BS Farm and Ranch may not be stinking up the air in east Lakeland much longer.
The County Commission, led by Commissioner George Lindsey, told the plant’s owner-operators and their consultants Tuesday that they were tired of the complaints and the false promises and the evasions. They told County Attorney Michael Craig to take whatever legal action he could to shut down the plant until the owners comply with their county permit conditions and asked for a peer review of the plant’s operations plan to see if it contains any flaws.
This was an unusual move for the County Commission, which rarely says no when it comes to new development.
Sen. Kelli Stargel of Lakeland sent a letter to Florida Department of Environmental Protection officials March 17 asking to be kept in the loop on the progress of the agency’s review of BS’ compliance. No other local legislators have weighed in as far as I know.
The commission’s action was unusual, but as I wrote yesterday, the problem may not have occurred somewhere else where scofflaw zoning applicants are not treated with such deference as they are in Polk County.
To recap, BS opened a business without proper county zoning permits and without a permit from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection,, got caught and was allowed by both jurisdictions to continue operating for a year or so while the owners sought permits, changes in the county growth plan and the county development regulations. This is standard operating procedure in Polk County.
“They have never been legally operating,” Craig acknowledged during the meeting, though that was already an open secret.
Lindsey also Tuesday set in motion a move to repeal the development code change that set the stage for attracting more soil manufacturing plants to Polk County.
Repealing a development code change, absence its replacement with a more up-to-date version, is unprecedented.
There’s a back story to this fiasco. It appears that BS had the support of Averett Septic Tank Co., whose representatives were in the audience Tuesday filming the testimony. BS did not have the backing of some of the other local septic tank businesses, whose owners are skeptical of BS’s operation and have been working with another company whose operating procedures they do like to set up shop in Polk County, but at a more remote location.
Part of the problem is the fact that BS picked a site in the middle of an urban area rather than somewhere more remote. The odor from their plant was so bad that even their neighbors in the industrial park were complaining. There have been off-site nuisances from time to time in the past at that industrial park though most of the tenants operations cause no problems.
But the other problem was even after BS was caught stinking up the area for at least a mile around, they tried to shift the blame and played word games with DEP staffers trying to work with them to bring them into compliance administratively. These days DEP rarely fines anyone for anything, according to analyses of recent case activity.
By the way, the atmosphere became a little tense toward the end of that portion of the commission meeting. BS’ owner cursed at residents after failing to win any sympathy by projecting images of Iron Eyes Cody, the Sicilian actor who played a Native American in those anti-litter ads you may have seen years ago that were really an attempt to shift attention away from the problem caused by lack of bottle deposits.
The meeting is archived on PGTV, available at www.polk-county.net . It was entertaining.