Debate expected on proposed Livingston Parish gravel pit regulations

Permit fees and fencing requirements may be points of contention when the Livingston Parish Council discusses proposed new gravel pit regulations next month.

The council voted 8-0 Thursday night to introduce a trio of ordinances designed to regulate mining operations and guide future land use in the parish. The ordinances are set for public hearing Sept. 25.

Some councilmen already have voiced concern over some of the regulations Councilman Jim Norred, of Watson, drafted.

The ordinances come in response to Southern Aggregates’ plan to locate a 238-acre mining operation next to the Oak Hills subdivision in Watson, where Norred lives. More than 700 residents, including Norred, have signed a petition and written letters to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality asking the agencies to deny permits for the project.

Norred’s proposed regulations would require all mining operations not already in production to perform impact studies, extend their buffer zones, restrict their hours of operation, pave all on-site roads, allow unannounced site inspections, set up environmental and noise monitoring systems, and train residents how to read them.

The ordinances, as drafted, also would set a $3,000 annual permit fee per pit — that is per hole, not per site — and require all mining sites, including those no longer in operation, to erect an 8-foot, solid wood, brick or masonry fence around their perimeter.

Councilmen Delos Blackwell and Ricky Goff questioned those provisions, in particular.

Blackwell asked Norred if he thought the $3,000 permit fee was too steep, to which Norred responded that some parishes require more and some less.

Goff also expressed hesitancy about the fencing requirement but said Thursday night’s discussion was only for the purpose of introducing the ordinances.

Norred said the parish regulates “just about everything else in the parish except gravel pits,” including subdivisions, commercial developments and even schools and churches.

He said he was shocked to learn that a mining operation was planned for the property next to his subdivision, but he would fight just as hard if the pit were being located next to a subdivision in another council district.

Growth in the rural community of Watson has made regulation of land use necessary, he said.

In other business, the council reluctantly approved a change order for the Eden Church Road redesign and overlay project completed more than a year ago.

Councilman Marshall Harris, the lone “no” vote, said he had never seen any public body anywhere approve a change order so long after a project was finished and questioned the delay in this case.

Mark Harrell, the parish’s grants administrator, said engineering firm Alvin Fairburn & Associates chose to save all the change orders on the project for submission at the end, rather than as the roadwork progressed.

Harrell said he received the requests only six months ago and spent the past few months getting the paperwork in order and making sure the state Department of Transportation and Development approved the cost increases before bringing them to the council.

The council members expressed frustration about the delay but said the contractor, F.G. Sullivan, did the work and deserved to be paid.

Follow Heidi R. Kinchen on Twitter, @HeidiRKinchen.