March 6, 2012 06:12 PM

The City-Parish Council's politically motivated decision to revoke a permit for a waste transfer station will come back to bite it tonight.

At its Tuesday meeting, the Lafayette City-Parish council will go into executive session to hear from lawyers for the waste transfer station that was legally permitted for construction just outside the city limits but later had its plans bulldozed by a unanimous vote of the council. That vote came just days before the October election.

The claim for damages, which sources knowledgeable about the potential legal action estimate to be upwards of $5 million, will likely be spelled out in a federal lawsuit if the developers and council fail to negotiate a settlement. Waste Facilities of Lafayette has maintained that it followed all guidelines when applying for a local permit to build a waste transfer facility on a small island of unincorporated land in north Lafayette and promised to take necessary steps to recover its losses. Work had already begun on the 16-acre site when the permit was revoked.

The facility was to be a daily stopping point for truckloads of garbage being hauled from surrounding areas so that the waste could then be trucked to a landfill outside of the parish. Just as the company was receiving its final approval from Lafayette Consolidated Government's Planning, Zoning and Codes Department, nearly 10 months after the permitting process had begun, someone on Sunbeam Lane caught wind of the plans. Neighbors who feared the high volume of large trucks coming in and out of narrow roads leading to the Sunbeam Lane facility, noise from those trucks, the stinch of garbage and trash blowing into their yards complained to council members.

Sunbeam Lane residents also were livid that they were never notified by the project's developers or anyone else with a hand in the project - including LCG's permitting office - that a facility of this type was moving in. Regulations governing unincorporated Lafayette Parish do not require public hearings or notifications for projects of this type, though even LCG Chief Administrative Officer Dee Stanley has said informing residents of the imminent construction would have been the "corporate neighborly thing to do."

Faced with opposition, Waste Facilities' developers said trash wouldn't escape, the facility would be clean and deodorizers would ameliorate any odor problems the business may cause. Their assurances fell on deaf ears.

However, before the council voted to revoke the permit, City-Parish Attorney Mike Hebert issued an opinion stating the legal liabilities "could extend into the millions of dollars" to compensate for the cost of land, money spent so far to develop it, relocation cost and lost profits.

Tonight the council will find out just how accurate Hebert's opinion was. "It's kind of to let us know what our exposure is," Councilman Don Bertrand says of tonight's executive session. "I know it's in the millions."

Read more on the Sunbeam Lane saga here.