BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Toxic chemicals, traffic and future development of the Mississippi River Front were all concerns voiced before the East Baton Rouge Planning and Zoning Commission on Monday.
It was standing room only as the commission considered recommending that an area of River Road be rezoned from heavy industrial to heavy commercial. The land in question is the site of the proposed Tubal-Cain Marine Services barge cleaning facility.
According to Tubal-Cain, the facility would clean and/or repair four to 12 barges a day. The cleaning process requires offloading any leftover cargo, releasing any chemicals and flaring if those chemicals are toxic.
That process is precisely what opponents say worry them.
"If you think I'm going to let y'all spew poison at my two-year-old daughter you got another thing coming," Councilman John Delgado said to the Tubal-Cain representative.
Delgado and Councilman Chandler Loupe first asked the commission to look at the zoning for that area which include rural and residential zonings.
However, Tubal-Cain representative Randy Cooper said all safety protocols will be followed, and that, unlike nearby chemical plants, their flaring will be enclosed. He also told the commission that local industries need a facility like this, and it was those industries who asked Tubal-Cain to locate in Baton Rouge.
As for the location of the site, Cooper said they searched for months before settling on 6012 and 6800 River Road, 4.5 miles from the Mississippi River Bridge and 3.1 miles from Tiger Stadium. Tubal-Cain said they have spent two years and $4 million trying to get this facility in this location
"Contrary to what many believe it's not that easy to find available property on the Mississippi River in and around the Baton Rouge area," said Cooper.
That land is owned by the Greater Baton Rouge Port Authority. The Port Authority's Executive Director Jay Hardman argued the area has always been zoned for heavy industrial use and that residents' fears are based on misinformation.
In the end, the commission recommended the rezoning six to three.
Tubal-Cain must also obtain an air permit from the Department of Environmental Quality. A public hearing to discuss the permit will be held Tuesday, August 18 in the Oliver Pollock Room in the Galvez Building on North 5th Street at 6 p.m. A spokesman added the public comment has been extended to August 31.
The rezoning recommendation now heads to the East Baton Rouge Metro Council for a final vote on Wednesday, August 19.