Documenter name: Natalie McLendon
Agency holding meeting: Calcasieu Parish Planning and Zoning Board
Date: Tuesday, October 18, 2022 at 5:30 PM
Planning is again in the works to allow solar fields in Calcasieu Parish.
This meeting took place at 1015 Pithon Street in the Calcasieu Parish Government Building, on the first floor in the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury meeting room. The first row of audience seating is reserved for the media, and this is indicated on the armrest of each seat. There were 15-20 people in the room waiting for the meeting to begin. There were fewer than ten people in the audience. The communications director came over and asked if I would be filming the entire meeting or live streaming. The director further stated that I was more than welcome to do so. I explained that I was filming on behalf of Southwest Louisiana Journal. Board President Kirk Smith went over policies of the meetings and stated that they are recorded by the Calcasieu Parish government channel and are available to view on Wednesdays and Thursdays following the meeting. The Parish also live streams the meetings on Facebook.
This Board provides recommendations on planning and zoning to the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury.
Community Perspective / The Debate
There was no public comment at this meeting.
- 1167 Dunn Ferry Road in Ward Six – variance to allow two (2) non-conforming lots (lot square footage allowed 22,651 square feet; requesting 4,054.2 square feet for a communication tower and 20,007.47 square feet for future Lot 61 of Holbrook Acres Part 2). Applicant: Holbrook Acres, LLC. If the variance is approved, Louisiana Radio Communications will place a communications tower on the property. There is no public comment on this agenda item. The motion passed.
- 1167 Dunn Ferry Road in Ward Six – exception to allow a communication tower. Applicant: Holbrook Acres, LLC. Because the variance was approved, this exception was also approved with conditions.
- 1261 Sistrunk Road in Ward One – exception to allow residential development (manufactured home). Applicant: Megan Vidrine. This property is in Moss Bluff and the applicant’s home was damaged by Hurricane Laura. The applicant was present but had no comment. The motion passed unanimously.
- 2639 Highway 90 West in Ward Four – exception to allow a borrow pit (64.5 acres). Applicant: Redmarque Construction, LLC. This property is west of Sulphur on highway 90. The motion was approved with a number of conditions. The President recused himself on voting on this matter. The applicant was present but declined to make public comments.
- 900 Block of Common Street in Ward Three – rezone from General Commercial (C-2) to Light Industrial (I-1) to allow industrial development (dumpster rentals and storage yard). Applicant: William Pousson, et ux. This property is located in south Lake Charles. The motion is approved with a number of conditions. Board member Porche says in the past they’ve approved a mesh material over a hurricane fence. He says the first thunderstorm that comes through causes the material to rip apart. Is there an ordinance to maintain the screening? Yes. The motion was carried unanimously without public comment.
- 7085 Highway 27 South in Ward Four – rezone from Agricultural (A-1) to General Commercial (C-2) to allow commercial development (automobile sales). Applicant: Ryan Romero.This item was deferred until the next meeting.
- 4203 and 4215 Broad Street in Ward Three – rezone from Recreational Vehicle Park (R-RVP), Light Commercial (C-1) and General Commercial (C-2) to Light Industrial (I-1) to allow industrial development (contractor’s office, shop and storage yard). Applicant: Clyde Conner, et ux. The motion passed without public comment.
- 6222 Leger Road in Ward Three – rezone from Agricultural (A-1) to Light Industrial (I-1) to allow industrial development (contractor’s office and storage yard). Applicant: Custom Metal Partnership. After Hurricane Laura, the applicant placed a modular building on the property. The motion was approved with a number of conditions. The applicant was present but had no comment to make.
A report presented by Planning Manager Kim Vidrine prepared the board for the process of proposing a new solar facility ordinance. Planning & Development Director Wes Crain said there was an issue “several months back” that came before the board, and this presentation is the result of that. “We presented this draft to our planning and zoning liaison group on October 6th and they authorized us to move forward,” Crain said. They were not asking for any action to be taken at this particular meeting. Proposed development standards include that solar panels may not be higher than 25 feet, inverters and transformers will not be allowed within 300 feet of inhabited dwellings, and noise may not extend above 60 decibels (which is about the level of normal conversation according to the CDC). The facilities will be designed to allow natural growth beneath the panels. According to Vidrine, “All floodplains, wetlands, and steep slopes shall be protected.” The existing treelines will be preserved and maintained. The trees and woodlands will provide a buffer around the facility, and the facilities will ideally be “nested” within land parcels. Public comment is now open for this item.
As previously reported by Theresa Schmidt, KPLC, about one hundred people showed up at the Planning and Zoning Board meeting in September 2021 regarding the solar facility, and some expressed concern over the safety of a solar farm in proximity to their homes. One resident said that, in a storm, the solar panels could fly around and create a more dangerous situation. The size of the solar farm was also a concern. One million solar panels would have been placed. As Advocate reporter Mike Smith said, the incredible size of this project “provided a glimpse of what electricity generation in a post-fossil fuel world could look like.”
There will be a public hearing and/or final recommendation to the Police Jury on this at the next Planning and Zoning Board Meeting on November 15. The Police Jury will then introduce the ordinance to the public at the November 17 meeting. Final action will be taken on this item at the Police Jury meeting on December 1.
- The most obvious questions are related to the ordinance on solar fields. How will this ordinance fare the second time around?