Celery Fields Proposal Hearing on Wednesday



The potential for a recycling plant near the Celery Fields in east Sarasota County has raised concerns among environmentalists despite assurance from developers that the plan will not introduce a major risk to the area. Now, Sarasota County Commissioners will spend all of Wednesday at a public hearing about rezoning the 16-acre site before making a decision on the project's future.

TST Ventures has proposed an open-air recycling plant on the site, located at Apex Road and Palmer Avenue, and says the facility will have minimal effects on the surrounding areas. An application to the county requests a change in the county’s Future Land Use Map to designate the property as Light Industrial, a rezone of the property and a special use permit to run the plant there.

Bo Medred, agent for TST Ventures, noted to Planning Commissioners in June that four acres of the site already have been zoned for light industrial use, and land being purchased by the county had always been intended to be sold for industrial use. He also noted that while east Sarasota County has a more rural feel, that also means homes aren’t close to the site. “The closest house to this property is actually on the west of Interstate-75,” he said at the Planning Commission hearing. The closest single-family homes to the proposed recycling site on the east side of the interstate are located about 3/4 of a mile away, he said. James Gabbart, principal owner of the site, said he has a strong background in reducing pollution at recycling sites, and that this facility would be careful about what materials get accepted and how they will be sorted for disposal or recycling. An updated traffic study made available Monday predicts the project would add less than 5 percent to truck traffic to nearby roads at peak hours, even accomodating for maximum traffic conditions.

Opponents of the project have been rallying support mostly around potential threats to wildlife at Celery Fields. County Commissioners have been flooded with emails from citizens who enjoy birdwatching on the land, and fear the noise and pollution associated with a waste plant could alter the habitat even off the land where the facility would be located. “The essence of our argument is, first of all, pollution and impacts to the environment,” says David Johnson, who founded the celery fields.org website to fight the proposal. Johnson notes the use of concrete crushers and wood chippers will produce large amounts of noise that could disturb both avian and human residents in the region. Just the number of diesel-burning trucks coming to and from property will introduce air pollution in the area, he says. Save The Celery Fields protests have been held at the site and near County Administration in Sarasota to rally opposition to the proposal.

County planning staff have recommended approval of a change to the Future Land Use designation with certain conditions but offered no opinion on rezoning the property or issuing a permit. The Sarasota County Planning Commission voted to deny the application altogether. Sarasota County commissioners will meet at 9am Wednesday at the Sarasota County Administration Center in Sarasota.

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