Monica says he’s not issue on tank farm
Published 12:00 am Monday, December 19, 2005
By KEVIN CHIRI
GARYVILLE — The prospect of an oil tank farm to the west of Garyville remains a matter of controversy, but longtime area developer Carl Monica believes the questions on his position about the project are just an attempt to take the spotlight off the main issue.
It was revealed by L’Observateur a week ago that a group of unnamed local investors are in the process of buying over 400 acres of land west of the Garyville/Mt. Airy area that is being proposed as a large oil tank farm.
Monica, the leading developer in Garyville, admits he previously tried to buy the property over a year ago to turn it into residential area. But in last week’s story, sources involved in the project claimed Monica originally supported the tank farm when they brought the plan to him early in the summer, but now has changed his mind since he was unable to purchase the land in a second attempt just months ago.
Monica vehemently denies that he ever supported the plan, and now has some strong backing in his case.
State Rep. Bobby Faucheaux, who is the attorney for the current investors into the tank farm, said he has also never known Monica to support new industry for Garyville.
“To my knowledge, Carl has never supported more industrial in Garyville,” Faucheaux said. “Everyone knows he tried to buy the property, but I can’t say that I ever heard him say he supported the tank farms.”
Monica believes the attack on him has more to do with taking the focus off the tank farm plan itself.
“To say I ever supported this is a blatant, outright lie,” he said. “Apparently these sources have been watching court proceedings of famous celebrity trials and have learned to attack their accuser to take the focus off of the actual game.”
Monica is spearheading a group of Garyville/Mt. Airy residents and businessmen who are mobilizing to fight the project, even though it appears to be an uphill climb with the property already zoned heavy industrial.
Faucheaux confirmed to L’Observateur this week that the property is, in fact, already under contract to be purchased from ARC Holding, Inc., a subsidiary of Mitsubishi. He estimates it could take up to 60 days to get the property closed.
At that point, the investors would need a study for the feasibility of the project, then seek state EPA and DEQ permits for the farm.
Monica believes the tank farm is wrong for the region, since Marathon already sits on 3,000 acres to the easy of the area.
“Having this important parcel become an oil tank farm rather than residential is absolutely wrong, especially in view of the fact that this is one of the few high and dry parcels of property on the east bank of St. John,” he explained. “Garyville and Mt. Airy are already too heavily saturated and ‘clustered’ with heavy industrial.”
Monica said he is very concerned with the secrecy of the project, reminding him of the attempt by Aristech to buy the property over 10 years ago, and put a large chemical plant there.
“Years ago Aristech signed to buy the property in January, and they closed on it in April. These people are doing the same thing by trying to keep this all secret,” Monica remarked. “The public officials have known about this for a long time and are just now admitting they know about it. This was wrong for the area 10 years ago, and it’s wrong now.”
Monica continues to point to the recent oil tank rupture at Murphy Oil in St. Bernard during Hurricane Katrina, and is afraid the same thing could happen here.
However, sources who are directing the deal have told L’Observateur that several factors should change that possibility.
“We will situate the tanks as far to the west on the 400 acres as possible, as far away from residential as we can. Then we will have heavily forested areas between residential and the tanks, and we will have state of the art technology in building these tanks. We are also promising $5 million in new fire protection for the Garyville/Mt. Airy department,” the source told L’Observateur. “These things will make this a much different situation than the Murphy Oil tanks. Safety is going to be our top priority.”
St. John Councilmen Alan St. Pierre and Cleveland Farlough only confirmed last week that they know about the project, but had previously not spoken publicly about the tanks, although admitting they knew about the possibility as early as January.
However Farlough said he thought it was premature to discuss the tanks until something more substantial was happening.
Farlough has not taken a position supporting the tanks, while St. Pierre and Parish President Nickie Monica have both told L’Observateur they support the tank farm.
“That’s the problem here,” Carl Monica added. “This parish has no vision. This will depreciate property values in Garyville, and if it goes through, I’m getting out of the area. I’m done here.”