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Land Purchase Derailed By Council

Leonard Gray / L’Observateur / July 8, 1998

HAHNVILLE – The St. Charles Parish Council voted to derail the purchase a14.4-acre tract adjoining the West Bridge Park in Luling when it refusedto make the money available from the parish’s General Fund.

Parish Councilman Ellis Alexander immediately moved to reintroduce the ordinance for the next meeting, set July 20, when he hopes an additional vote will swing the matter back on track.

Parish Councilman Barry Minnich, who voted for the purchase last month, was absent from the meeting Monday due to work demands.

At the June 15 Parish Council meeting, the Parish Council narrowly approved the purchase in a 5-4 vote. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals EdwardDufresne Jr. agreed to sell the tract for $842,000.Voting against the purchase were Brian Champagne, Ron Phillips, Terry Authement and “Ram” Ramchandran. Voting to buy the land wereAlexander, Minnich, Curtis Johnson, Bill Sirmon and Dickie Duhe.

With the absence of Minnich, the vote Monday night was split 4-to-4.

Immediately after Alexander’s motion, which does not require a council vote, Parish Councilman Brian Champagne moved to disallow the matter from the next agenda.

Predictably, that also failed by the same 4-4 vote, leaving the ordinance to be placed on the July 20 agenda.

Discussion of the purchase was likewise split among audience members.

Marilyn Richoux called it “a good investment for present and future generations.” Stanford Caillouet hooted down spending so much money onthe plot when the parish allows subdivision developers to pay money instead of designate playground areas.

Freddy Babineaux said the purchase “violated the home rule charter, right and left” and labeled the land buy “sacrilegious.”Jim Fazzio said he favors the purchase, but only if the money comes from recreation funds, not the General Fund. “I feel a little used here,” headded.

“If you want premier facilities for today and tomorrow,” Parish President Chris Tregre told the Parish Council, “this is what we need to be doing.

It’s high time we make a major investment in recreation.”Tregre clarified that when campaigning for the recent recreation millages he told people capital improvements would have to come out of the General Fund, and that the millages were to make operation and maintenance of the Recreation Department independent of the General Fund.

Johnson added: “If you don’t want to support it, don’t – but I am.”Champagne said his opposition was based on the price tag and in his opinion it would not help recreation. He suggested obtaining the moneyfrom the state, re-forming the fairgrounds committee to select a site and doing it right.

Tregre commented on Tuesday, “No matter what their feelings were, the majority of the council spoke. To me, this was an obligation. It’s high timea group of people stop playing politics with this issue.”The Parish Council also voted down the banning of portable signs, even after the ordinance was changed to “grandfather” existing signs.

Sirmon asked Planning and Zoning Director Joe Lassus how many complaints his office received about portable signs. Lassus replied none.Johnson pointed out many small businesses who cannot afford large buildings and permanent signs need such signs to advertise their goods and services.

“Some small businesses can’t afford better signs,” Johnson said.

Voting against the proposal were Ramchandran, Sirmon, Alexander and Johnson, with Champagne abstaining because his seafood restaurant in Ama has such a sign.

The Parish Council also voted to regulate auto sales in business parking lots along state and federal highways. The ordinance, proposed byAuthement, would make such auto sellers get a special-use permit when located in a C-2 commercial zone, such as a shopping center lot.

Voting in favor were Authement, Duhe, Champagne, Johnson and Alexander.

Voting against were Sirmon, Phillips and Ramchandran.

Tregre also tangled with Gwen Dufrene of Bayou Gauche, who has birddogged both the Bayou Gauche sewer project and the West Bank Hurricane Protection Levee project.

Dufrene called Tregre to task, saying he, not the U.S. Army Corps ofEngineers, is delaying the levee project.

Tregre, she said, is insisting on a different alignment than that desired by the Corps, which would open up more land for residential development while destroying wetlands. “I feel the public is being misled,” she said.Dufrene also alleged a meeting was set Friday with Corps officials but Tregre said neither he, nor his parish engineer, have been notified of any such meeting.

Tregre responded, “A lot of people don’t know what’s going on with this, and you’re one of them.”

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