Third suit filed against huge project



Save Our Wetlands targets Parish Council

Wednesday, June 23, 2004
By Paul Bartels
St. Tammany bureau

Save Our Wetlands of Louisiana has filed its third lawsuit in less than three weeks in a last-ditch effort to block further development of a huge residential, recreational and commercial project south of Slidell.

The other suits were filed in federal court against the Army Corps of Engineers in New Orleans for issuing a wetlands-mitigation permit and in state court in Baton Rouge against the state Department of Environmental Quality for approving a water-quality certification for the project.

The latest suit by the environmental group, this time with member and Pirates Harbor resident Glynn Brock as co-plaintiff, was brought Friday in state court in Covington against the St. Tammany Parish Council.

Save Our Wetlands and Brock challenge the council's June 3 decision to uphold the Zoning Commission's multiple rezonings and a handful of changes May 4 to the Lakeshore Estates and Lakeshore Village planned unit developments being built by Tammany Holding Corp.

The council's action, the suit asserts, is contrary to the laws of the parish and the state, "and constitutes an abuse of discretion and the unreasonable exercise of its police powers."

The suit asks the court to find the council in violation of parish law, to issue an order requiring the council to withdraw its approval of the project and, after a hearing on the case, issue a permanent order against the parish until and unless it and the developer abide by the law.

Neither the council nor Tammany Holding officials had comments Tuesday on the suit.

The developments, or PUDs, are the major components in 1,600 acres of the 25-year buildout plan for the total 2,500-acre project in the area, sometimes called Oak Harbor East, along and near Lake Pontchartrain.

The entire project includes the already-developed Lakeshore Estates subdivision, which isn't the same as the PUD. The two PUDs are part of Tammany Holding's master plan approved by the parish in 2001.

Any changes of note to the plans for those developments, or to any PUD, must be resubmitted to the parish Zoning Commission for approval.

The suit asserts that dredging or filling of "650 acres of valuable wetlands" will alter or destroy 34.5 acres of essential fish habitat for red drum and shrimp, and the enlargement of the East Diversion Canal along Louisiana 433 will result in pollution, increased flooding and a threat to the stability of homes and camps along the canal.

The suit claims the development plans fail to meet minimum requirements of parish subdivision regulations to ensure the project is in "the best interest of the public health, safety and welfare" for numerous reasons, including:

-- Phases of development aren't indicated and, therefore, the developer has not and cannot dedicate all the required greenspace in the first phase.

-- "No proper traffic impact analysis has been submitted" with the developer's application for the changes in the PUDs.

-- The environmental assessment submitted with the application to the Zoning Commission is "replete with erroneous and fallacious statements"; was prepared by an agent of Tammany Holding, project engineer Shelby LaSalle, rather than an impartial party; and "hides the tremendous amount of dredging" the project will entail in enlarging the East Diversion Canal along Louisiana 433.

-- Specific drainage system plans weren't provided with the application for tentative approval.

The suit also asserts the planned development fails to comply with the comprehensive land-use plan adopted by the New Directions 2025 citizens committee and adopted by the council in December.

. . . . . . .

Paul Bartels can be reached at
pbartels@timespicayune.com or (985) 645-2854.

http://www.nola.com/sttammany/t-p/index.ssf?/base/news-2/1087977588244370.xml



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