Although BS Ranch’s application for approval of an updated management plan for its soil-manufacturing plant has been delayed until the Oct. 4 Planning Commission meeting, two other changes in the county’s development regulations are up for consideration at Wednesday’s meeting.
The proposed changes would undo changes approved last year to accommodate BS Ranch by exempting it and other soil-manufacturing plants from the normal comprehensive review required for solid waste facilities.
County planners last year recommended and the County Commission approved specifically exempting soil manufacturing plants from a more thorough review despite the fact that BS Ranch began operating without final approval from county development officials or proper permits from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
The company later received after-the-fact permits from Polk County and DEP, an action Polk officials came to regret.
That’s because of the odor problems that generated complaints from area residents and business owners, despite the position by both company reps and county planners during public hearings that this would not happen.
Since then, the County Commission has reportedly decided to take a harder line on the development approval process to try to prevent a repeat of the embarrassing BS Ranch fiasco.
The change in the development code will not affect BS Ranch because it already has been approved.
That is because it is illegal to apply changes in the rules retroactively.
The best anyone living near the plant can hope for now is that the review of its revised management plan will solve the odor problems.
One further suggestion may help in deciding how to deal with new types of development is to look more widely at how such cases are handled in parts of Florida outside the nearby counties.
If that had been done, Polk officials might have become aware of the regulations that were being considered in St. Lucie County after commissioners there imposed a temporary moratorium on soil-manufacturing plants.
That could have led to a fuller public policy discussion on what kind of regulations might be justified such as requiring financial responsibility and requiring the operations to occur indoors.
Interestingly, when I mentioned those requirements to one county planner, the immediate response was that those requirements shouldn’t be considered because they might put a hardship on the applicant.
That reflects an attitude that caused the problem in the first place.
It will be to the County Commission to change that.