Parish not considering amendment to reduce industrial buffer zones

Published 11:18 am Wednesday, February 1, 2023


LAPLACE — Seeking to quash recent rumors the St. John the Parish Council is considering an ordinance that would erase buffer zones surrounding industrial sites, President Jaclyn Hotard went on the offensive during a council meeting this last Tuesday night.

In her president’s report Hotard said the parish was working to update its ordinance to provide clearer language to regulations of developments and the process of land use approvals.

She acknowledged that as part of a transparent process an early draft of a proposed revision was shared to solicit public feedback and scrutiny.

Hotard admitted the parish was aware that some of the unintended changes to standards during the transfer to the revised code related to the industrial buffer standard but was adamant that such changes were not under consideration.

“The parish is not considering an amendment that would reduce the existing 2,000-foot buffer requirement,” she emphatically stated. “The parish is committed to providing the appropriate protection for the residents and will release the updated draft once we are sure the proposed changes are in line with the community goals.”

Hotard’s statement came shortly after parish resident Joy Banner seemingly questioned the administration’s intentions, saying, “As a public, we are not getting any information about the zoning (in the industrial areas.)

“I want the public to be aware of what is happening,” she said. “We can’t continue to go (forward) when we have no idea what is going on.”

Banner alleged the proposed ordinance amendments would unfairly benefit Greenfield Louisiana LLC, which has announced plans to build a state-of-the-art export grain facility in Wallace. Company officials have said the facility will receive grain primarily via barge and export it via seagoing vessels.

According to the company’s website, no new smokestacks are scheduled to be constructed.

However, the Descendants Project, an area nonprofit agency, has filed a lawsuit seeking to block construction of the facility.

Banner also alleged the proposed ordinance would remove buffers for industrial sites parish wide, claiming the “means of protection will be removed.”

Hotard said the parish will hold two public workshops and a public hearing will also be held before the ordinance could be passed.

She added that a previously scheduled public meeting was postponed because of a scheduling conflict.

During the meeting, the council also approved the sale of $30 million of Hurricane Ida recovery notes. The money will allow the parish to continue its Ida-relief efforts, according to Chief Financial Officer Rob Figuero.

He said the $30 million will be reimbursed by FEMA but admitted “we are running low on hurricane funds.” Figuero said recovery could have slowed without what amounts to a temporary funding source.

“It’s a slow process with FEMA,” he said.

Council members also amended the process by which streets, sidewalks and other public places could be shifted from public to private ownership. Councilman Robert Arcuri said he and parish officials looked at a similar ordinance in St. Tammany Parish and made a few tweaks.

“The process must go through planning so they have a look at it and they have to approve it and then it will go to the council,” he said. “There are a lot of safeguards in there.”

He said the private owners must grant the parish accessibility for servitudes.