Harahan has backed off its effort to impose tougher zoning regulations on a sandpit operator on the Mississippi River levee batture, although the City Council did pass an ordinance imposing restrictions on the release of particulate matter within city limits.
Councilwoman Sue Benton on Thursday withdrew a proposed law that would have limited the hours of operation and imposed other restrictions on Wood Companies’ facility, which has come under fire from residents who say it kicks up dust that covers their houses and vehicles and even finds its way into their homes.
Last week, Wood Companies filed a petition for declaratory judgment in 24th Judicial District Court, claiming, among other things, that the ordinance would be invalid because it didn’t pass through the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission first.
Benton declined to speak about why she pulled the ordinance, citing the advice of the city attorney not to discuss matters involved with litigation.
The council has gone into executive session before to discuss Wood Companies, which the city has cited for illegal composting.
On Friday, Wood amended its petition in court to account for the fact that the council didn’t vote on the batture zoning ordinance, but it added a request for a temporary restraining order against the city’s enforcement of the new particulate matter ordinance.
That ordinance, which was introduced by Councilwoman Dana Huete last month, passed 4-0 Thursday, with Benton abstaining. It would require a company to take measures to prevent particulate matter from becoming airborne, including cleaning dust off paved areas, wetting down surfaces and covering trucks during transport. Failure to comply carries a fine of $500.
Wood Companies says in its revised petition that only the state and federal governments have the authority to regulate particulate matter.
It is not clear whether the zoning ordinance will come up again after going before the Planning and Zoning Commission.
Wood Companies has said it is taking steps to minimize the amount of sand it kicks up, including adding a landscape buffer and berms, rerouting trucks and looking into building a new road farther away from homes. It also says the federal “Pump to the River” drainage project has exacerbated sand problems.
A group of nine residents filed suit against the company earlier this month over the sand problem, and Wood Materials was hit with a cease-and-desist order from the state Department of Natural Resources earlier this week.
The department said Wood Companies has violated its dredging permit by removing too much sand from the river.
Follow Chad Calder on Twitter, @Chad_Calder.