Facebook was abuzz last week with concerned citizens expressing their displeasure with FEMA and what many called sneaky actions by a St. Charles Parish council member.
On March 23 the St. Charles Parish Facebook page posted that FEMA was required to provide a Public Notice for Public Comments on a Draft Environmental Assessment for Clulee Group Housing Site Project in St. Charles Parish. The Draft EA for Clulee Group Housing Site was accessible at a link within the Public Notice, and residents were told they could direct any comments regarding the document to a FEMA-run email address that was provided.
According to the public documents, the proposed action included developing a 38.5-acre site for up to 205 manufactured housing units in Hahnville.
“In order to meet the urgent need of Hurricane Ida survivors to find temporary housing, FEMA has conducted an expedited environmental review process to identify and address environmental issues,” the documents read, adding that public comments would be limited to three days due to the emergency nature of the action.
The document went on to say that if no substantive comments were received than the project would have proceeded with no further public noticing.
Who would live at the site, how those residents would affect crime rates and school enrollment numbers and why FEMA was suddenly in a rush over six months after Hurricane Ida were all questions posted by residents to the Facebook thread. Many commenters also questioned the motivation of Mary Clulee, the District II councilwoman who is one of the owners of the proposed land site. She has been on the council since 2016.
Within hours Parish President Matthew Jewell took to his personal Facebook page with a message of his own that stated in part: “Today, at FEMA’s behest, St. Charles Parish shared information about a proposed group site in Hahnville. It came to my attention that FEMA had not acquired any permission signatures from the landowners and got ahead of themselves on their process. Upon learning this, I contacted FEMA to let them know that this site is no longer viable. This proposed group site will not be moving forward.”
Jewell added that before any group site were to move forward, the parish would need to ensure that it conforms to the parish code of ordinances and zoning regulations.
“This would require approval from Planning and Zoning, the Planning Commission and the St. Charles Parish Council,” he wrote. “This particular site had not gone through any of those approvals.”
In an interview with the Herald Guide, Clulee said she and the other 20 property owners of the proposed site were all required to give their approval for the process to move forward.
“Their public notice hit Facebook before they received 100 percent approval from the property owners,” she said, adding that some of the property owners did object to the land being used in that nature.
Clulee said she did not think the group site would cause any negative issues for the parish.
“I can’t control people’s concerns, I don’t think these people would have caused any more issues than other people,” she said. “I just feel bad for these people that need a place to stay. They’re just trying to get closer to home. I’m not advocating for our location. FEMA approached us looking for a place and originally they told us it wasn’t going to go there after about a month or 6 weeks and then they came back a couple weeks ago and wanted to go forward with it and that’s that.”