Documenter name: Natalie McLendon
Agency holding meeting: Sulphur City Council
Date: Monday, March 13, 2023 at 5:30 PM
The city amended multiple ordinance definitions and answered questions from the public regarding increases in the permit fee schedule.
The chambers were full at Monday night’s city council meeting, and the overflow room across the hall was occupied as well. This is most likely due to the proclamations to be issued.
The meeting was called to order at 5:31 PM. After the prayer and pledge of allegiance, a roll call of the council members indicated all were present (Melinda Hardy, Joy Abshire, Chair Mandy Thomas, Dru Ellender, and Nick Nezat). The meeting minutes from last month were approved.
Mayor Mike Danahay presented a proclamation to the Sulphur High School Twisters for placing in the UDA National Competition in Orlando, Florida. They placed fourth in the nation for jazz.
Mayor Danahay issued an additional proclamation to the winner of the storm water drain sticker design contest. Karlie Benoit, a sophomore at Sulphur High School, created a sticker to be placed on storm drains to encourage proper safety and the prevention of introducing pollutants to Sulphur’s waterways.
- 113 Arkansas Street – No one was present to speak on this item. The property was condemned.
- 312 North Beglis Pkwy – Ms. Hardy spoke with the owner today but her motion stands. There was no one present to speak on this item. The property was condemned.
- 211 Pine Street – No one was present to speak on this item. Ms. Hardy stated that no one had contacted her to speak about the property. It was also condemned.
- 1019 East Carlton – The property was condemned.
The next matter was an ordinance granting a rezoning of property to Joseph Ripley, 216 Vincent Lane, from mixed residential to business, to allow for company vehicles and equipment related to a tree service company. Mr. Ripley’s property was previously on the agenda last month but the matter was postponed. Mr. Ripley was not present.
Mr. Brian Wold, 202 Vincent Lane, was waiting to see what Mr. Ripley would say regarding this rezone request, but Ripley is not here. Mr. Wold says he still stands firm that this rezoning should not pass. Mr. Wold claimed that Mr. Ripley has a criminal history (though no one, including him, offered comment or proof of this). Wold says there is no way that they will be able to store all of their equipment there and there would be more congestion on the street.
Mr. Gerald Dousat, 212 Vincent Lane, lives right next to the property, and is concerned about the rats. He says there are a lot of snakes out there. Dousat believes that the roads will not be able to handle the heavy equipment. He also says that Mr. Ripley is not a very friendly person and he would rather Ripley not be there.
Councilwoman Joy Abshire asks if state licenses are current, and Ms. Van Der Hay states that she does not know. Ms. Abshire says she has visited the property and “there’s no business like good business, and you have to go about it the right way.” Abshire says she has seen all of the tree equipment that is necessary to run the business and doesn’t think that it will be able to fit on the lot. Abshire says that the street is very narrow. Abshire says, in her opinion, Ripley should not move the business to the property on Vincent Street.
The ordinance was denied unanimously. City attorney Cade Cole says that the process has to go a certain way and Mr. Ripley needs time to vacate the property and will not be allowed to temporarily place any equipment on the property at Vincent.
Next on the agenda is a possible rezoning for RDF Holdings, LLC, 333 Beglis Parkway. David Haynes, 2535 St. Joseph Street, is here to speak on behalf of the property owner, Fusilier Holding Company. They have signed a contract with Yellowfin Vodka to distribute their products.
Sulphur resident Donna Clark, 1530 Garth Drive, asks what sort of trucking will be present near or on the property. Haynes responds that a small pickup truck will do the deliveries back and forth across the street. City attorney Cole asks if the council would like to add any stipulations. Ms. Hardy says she would not like to see an increase in higher traffic from larger trucks. Cole says they can add a stipulation that if RDF Holdings is no longer operating its business there, the property would revert to business zoning. The council voted unanimously to approve with the amended stipulation.
Next, the council discussed an ordinance repealing Appendix B, Article 1, Section 4 of the Code of Ordinances of the City of Sulphur – Grandfather Clause. Public Works Director Austin Abrahams says right now there is a little bit of a conflict with the grandfather clause. Sulphur resident Bill Leblanc says he wants more explanation because when they passed zoning previously, the main thing they discussed was grandfather clauses. Abrahams says the north side of town is platted as less than 6,000 square foot lots. Abrahams says it must be built within two years if a property is damaged from any storms. Leblanc says he wants to make sure that he can use both of the lots that he may purchase. Leblanc says, “when it hits the fan…you try to avoid some of these situations. But if you’ve made up your mind before you come into the meeting, it makes no difference.”
Rita Lebleu, American Press, asks the difference between nonconforming and originally platted. Abrahams says If a lot was originally platted at less than 6,000 feet, it wouldn’t matter. Abrahams further explains that the “plat is the original plat of a lot. If it is less than 6,000 feet, it would be a legally nonconforming lot.” The ordinance passed unanimously.
Then, an ordinance was brought up that would amend Appendix B, Article IV, Part 2, Section 2 of the Code of Ordinances of the City of Sulphur – Development Standards. Mayor Danahey. See the extended agenda for language that was added to development standards. Mr. Leblanc asks what the current definition is for mixed residential. Cole says they need to make a policy decision on whether they want to allow tiny homes made from shipping containers. Leblanc asks if this is retroactive, and Danahay says it is not. The ordinance passed unanimously.
The council deferred an ordinance amending Ordinance No. 435, M-C Series – Master Sales and Use Tax ordinance – (amending definitions). City Finance Director Jennifer Thorn says this came to them from the sales tax office and they would like to change the language to comply with new standards. Cole says they still do not have the new language yet.
Yet another ordinance was raised which would amend definitions in Chapter 24, Section 11 of the Code of Ordinances of the City of Sulphur – Stormwater Definitions. They are operating under a Louisiana permit, not the national permit. The change involves:
“LPDES Louisiana Pollutant Discharge Elimination System.
LPDES permit. A permit issued by the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, under authority delegated pursuant to 33 USC 1342(b), that authorizes the discharge of pollutants to waters of the United States, whether the permit is applicable on an individual, group, or general area-wide basis.”
The council unanimously passed an ordinance amending Chapter 24 of the Code of Ordinances of the City of Sulphur to provide for Section 12 – Applicability.
The council unanimously passed an ordinance amending Chapter 24 of the Code of Ordinances of the City of Sulphur to provide for Section 13 – Ultimate Responsibility of Discharger. Abrahams says that the city is responsible for inspecting and maintaining, but the ultimate responsibility lies with the owner and/or the discharger for any discharges.
The council unanimously passed an ordinance amending Chapter 24, Section 26 of the Code of Ordinances – Specific Prohibitions and Requirements (to provide for subsections G – J). Abrahams says this program enables the city to further detect and eliminate illicit discharges from ongoing business activities and those activities related to construction.
The council unanimously passed an ordinance amending Chapter 24, Section 40 of the Code of Ordinances of the City of Sulphur – General Requirements. Abrahams says this is just changing the definition of LPDES, which was added earlier on the agenda, to reflect that the city is operating under a state permit.
The council unanimously passed an ordinance amending Chapter 24 of the Code of Ordinances of the City of Sulphur to provide for Section 43 – Authorization to Adopt and Impose BMPs. Abrahams says BMP stands for best management practices to prevent illicit discharges to the stormwater system.
The council unanimously passed an ordinance amending Chapter 24, Section 56 of the Code of Ordinances of the City of Sulphur – Grading Permit Fees. Abrahams says this is for additional fees when construction projects have started doing grading but have not pulled a grading permit. Bill Leblanc asks what dictates a graded permit, and asks how many square feet can be graded before a permit is needed. Abrahams says it is dependent upon a case by case basis. Leblanc says it needs to be spelled out more clearly because he does not want to violate the law. He provides an example, saying that his neighbor brought in 40 loads of dirt without needing a permit, but Leblanc was told he needed a permit for seven loads of dirt. Cole says grading permits are required any time dirt work is done unless there is an exemption, of which there are numerous.
The council unanimously passed an ordinance amending Chapter 24 of the Code of Ordinances of the City of Sulphur to provide for Section 58 – Control Measures. Abrahams says this will facilitate the city’s inspection, plan review, and during construction stormwater practices.
Introduction of ordinances
The council unanimously passed an ordinance amending Ordinance No. 1733, M-C Series, to increase certain fees for demolition, electrical, fire, gas, housing moving, mechanical, mobile home, plumbing, portable building, grading, plan reviews for residential and commercial, generator installation, change contractor, culvert inspection, and site visits outside city limits. Jennifer Thorn says that there was a need to increase the fee schedule because of a comparison between Sulphur and Lake Charles.
Donna Clark says she doesn’t see how they can compare to Lake Charles. Their water bills have gone up from $55 to $75 in the last six years. Clark says the city has enough problems to add to it with this. Thorn says they have not raised permit fees in six years. Leblanc says permit fees are considerably higher. Thorn responds she does not recall that, but will look into it. Cole says the increases are $5-10 increases, and that building permits are tied to value.
Thorn says that Lake Charles has a technology fee. Leblanc responds that a lot of people can’t post a $500 bond to tear something down, and there was a trailer torn down a while ago by the city and it’s still a trash pile. Leblanc says they need to “back off of places that are condemned.”
Concerned resident Sheila Broussard says that she went over this with her husband and he said that, in 2015, they did a roofing job and the permit was $15. Another job was $35 for a permit. Broussard says that the dollar may not be much, but the percentage is a huge jump. She says other cities like Lake Charles are raising fees. Thorn responds that “staying up with the pricing is fiscally responsible, and all of the fees go back into services and are not generating revenue.” Broussard asks if they are trying to encourage people to get permits, and how many they are pricing out. Broussard says that small percentages over a period of years is more palatable than large jumps.
Ms. Hardy asks how long the fees will be in effect, and Thorn says indefinitely, until it is changed, because there is no requirement to change at a certain time. Councilman Nezat asks when this issue will be brought up again. Thorn says this was a concern voiced by a number of other municipal officials.
Sulphur resident Amy Felice asks which services the higher fees are being paid into. Thorn says it goes back to the permitting offices. Abshire says if you want more services, there is a cost to that. “Everybody wants to improve but nobody wants to be accountable to it.” Councilwoman Dru Ellender says that most of these permits on the permit schedule are obtained by contractors.
Bill Leblanc says that he does not think anyone will dispute what Abshire said about the inspection department. Mayor Danahay says that in the 90’s, they did not increase for a number of years and they ended up having to increase by 10%. Leblanc says they have already offset quite a bit with water taps and sewer taps. Ms. Ellender asks if Leblanc has priced lumber. Leblanc replies that he checks the prices of lumber every day and it is lower.
Nezat votes no, while the rest of the council votes yes. The introduction of the ordinance passes.
Mayor Danahay received unanimous authorization to enter into a cooperative endeavor agreement with Calcasieu Parish Police Jury for the Summer Feeding Program. Ms. Hardy says that she will have to research all of the locations for the announcement.
The city granted a variance to L & J Properties, 2348 Royal Oak Lane, to allow for mobile homes older than ten years of age to be placed on lots 15 and 16 in the Royal Oaks subdivision. Jay Cavanaugh says he has owned rental property in the city for six or seven years. Cavanaugh says what he has is in really good shape. Ellender says it looks like it has been well cared for with the exception of the skirting. Abshire says she and Cavanaugh spoke and wants to go over that again. Abshire looked at the mobile home because she does want to follow the ordinances as they are, but this property is an exception. In addition to that, she went to look at Cavanaugh’s property and she is reassured that he wants to improve the property. Abshire encourages Cavanaugh to get with the city about how many units he can put on that lot. Prior to moving it in, the lot needs to be cleaned up extensively. Abshire wants to give Cavanaugh thirty days to set it all up, and it needs to be all in order in six months. The motion and stipulations are passed unanimously.
Two residents provided public comment at the end of the meeting. They were asked to limit their commentary to three minutes.
Donna Clark says she has spoken to Ms. Hardy and Ms. Blanchard about things in the city that are “looking really bad.” Clark tells the council about a property on the corner of Beglis that needs an eight foot fence, or the property needs to be cleaned up. Clark says she tried to get the address of the property, but they must not want anyone to know their address because their mailbox is laying on the ground. She says “they may be waiting on FEMA, and the government moves slowly or not at all, and in this case it isn’t moving at all. What are people supposed to do when they can’t get through to FEMA?”
Ms. Ellender responds that they do not engage with the public during public comments. Ms. Clark says she told Mayor Danahay that she voted for him and is waiting to see something in Sulphur besides a donut shop. “There is nothing here in retail. There is industrial and there are restaurants…This town is doubling over with people who won’t clean up their yards. People are very discouraged. Something has to be done here, and it’s ugly, and it’s a mess.”
Sulphur resident Scott Moseley says that a Marshall came to his house with a notice for an ordinance to cut his grass recently. Moseley says it scared him to death because of home invasions. Mosely asks “who sent that person to [his] house? You’d better find out who he was and straighten out his behavior.” He says he has five 30 foot trailers on his property and he would have to know about it to do anything about it and get it taken care of. He says that two days before Christmas, he received mail that he was “being attacked over [his] business, a scrap yard. Merry Christmas, thank every one of you, appreciate that. I’m dying by the way, I hope I’m here next year.”
Moseley owns a recycling center, SCM Metals LLC. He says it was broken into a few weeks ago and everything of value was stolen. Moseley states that he went to the police station three times and asked for the Chief to contact him but “nothing is done…they refused to give me a report on the crime.” Moseley holds up an incident report and a property list. “Where’s my offense report? Where’s my report on the crime?” Chairwoman Mandy Thomas reminds Mr. Mosely that he is not supposed to address anyone in the room besides the council. Moseley responds that they have tried to run his family out of town for forty years, and that the mayor brought him to a “rehearsed lynching” and “had to listen to one of the inspectors threaten [him] with an inspection from the state.” Chairwoman Thomas responded that they are going to have to “close it up,” and Mosely responded, “You’re violating me, ma’am. Yes, ma’am. Under the Constitution of the United States of America and the Bill of Rights.” Moseley says that they reminded him that his business license was not turned in on time, and that someone had better be in touch with him and find his property. He says he no longer has any protection under the Sulphur Police Department for his business. Chairwoman Thomas says she is ending the public comment section, and Moseley responded, “That’s enough,” and walked out of the council chambers.
The meeting concluded at 7:18 PM. The next Sulphur city council meeting is Monday, April 10, 2023 at 5:30 PM.