LIVINGSTON -- Livingston Parish Council members had little disagreement Thursday that a proposed dirt-fill ordinance needs to be reviewed and reworked.
Just who should do it was the debate.
On a 6-3 vote, the council sent the proposal to its Ordinance Committee instead of its Master Plan Committee.
Shortly after the council opened a public hearing on the ordinance, Councilman Tracy Girlinghouse made a motion to send it back to the Ordinance Committee.
“There are a lot of unanswered questions,” Girlinghouse said. “I don’t want to overstate it, but I want to be cautious to impose limits and restrictions on certain areas.”
The Parish Council spent almost an hour listening to the public and discussing the ordinance. Members voiced similar sentiments that the flood-control issue is complicated and the help of experts is needed.
But the disagreement came in deciding which committee would get the job.
Councilman John Wascom offered a substitute motion to send the ordinance to the Master Plan Committee.
“The ordinance has been to the Ordinance Committee three times,” Wascom said.
“We had three long meetings. We called in engineers and home builders and came up with a recommendation to send it to the Master Plan Committee,” Wascom said.
“We know they have the resources to make it happen. These people are ready to tackle this issue and bring it to us.”
Wascom said Master Plan Committee Chairman Gerald Burns told him it could be reviewed in 90 days.
The substitute motion failed, and the council then voted 6-3 to send the proposal to the Ordinance Committee.
The flood-control ordinance would limit dirt fill to 24 inches on new residential homes on lots up to a half-acre in size, and 36 inches on lots larger than a half-acre.
“Sitting here last Thursday morning, I got a bunch of emails from engineers and consultants,” Council Garry “Frog’ Talbert said about a special meeting the council held Thursday, May 2.
“I put together a list of amendments, stuff for people to consider,” Talbert said. “Just suggestions. Maybe we can put on the website and people can see how it affects them.
“I realized there are some issues after that meeting,” he said.
“The Ordinance Committee will work through these amendments and hopefully people will come and work with us and resolve the issues and bring it back to the council for consideration.
“Right now, there are so many questions that are difficult and complex for all of you. What you do in one area affects another area; this needs to be a parish-wide effort.”
“The City of Denham Springs and City of Walker have hired people to write theirs,” said Shane Mack, council chairman. “None of us are engineers here. We’ve got a way bigger, diverse area of the parish.”
“This is a complicated ordinance to write,” Mack said. “It may take some time. We all agree we should practice good floodplain management.
“What is the best practice is the question at hand,” Mack said. “Tracy (Girlinghouse) lit the match to light the fire to start the Master Plan Committee.
“One main goal is to develop a master gravity drainage plan, scope out what, to me, is the right thing to do.”
Mack said this involves using consultants, finding ways to fund the work, looking at the watersheds, and “figure out what is best for Livingston Parish, and it is extremely hard for us.”
“It is going to take a little time, guys,” Mack said.
Girlinghouse said the issue comes down to current parish residents versus prospective homeowners.
“Do you want to protect their rights over those who have a house here?” he asked. “We have to protect people who live here now.
“Something has to happen and all of us as leaders have to make a hard decision. All the talk, all the fluff, we’re going to have to put something on somebody to protect people and it will cost them money.”