St. Gabriel residents oppose large animal hospital

ST. GABRIEL, LA (WAFB) - Cattle and horses could soon be trotting near the entrance of an established neighborhood in St. Gabriel.

St. Gabriel is known for its agricultural landscape. City leaders confirm a group of retired veterinarians have secured ten acres of land off of Highway 74 to build a large animal hospital. Newly-elected mayor Lionel Johnson says that has been the plan for two years. But people who live nearby say they had no idea, until a week ago, when they saw a bulldozer on the lot.

"I said, 'Oh really. I don't think so,'" Audrey Williams said.

"He (the mayor) has made a lot of enemies. People are not taking this very lightly," Melvin Craige said.

Melvin Craige and his neighbors live in the St. Gabriel Home Site subdivision. The idea of having large animals wandering near their homes has raised several concerns.

"It's going to depreciate the property values of the homes here and no one wants to see a huge animal clinic as they enter the subdivision," Craige said.

Property value is one concern. Melvin Lodge says smell is another.

"Who is to say what kind of odor that is going to create," Melvin Lodge said.

"There ain't no guarantee those animals will not get out. There's no guarantee. I think it's a bad location," Williams said.

According to documents 9 News obtained from the City of St. Gabriel, the plot of land is zoned as "agricultural" and "commercial" property. Residents say, regardless, the mayor should have told them the clinic was coming.

"If you are going to build something like this, keep the people abreast. Let us know. Get our reaction," Lodge said.

Homeowners are also worried the veterinarians will expand their operation, which could put animals at some of their front doors. They say moving is not an option.

"This is home. I am happy here and I don't think I should have to move. I was here first," Williams said.

The homeowners association has hired an attorney and plans to sue the city if the mayor allows the doctors to build near their homes.

"This is not personal. This is business," Craige said.

Mayor Johnson says the developer has met all the requirements for a permit in St. Gabriel. However, homeowners say they still plan to make their concerns known at the city's council meeting on Thursday night.

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