Tank farm cooperation rapidly falling apart

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 9, 2006

Meeting set at Garyville School Tuesday



GARYVILLE — The tide of support and cooperation between parish councilmen, and Garyville residents opposed to a tank farm in their area, appears to be rapidly falling apart.

With news of the proposed Petroleum Storage Terminal on 400 acres of land just west of the Garyville/Mt. Airy area going public recently in an exclusive L’Observateur story, residents in the area have rapidly mobilized to try and stop the project.

Councilmen Allen St. Pierre and Cleveland Farlough, who represent the area, had initially been supportive of residents in the area, and were promising support and an open ear on various fronts.

But in recent days that support is apparently falling apart, with both councilmen now making it clear they do not see how they will be able to back the efforts of the residents to have the property rezoned.

On Thursday, St. Pierre gave a statement to L’Observateur backing off his earlier promise at a community meeting, when he said he would seek rezoning of the property to residential if a majority of residents signed a petition.

&#8220Since those times, we have been informed by our Parish legal counsel that this petition and any potential action by the Council (to rezone the property) would be fruitless without the landowner’s request. And I stand with that counsel and the constitutional protection that is afforded to property owners,” he said.

St. Pierre additionally asked for the &#8220good people of my district to stand with me toward that end.”

Meanwhile, statements by Farlough in L’Observateur questioning even the idea of rezoning the property to residential have riled community leaders, all coming after he initially said he had not taken a position on the tank farm.

&#8220I am shocked that the two representatives of the area would even think about supporting the tank farm,” opposition leader Bryan Beatle said. &#8220When a chemical plant was proposed on that land in 1989, Cleveland Farlough was quoted in a newspaper story stating ‘leave us to live in peace. The residential area is suitable for us to live just as it is.’ Has his view changed so much that the quality of the area that he fought for is no longer important to him?”

A community meeting has again been called by the group for Tuesday at the Garyville/Mt. Airy Magnet School for 6:30, to continue to discuss options to fight the tank farm.

Danny Guidry, spokesman for the investors aiming to buy the property, said that his group has no intention of asking the Parish Council to rezone the property from its current heavy industrial status.

&#8220We are under contract to buy the property with the sole intent of putting in the tank farm,” he said. &#8220But we just want residents to know we have many plans to make this the safest tank farm possible, with the most up-to-date technology and fire protection.”

Guidry further has stated that the tank farm will have levees around the tanks to hold any breaks in the tanks, as well as $5 million of fire protection available to local departments for any emergencies.

Michael Hoover, another community leader of the opposition group, said their intent is to still gather a petition against the project. But he said they have several other avenues they are considering to stop the project as well.

&#8220Our meeting on Tuesday is to keep people informed, and to discuss other things besides the rezoning issue,” he said. &#8220We hope a lot of the community comes out to become involved.”

Beatle continued to be &#8220troubled” by the position of the councilmen.

&#8220No one in our community has ever been approached about the tank farm until an area developer accidentally found out. When calls are made to our council representatives, we end up with representatives of The Angelina Group at our front door wanting to explain to us how this is going to be good for the community. I personally don’t care to talk to these people, until we have resolve with our council representatives,” he explained.

Beatle said he believes it is the responsibility of Farlough and St. Pierre to back the wishes of the people.

&#8220It should be the decision of the majority of the affected residents of our community. If more than 50 percent do not want it, then it is the responsibility, not the option of our council reps, to support us,” he added.

Neither councilmen, or representatives for the buyers of the property, are expected to be at Tuesday’s meeting.