UL Lafayette officials have applied for rezoning of a large portion of the university's horse farm property on Johnston Street, across from Mel's Diner, in hopes of selling the prime land for commercial development.

Long operated as an equestrian center, the property has not housed horses for some time. More recently, it's been used as a training site for CajunBot.

University officials could not be reached for comment last week on whether they have secured a buyer ' a deal likely contingent on the university's successful bid to rezone ' or simply want to put the property up for sale.

On Sept. 7, the university applied with Lafayette Consolidated Government for reclassification of a 36-acre tract from multi-family residential to general business ' a change that would significantly increase the property's value.

"Right now, it's zoned for any type of residential, including apartments," says civil engineer Paul Miers, who is working with the university. South College Shopping Center borders the property's north side, and Red Lerille's Health Club is directly south of it. The property is also adjacent the Louis XIV Apartments, which are being redeveloped as condominium complex.

The university, however, is exempt from local zoning ordinances, meaning it is not restricted in the use of the property for its own purposes, Miers says.

Denise Womack of LCG's Planning, Zoning & Codes department says the request for rezoning is being analyzed and that adjoining residents are receiving notification letters. The Zoning Commission's public hearing is set for Oct. 17, at which time it will make a recommendation to the Lafayette City-Parish Council. When the rezoning ordinance is scheduled for final adoption, likely Nov. 22, the council will hold another public hearing, Womack says.

Miers says about 50 to 75 property owners are being notified. Residents living in Woodbriar Court and Woodbriar Place subdivisions ' mainly those on Oakleaf Drive as well as people living in Evangeline Heights subdivision primarily on Acadian Drive ' are closest to the tract. The engineer says the university has already agreed to extend the buffer zone beyond the required 5 feet for a commercial development. "I'm sure they're going to have questions," Miers says of local residents.

At the top of the list of questions is likely to be the development's impact on heavily traveled and often congested Johnston Street. "Traffic considerations would be addressed when the property is developed and would depend heavily on the type of development," Womack says.

Big Fat Lesson

More evidence of the obesity problem plaguing Louisiana comes via Men's Fitness magazine's October issue, which ranks UL Lafayette No. 1 among the Top 25 fattest schools. Coming in at No. 2 is University of New Orleans (the rankings were compiled pre-Katrina), and neighboring Mississippi State University is third. LSU is No. 13.

For its first such listing on the health of America's college campuses, the magazine partnered with the respected Princeton Review, an expert on tracking the interests and habits of college students. Almost 10,000 students from more than 660 of the country's top colleges and universities were surveyed. Among the questions: "How many pounds have you gained or lost since you started going to school?" "How often do you work out?" and "How would you rate the fitness facilities on your campus?"

The fittest schools are Utah's Brigham Young University, University of California-Santa Barbara and Boston University.

Beauty Lounge for Sale

Christy Klenert has put her downtown Beauty Lounge at 302 Jefferson St. on the sale block for $50,000. The shop custom blends lipsticks, bath and body products and specializes in little girls' birthday parties. The store also has lease space for three hair stylists, who also partake in the birthday celebrations. Two of the spaces are currently leased.

Klenert, who has had the shop for a year and a half and previously operated Beyond Bliss in Grand Coteau for five years, says she will stay on to train the new owner.

"It's doing well and thriving," says Klenert, who hopes to stay home with her two children, ages 6 and 15 months. The Beauty Lounge is located next to Guamas. For more information, call 289-0247.

Where's the Beef?

On Friday of last week, Ruth's Chris stock price had slipped below its $18 opening, falling to $17.67, possibly impacted by Hurricane Katrina.

The Metairie-based steak chain's IPO raised $234 million ("Ruth's Chris IPO: Will the sizzle fizzle?," Aug. 24); shares peaked at $23.06 on Aug. 9, the first day of trading, and closed at $20.70. The better-than-expected debut was difficult to grasp, as the chain had generated $192.9 million in revenue in 2004 and only $2.4 million in net profit ' a scrawny 1.24 percent net profit margin.

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