[Clarification: Although Greg Gachassin owned Amazing Storage in 2008 when the EPA violations occurred, he is no longer the owner of that company. In October of 2011 Amazing Storage was purchased by Chris and Diane Ortego. Amazing Storage has had no relationship or financial connection to Gachassin since that time.]

It turns out that it's not just state ethics charges Lafayette real estate developer Greg Gachassin has been dogged by lately.

Earlier this year, Gachassin settled with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, shelling out $60,000 to settle a Clean Water Act violation at his Fountain View residential subdivision, part of a 34-acre development off Kaliste Saloom Road originally permitted as New Center Park. It certainly could have been much worse for his pocketbook, as he was also cited for Clean Water Act violations at Wingate by Wyndham, the hotel he developed in front of the subdivision, and for the adjoining construction site called Amazing Storage. The violations date back to 2008.

RMay_120918_5093Gaukalsal

The EPA fined Lafayette developer Greg Gachassin $60,000 for not having a plan to manage rain water runoff during construction of Fountain View, a 17-acre residential development behind his Wingate by
Wyndham hotel on East Kaliste Saloom Road.

EPA records obtained by IND Monthly indicate that Gachassin’s company, The Lauren Group, did not have a Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan while he was developing the subdivision (in simple terms, a plan for managing rain runoff during construction), didn’t implement a plan and failed to perform required site inspections. “We contacted you at the time of the inspection, but you declined to accompany the inspectors onsite,” writes John Blevins, director of the EPA’s Compliance Assurance and Enforcement Division, in a July 18, 2008, letter to Gachassin.

In July of last year, EPA Public Affairs Specialist Carmen Assunto told IND Monthly that the statutory maximum penalty was $16,000 per violation per day. At the time no fines had been paid, Assunto said, and the EPA was still in negotiations with Gachassin.

Assunto said EPA conducted an inspection of the construction project on May 20, 2008, and observed unauthorized (unpermitted) discharges of pollutants from the site to a coulee that emptied into an impaired waterway (a body of water that does not meet the water quality standards of the Clean Water Act and the state.) “During the construction, there were other violations documented by the city of Lafayette that were independent of EPA’s inspection,” she said.

One would think that this developer, who is making millions as a development consultant on taxpayer funded projects in the Lafayette area, would know better.

Gachassin did not immediately return a phone call left at his office this morning.

Assunto noted that the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality had conducted an inspection on July 29, 2010, and found the site to be in compliance.

Greg_Gachassin
Greg Gachassin
On March 7 of this year, Gachassin wired EPA’s Dallas office $60,000 to settle the matter. The EPA’s records indicate that he admits the jurisdictional allegations in the complaint but "neither admits nor denies the specific factual allegations and conclusions of law" in the complaint or the Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law in the Consent Agreement and Final Order.

“During conversations with Mr. Gachassin, it was agreed EPA would not take further action on Amazing Storage or Triumph Hospitality, both owned by Mr. Gachassin, if he would settle on the site of the New Center Park [Fountain View] subdivision,” Dave Bary, EPA’s public information officer, told IND Monthly.

With this out of the way, Gachassin can now turn his attention back to those pesky ethics charges. In June the Louisiana Board of Ethics voted to charge his Cartesian Co. with violating the state’s Code of Governmental Ethics while he was a member of the Lafayette Public Trust Financing Authority’s board of trustees and again after he resigned from its board. The Ethics Board’s action is much like filing a civil lawsuit against Gachassin. It’s now up to the Ethics Adjudicatory Board, a three-member panel of administrative law judges, to determine whether they should stick and assess a penalty based on the Ethics Board’s recommendation.

A telephone status conference is set for Nov. 27 between attorneys and judges involved in the case. Read more on the charges here and what led to them here.

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