CONVENT — The St. James Parish Council vote on Wednesday makes it official: The parish is denying Wolverine Terminal Corp.’s application to build a $30 million crude oil terminal and blending operation along River Road in Paulina.
The resolution cites the parish’s new land use and development ordinance as part of the Parish Council’s decision two weeks ago to deny Wolverine a land use exemption to build its proposed project.
On Sept. 17, the Parish Council followed the parish’s Planning Commission’s recommendation to deny Wolverine the exemption based on the opposition of residents to a new industrial project so close to their homes and on the industry’s incompatibility with the parish’s land use plan. As a requirement of last month’s permit denial, the Parish Council also had to formally present a resolution stating its decision “to make it proper,” Parish President Timmy Roussel said.
Wolverine’s proposal included rail and dock facility improvements along with storage tank construction that would enable the company to receive heavy crude oil shipments by rail from Canadian and U.S. locations and to ship blended oil products by Mississippi River barge to domestic customers.
The resolution, approved in a 6-1 vote with only Councilman Jimmy Brazan opposing, states more reasons why government officials voted to keep Wolverine from building in Paulina. Brazan declined comment after the meeting when asked why he voted against the resolution.
Wolverine’s economic development benefits were not as substantial as other industrial projects, the resolution says.
Wolverine offered fewer direct jobs, for instance, than the 85 direct jobs that are expected to be offered by South Louisiana Methanol LP’s methanol production plant, which was approved earlier this summer under the land use ordinance.
The resolution says Wolverine did not present information showing whether other sites, like the American Iron Reduction site or the CS Metals site, both in Convent, would be inappropriate for its proposed terminal and blending operation.
Also, Wolverine’s proposal had too low a threshold “of compelling public benefit” and, if approved, would justify industrial development being built anywhere in the parish, the resolution says. That would undermine the goal of creating quality residential areas away from industry.
Although the proposed site of Wolverine’s project is adjacent to and within the fence line of an existing industrial use, grain elevator company ADM Growmark, the resolution says the land use plan’s intent is for this already-residential area to be converted to residential and mixed commercial/residential uses.
The resolution notes the parish’s land use plan was published in draft form in 2010, well before Wolverine began planning its project.
Wolverine attorneys have argued the proposed site should fall under the land use plan’s non-conforming use exception because the company has already leased land from ADM Growmark, obtained several important permits and begun preliminary construction of the facility.
The parish had initially supported the Wolverine project, with a unanimous vote on a May 2013 resolution supporting the company’s application for a tax credit through the Louisiana Enterprise Zone/Quality Jobs Program.
That support melted when some residents began voicing their concerns.
The resolution adopted Wednesday states Wolverine’s proposed terminal project does not meet the requirements to be considered a nonconformity, in part, because it has not been granted an air permit by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality and because the industrial project would involve new construction.
Editor’s note: This story was changed Oct. 5, 2014, because it incorrectly stated that South Louisiana Methanol LP’s plans to build a methanol production plant were being considered for approval under the St. James Planning Commission’s new land use ordinance. The story should have said the plant has already been approved.