A set of gravel pit regulations the Livingston Parish Council will consider introducing Thursday night is a far cry from where the proposal began.
The council’s ordinance committee completely retooled the ordinance Councilman Jim Norred proposed in September after learning that Southern Aggregates intends to locate a 238-acre mining operation next to his Watson subdivision.
Norred’s regulations, which drew heavy opposition from industry leaders, would have required mining operators to pay hefty permit fees, perform impact studies, extend their buffer zones, restrict hours of operation and erect an 8-foot, solid wood, brick or masonry fence around the site perimeter, among other things.
Committee Chairwoman Joan Landry said the latest version of the rules also would protect the public against noise and dust, two frequently cited concerns, “but without putting the whole gravel industry out of business.”
The committee’s version discards much of what the mining operators opposed, reducing the permit fees from $3,000 per hole annually to a one-time $500 per application, according to a copy of the proposed ordinance circulated among Parish Council members in advance of Thursday’s meeting.
The committee version also nixes the environmental impact studies and restricted hours, while reducing the setback requirement from 500 feet to 100 feet and requiring an 8-foot fence or vegetative berm only adjacent to residential property.
The committee’s proposal would require a mining company to have an “informal discussion” with the parish Planning Commission’s review engineer and other unnamed parish staff to resolve any technical matters regarding the proposed site before submitting the project to the Planning Commission. The operator would be responsible for paying the engineer’s fees for that review.
The Planning Commission would make a recommendation to approve or deny the mining application to the Parish Council, which would have the final say on the project.
“I think the ordinances we have ended up with are very, very good,” Landry said Wednesday. “They’re pretty detailed compared to what Washington and Tangipahoa parishes have, and I think it’s a document we can all live with and still protect the public as much as possible.”
Landry said she did not anticipate seeing any opposition to the committee’s version of the regulations. “I think the public has looked at it enough,” she said. “We’ve had a lot of meetings and input from the industry as well as individuals.”
Norred could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
More than 700 residents signed a petition opposing the new Southern Aggregates gravel pit and initiated a letter-writing campaign to the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, both of which must issue permits for the project. The residents say they fear that noise and dust from the mining operation will be hazardous to their health and cause their property values to plummet.
Kevin Black, the company’s vice president and general manager, has said the residents’ concerns are misplaced and largely based on misunderstandings about his company’s mining process and a lack of knowledge about the state and federal rules that already govern such operations.
DEQ has not yet set a date for a public hearing on the project, agency spokesman Greg Langley said Wednesday.
Follow Heidi R. Kinchen on Twitter @HeidiRKinchen.