Waste station ordinance heads for law books

by Heather Miller

Next stop - court.

Without City-Parish President Joey Durel's signature, the controversial City-Parish Council ordinance blocking construction of a waste facility on Sunbeam Lane will go into effect Saturday.

In a memo sent to the City-Parish Council clerk Friday morning, Durel tells the council that he will not veto the ordinance, "even though my conscience tells me to do otherwise."

"Given that the council's vote on this ordinance was unanimous, it seems that a veto would be a futile gesture that would force a useless, contentious and divisive override session of the council," he says in the memo. "And ... anything said in that override session could be used against us in a lawsuit. I know you have to make extremely tough decisions, and I feel for you when they are emotionally charged. In this instance, my only ability to strongly disagree with this vote is simply not to sign the ordinance, reluctantly allowing it to become law."

City residents on Sunbeam Lane began publicly opposing the facility in early October, roughly nine months after waste company IESI started the permitting process through LCG's Planning, Zoning and Codes Department. The site is adjacent to a residential area of north Lafayette, but because the property is in a small pocket of unincorporated Lafayette Parish with no zoning regulations, PZC could not deny the permit.

In response, the City-Parish Council unanimously supported an ordinance by District 3 Councilman Brandon Shelvin that revoked the project's permits, despite warnings from LCG's legal counsel that doing so would result in millions of dollars in civil damages and a lengthy legal battle with the trash company. The company's owners have already publicly said they plan to sue if the permit is revoked, maintaining they've already put more than $1 million into the project.

Durel's been mum on the controversy since its inception, but Friday's message to the council was loud and clear.

"I worry about what message this council has sent to property owners and potential employers," Durel says in the memo. "I worry about what precedent has been set and its impact on future development in the parish. But mostly, I worry about what this decision could cost the taxpayers. This issue, created in part by a lack of regulations, which could have been addressed by previous parish councils, has now become a matter placed into the lap of this government. It should also be pointed out that, because we are consolidated,' the people in the city will likely carry much, if not most of the burden of what would be only a parish' issue under a different form of government."

Read the full memo here.