LIVINGSTON — A proposal to exclude ponds from Livingston Parish’s gravel pit regulations was kicked back to committee Thursday, after industry representatives said the change would create more problems than it would solve.
The proposal would have allowed “those operators individually who engage in the business of pond excavation” to dig multiple “noncommercial” ponds per year on a single $100 permit, without having to abide by the same stringent regulations as sand and gravel mining operations.
Lance West, owner of Cash Sand & Gravel in Denham Springs, said the proposal also would have created “a paradox” in the ordinance because dirt is an aggregate, no matter where it’s dug.
“If you put ‘ponds’ (as an exclusion from the regulations), all you’re doing there is just naming a location, because what’s in the pond is dirt,” West said.
Kevin Black, vice president and general manager of Southern Aggregates, said the proposal also failed to answer some critical questions, including how the 2.5-acre limit on pond size would be enforced, what depth the pond could be and whether lot size must be considered.
Digging a 2.5-acre pond could produce some 2,700 tractor-trailer loads of dirt, Black said. And once that dirt moves off-site, it becomes part of a commercial enterprise even if it is the hauler, rather than the landowner, who sells it.
Black suggested requiring the dirt to stay on-site after excavation for the exemption to apply.
Councilwoman Sonya Collins said that would virtually eliminate any new ponds from being dug in Livingston Parish. Private landowners often agree that the excavator can take the dirt as payment for digging the pond — a trade that Collins said every landowner should have the right to make.
Collins suggested creating two separate sets of regulations — one for gravel pits and another for ponds.
“That sounds like a good job for January,” said Chairman Chance Parent.
At least eight of the nine council members will be replaced in January, after three chose not to seek re-election and five were ousted by voters last month. The ninth incumbent — Jim Norred, who pushed for the parish to regulate gravel pits after Southern Aggregates planned to locate one next to his Watson neighborhood — is facing a runoff Nov. 21.
West urged the council to toss out not just the proposed ponds exemption, but the gravel pit regulations as a whole.
“Y’all asked the question: How can we fix this?” West said. “After contemplating it, there is no fixing it. … This was a punitive measure. We know that. Please retract it.”
Councilman Ricky Goff said the pond issue had “muddied the water” in the regulations and suggested sending the proposal back to committee.
His motion passed on a 6-1 vote. Councilman Delos Blackwell, who had sponsored the amendment, was the lone “no” vote.
Follow Heidi R. Kinchen on Twitter, @HeidiRKinchen, and call her at (225) 336-6981.