Corp of Engineers sued over attempt to build church in wetland area

Michelle Massey Nov. 8, 2010, 9:34am

A Hahnville group that owns residential and proposed mixed use development property has filed a lawsuit against the Army Corp of Engineers after the group was denied the right to build a church in an area considered to be wetlands.

Fashion Plantation Estates filed suit against U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on Oct. 19 in federal court in New Orleans.

Fashion Plantation Estates submitted a permit application to the Corp on behalf of Lakeside Apostolic Church for the construction of a church building, daycare center, gym, paved parking area and sports field on a site near Hahnville in St. Charles Parish.

According to the complaint, the Corps determined that the activities relating to the construction of the church would constitute discharge of dredged or fill material into navigable waters and therefore, denied the group's permit request. Fashion appealed the decision with a modified plan excluding the sports field. The impacted area was reduced from 5.2 acres to 2.74 acres. The second request was also denied in July.

Fashion argues the Corps is required to weigh the benefits of the project against its reasonably foreseeable detriments and that there
is no practicable alternative site for the church.

"The Corps' decision to deny the permit is arbitrary and capricious, not supported by substantial evidence, an abuse of discretion and not in accordance with law," the lawsuit argues.

The plaintiff is asking the court to set aside the Corps' permit denial and to direct the Corps to issue a permit to allow the proposed activities and for an award of all costs, expenses and attorney's fees.

Fashion Plantation Estates is represented by Chris M. Trepagnier of The Trepagnier Law Firm in Mandeville.

U.S. District Judge Helen G. Berrigan is assigned to the case.

Case No. 2:10-cv-03875

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