Group cries uncle on development



It drops 2 lawsuits to block lake project

Saturday, September 11, 2004
By Paul Bartels
St. Tammany bureau

Save Our Wetlands apparently has fought its last legal battle against a huge upscale residential, recreational and commercial development being developed by Tammany Holding Corp. near Lake Pontchartrain south of Slidell.

Two of three lawsuits brought against federal, state and local agencies to block further development of Lakeshore Estates and Lakeshore Village have been dismissed at the plaintiffs' request. The same fate is anticipated for the third.

The first suit was filed in early June in federal court by the organization and by member Glynn Brock of the Slidell area against the Army Corps of Engineers, which had approved a wetlands-mitigation permit May 7 for the project buildout.

The second one, by the environmental group acting alone, came a week later in state court against the Department of Environmental Quality for granting the water quality certification for the project on the same day as the corps' permit approval.

The last suit, by Save Our Wetlands and Brock, was brought June 18 in state court after the St. Tammany Parish Council upheld Zoning Commission amendments to the Lakeshore Estates/Lakeshore Village planned unit developments.

Tammany Holding President Bob Torres brought a counterclaim for damages against the environmental group for violating a 2001 agreement with him and his company.

Save Our Wetlands attorney Ken Stewart quickly folded with a petition to dismiss the suit against DEQ. It was granted in late June.

Brock later informed the environmental group's lawyers that he was planning to move out of state because of a family illness and wanted to withdraw as plaintiff from the suit against the corps and the council.

The federal suit was dismissed "with prejudice" Sept. 1 at the plaintiffs' request. Thus, the group can't revisit the case or raise other issues through another suit. The plaintiffs also agree not to provide assistance of any kind to any legal challenge that might be brought by others against the permit.

The stipulation agreement is signed by Save Our Wetlands attorneys Luke Fontana and Paul Massa; Brock's attorney, Athurt Lemann IV; Torres' attorneys, Stanley Millan, Tara Richard, Robert Rivers and Wayne Collier; and Justice Department attorney Michael Rowe.

The suit against the council is still pending, possibly the result of a communications snafu between Brock and Matthew Derieg, the attorney for Brock and originally the wetlands group. Brock said emphatically in an interview this week that he wants no further involvement in the suit.

In its settlement agreement with Torres in June 2001, Save Our Wetlands agreed not to pursue further litigation that would affect Torres, his company or his 2,600-acre development. The pact was signed by Fontana and Stewart after they lost suits in federal and state courts against the initial Lakeshore Estates project.

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

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