Luling commercial growth slated

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 11, 2008

New projects could affect wetlands


Staff Reporter

LULING- Esperanza Investments, L.L.C. has received a Coastal Use Permit from the Corps of Engineers for a development of 15 lots that will affect surrounding wetlands off Sugarland Parkway in Luling.

Developments on the property will include industrial, light industrial and warehouse sites, and some commercial development is also expected.

The new developments will be the latest in the area Esperanza has successfully been developing in the area since the early 1990s. Past projects include the Esperanza Restaurant, R.K. Smith Middle School, St. Charles Public School System Satellite Center and two hotels.

Recently, the developers donated tracts of land to the St. Charles Public School System for an all-purpose utility center and to the Humane Society for the building of a new animal shelter.

In addition, construction is ongoing for a new maintenance facility for the school system and a new facility for Lamar Construction.

Project Engineer Danny Hebert said as of now plans for the new development are limited to extending utilities and a road into a sugarcane field as well as providing site improvements to stabilize the soil on each plot.

Buildings, roads, driveways and parking areas are eventually expected to displace 71,589 cubic yards of native material from the site. In addition, 45,947 cubic yards of concrete and 212,217 cubic yards of sand will be brought in for additional fill and construction activities.

Approximately 84 acres of forested wetlands, part of the former Ashton Plantation, may be impacted by the proposed project.

“The decision (for the permit) must be consistent with the state program and approved local programs for affected parishes and must represent an appropriate balancing of social, environmental and economic factors,” according to a Public Notice issued by the Corps of Engineers.

However, Jill Mastrototaro of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation said the Corps of Engineers is not as scrupulous as one may think.

“It is not uncommon for the Corps to put their stamp on anything that comes in their door,” Mastrototaro said.

“If they have the opportunity to stay out of the wetland area I think they should,” Mastrototaro added. “Development needs to be done in an environmentally sensitive way.”

“Given that we are losing so much of our wetlands to natural erosion. Exacerbating that process by destroying them doesn’t make any sense, especially if we have our federal representatives trying to pass laws to protect the coastal areas.

“We are talking out of both sides of our mouths. We need to have a clear message.”