WALKER, La. (The Livingston Parish News) – Business permitting has become a hot topic of late in Livingston Parish, and a new situation has arisen north of Walker.
Guerilla Warfare Paintball was recently issued a cease-and-desist letter from the parish offices for violating commercial permitting protocol, on a number of subjects.
Guerilla owners took to Facebook, accusing nearby landowners of retaliation against the business by contacting the parish, and also stating that they were working to meet the requirements as passed down by the parish.
But some members the parish council doesn’t see it that way.
Councilman Jeff Ard (District 1) starting receiving calls about the location in May 2019. After a visit from the parish, Ard explained, it appeared that only ‘minor’ dirt work was occurring on the property, but no major commercial development. The site had no permit for such work, at that time.
Guerilla Warfare Paintball is situated at 12699 Arnold Rd, Walker, LA 70785, north of the city and west of Highway 447 (Walker North). The land for the paintball fields sits at the end a small lane which also hosts several residents.
While working with the parish after May of 2019, Guerilla Paintball continued work on the site and added two trailers, believed to be office space. In June, the owner – Justin King – was asked to meet with the parish, where it was revealed he intended to open a paintball business. He added he would be open Saturdays, only, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
A back-and-forth began between the parish and Guerilla over the next six months. Parish President Layton Ricks directed Guerilla to work with Alvin Fairburn and Associates to work through the deficiencies in their commercial plat plan, and then present it to the planning committee – which finally occurred in December of 2019, wherein the plan was approved.
The 2019 preliminary plan consisted of one trailer, to be used as an office, and two total fields for paintball. Because of the nature of the business and the explanation to the council, where the company was to use inflatable obstacles and boards, they didn’t believe they would need a drainage study but requested a traffic impact study.
According to Ard, he believes the business was also informed to ‘leave parking off the plan’ so that they would not be subject to specific parking ordinances.
Eventually, complaints were filed with the parish over the business’ effect on it’s residential neighbors, as well as the land. During a secondary inspection in 2021, it was discovered that the business had added a third field, and had performed unpermitted drainage work including digging a pond and widening a ditch behind the property.
The visit from both the parish and the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office also noted that there was no parking on the property – customers were parking on the lane or, in the worst case, on Arnold Road. This raised concerns, Ard said, with everyone involved because first responders could not even enter the street.
Neighbors were also complaining about new drainage problems, which began after the dirt work was completed on Guerilla’s property.
Per a report constructed by council clerk Lauren White, a section included ‘noteworthy’ items, such as:
- Army Corps of Engineers are checking to see if the owner has the necessary permits for work
- DOTD has no driveway permit on file for the business, and no traffic impact study has been affected
- Pond dug without permit
- There is no parking in compliance with Section 125-78
- Contradicting statements on hours of operation
- No pictures of constituents standing at property line using obscene gestures toward neighbors
- Urinating in the woods with no buffer between the forestry area and a residential property
- The state’s ATC department has been notified of a (bring your own beer) status and minors around alcohol
Contained within the packet are social media posts that show drinking on the property with children nearby. There are also pictures of the parking situation on Arnold Road, as well as pictures depicting water basins for clean up that drain straight onto the ground.
After receiving a cease-and-desist order, as recommended by Parish Planning Director Sam Digirolomo, Guerilla asked to be placed on the agenda for the parish council’s June 24 meeting, and when the item came up the gathering became heated. It was noted that the business had continued to operate through the cease-and-desist, hosting a paintball tournament that was ‘pre-paid.’
Councilman John Wascom (District 4) eventually offered up a resolution to allow Guerilla Warfare a variance to continue operations while they worked through the issues presented by the parish.
Ard, as well as several other councilmen, disagreed.
“We’d have to give them a variance for each violation,” Ard explained, “and that’s opening a can of worms we didn’t want.”
Not only did Ard believe Guerilla had been given enough chances, he did not believe – based on the packet of information – the owners had been truthful and their operation contained health, safety, and welfare concerns for both business patrons and the residents in the surrounding area.
In the end, the resolution died.
But, Ard explained simply, based on Livingston Parish’s structure of government, the council should have never been involved.
“If a preliminary plat meets all ordinance requirements, we have no choice but to approve it,” Ard said. “If it doesn’t or they want variances, (the council) can require them to revisit it or fix it, but once it’s approved then it’s the (administration’s) responsibility.”
Ard said this issue has pushed him closer to a pro-zoning advocate. The process of receiving approval could be a little more in-depth, and contain more council input and decisions, if the parish had zoning laws. Ard added that the council would probably begin requiring commercial developers to include parking on a preliminary plat.
A separate issue, born of a dispute over social media between council staff and the general public, has Ard and Parish Council chairman Garry ‘Frog’ Talbert looking into social media guidelines for staff with regard to council issues.
Guerilla Warfare has opened a GoFundMe to raise money to make the adjustments required by the parish, including a fence against the back part of the property as King does not own the land north of his establishment. The cease-and-desist will remain in place, according to the parish, until the business has made the appropriate changes and received the appropriate permits.