A trio of developers are seeking to rezone a nearly 105-acre tract of land in central St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana, to construct a construction and demolition (C&D) debris landfill—something they say the rapidly growing parish has long needed and can be done responsibly, reports the New Orleans Advocate.
The proposal has not been well received by St. Tammany Parish residents, however.
As reported by the Advocate, more than 100 people packed a public meeting earlier this month to raise vehement objections to rezoning the land. They see the location, on the headwaters of Bayou Lacombe, as environmentally sensitive and fear that a landfill—even one that only takes construction and demolition debris—could pollute the bayou, hurt the aquifer and wreck property values.
"There are nasty things that come out, even from C&D landfills," said Margie Vicknair-Pray, a Sierra Club staff member and resident of nearby Lacombe, Louisiana. "It's not something you want draining into the headwaters of a protected stream."
The St. Tammany Parish Zoning Commission will consider the request to rezone the property from a combination of residential and highway commercial zoning to a solid waste management district on Sept. 1.
Developers Brett Davis, Clark Heebe and Heath Rushing—all St. Tammany Parish residents—are seeking the rezoning, which Davis describes as a beneficial development that will reduce the cost of disposing construction debris now hauled to sites outside of St. Tammany.
He points to a study commissioned by the parish after Hurricane Katrina that identified a construction and debris landfill as a top priority. But 15 years later, it still hasn't been addressed, he said.
"We can't, as a progressive, educated community ... kick the can down the road and put our debris on adjacent parishes," Davis said. If at some point, out-of-parish landfills stop taking St. Tammany debris, he said, the parish will be in trouble. The landfill they are proposing would also mean storm debris could be cleared more quickly.
The developers have stressed that C&D landfills are far different from one that handles household waste, and Davis pointed out that a mailer that was sent out in opposition to the rezoning is misleading because it show the latter type.
He added that competitors, like Stranco, Abita Springs, Louisiana, and Coastal Environmental Services, Lacombe, Louisiana, which was bought last year by River Birch, are actively opposing the rezoning because they don't want competition.
But Bilbo Strain of Stranco said that his opposition isn't based on any fear it would put him out of business. He said there isn't a need for one and that St. Tammany doesn't generate enough construction debris to make the landfill succeed. He says he thinks that the landfill will end up taking waste from other places, noting that the developers wouldn't commit to only taking St. Tammany waste.
Councilman Steve Stefancik, who met with Heebe and Davis, said that he views the landfill as something that the parish could use, but not necessarily something it needs. The debris is being handled today, he noted, although at a higher cost to constituents. He said that might be a cost people are willing to pay.
"A majority of the council will take a look, wait for all the facts and then make up their minds," he said.