St. Gabriel denies another rezoning request

Andrew Green
The near 700 acres of land in the Apex Oil rezoning request are outlined.

St. Gabriel City Council unanimously voted against allowing a chemical company from expanding into the city limits at their monthly meeting held Thursday, July 20.

The council denied a request from CSRS, Inc. representing Apex Oil to rezone three parcels of undeveloped land, totaling about 685 acres from residential zoning (R1) to light industrial (M1).

St. Gabriel residents packed the council chamber again this year in complete opposition to the company’s rezoning request that had already been denied by the city’s Planning and Zoning Committee.

In March, St. Gabriel residents packed the civic center at a Department of Environmental Quality public hearing to voice their opposition of a rezoning request from St. Gabriel company Adsorbent Solutions (ADSO).  Many claimed the company was not transparent and was the major source of foul odors and cancer-causing chemicals.  St. Gabriel City Council then officially denied the rezoning and variance request from ADSO in their April meeting.

Marcy Hardy, whose property is about a half-mile from the proposed Apex property, believes that if the rezoning request had been approved, there would be a major increase in truck traffic, since the proposed property owned by Apex Oil can only be reached by a two-lane road through residential areas.  “This would diminish the quality of life of residents,” said Hardy.  “Neighbors have relied on the residential zoning of this area for the last nineteen years before making a decision about their own property.”  

According to Hardy, the company then requested the rezoning to be considered a business industrial park (BIP) zone instead of M1.  Residents noted that the city already has a business industrial park that is not being used to its full potential as is.  The company did not clearly discuss what exactly the possible rezoned area would have been used for.  

“How can you consider rezoning an area when you don’t have a clue as to what will be placed within that area?” asked Terri Frazier, another St. Gabriel resident in opposition.  “Or whether or not it would impose a potential threat or inconvenience to others?”  Frazier cited possible noise pollutants or air pollutants (odors) that could directly affect the quality of life for surrounding residents.

“Some things you just can’t put a value on,” added Frazier.  “The wealth of a city should not always be based on how much money a city makes, but the happiness and, by all means, the well being of the citizens.”

Some citizens argued that the city would benefit from the addition of more residents, and not industry.  Chris Gaudet, who used to own a drug store in St. Gabriel, said he had to sell his business because there was not enough people in the area to support it.

“What the community needs is people,” said Gaudet.  “We don’t need more industry in St. Gabriel.  This community needs a lot of things, but what it doesn’t need is an industrial park.  We need more homes.”

Taylor Gravois, of CSRS representing Apex Oil, asked the city council for additional time before they made a decision.  He suggested the company hold more town meetings about the rezoning change in hopes of shedding some light on the change from M1 zoning to BIP (business industrial park).

“It’s obvious to me that the community is very passionate about what they believe in,” said Gravois.  “My ask to you (council) in lieu of the change to BIP, give us the opportunity to have some additional town hall meetings where we can address some of the concerns we heard tonight regarding traffic, drainage and air pollution.”

The council voted not to extend the talks any further and instead to vote on the request as is, which was unanimously denied.

THE ISSUE: St. Gabriel City Council have, for the second time, denied a rezoning request for a major industry in the city limits.

LOCAL IMPACT: St. Gabriel residents have once again used their voice to speak out against changing zoning areas from residential to industrial for fear of it affecting their quality of life.  Now, residents are urging council members to push to build more homes in the city limits in an effort to bring in new businesses that directly benefit residents.