NEW PORT RICHEY — Pasco County commissioners Tuesday sided with Odessa residents who say a nearby concrete plant should go because it creates noise, vibrations and dust clouds that coat their homes and cars.
"Put it this way, I can clean my black mailbox and two days later it is completely coated with dust," said Ashley Lakes resident Janet Felts, who added she worries about respiratory problems in her and her two children.
Felts and other residents of the 311-home enclave south of State Road 54 have complained for years, saying Pasco County staff shouldn't have approved the plant next to a residential community.
At a two-hour hearing Tuesday, commissioners sought to address those mistakes while deciding a legal argument about whether A+ Concrete should stay.
"I can tell you that errors were made," Chief Assistant County Attorney David Goldstein told commissioners. "They were made in 2006 and 2011. Staff never looked at the zoning and never looked at the land use."
Goldstein argued that despite receiving permits, the plant shouldn't have opened under rules that require concrete plants at industrial sites.
Officials had sought to hold a zoning hearing with the company last year, but A+ opted to argue "vested rights," a legal concept that protects homes and businesses from eviction because of vested rights to a property.
In this case, A+ Concrete attorney David Smolker argued the company operated in good faith, sought permits for its dry-mix and wet-mix concrete business and received them. As a result, it shouldn't be forced to move.
Commissioners unanimously disagreed, arguing that a permitting mistake doesn't give a business the right to skirt planning and zoning rules.
It's unclear what will happen next. Smolker said his client might go to court. Commissioners said they would be willing to fast-track approvals to help the company relocate.
In other business, commissioners created a Municipal Service Boundary Unit in Trinity to pay for 42 acres the county bought to stop an apartment project.
About 1,550 homes within the boundary — in Heritage Lake, Riverchase, Riverside Village Estates and Southern Oaks — will be assessed $67 a year over 15 years to pay back the $3 million purchase. The land will be set aside for a park or remain as open space, the way it is now.
Most of the 150 residents applauded the deal. State Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Trinity, helped secure $1.5 million from the state to cut the annual assessment from $135 to $67. He said he's "very confident" he can secure another $1.5 million next year to eliminate the assessment.
Not everyone was pleased by the assessment idea, though.
"Your proposal to levy an additional tax burden on targeted property owners as a source of funds to pay off a developer represents a total abdication of your duties and responsibilities to oversee responsible and compatible development," Southern Oaks resident Cindy Fargo said.
Rich Shopes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6236.