Polk is not the only place where private entrepreneurs have proposed composting g sludge (the solid residue from sewer plants) and other materials.
But in at least one other Florida county, local officials are taking an entirely different approach to regulating such operations.
The St. Lucie County Commission refused to approve one outdoor composting operation similar to the one Polk officials approved in December, TC Palm reports.
Instead, the St. Lucie County Commission is poised to consider an ordinance that would require composting operations to be located indoors on a concrete or asphalt surface and have a site plan that requires extra stormwater storage and setbacks from other buildings as well as various measures to control potential nuisances ranging from odors to vermin.
The first hearing of the ordinance is Thursday in Fort Pierce.
That proposed 15-page St. Lucie ordinance is much more detailed in expected standards than the six-page revision of the development regulations that the Polk County Commission approved last August.
St. Lucie’s ordinance comes a year after the County Commission there adopted a temporary moratorium on considering applications for commercial composting operations. Polk commissioners did not approve a temporarily moratorium until after they realized they had screwed up in approving the original ordinance and the permit for BS Ranch & Farm, which is the center of the current ongoing dispute in Polk County.
Some Polk officials have complained privately that BS Ranch did not act honestly, but that’s beside the point.
The reason governments enact and enforce ordinances (also known as laws) is to protect the public interest. When local officials rely on assurances provided during a PR tour and promises of jobs, , which appears to have been Polk’s approach., in making development decisions it can end badly, as it has here..
Composting is nothing new. It is a process that has been used for centuries to recycle waste materials.
However, as everyone who didn’t understand this has learned, composting operations can pollute air and water, which is something St. Lucie County is taking more seriously than Polk County did until recently.
I will repeat the point from a previous post that Polk’s development regs are up for their biennial review. The lessons learned from the BS Ranch & Farm affair should be part of the discussion.
As officials in St. Lucie County are demonstrating, there are better ways to do this.