After a public hearing that lasted nearly 10 hours, the County Commission voted 3-2 to deny a recycling facility outside of the Celery Fields, ending a months-long battle between residents and developers.
Commissioners Paul Caragiulo, Nancy Detert and Charles Hines all voted against the facility. Caragiulo had the same concerns as the Planning Commission, which largely centered on traffic and roadway problems, but also about changing what the county code allowed for the land without thinking beyond a single business owner.
“Once you approve this, then it goes off and has its own life,” Caragiulo said of the land.
Detert raised concerns over property values in the area, and Hines was worried there weren’t enough safeguards to protect surrounding neighborhoods.
Jim Gabbert of TST Ventures hoped to build a recycling plant on 16 acres at the southwest corner of Apex Road and Palmer Avenue. The open-air facility would include a waste-transfer station that was already approved for the area.
There were 81 speakers at the Aug. 23 public hearing. Opponents were concerned about the traffic, noise and environmental impact of the project, but the developer said there would be little to none. In the end, commissioners erred on the side of the Planning Commission.
After the public hearing, Gabbert offered to add several more stipulations to the agreement, including limiting hours that waste could be processed and lowering the permitted heights of stockpiles, as well as adding an air quality monitor to the site, but it wasn’t enough to appease commissioners.
While Commissioners Mike Moran and Al Maio voted to approve the proposal, each commissioner took time to comment on the decision-making process and the number of (sometimes unkind) emails they received leading up to the hearing. Commissioners also made it clear that while they weren’t sure if this was the correct site for a recycling facility, they respect Gabbert and are pro-recycling.
Moving forward, Gabbert will likely not purchase the land from the county. Detert expressed interest, after the months of public outcry over the development, that the county keep the land and use it to enhance the Celery Fields.
“I think — we own this property, we should take it off of the surplus list, and frankly use it to develop that area because it’s a winning item,” she said.