Council tables barge fleet activity issue

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 13, 1999

By LEONARD GRAY / L’Observateur / April 13, 1999

HAHNVILLE – The subject of limiting barge fleet activity in St. CharlesParish’s section of the Mississippi River was tabled during a 5-1/2 hour meeting Monday.

Parish Councilman G. “Ram” Ramchandran asked the council to reassignbarge fleeting activity from the Batture-1 zoning district to Batture-2.

“This is not a ‘taking’ legislation,” Ramchandran arg-ued, saying it only stuck with the council-approved 1990 comprehensive future land use plan.

He continued he has asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for afeasibility study toward developing river batture in Destrehan as a recreational area, including a riverwalk, riverboat docks, restaurants and other uses. The Corps said they would, he continued.However, parish attorney Randy Lewis pointed out the proposed legislation could, as written, run afoul with state and federal laws.

Lewis added it could be counter to the Louisiana Civil Code, which specifically allows barge fleet activity, no matter the zoning. He did,however, offer a possible alternative, that of the 1970 Environmental Protection District Act which later amendments qualified St. CharlesParish to create “environmental protection districts” to establish barge- free districts.

That act, Lewis explained, is to include the designating of land uses on the batture and establishing zoning districts there “to insure the preservation of the natural beauty and scenery of those lands along the banks of the Mississippi River, including batture lands, and to undertake, encourage and promote programs for the beautification of said lands, including the development of recreational facilities and park areas,” according to the act itself.

Robin Durant, president of Bayou Fleet Inc. of Boutte, prefaced his remarksin opposition by presenting Ramchandran and Parish Councilman Ellis Alexander with their own personal copies of the U.S. Constitution. “I hopewe won’t be back in federal court,” Durant said.

“You can’t zone someone out of the use of their property,” Durant continued. “It’s ludicrous to rezone my property because of bad languageused by pilots on the river. All you’ve got to do is buy it.”Parish Councilman Bill Sirmon, seconded by Brian Champagne, moved to table the matter to review with attorneys Lewis’s optional idea. This wasapproved in a 6-3 vote, with Councilmen Barry Minnich, Alexander and Ramchandran opposing and Councilman Dickie Duhe absent.

The Parish Council also agreed to ante up $500,000 for the acquisition of a 800 MHz radio system. Maj. Sam Zinna of the St. Charles Sheriff’s Office,who is also president of the 9-1-1 District, said the total project cost to have all emergency agencies on the system would be $1,766.398.Several agencies have already kicked in money to help finance the system, including St. Charles Parish Hospital, the St. Charles School Board, theSheriff’s Office and four of the nine volunteer fire departments (Norco, St.

Rose, Hahnville and Killona).

However, Zinna said there is $169,898 left to raise by the end of this month for the price to still be good, even after the parish’s contribution and if the other fire departments kick in.

Parish President Chris Tregre said, “We want everyone who is going to be a user of this system to pay their fair share.”Finally, Norco teacher and Luling resident JoAnn Borden was recognized for her 34 years of experience as a recipient of the Louisiana Older Workers Award.

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