Where can someone open a business on land not zoned for it, secure in the thought that they’ll be able to persuade county officials to amend the growth plan and development regulations to accommodate them to assure approval of an after-the-fact permit?
Polk County, of course.
That summarizes what happened at the site of the unfortunately named BS Ranch & Farm, which is operating a soil-manufacturing plant in an industrial park on Maine Avenue bordered by residential areas in east Lakeland.
Despite repeated assurances by county planners, who are sometimes hard to tell from representatives of permit applicants at public hearings, that there would be no odor, it didn’t work out that way.
The odor was detectable as far away as Circle B Bar Reserve.
It was so bad that even the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, which in recent years has gained a reputation for soft-pedaling the shortcomings of permit holders, concluded there was a problem that needed to be fixed though there was no word in press reports on any fines.
Polk County code enforcement stepped in, too. It has scheduled a hearing for next month. In the meantime, the company will be allowed to continue operating.
The County Commission is still considering how it wants to deal with this problem.
The matter will be discussed at today’s commission meeting.
The accommodation by county staff that led to this situation didn’t happen by accident.
It reflects an official county policy for dealing with development permits that was completed last year and reflected existing practices.
The written policy was notable for directing county staffers reviewing development permits that they should be “advocates, not adversaries.”
I questioned that at the time.
My position is the staff should be neutral reviewers representing the public interest, not any other interest, so that they keep things in the proper perspective.
That would avoid the sometimes tortuous arguments county planners make to justify approval of cases that come before the Planning Commission and the County Commission.
However, the planners have their marching orders from the a crowd that hardly ever sees a development proposal they won’t eagerly embrace and to which they offer tax breaks and impose cut-rate impact fees.
Many residents think this approach stinks.
This time there’s proof.