The Metro Council took the first steps Wednesday to rezoning land along River Road that would make it impossible for a controversial barge-cleaning facility to locate in the area.
The council asked the Planning and Zoning Commission to consider the rezoning request and to compile a report on how the land nearby is occupied.
The report would juxtapose the neighboring land, which includes a BREC park and neighborhood, with the barge facility proposed on a 33-acre plot on the Mississippi River’s east bank.
In order to block the barge facility from the area, Mayor Pro Tem Chandler Loupe and Councilman John Delgado proposed changing the land’s designation from industrial to commercial.
“We have a clear chemical corridor on the river, and it’s not there,” Loupe said. Located near the proposed facility are the 197-acre BREC Farr Park Equestrian Center and the Riverbend Lakes neighborhood.
The Planning Commission will consider the rezoning measure Aug. 17, and the matter will return to the Metro Council on Aug. 19 for final approval. Delgado said he “fully expects” the council will vote to change the land designation next month.
The council did not debate the matter before Wednesday’s vote, and nobody objected to passing the request.
The state Department of Environmental Quality uses local zoning when considering air and water permits.
The proposed barge-cleaning facility has been met with more and more resistance as the month has worn on. Mayor-President Kip Holden, LSU President F. King Alexander, nearby residents and LSU faculty have all voiced opposition to the project.
Many have cited pollution as their top concern. In a packed meeting with nearby residents earlier this month, Wilma Subra, a chemist and adviser to the Louisiana Environmental Action Network, said the facility could emit 198 chemicals in the air.
Tubal-Cain Marine Service is leasing the property and planning the barge-cleaning operation. Last year, Tubal-Cain Marine Service applied to DEQ for a permit that, if approved, would allow the facility to release air pollution to levels that would make it a “minor source.”
The permit application says the facility expects to release 10 tons of nitrogen oxide, 49 tons of carbon monoxide and 15 tons of volatile organic compounds a year.
The Port of Greater Baton Rouge owns the property, and Port Director Jay Hardman has said concerns about the facility are inflated.
DEQ, will hold a public hearing on the proposed permit at 6 p.m. Aug. 18. The public comment period will run until Aug. 31.
In other action Wednesday, the council agreed to spend $2.7 million for an environmental study of a proposed trolley down Nicholson Drive between downtown and LSU’s campus.
Many council members expressed skepticism before voting on the funding, asking if there were other financing options.
“There’s so many things that need to be done, and that’s why I’m just having reservations,” said Joel Boé, referencing a conversation earlier in the meeting about how many bridges throughout the city need more money and manpower to be fixed.
William Daniel, the mayor’s chief administrative officer, said developing the Nicholson Corridor will pay off for the city by spurring economic activity.
Follow Andrea Gallo on Twitter, @aegallo.