LAFAYETTE — The City-Parish Council is scheduled to decide Tuesday whether to block a planned garbage transfer station in north Lafayette, setting the stage for potentially costly litigation from developers who have already begun work at the site.
City-Parish Councilman Brandon Shelvin has proposed a local law that would block any future transfer stations and direct the city-parish administration to revoke the building permit for the one taking shape on a 16-acre tract on Sunbeam Lane.
Residents in the area have complained about the possible noise and smell, as well as heavy truck traffic on the two-lane asphalt road.
“The facility is not a good fit for this neighborhood,” Shelvin said.
The transfer station is being developed by Waste Facilities of Lafayette, and waste company IESI has signed a 10-year lease for the site.
Representatives from both companies say they have met all existing regulations and will likely pursue litigation if the council votes to rescind the permit.
“We’ve done everything by the book, and now they are trying to revoke our permit. It’s just not good business,” said Kevin Ayers, who is developing the project for Waste Facilities of Lafayette.
IESI will bring waste it collects from business customers in Lafayette, transferring the trash from garbage trucks to larger tractor-trailers to haul to a landfill outside of the parish, IESI District Manager Dave Clabo said.
The site is at the edge of the city limits across the street from a residential area, but it is in unincorporated area that has no zoning regulations.
City-parish staff granted a building permit for the facility on Sept. 19, saying they had no legitimate reason to deny a permit for a company proposing a legal business in an area with no zoning.
No state waste permits apply to garbage transfer stations where no trash is kept on-site, and city-parish officials say the company has met a local requirement that there be a 150-foot buffer plus a 20-foot green belt around the area of the property being used to transfer garbage.
Residents and business owners along Sunbeam Lane argue that the potential problems are obvious and that something should be done to halt the project.
“It’s a hazard to the people’s health and safety and the well-being of the community,” said Daniel Guilliot, whose family owns a industrial gauge business about 100 yards from the proposed transfer station.
Guilliot said the increased truck traffic poses a risk to children waiting at bus stops on Sunbeam Lane and other area roads.
“Plus, there’s the stench we are going to have here from all the trash trucks out here every day,” he said.
Ayers said that in an effort to address the concern about truck traffic, the developers are looking into the purchase of additional land that would offer an alternative way to access the site.
Clabo said IESI plans to run a clean operation.
The area where garbage is transferred will be washed every day, he said, and the water from the cleaning process will drain into a tank that will be pumped out by a truck that hauls the wastewater offsite.
The garbage will never touch the ground but instead be dumped directly from one truck into another, and there are also plans for an industrial-sized deodorizer for the site, Clabo said.
He said the company will work to address concerns but has no plans to halt the project.
If the council chooses to revoke the permit for the transfer station, “we would have no choice” but to pursue litigation, Clabo said.
Ayers said the property for the station has already been purchased at a cost of $395,000 and more than $1 million has been spent on the project so far.
Shelvin said he expects a lawsuit if his proposal passes, and he understands the company’s position.
“At the end of the day, they followed the rules. They followed the law,” Shelvin said.
He said the incident illustrates the need for a provision that would trigger better notification for developments that residents might find objectionable.
The company began the permitting process in February, but some council members have said information about the project never made it out of the city’s permitting department until last month.
“I think we should have something in place where the council or the city-parish president or someone should have some sort of notification of something like this,” Shelvin said.
The council earlier this month settled a lawsuit brought by Greyhound related to a similar situation.
Greyhound bought property at Moss and Matthieu streets in 2007, planning to move from its location on Lee Avenue downtown to be closer to Interstate 49 and Interstate 10.
The purchase was contingent on a zoning change that the City-Parish Council approved in 2007 to allow a bus station to locate in the area — a decision unpopular with many residents and business owners who complained of increased noise and traffic.
In 2008, a newly elected City-Parish Council undid the zoning change, effectively blocking the bus company’s plans.
Greyhound responded with a lawsuit, and the council agreed this month to a settlement that will cost city-parish government about $540,094, which includes the purchase by city-parish government of the Moss Street property.
Under the terms of the settlement, half of the $540,094 will be paid in cash and half as a credit for 20 years of lease payments at the city-owned Rosa Parks Transportation Center downtown.
The Police Department plans to use the Moss Street property for a new precinct.