Monday, January 30, 2017

Gabbert's Waste Facility Plan Meets Neighborhood Opposition

These excerpts are taken from a professional transcript of the Second Neighborhood Workshop held Jan. 30, 2017 at Church of Hope. Over 200 residents listened and responded in no uncertain terms to James Gabbert's plan for an Industrial Waste Construction Facility to go on 12 acres of public land next to the Celery Fields. Bo Medred, Gabbert's agent, and Kirk Crane, County Planner, also spoke.
The full transcript is here.

Overflow Crowd at Church of Hope Neighborhood Workshop 

Italicized titles are themes. Page numbers are to the full transcript. Colored text is comment, not part of transcript.

MEC is "historic"


Bo Medred, left, agent for Gabbert
BO MEDRED: I wanted to show you that this major employment center, it's actually been designated this since 1983 because this was a historic industrial area for the county and they recognized that, and so they processed numerous rezone applications in that area to recognize the existing industrial, and as part of the application, the sector plan had it originally designated, the corner and this area, for commercial retail under that -- this previous plan that was adopted back in '83 and amended in the '90s, for commercial retail and for some office.

How Many Trucks a Day?

BO MEDRED: Jim, just talk about how many trucks of patrons might come in on a given day and then how many of your trucks might leave on a given day.

JIM GABBERT: Okay. The facility is designed to accept stuff anywhere from pickup trucks to dump trucks, and we consolidate that material and haul it out in our company trucks. The outgoing trucks might be anywhere from 6 to 10 a day, and the inbound trucks could -- inbound customer loads could be 25 to 80 loads a day of inbound.

FEMALE AUDIENCE: You said 100 at the last meeting.
FEMALE AUDIENCE: Yeah, 75 to 100 at the last meeting.
FEMALE AUDIENCE: Yep. You're changing your story. Nice try.

At the Waste Transfer hearing, Gabbert testified to the Board of County Commissioners that the average number of trucks per day would be 67.

MEC dates to early 80’s - The area has radically changed.

MALE AUDIENCE: Okay. I just moved out to the area. I just moved out to the area about 6 or 7 months ago. I live in Laurel Lakes, which is Palmer and Iona, and I don't come here with any tremendous angst, but here's just a question I have.

This zoning designation, the major employment center, that was -- that evolved in 1983. Now, I wasn't here in 1983, but I imagine the inordinate amount of residential growth that has taken place out here wasn't even in the planning when they thought about that kind of zoning.

And so there's a concern for me that after they've turned, you know, waste areas into parks and such, all of a sudden, you know, maybe Pandora's box is opened up here because you pointed out, Jim, that there is the surplus lands across the street.

My question would be for the county. Would this then, the decision to rezone for you, would this create a precedent going forward in some of these other surplus lands, whereas, you know, exceptions can be done and, you know, these kinds of surprises pop on what is really becoming a very hot area from a residential standpoint. (Applause.)

BO MEDRED: Okay. The area east of The Celery Fields on the south side of Palmer Boulevard, Palmer Glen, Pine Tree, those developments --


BO MEDRED: Meadow Walk. I actually rezoned all 3 of those for clients back in the -- it would have been the '90s and 2000s, and at that point it was designated for residential.

And prior to that being designated for residential, this area has -- was designated for major employment center and zoned as ILW zoning at that point*. The county recognized that and continued to place an MEC or an industrial designation on this property.

And so it's the historical use, when the county put it out to bid, they put it out as -- for sale a industrial lands. And so I understand that it's further out there, but the industrial area has historically been there. It has been -- you know, The Celery Fields were working an agricultural operations prior to them being purchased by the county, too.

*Medred clearly misspoke. The “future” land use (actually from the wayback machine of 1981) is Major Employment Center (MEC), which does not entail industry -- it can be offices, hi-tech manufacturing, even residential. And it is NOT zoned ILW. The current zoning is OUR - open use rural, which includes a variety of uses, not simply agricultural.

Not Recycling but Waste Processing

FEMALE AUDIENCE: Hi. Okay. So I want to just clarify terms and ask a question or two. So the term we've been using "recycling center" but that sort of paints a picture of, you know, people coming in with their bottles and things like that, and that's not what this is.


FEMALE AUDIENCE: This is really more. It's a construction waste transfer center; yes?


FEMALE AUDIENCE: So perhaps we should maybe address it as such as opposed to addressing it as something that might give us a little more of an environmentally friendly kind of situation. Wait. It leads to my question. It leads to my question. (Applause.)

Toxic materials, negative impact on property values

FEMALE AUDIENCE: Sorry. I listened to you all, and I'm just asking you all to listen to me. So it leads to my question, which is, about concentration as well of materials. For example, when you talk about something like lawn waste, tree limbs and so forth. Come on, we know this. It's Florida. It's all treated. It's got weed killers. It's got Monsanto, Round-up ready. It's got a lot of stuff that can be considered toxic material in high concentration. When you liken it to, for example, the concrete to a sidewalk, that's one intact thing. When you start crushing and releasing dust and releasing certain amounts of particulate, it's going to go into the water, it's going to go into the retention pond, and it's not always good. (Applause.)

One very last thing, I'm going to wrap it all up, okay? My big finish here is tax base, okay? So what happens when some of us decide we don't want to live among the perhaps scavenger birds we will attract, the amount of dust or noise, trucks, what have you, traffic, what have you. And then people start selling. It doesn't attract people to buy to an area that is an area that we know is really being swathed. I mean, it's moving out, right? Residential. It's not going to be all downtown any more. It's coming east. So those are my concerns. There we go. (Applause.)

Political Connections


DAVID JOHNSON: I have a question for you related to your appointment by Governor Rick Scott to the Sarasota County Charter Review Board.. . . Your current term runs through 2018. Can you tell us what impact your political connection will have on your ability to get this rezoning application approved? (Applause.)

JIM GABBERT: I'm happy to respond to that. I was appointed to an opened seat on the Charter Review Board. A year later I ran for re-election, and I was elected by the voters of Sarasota County. So I don't know what -- I'm an elected person. I served as a volunteer on the Charter Review Board for no fee, strictly as a volunteer, to try to protect our charter for the county. I'm a fourth generation Sarasotan. My wife is a fifth generation. We've raised all our children here. We were raised here.

15-Acre Rule - Devious?


GARY WALSH: One of the things that I am came up with in going through all this, I was at the last meeting and I spoke and I probably brought this up the last time. Most people don't realize the 15-acre rule. The lot that we're looking at tonight could not be developed for a recycling plant because it's 12 acres. It can only be done if you take your other piece that you bought before. My concern is, was this your ultimate plan, to take one piece and then get the other piece?


GARY WALSH: It never would have been approved --


GARY WALSH: -- for a 15-acre plan because it would have all been done one time, but you're trying to like sneak it in the back door. JIM GABBERT: I don't agree with you, sir, because when . . . I permitted the waste transfer facility, the 10 acres wasn't even deemed surplus by the county. It wasn't available.*

*But then, mysteriously, this land became available, as if in answer to a prayer. Gabbert had long sought to create a waste processing facility. According to the property appraiser's website, a Gabbert firm bought land at Cattlemen and Packinghouse Rd in 2013 for $625,000. In 2014, he held a neighborhood workshop for what he publicly stated would be a "waste transfer and recycling facility." When that effort failed, he sold the land in 2015 for $1,800,000. 

"Why put it here?" No Answer

FEMALE AUDIENCE: If there's so much land that's just vacant, just swampland all over Florida, why can't you go out where there's no homes? There's lots of acreage all over Florida that are just parked, nothing there. (Applause.)

JIM GABBERT: The next question?

60 -62

TOM JACKSON: Can I finish please? I own two buildings in the eastern industrial park. I'm concerned about that, but more than that, a couple of things that were stated, I just want to get to the record is, the concrete is a regulated material by the MSDS sheets, the material safety data sheet, because of the silica in it and it's now under the OSHA requirements. So even workers with it, when there's dust around and cutting and all that, they have masks, goggles, hand protection, all that, when they're handling it. So it is a controlled material now. Also the ACMs, the asbestos containing materials that you've got in there, that's my other concern with that. Like I said, Jim, in the right spot, I'm for it a hundred percent. I know you're honorable people and I know you're honorable folks. I'm just not for it in this area. I just want to read one thing from the county guidelines about the asbestos contained materials. Hold on a second. Under the permit requirements, it's very long what a contractor has to do under submitting for that, but the very first paragraph in here it says, if you have a project involving any demolition or renovations, you must follow regulations related to asbestos building materials period. Requirements for asbestos survey and/or asbestos project notifications apply to all demolition or renovation projects, except for single family homes and for -- or for fewer than 4 residential units that's never been used for commercial use. The problem I got, Jim, is any single family homeowner can take in an asbestos containing material, pull it off their wall, pull it off their floor, put it in that area there, and the canal that runs right behind the property over there links to Canal C, which is part of the Phillippi Basin. So those are the concerns I've got in that area. Like I said, I'll support you somewhere else. I just can't there, Jim. (Applause.)

Relative Compatibility with Surroundings

Bo Medred -
And I would encourage you that the other recycling facilities in the county are located a lot closer to residential properties than what we see here. So the one on Fruitville Road backs up to the Legends.*

*At a Planning Commission hearing in May, a resident of The Legends reported being awakened in the middle of the night by the sound of concrete being crushed coming from the WCA facility.

Volume of Trucks

James Gabbert, TST Ventures
JIM GABBERT: I don't view it as a fight, sir. I view it as an application for a facility. I mean, I'm going to make the application and I'm going to see it through to the end. If we're not approved, we're not approved, and we'll operate the waste transfer site. The same volume of trucks -- keep this in mind, the same volume of trucks would go to the waste transfer site as they would to the recycle site.* It would just be someone that had a load of pallets wouldn't take them to the waste transfer area, they would take them into the recycle area where we would then recycle them.

*In the Waste Transfer hearing, Medred shared the estimate of 67 trips per day.

Endangered Species

JOHN JENNETT: John Jennett. I'm a local contractor and engineer. I'm on the board of Paddocks North, which is one of the closer residences to the project. One of the big concerns we have is traffic. Also in my experience we have to face in our business the endangered species act and harassment of endangered species. I want to just have it on record for the Audubon people to make sure that the noise levels aren't something that are going to create a harassment for the endangered species at the facility. The idea of putting a waste facility next to a preserve such as this, as engineers we don't want to create an irreversible situation, and it seems to the best of my knowledge based on the information presented, that we are, in fact, doing that. So I urge the county to look closely at this to make sure we're not creating an irreversible situation. Thank you. (Applause.)

JIM GABBERT: Okay. Next question.



FEMALE AUDIENCE: You mentioned this is heavy employment corridor based on the plan. Obviously this is bringing some jobs, but since it's a heavy employment corridor, are you anticipating 5 jobs, 20 jobs, 50 jobs? Obviously that's something that people obviously care about when you're taking the land and building. What does it benefit us?

JIM GABBERT: And estimate that I said at the last meeting is 10 to 15 full-time jobs.



JOHN BUCKLEY: My name is John Buckley. I spoke last time. I am terribly upset that your lawyer was upset with our level of rudeness. It wasn't his back yard having this built in it. Asbestosis comes from the tile off of your roof, the shingles. It came from the overhead soundproofing. It came from the floor from the tile. It came from being wrapped around our water supplies but nobody did anything about it until long after. Mellonem, the chemical in your drywall, is doing the same thing. We think it will lead to cancer. If you tell me that that stuff is not flyable, that it doesn't come out into the air, you're wrong, and that scares me.

JIM GABBERT: Okay. We're moving on to this section.


Economic Contribution

MIKE RICHARDSON: Jim, I'm Mike Richardson. I have a little background in economic development. I'd like to ask you some questions kind of related to that. In order to somehow became convinced there was a need for this particular facility, what was your business plan that led you to that? How many competitors do you have? What type of level of operations capacity levels are they at, those things that pull together that says a county needs another one of these facilities. Two, you mentioned 10 to 15 jobs. What's going to be the average salaries? The jobs alone, if they're $6 an hour jobs, don't mean a whole lot. What's going to be your impact on the county's tax base? How much taxes are you going to be paying. And lastly, as I understand it, if you don't get your zoning variances, you will not be able to do this project and you will give it up at that point; is that true.


Toxic Wastes Unsafe for Children

FEMALE AUDIENCE: ...Homeowners and unfortunately some subcontractors that don't go out and get the proper permitting, tear things down and bring it to your facility. What are you going to do to ensure that the waste products that are brought to your facility, regardless of what these licensing requirements are, aren't unsafe for our children that go to the schools nearby, for us who live nearby, and on top of that, not just construction waste, but if you looked at what happened in The Keys recently, sewer systems running systems. There was waste. It was a tree and debris rotting in sewer systems that created a dangerous methane gas that killed 3 workers that went into a manhole. I'm assuming you're going to have sewer systems running under your facility or by your facility.


Medred: The Celery Fields wasn’t planned by the County Therefore we can ignore it?

Medred responding to audience
BO MEDRED: Just as a point of clarification, The Celery Fields' project was started -- was commenced as a stormwater abatement facility. Fortunately Rob Wright, who is a representative of the Audubon Society, used to work at the county so he's very familiar with it. The county built The Celery Fields for stormwater abatement as a preventive measure for downstream in the Phillippe Creek Basin. The consequence of it is some of the birds then begin to show up, and so they took advantage of that and the Audubon Society, . . . you know, built the facility out there and became bird watching.


Waste Processing Facility - If it’s legal, it’s still unethical


FEMALE AUDIENCE: I was here in 1983 and there was nothing east of I-75 except Checkers. I mean, that was just celery fields. And, yes, this is legal, but I think what everybody here is basically saying is just because it's legal doesn't make it right. And if you are a professional person and you have ethics and so forth and so on, you should be able to look at that and see that that is not in keeping with all of the development that has happened east of the interstate. From Niobe out, all of those houses, and those are not cheap houses. Those are very expensive subdivisions that pay a lot of taxes. And there's too much traffic on Palmer Road already. I came out Niobe, and I counted the other day, I sat and waited for 32 cars to go down Palmer Road before I could get out of Niobe. It's just not right.


This is a unique neighborhood

FEMALE AUDIENCE: I'm not only a business owner in Apex, but I'm also a resident of the Paddocks. So basically I'm in this area 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I don't -- I maybe come off the key and spend some time out there. The bird people are out from 6:00, 7:00 o'clock in the morning until late at night. That park that the county just spent, what, $25,000,000 on to beautify, put trees up on the hill, this is the most unique neighborhood. We have light industrial. We don't have shaking your walls, ground vibrating industrial in our neighborhood. Everybody gets along. It's a great neighborhood. I've been there for a long time. Your project was a great project. It's not for this neighborhood, and I think I could stand up for all of us and say, we will oppose it all the way.


Gabbert never mentioned the Waste Processing when he applied for the Waste Transfer

MALE AUDIENCE: But when was your zoning ordinance approved?

JIM GABBERT: I'm not sure what -- it's all -- it's the stockpile --

MALE AUDIENCE: It was 2 months ago. I know. I just wondered if you even knew or wanted to tell anybody. Also the special exception, it's about compliance. This project does not comply with the area around there, and I own property right next to you, you know that. And I haven't even said anything about traffic because now is not the place, but it's going to really affect me. But it's supposed to be compliant with everything in the area, and it's not. You know that. I know that. Everybody in this room knows it. It doesn't comply with The Celery Fields. It doesn't comply with my warehouses next-door or the next gentleman's next-door. It doesn't. You're heavy industrial. Everybody else isn't. And that's what the special exception is for, is to make sure you're compliant with the area, and I don't see how you could possibly get this underneath those rules because you need the special exception. Regardless if you change the zoning, you need the special exception. And I was here at the meetings for that other 4.2 acres. There was 10 people there. And I then personally asked you a question, if you had any intentions of buying the land next-door, and you didn't answer my question. Now, I know why.

In the 2015 hearing to secure the 4.5 acres for a "Waste Transfer Facility," Gabbert and Medred emphasized that one reason it would be compatible with neighbors and not a problem was, there would be "no processing onsite" - "no noise generated from the site from grinding, crushing or chipping of material."

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