LIVINGSTON - The parish council deferred the issue of Premier Concrete's new dormitory until August 8th, in pursuit of more information.
And information continues to come. However, for councilman Garry 'Frog' Talbert who represents the Watson (District 2) area, that information just isn't good enough he said.
Talbert said that a conversation with the parish council's attorney, Chris Moody, yielded a compromise on the situation. Premier Concrete was willing to submit an independent drainage study, as well as build a privacy fence, to continue compliance with the parish administration.
Talbert said that the compromise didn't go far enough, as citizens of Watson would not get to voice concerns at either the planning meeting, or at the full council.
The Watson-based councilman believed the appropriate process for commercial building had been usurped. Originally, the dormitory had been zoned residential after the owner had applied for permitting. That permit was issued, as residential, and construction began.
According to Premier Concrete's lawyer, who visited the parish council on July 25th to discuss the matter, the original permitting issue was an honest mistake - the owner, Cary Goss, had believed he needed a residential permit for the building.
"Why did (the permit office) think something that has three apartments and sleeps 46 people is a house? Poor trained people or purposeful mistake?" Talbert asked rhetorically.
The District 2 councilman went on to say that even residential permits went on to a plan reviewer to make sure that the various levels of construction - from building materials to subdivision layout - were developed to meet parish ordinances and codes.
Talbert was unsure if the position still existed.
However, according to Moody, at this point the parish council is out of the game - with the error in permitting, it is the parish administration's job to sort through the issue.
"Generally, once an error is discovered the Administration works to rectify any deficiency to the extent possible," Moody said in an e-mail conversation with the News Wednesday afternoon.
Moody went on to say that, in retrospect, he believed that the building should have been permitted 'commercial' from the start. That would mean going through all the proper channels, wherein a commercial project is first reviewed by the Planning Staff, Parish Engineer, the Planning Commission, and finally approved by the Parish Council before a building permit is issued.
Site plans are required, as well as traffic studies and drainage impact studies. Finally, the plans must be approved by the planning commission, and then a public hearing is scheduled for the full council.
Moody referenced Sec. 125-78 of the parish ordinances for the 'general' dealings with commercially permitted property.
All developers of institutional, hotel, motel, R.V., rental property (residential and business), religious, commercial and industrial developments (schools, hospitals, manufacturing plants, shopping centers, etc.), are required to prepare a preliminary site plan, drainage impact study, construction plans, (when applicable), and a site plan detailed for construction (asphalt or concrete pavement section, grading, drainage, sewerage facilities, utilities, etc.) of proposed improvements to submit to the planning department for consideration. Paved surfaces shall be required for, but not limited to, all publicly-accessible areas, for example, parking, driveways, etc. The only exception to this shall be for commercial or industrial lay down areas, solely for the purpose of manufacturing lay down and storage, at the discretion of the Planning Commission and/or review engineer. A waiver of the drainage impact study and/or traffic impact study may be considered upon request. Upon receipt of the preliminary site plan and traffic study, the development will be placed on the Planning Commission agenda for a public hearing. After the Planning Commission has held a public hearing, they will make a recommendation to the Parish Council and forward the development to the Parish Council for approval. Upon Parish Council approval, the drainage impact study shall be submitted and approved by the review engineer. Once the drainage impact study is approved, the construction plans (if applicable) may be submitted to the review engineer and the planning department for review and approval. When the drainage impact study and construction plans and/or a final site plan are approved, the site construction may begin. Certificate of occupancy may not be given unless an on-site inspection of the site has been made by representatives of the Parish and approved by the planning department. Approval to construct the project shall expire after twelve (12) months unless extended by the Parish Council.
However, Moody went on to say that certain constitutional property rights are vested with an owner once a piece of property or project is permitted. Meaning that, he said, it was his belief that since the permit was issued and the construction project was close to completion that following customary procedure at this point was now 'impractical' and 'likely moot.'
Talbert was not to be dissuaded, however. The councilman still plans to bring a resolution to the council Thursday, August 8 to demand Parish President Layton Ricks force Premier Concrete to go through the proper commercial permitting channels.
Ricks said in a T.V. interview the day before the council meeting that the parish would handle the process. According to Talbert, the parish president said the same thing to him in March when the issue was first discussed. After several months and a visit from the fire marshal, the project was adjusted and construction was given the green light in late June.
Some have accused Talbert of bringing this up at a politically inopportune time.
"I started this fight in March," Talbert said, "and had no idea I had an opponent until late May."
Talbert said he brought the issue back up when the construction resumed but he was not notified of changes, and told that the project would not go through the commercial process.
YOUR TAKE | What do you think about the Premier Concrete commercial permitting process?
The owner of Premier Concrete, via his lawyer, tells the parish council it was a mistake and the administration walked him through correcting the problem. Councilman Garry 'Frog' Talbert thinks the process has been usurped, and that the Livingston Parish administration did it. What do you think residents of Livingston Parish?