.

"They now want to change and come through the middle of an operating port system," Wilkinson said.

Landowners say that is simply not true.

"We just want them to fill the obligation of what that contract says," Cazedessus said.

Neither side came to an agreement.

There is not court date set to discuss the lawsuit at this time.



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