Friday, September 2, 2011

buffer zone update


Seafood business expansion in buffer zone may be back on horizon.

Despite setbacks from the oil spill of the BP rig explosion, a St. Bernard Parish seafood restaurant seems set to benefit from another oil spill and it’s resulting court ordered buffer zone.

 Last year, the business agreed  to purchase three adjacent buffer zone lots for $10,000 each, but those sales agreements were let to expire.  Those three properties were originally sold to Murphy Oil USA, Inc. pursuant the crude-oil-spill class action, Turner v Murphy Oil, for $44,000, $53,040, and $94,560, respectively.  The court-ordered voluntary option for homeowners in a particular segment of the oil spill to sell to the oil company was intended  "to create a buffer".

Today's prices for three adjacent buffer zone lots are as low as $4,000 per lot. It’s the catering part of the business which was said to expand last year, as this business caters to local industry turnarounds and other events, including the BP oil spill catering needs.  While residents support local business, it should not be at the cost of their neighborhood or their home property values. At $4,000 per lot for commercial development instead of greenspace, that hardly helps property values or the parish tax base.  When Planning Commissioners asked if this was the land Murphy Oil is supposed to present a plan for, the applicant stated he spoke with Murphy Oil just today and they came up with something but they are tweaking it, so he did not have the plan with him.

The neighborhood hopes the expected future zoning change application will include long awaited improvements for truck traffic , adequate unloading area, customer parking, drainage and ample safety margins for the three large propane tanks added since Hurricane Katrina.

The Murphy Oil crude-oil-spill case, Turner v Murphy, ordered the Meraux Refinery ‘s voluntary buyup program, which is intended “to create a buffer.” The agreement did not allow Murphy Oil to re-sell the buffer zone properties for commercial or industrial uses; residents were told by Murphy Oil, and relied on this information to base their decisions, that the land would be used for  a green zone buffer.

Now, residents wonder what’s next on the menu. Murphy Oil has already purchased several Road Home or LLT Lots in the neighborhood despite a promise to residents from St. Bernard Parish Government that no LLT properties would be transferred to the Meaux refinery without a landuse plan. The Meraux Refinery is also using some of the homes purchased for the buffer as work bunk housing instead.  Additionally, Murphy Oil officials have recently offered an explanation of their agreement with the local Court House, Clerk of Court not to release the buffer zone real estate transactions for publication, further keeping public information from residents.  Neighbors think this is all too fishy.

The St. Bernard Parish Council previously agreed not to rezone anything in this neighborhood until Murphy Oil provided two things to the residents of St. Bernard: 1) its Master Plan for the current facility and 2) a written plan of their long-term intent for the former "buyout" area. Only than could residents fully participate in an informed discussion to consider changes around the existing greenspace or buffer.  That is their right to full and equal access to information before the decisions are made; its part of their right to secure tenure.

In the Fall of 2005, these dedicated neighbors were some of the first residents to return after Hurricanes Rita and Katrina and the Murphy Oil spill, even celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas 2005 in their restored homes. They have already presented their vision for the revitalized neighborhood’s future and they have an equal right to the long-term security of their community, as much as any other neighborhood in the Parish.  Yet, they sadly suspect local government and the Meraux Refinery have other plans.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hypocrites! It's pretty obvious that those that support the encroachment of business and industry into OUR residential neighborhoods do not live in the affected neighborhoods and oftentimes, not even in our Parish! I support all of our local businesses and am very thankful for them. Today's Ketch for example. I'm a regular customer and spent many days eaiting out of their side window while I was living in a tent to gut my house after Katrina. Am I thankful that they are one of the first businesses to come back? You're damn right I am. However, that is not mutually exclusive of my general opposition to expanding theirs and other business operations into residential neighborhoods. In this instance they can get the land cheaper than if they expanded into the other available-already zoned commercial, available land. This is due to the simple fact that commercially zoned land is higher in cost than residentially zoned property and the reason is the residential property is more strictly limited in its use value. To the trolls that label folks as whiners I say put up or shut up. Support such activity in you own neighborhood or Parish. Until then, we have a right to have input into what we believe is appropriate for where WE live.

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