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St. Charles resident say they don’t want runway

By Leonard Gray / L’Observateur / January 23, 1998

DESTREHAN – A historic gathering of the New Orleans City Council, St.Charles Parish Council and New Orleans Airport Aviation Board atDestrehan High School Monday heard public input but gave littleenlightenment.

At issue is a long-proposed north-south runway, to be entirely locatedwithin St. Charles Parish, bounded on the north by Interstate 10, on thewest by Interstate 310, on the south by U.S. Highway 61 and on the east bythe present airport and James Business Park.

The most concern, however, came from residents living south of theproposed runway, especially those in St. Rose, who fear not only noisefrom planes but also being bought out of their homes by the encroachingdevelopment.

“Stay out of St. Charles Parish!” urged Rick Torres of Oakland Subdivision.”I moved to St. Charles to get away from the airport.”

“I came here 16 years ago because of the school system,” added DavisThompson of Fairfield Subdivision. “Now, you’re telling me an airport ofNew Orleans is more important?”Chimed in his wife, Margaret, to Justice Revius Ortique Jr., chairman ofthe Aviation Board, “You’re a very good speaker, sir, but you’re not sayinganything.”

Ortique stated earlier the meeting was called to outline, very generally,plans for the future and how they might affect St. Charles Parish.

He added, “I recognize that we have not been as cooperative with thecommunity as we might have been, but we have been cooperative.”

He conceded to adding an additional St. Charles Parish representative tothe board’s noise abatement committee, joining Kerry Eugene of St. Rose,James Cospolich of Ormond and Jeffrey Roux of Ama.

However, Ortique said any additional members from St. Charles added tothe Aviation Board itself would take action by other bodies, including theNew Orleans City Council.President Peggy Wilson of the New Orleans Council led a unanimous votefor a resolution of cooperation with other concerned government bodies infuture development of the airport.The resolution mirrored one approved with the Kenner City Council Dec. 8.The current concern about the airport’s plan, Sen. Ron Landry saidafterward, might not be necessary, as a pending environmental impactstatement may conclude against the airport.

“I personally don’t think it’s a good idea,” Landry told those gathered atthe meeting. He added, more emphatically, “You’ll get expropriationpowers over my dead body!”

As chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee with more than 20years in the Louisiana Senate who said he plans to run for re-election,Landry could prove to be a formidable opponent.

Anthony Mumphrey Jr., the airport’s master planner, told the assembly therunway could be landing planes in 10 years, “if everything wentswimmingly.”

Landry responded, to his experience, “that usually doesn’t happen with thefederal government.”

However, St. Charles Parish President Chris Tregre drew the loudestcheers and applause when he declared the airport cannot expand into theparish without the parish’s consent. “They have no expropriation rightsover the parish of St. Charles.”Tregre continued the parish will not be blamed if the “economic engine” ofthe airport breaks down and damages the New Orleans area economy.

“You’re not gonna have that hat put on me,” Tregre said.

On the other hand, Ormond resident Emile Garlepied, who is president ofthe Air Cargo Association, urged the necessity of airport expansion.”I feel for everyone who has to be displaced, but if the airport doesn’tgrow, it’ll lose cargo and passengers,” he said.

St. Charles Parish Councilman Dickie Duhe pointed out he grew up in GoodHope, a town since demolished by Good Hope Refinery (nowTransAmerican), its residents scattered. “Neighbors were displaced andtheir lives were affected and they were never the same,” he said.Parish Councilman Curtis Johnson stressed, “I want the New Orleans CityCouncil to understand why we feel what we feel. We feel we are not evenstepchildren.”

Wilson stated, “We never, ever, intended to leave St. Charles Parish out ofour discussions.”

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