Parish Councilman Garry 'Frog' Talbert

LIVINGSTON - Dirt fill has dominated the attention of the parish's ordinance committee and council since February.

According to councilman Garry 'Frog' Talbert, that time has temporarily come to an end.

"We're going to take a break from dirt fill for a few meetings," Talbert said. "There's a noise ordinance out there that we've been putting off.

"In fact, there are several ordinances we've been putting off."

The ordinance committee pivoted to recommending an introduction of a 1' 'freeboard' requirement for new construction structures. Freeboard is an elevation standard which mandates a new structure be a certain height above the Base Flood Elevation (BFE).

The changes come on the heels of controversial, three-foot dirt fill restrictions, combined with a 2-foot freeboard, which were approved in neighboring Ascension Parish.

“That’s a monster,” Talbert said. “I don’t understand ‘no net fill’ and a ‘fill limit.’ I think they’re looking to slow development down, and it may help their floodplain management, I’m not sure.

“I’m just looking to protect our flood plain.”

Developers at the Ascension meeting stressed that new construction would be more expensive in areas where fill is required to raise homes to reach base flood elevation. Pier-and-beam construction would be required for any home that must rise over three feet because the council also passed a requirement that new homes be built “two feet above the base flood elevation.”

John Blount, a general contractor and builder in Livingston Parish, sent a similar message to the ordinance committee. He had originally shown up to discuss dirt fill, but took the time to make comments on any kind of elevation requirement in construction.

"I think we're all in favor of some type of steps, and as a developer I'm behind this," Blount said, "There's no one-size fits all, surely there can be some type of study done (about what's best for what areas)."

Both dirt fill and freeboard are worth points on the Community Rating System (CRS), which operates as a point total toward flood insurance discounts for the parish. Livingston Parish had a '9' rating, which gave a 5% discount, before they were removed from the program for non-compliance.

"The CRS program is tough," Blount said.

The earliest the parish can apply for reinstatement is May, 2020.

According to Ralph Burgess, a local surveyor, fill dirt and freeboard are different animals. Burgess told the council he stands behind freeboard requirements, which he said 'keeps (flood insurance) ratings down.'

Burgess also recommended that the council look into 'No Adverse Impact' ordinances offered through FEMA and the Association of State Floodplain Managers. The parish currently has no certified floodplain managers.

Livingston Parish Director of Homeland Security Mark Harrell backed the proposal, as well, telling both the ordinance committee and full council parish offices needed their support if they were to get back into the CRS and keep federal funding, as they are at risk of losing nearly $360 million in grant funding from FEMA.

Both the committee and the council unanimously approved a public hearing on freeboard, set for June 13th at 6:30 p.m. in the parish council chambers.

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Explain what "FREEBOARD" is

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