St. Charles Parish has ruled that Neal Clulee, a member of the Planning and Zoning Commission, was in violation of the zoning code when he allowed Phylway Construction, LLC to store trucks, fuel tanks and job trailers on two tracts of land he owns.
One of the properties is zoned for residential use, while the other is zoned as a wetland.
Phylway was given a $10.9 million contract to construct dewatering cells along the guide levee of the Davis Pond Diversion in order to make way for levee construction that is part of the Army Corps of Engineers’ Western Tie-in.
In a letter addressed to Clulee, the parish ruled that he must move the construction trailers and fueling tanks off of the residential property. The wetland property could be used to house the fuel tanks, and if Clulee applies for and receives a permit, the trailers could be moved there as well.
Another option would include successfully rezoning the residential property to a C-3 or higher zoning designation.
Clulee has until Feb. 2 to submit a land use action application.
Kim Marousek, the director of the Planning and Zoning Department, said that she has had a couple of conversations with Clulee, but that he isn’t sure what steps he wants to take.
“What we typically do with anyone in this situation is try to get them in compliance,” Marousek said. “He will have to submit a land use action application and then we will determine what needs to be moved and to where.”
Phylway has been using the two properties since Nov. 6. On the same day that the construction company moved in, Frank Matherne, who lives near the property, says he went to the Planning and Zoning Department to inform them that the land was zoned for residential use. For more than two months, Matherne says, he was told that the parish was reviewing the situation.
So Matherne did some digging on his own and found a 1997 ordinance that listed the property as residential.
“I took the ordinance down to the Planning and Zoning Department and they told me they would review it,” Matherne said. “I didn’t see what there was to review. It was clearly listed as residential.”
Though Matherne lives near the site, he was mainly concerned because his daughter and son-in-law plan to build a home adjacent to it.
“When the construction started, I got a letter hand delivered to me by Phylway that said to keep children away from the construction site,” he said. “Are children not supposed to go outside? They are right in the middle of a residential area.”
Matherne feels that because Clulee is a member of the Planning and Zoning Commission, the department turned a blind eye to Phylway’s use of the residential property. And only after repeated attempts by him to rectify the situation, did the parish finally tell Clulee that he was in violation.
Marousek said that Clulee was not offered any special treatment.
“This is pretty typical in terms of our process,” Marousek said. “It takes the same amount of time to perform these investigations. It doesn’t matter who the person is.”
Matherne is also worried that Clulee will decide to have the land rezoned for commercial use, and would be able to do so using his influence on the commission.
Councilman Shelley Tastet said that’s something Clulee wouldn’t be able to do.
“There is no way Neal could use his influence because he’s just one vote,” Tastet said. “If I wanted to pass something on the council, the other council members wouldn’t vote for it just because I was a fellow councilman.”