Several years ago county planners, notably Erik Peterson, presented a rosy picture of an alleged soil recycling and manufacturing plant on the outskirts of Lakeland called BS Ranch.
County commissioners bought the hype and approved the permit. They have regretted it ever since.
They should have known better than to trust someone who started a business without getting proper permits, but that’s the way things are done in Polk County sometimes.
There were constant odor complaints that kept county code-enforcement staffers occupied for years and eventually ended in a legal fight and the state environmental permitting agency’s conclusion that this wasn’t such a great project after all.
That brings us to Tuesday’s appeal hearing before the County Commission over a proposed private race track in a rural area adjacent to Lake Walk-in-Water east of Lake Wales.
According to the county staff report, Peterson assured the applicant this was a doable project when he first put out feelers before investing his money.
But the staff report accompanying Tuesday’s hearing raises red flags for anyone paying attention.
It states “little improvement is needed to make this site suitable (for its proposed use)” I guess that depends whether “little” means an asphalt race track, a dirt track, associated buildings and retention areas and facilities to contain fuel spills.
The staff report concludes there is no problem with incompatibility with surrounding land uses. The voluminous comments from area property owners seem to belie that claim.
The staff report states there are no plans to alter the natural drainage patterns after earlier confirming that the land drains toward the lake.
Additionally, the county staff seems to be confused about the location of the property, noting repeatedly that it would require permits from the Southwest Florida Water Management District when in fact the property lies well within the boundaries of the South Florida Water Management District. The applicant’s consultant made the same mistake at the Planning Commission hearing.
Beyond that, there are other questions.
Why is this not spot zoning?
Why isn’t the applicant required to submit a binding site plan to ensure lakeshore habitat is protected or amend the land-use change to impose a conservation land use on that portion of the property?
The applicant may claim correctly that he made a substantial investment in the property to achieve his dreams.
However, that seems to be his problem, not the County Commission’s.