Landfill Sandwich

The Detail

BY CATHY ANTUNES SRQ DAILY SATURDAY PERSPECTIVES EDITION SATURDAY JUN 25, 2016

In a recent e-mail to County Commissioner Paul Caraguilo, a resident of the Foxfire neighborhood expressed concern about how the construction of 200 new homes (Waverly—a Medallion Homes/Carlos Beruff project) is impacting his home and family. The pond in his yard no longer has fish or turtles. The water level has never been so low, and the water in the pond is extremely dirty. This resident reports deep digging “on the landfill” behind his house, and how landfill dirt is being used to fill in a flooded-out road. Dust is kicked up on the road by trucks, right near where his children play. "Is the dust contaminated?" he asks. He writes: "The developers have been pumping the landfill and other areas and releasing the water on top of the landfill. How can this be right?"

The Foxfire landfills (20 and 70 acres) opened around 1940 and were closed in 1972. They became golf courses in 1975, and those were closed in 2006 due to environmental contamination. 

A 2008 Department of Environmental Protection report lists landfill and adjacent tests showing barium, benzo(a)pyrene, benzene, arsenic and cumulative Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbon (PAH) levels beyond acceptable residential levels. The arsenic and PAH concentrations also exceeded acceptable industrial levels. 

A request to build 200 new homes alongside the two unlined former Foxfire landfills was denied by the County Commission in 2013 due to contamination concerns. Prolific County Commission campaign and PAC donor Carlos Beruff subsequently purchased the land in May 2014, and six months later—voila!—the request to permit residential development was approved.

The new homes are not being built directly on top of the landfills, but right next to them. A portion of the development will be sandwiched between the two landfills. Would you buy one of them? Would you want your children to live there?

The side-stepping of concerns about contamination from these landfills has been jaw-dropping. During the 2013 planning commission hearing, Mike Moran asked the county attorney whether or not he and other planning commissioners have a duty to consider testimony of potential toxic contamination in their vote on the rezone, or if that was a job for other agencies. The attorney replied that planning commissioners have broad license to consider how the health, safety and welfare of neighboring residents would be impacted. Moran responded: “So in other words, if a Commissioner here felt tonight that the land was contaminated and unsafe for use based on the testimony, not any testing that was done, it would not be grounds for a vote to decline the project?”

Mr. Moran wants to be your new County Commissioner. The big development “Growth Machine” is funding his campaign (yes, including Beruff).

This is the “Growth Machine” business model: buy cheap rural land and rezone it for residential development. Like rural land, contaminated land is pretty cheap, too. Who cares about potential cancer clusters? After all, there’s nowhere else to build. Oh wait—there is.

How can this be right? It isn’t.

Cathy Antunes serves on the board of Sarasota Citizens for Responsible Government.

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