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Sarasota Thursday, Apr. 30, 2009 13 years ago

Dirt Pile disturbs neighbors

by: Robin Roy City Editor

Residents of six Palmer Ranch communities are concerned about a large dirt pile they say is creating a mess in their neighborhoods.

“They’re trying to create an upscale community, and this is what they put here?” said Bob Mills, vice president of the Palmer Ranch Communities Coalition (PRCC). “This is a major issue for the people living around here.”

The dirt comes from a Sarasota County project that is creating a retention pond between Clark and Sawyer Loop roads. Palmer Ranch Holdings is storing the dirt for the county at the intersection of Honore Avenue and Palmer Ranch Parkway. It’s surrounded by the communities of Botanica, Glenridge, The Hamptons, Palmer Ranch Health and Rehab Center, Stonebridge and Villagewalk.

“We used the same area to store dirt four years ago, and there were no complaints then,” said Justin Powell, vice president of Palmer Ranch Holdings. “We thought it would be OK again.”

Nearby residents say the dirt, which was dumped there in December, just recently started being watered and has yet to be hydroseeded to keep it from blowing around, and it’s making their cars and homes filthy.

“It’s not only ugly, but the trucks create noise pollution, and there’s dirt pollution,” said Margaret Brading, PRCC president.

Powell said the contractor, Oklawaha Farms Inc., would be seeding the dirt pile this week.

The dirt had been piled higher than the 15 feet that county code allows, and when code-enforcement officers informed the contractor of the error, the pile was reduced.

“It was at least twice as high as it is now,” said County Commissioner Jon Thaxton, who has been dealing with the residents’ complaints. “But it is in compliance now. Earthmoving is a legal activity in the county and in that zoning district.”

Another complaint is that the contractor keeps a tractor on top of the pile, despite residents’ requests to have it taken down.

“Leaving the tractor on top is salt in the wound,” Brading said.

Powell said the tractor is there to keep the dirt compacted, so it won’t blow around as much, but Brading said the tractor has been sitting in the same spot for weeks.

“We’re sorry it’s so disturbing to the people there,” Powell said. “We were just trying to help the county. We wouldn’t put dirt there again.”

Although Thaxton has worked to alleviate residents’ concerns, he wanted to remind them that at one time or another, a contractor had to move dirt and pile it somewhere to build every one of their homes in Palmer Ranch.

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