Image by free stock photos from from Pixabay

A sim;ple zoning changeand a grain terminial is allowed. Change the zoning decision and it is no longer permitted.

An organization focused on bolstering persons descended from slaves sued St. John the Baptist Parish on Tuesday to nullify a 31-year-old zoning law. It was the latest attempt to block construction of a 56-silo grain terminal in the predominantly Black community of Wallace, on the parish’s west bank, where a several hundred acres of farmland were rezoned in 1990 from residential to industrial use. The parish president at the time, Lester Millet, pushed the rezoning through the Parish Council as he tried to coax the Taiwan-based Formosa Plastics Group to build a rayon plant on the site. The company later abandoned its plans, and Millet was indicted in 1995 on charges of money laundering, extortion and racketeering in connection with his Formosa deal-making. He served almost five years in prison, but the rezoning remains in place. In the lawsuit, the Descendants Project, founded by sisters Jocyntia and Joyceia Banner, argues the rezoning ordinance is void due to the circumstances of its passage. “The illegality and corruption surrounding the adoption of Ordinance 90-27 were so pervasive and extensive that the parish president was convicted of violating federal laws enacted for the protection of the public interest,” says the suit, filed in Louisiana’s 40th Judicial District Court.

Maybe the corruption will work for good!

In recent months, the same site has been targeted by Greenfield Louisiana LLC for a grain terminal along the Mississippi River. The Banners, who live and work in the neighborhood, also lead a group called Stop the Wallace Grain Elevator. Many Wallace residents are descended from slaves on the nearby Whitney Plantation, which Millet schemed to sell to Formosa and which has since been turned into a slavery museum.  Pam Spees, a Center for Constitutional Rights attorney representing the Descendants Project, said the suit aims to “reach back into the past and right a wrong.” “It was invalid from the moment he signed it,” Spees said of Millet approving the zoning ordinance.

Zoning is one way that industry can flourish. A simple flick of the pen and industry is permitted when it was banned before.

The lawsuit also questions how the parish currently manages and tracks zoning issues. It said the government has at least four supposedly official maps that don’t match up. “The fact that these maps conflict with each other when it comes to the zoning designations for the Wallace tract casts further doubt as to the integrity of the zoning process in general and the status of this tract in particular,” the suit says. A spokesperson for the current St. John Parish administration, Baileigh Rebowe, said officials would not comment on the suit. A court date has been set for Dec. 16. Spees said defendants will likely be required to respond within two weeks of the suit’s filing.

This was a novel idea and thanks to whoever came up with it. If it works I may be another arrow in the quiver of conservationist.

1990 zoning change led to a grain terminal – overturn it!