Residents, business speak out against project
A local helicopter transport company is facing pushback from residents and a nearby business over their plan to build a heliport on a plot of land on Judge Edward Dufresne Parkway in Luling.
MYU Helicopters has operated out of Timothy Mayeux’s backyard in a residential neighborhood off River Road in Luling for the past 22 years. Mayeux currently has five helicopters in his hangar that ferry workers back and forth from offshore oil operations. Local residents who may not have noticed MYU’s helicopters flying overhead in the Luling area are probably more used to seeing them drop off Santa at the Norco Christmas Parade, as they have every year for the past eight years.
Recently, MYU has explored purchasing a piece of land in part to bring more exposure to the business and offer the possibility for expansion.
Mayeux said on busy days he currently makes three flights from his heliport and he believes that the frequency of flights would not pick up anytime soon, but could in the future.
“We leave here and go to New Orleans airport and pick up passengers there. We run our operation that way to maintain security of the operations. The projection for the new facility would be the same concept,” he said.
Mayeux said the facility would likely cost around $3 million to construct and bring a higher property tax revenue base to the parish as well as create temporary construction jobs.
But the land first needs to be rezoned. Jeno Bosco, owner of Norco-based Bosco Brothers, currently owns the land along with a business partner. They began exploring the possibility of rezoning the plot of land from M1 light industrial to a special AV1 aviation zone required for the heliport.
However, Bosco’s and Mayeux’s plans to rezone the property are now facing substantial opposition from Lamar Contractors, who owns 10.3 acres adjacent to the land where the heliport would be built.
Gary Boudreaux, vice-president of Lamar Contractors, said the heliport would infringe on their plans to build a business park that would have space for up to 50 tenants when complete. Lamar’s headquarters is currently the only building on the site and takes up three acres, but the plans for the full development have been in the works since the company first purchased the property in 2006.
“We are also going to develop or are developing the remaining seven plus acres into what we call the Lamar Business Park. Due to the economy it kind of got put on hold, but we are still going forward with it as soon as things turn around,” Boudreaux said.
Now that the economy has shifted, Lamar has begun looking at plans to build the business park.
“Our largest concern is how a heliport is going to affect what we can build on our property. We have no idea. I don’t think anybody has an idea because it hasn’t been investigated enough to find out how it is going to affect buildings on adjacent properties,” he said.
Boudreaux said he does not know if there will be requirements made of his business due to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations.
“We don’t know. Why should we have the burden of looking through all of this to determine how it is going to affect our property? We bought it M1 and they bought M1,” he said. “If they want to do AV (zoning), go somewhere else. Go down the road where it is not zoned yet where no one else is.”
Mayeux said his helicopter business would not devalue the property of his neighbors.
“As far as his concern about me devaluing his property, I am moving a multi-million dollar operation into an industrial park. I don’t understand how he thinks I am going to devalue his property,” he said.
Mayeux points to several heliports located near different zones throughout the area.
“Heliports are all over. I think it is a misconception that a lot of people believe that there can’t be a heliport or a helipad within so many feet of certain zones,” he said. “Go to downtown New Orleans and there is a helipad on top of the Superdome parking lot which is in operation all of the time. I think it is just a lack of knowledge that creates fear.” In addition to the potential for increased regulation, Boudreaux is concerned that MYU may expand their operations by either contracting with other helicopter operators or selling out to another company who could increase the operation’s size.
“He might take off once or twice a day, but that’s what he is going to do today. What about tomorrow? What if he sells it and somebody else comes in there and they have 10 helicopters? Once it is zoned AV1, there is no restrictions on what can come in there. He can have as many helicopters as he wants,” Boudreaux said.
Similar to Lamar Contractors, some residents in nearby Ashton Plantation are concerned about the heliport plans.William James Hooper, a developer with interest in Ashton Plantation as well as director of the Ashton Plantation Home Owners Association (APHOA), has come out against the plan and drafted a letter on behalf of the APHOA. The letter expressed concern about noise, the possibility of an accident as well as the effect on the 142 lots expected to be developed only 400 feet away from the proposed helipad site.
Jarvis Lewis, who lives in Ashton Plantation, said he is also concerned about the noise level and the safety of the operation because of its proximity to the Satellite Center and R.K. Smith Middle School. He would like to see MYU explore other opportunities in more remote areas.
“(They need to build) somewhere where there is more open space for them to take flights,” he said. “Where they are planning on going is too close to schools. It’s too close for comfort.”
Since he has been flying, Mayeux said he has only had one accident, which occurred last month.
“That happened on Dec. 5 and I’ve been flying for 30 years. I have over 22,000 hours,” Mayeux said. “We had an incident down at (Port) Fouchon…it was a wind shift. When the wind shifted I had to take into consideration people on the ground and some buildings and obstacles. I maneuvered the aircraft into a position where it did not harm anybody, which would be the same situation if it occurred at the new location.”
In addition, the St. Charles Parish School Board has so far decided not to take a stance on the heliport’s proximity to area schools.
Patricia Curry, who lives in Ashton Plantation and works for Lamar Contractors, said while the neighborhood currently experiences some outside noises, they knew of those when they bought homes in the neighborhood. The heliport would be completely different.
“I knew there was a train and I knew there was an interstate. Those are choices I made going into this, but the heliport wasn’t one of them,” she said.
However, L.J. Brady, who is a commercially certified pilot and also lives in Ashton Plantation, doesn’t believe the heliport would cause any trouble.
“You can’t just fly over houses and all at a low altitude. They are afraid of their helicopters doing their takeoffs and approaches right over their houses. That’s not going to happen. It won’t be over the schools and it won’t be over the businesses. There is a huge corridor,” he said. “I see no reason to oppose the construction of a heliport there.”
Mayeux said the proposed site for the new heliport would actually offer him more room to take off than his current heliport does. He also said his current neighbors have never complained about the noise.
While the matter is still under discussion, District 7 Councilwoman Julia Fisher-Perrier said she has not yet formed an opinion.
“This is definitely on my radar,” she said. “I still have not made my decision because I think there is still information that needs to be disseminated.”
Fisher-Perrier said the next Planning and Zoning Commission meeting should give Mayeux and Bosco a chance to better present their plan to the public.
“The more information that can be communicated to the residents ahead of time the better. I don’t feel that we are the ones to communicate all those facts, necessarily, because I am not the applicant. The applicant needs to come forward and explain himself with all of his findings and tell everyone what his impact would be,” she said.
The matter is expected to be taken up in the next Planning and Zoning Commission meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 6 at the St. Charles Parish Courthouse in Hahnville.