Press Statement For Immediate Release
Issued by Concerned Citizens of Lacombe
Friday, March 18, 2011, The Concerned Citizens of Lacombe, Inc. (CCL), a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the betterment of the Lacombe area, filed suit against St. Tammany Parish Government in the 22nd Judicial District Court. The suit seeks relief from the Parish’s unilateral administrative determination that a “waste transfer station” is a Permitted Use in an I-2 Industrial District, and from the administrative decision to grant a permit to IESI, LA Corp., allowing it to build and operate a waste transfer station at Hwy. 434 and I-12 in Lacombe, Louisiana. These decisions were both made without notice or a public hearing.
The Parish overreached its authority by adding and allowing a waste transfer station use that was not specifically mentioned or allowed as a “Permitted Use” in an I-2 district under the Parish zoning ordinance; and in doing so, the Parish acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner. Specifically, the Parish exceeded its administrative functions and authority because:
the waste transfer station use was administratively allowed by the Planning Department instead of being considered and adopted legislatively by an ordinance of the Parish Council;
the Department of Permits and Regulatory granted the permit prematurely and based on incomplete information;
the Parish failed to follow public notice and public hearing requirements for amendments to its official zoning ordinance;
the Parish Planning and Permits Departments disregarded the role and exclusive legislative authority of the Parish Council to make changes to the zoning ordinance;
the Parish failed to follow its own zoning rules and regulations, the Home Rule Charter, and the due process requirements of our state Constitution.
The Parish’s actions, if not challenged and corrected, will allow any applicant desiring to operate a waste transfer station in any I-2, I-3 or I-4 zoning district within the Parish to simply request a permit to do so, as a matter of right, without public notice of its application, without a public hearing on its request, without public scrutiny and without any conditions. CCL views that result to be a flagrant abuse of the process by which all of the citizens of St. Tammany Parish approved the existing zoning ordinance and the official zoning maps, as well as complete disregard for every citizen’s right under the Home Rule Charter, the Unified Development Code and the state Constitution to receive notice of any proposed changes to that ordinance and a right to be heard with respect to those changes.
Adding insult to injury, the Parish – instead of simply granting the hearings and appeals mandated by law – chose to preemptively sue two individual property owners and CCL. All citizens of St. Tammany should be “Concerned Citizens” when the Parish starts suing land owners who have complained of unlawful conduct by Parish administrators. And, if the Parish’s actions were legitimate – as it has repeatedly maintained – why, then, did it race to the court-house to ask a judge if its conduct was indeed lawful? Our decision to file suit was not taken lightly.
However, after our requests for appeals of the Planning Department’s decision to grant the waste transfer station permit were denied, the refusal of the Department of Permits and Regulatory to revoke or suspend that permit, the denial of CCL’s appeal for a hearing on the denial of those requests by the Board of Zoning Adjustments, and the suit filed against our not-for-profit entity, CCL had no choice but to bring a suit against St. Tammany Parish.
Adding to CCL’s concern is the potential adverse impact the waste transfer station may have on the surrounding environment. Considering the nature of the IESI’s intended use, the fact that the current site contains wetlands, is located near Bayou Lacombe, and only two miles from Big Branch National Wildlife Refuge, this waste transfer station holds the potential to cause irrevocable, permanent harm to Lacombe, as well as place an undue burden on the community. We have the right and now have the forum to be heard.
For additional information please contact;
Tony Thomas, President at (985) 590-7754