Heated meeting held as industry seeks exemptions

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 8, 2008


Staff Reporter

LAPLACE – A request by Nalco Co. to add an 80-acre tract of industrially zoned land to their existing parish-approved industrial site in Garyville received the approval of the St. John Planning and Zoning Commission at a meeting Monday, but the commission failed to move on a similar request made by Safeland Storage LLC, which is looking to build a tank farm facility in Garyville.

The commission’s final decision on Nalco came after heated debate from Garyville residents who are awaiting a July 19 vote on whether the area will become an incorporated community. Several residents urged the commission to postpone the decision until the vote.

One resident, Carl Baloney, who is the husband of Garyville attorney Geri Baloney, the key figure in the move to incorporate, was asked by two St. John deputies to leave Monday’s meeting after a heated exchange discussing the issue.  

Residents challenged the legality of the request citing state laws that require a land-use study on areas proposed for industrialization.

But St. John Public Information Officer Buddy Boe said the commission’s decision was based on a parish-wide land-use study that was conducted by the University of New Orleans in 1999.

Attorney Tomy Acosta said parish officials were trying to work around the law by using the parish-wide study. He said the study should have been “cite-specific” to the area in which Nalco wished to expand.

During the 90-minute meeting, representatives from Safeland and Nalco addressed the commission and stated that their requests were from a legal standpoint, and should not be made into a political issue. The commission also heard from St. John Director of Economic Development Julia Remondet, who discussed how industrial areas were created in the parish in the past. She said companies often go this route to avoid double taxation from municipalities.

According to Boe, businesses in designated industrial areas are required to provide many of their own public services such as security, road construction and sewage. He said the designation also exempts the industries from municipal taxes.

The Commission voted 6-2 in favor of the expansion at Nalco. Entering yes votes were Keith Gillies, Kurt Becnel, Mark Chapman, Lester Millet III, Don Loisel and Vernon Bailey. Members against the move were Mike Luminais and Faith Farlough.

In the matter of Safeland Storage, which had been tabled at a meeting last month, the commission came to a 4-4 deadlock on removing it from the table. There was no further discussion on the decision.

The commission will give its recommendation to the St. John Parish Council, which was to consider both requests during its regular meeting last night, that came after L’Observateur’s press time.