Saturday, September 22, 2018
Business

Controversial landfill site could be rechristened as industrial recruiting land in Pasco

The east Pasco property of Angelo's Aggregate Materials, which failed to obtain a state environmental permit to be developed as a garbage landfill, is being studied as a potential 1,000-acre mega site for industrial recruitment.

"There are no mega sites of that size in Florida right now. This puts us clearly on the map,'' Bill Cronin, president/CEO of the Pasco Economic Development Council, told county commissioners earlier this month.

Cronin did not reference the site by name in addressing the commission, but identified it as the Angelo's land in a later interview with the Tampa Bay Times.

The land, bordered on the north and south by Enterprise and Messick roads, is east of County Road 35A and west of the Green Swamp in a remote portion of eastern Pasco. It has access to a CSX rail line, U.S. 98, U.S. 301 and eventually the Clinton Avenue Extension to link to Interstate 75. Its location puts the available labor pool in both Tampa and Lakeland within easy reach. It also is served by two separate electric utilities, Withlacoochee River Electric and Tampa Electric, which would be attractive to an industry that uses a substantial amount of power, Cronin said.

"A site like that could result in hundreds if not thousands of jobs,'' Cronin said.

Angelo's attorney, Barbara Wilhite, said her client was not available for comment.

The property is part of the PEDC's three-year effort to certify up to 2,500 acres in the county as future industrial sites. McCallum Sweeney Consulting of Greenville, S.C., under a contract with the PEDC, is doing the actual evaluations of properties that meet minimum criteria like access to transportation, rail, availability of utilities and other considerations. Essentially, the process creates a check list of needed work and associated costs — like when utility connections are available and determining wetland permit requirements — that will be required in order for land to be certified and marketed as ready for industrial development.

"It's a lot of paperwork. The landowner pays for a lot of that. They have to have skin in the game because they're the one who benefits,'' said Cronin.

Known as the Ready Site Program, the effort is intended to build an inventory of available land within the county that can be developed for industrial or business park use. Cronin said the county identified 67 sites, ranging from 50 acres up to the 1,000-acre Angelo's land, as potential locations for industrial development.

Angelo's Aggregate Materials, which acquired the land early last decade, attempted initially to develop a 90-acre trash landfill on the site with the potential to expand it up to 1,000 acres. It turned into a years-long political and legal battle with environmentalists and neighboring property owners contending a landfill would pose a hazard to underground water supplies, particularly because of the potential for sinkholes. Proponents said the landfill would be a less-costly and more environmentally friendly than an expensive expansion of the county's trash-burning plant in Shady Hills.

The company later cut the size of the proposed landfill to 30 acres to no avail. The state Department of Environmental Protection decline to issue a permit and an administrative law judge concurred in 2013.

Carl Roth, now of Port Richey, one of the people in east Pasco who objected to the proposed landfill through a group called Protectors of Florida's Legacy, said an industrial center likely would be better received in the community.

"I could see that,'' he said. "Generally speaking, most folks would be OK with that type of thing, given the railroad and access to Lakeland.''

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