Proposed Elvina rezoning shot down

Published 12:24 am Saturday, July 30, 2022

LAPLACE — Family members who share interest in the land that once housed the Elvina Plantation were once again rebuked in their efforts to have the property rezoned from residential to rural.

The St. John the Baptist Parish Council, as it has done previously, accepted a recommendation by the parish Planning and Zoning Commission to deny two rezoning requests.

“On good conscience, I cannot support the proposed use of this property,” said Councilman Robert Arcuri. “The proximity to the River Forest subdivision, (and) the clay pits are close to the property lines.

“If it would be sold as a sports complex, hospital, school or similar uses I could support that type of designation.”
Councilman Thomas Malik said he was not opposed to development of the area but does oppose the potential destruction of neighboring property. He said he was told by one civil engineer that excavation could create flooding and other problems in the area.

Members of Elvina LLC, which was formed Oct. 9, 2019 and lists a Metairie residence as its home address, for more than a year have been pushing for the rezoning, which would allow them to create clay pits with the spoil to be sold to the federal government for construction of the West Shore Lake Pontchartrain Hurricane Protection Project spanning three parishes.

The group has presented several arguments to the council, including the fact the site has been a sugar cane field for more than 100 years and, according to parish zoning regulations, should be zoned rural.

Without that rural designation, the clay pits would not be able to be developed.

Metairie resident George Joint, who is listed as manager of Elvina LLC, noted that when the P&Z recently denied their request, the overriding comment was opposition to the land use.

“It is our feeling this land has been improperly zoned for years,” Joint said. “It has been a sugar cane field for over 100 years.

“It appears the parish, the city and residents have more say over our investment than we do, and we ask to (have) control over our investment.”

Councilmember Tonia Schnyder also questioned the current zoning, saying that a sugar cane field is rural and since residents would like to see it remain a cane field, technically it would have to be rezoned.

Residents of River Forest, which sits adjacent to the property, have been vehement in their opposition, fearing potential damage from digging of clay pits.

One resident said he had been told by proponents that the material to be used from the spillway would not be adequate for the massive levee project and the quality of that clay was substandard. He said he was also told that without the addition of the clay pits, the entire levee project could be jeopardized.

But he contacted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and was told there was sufficient clay from the spillway and the quality of that soil met the necessary standards.

The resolution to accept the P&Z’s recommendation to deny the first request was approved with six members in favor, with Schnyder the lone dissenter. Councilwoman Tyra Duhe-Griffin and Councilman Warren Torres abstained. The second resolution to deny the request was approved with six members in favor, and Duhe-Griffin, Torres and Schnyder abstaining.

Also during the meeting, council members approved an ordinance for the sale of $15 million of the $58 million general obligation bonds approved by voters. Parish officials said the initial $15 million will be used primarily for the ongoing rehabilitation of the parish’s water treatment system.

The parish’s strong credit rating resulted in a 3.12% interest rate cost, chief financial officer Robert Figuero said.

Also during the meeting, the council unanimously approved granting to Entergy the right and privilege for a period of 50 years to supply electrical power to the parish. Hotard said the agreement is required by the Public Service Commission.

Malik said he believed the clause in the agreement “as its sees fit” pertaining to Entergy was “really silly.”

He noted a number of residents are having difficulty paying energy costs that have skyrocketed in recent months and pointed out that he lives alone and his air conditioner is off 90% of the time but his bill has also soared.

“A number of our elderly residents can’t afford to turn on the air conditioning,” Malik said, adding that monthly bills in some cases have exceeded $400.

“It takes Entergy how long to replace a transformer?” he said. “I really wish there was another energy (alternative). So much for competition.”