New Orleans Awarded Control Over 52,000 acres of Coastland

Wisner Donation Trust ruled to have ended August 4, 2014.

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A state appeal court has ruled for New Orleans over control of coastland that brought in $8 million in 2012, including rent from Port Fourchon.

The 52,000 acres of coastland includes the land on which the port was built, and has been controlled for a century by the Wisner Donation Trust created by philanthropist Edward Wisner. Much of the revenue goes to the city and the rest to Wisner's heirs, the Salvation Army, Tulane University and the former Charity Hospital, now controlled by LSU.

A 4th Circuit Court of Appeal panel ruled 5-0 Friday that Wisner meant the trust to end Aug. 4, 2014, as attorneys for the city contend.

Wisner's heirs, joined by The Salvation Army and LSU, have been trying to get the courts to declare the trust perpetual, citing a 1920 state law that lets any charitable trust to continue unless a specific provision that would "dissolve, abolish or destroy" the arrangement.

The city argued that the 100-year term of the original Wisner trust qualified as such a provision, and the district court and the 4th Circuit agreed.

"The trust provisions set forth a 100-year term for its existence," Judge Roland Belsome wrote for the appeals court. "Thus, the trust will end on August 4, 2014."

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu hasn't said what he thinks should happen if the trust is closed, The Advocate ( reported.

City Attorney Sharonda Williams couldn't be immediately reached and the Wisner heirs' attorney, Dan Lund, declined to comment Friday, Times-Picayune ( reported.

The heirs could ask the Louisiana Supreme Court to hear the case.

The 4th Circuit also upheld a ruling by Civil District Judge Pro Tempore Melvin Zeno that Landrieu had not breached his duty to the trust and could remain its trustee. But it overturned Zeno on another matter. Zeno had ruled that Landrieu does not need the trust's advisory committee to approve city projects for the money; the 4th Circuit said he does need such approval.

If the trust is dissolved, the assets apparently would be divided among the entities now getting revenue from the trust.

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