BROOKSVILLE — Anthony R. Crescenzo pleaded with the Hernando County Commission on Tuesday, insisting that his proposed waste treatment operation wouldn't emit a strong odor.
Commissioners, Crescenzo said, held the future of his septic contracting company in their hands.
It wasn't enough. After about three hours of testimony and debate, a divided commission rejected his request for a zoning change to allow for a lime stabilization facility behind the building he bought earlier this year to serve as the headquarters of his business, Johns by John II.
Crescenzo sought a public service overlay district for the 2-acre commercial parcel at 15407 Cortez Blvd., just east of Winter Street. The county's Planning and Zoning Commission voted 4 to 1 to recommend approval of the request.
But three of the five county commissioners on Tuesday agreed with residents and nearby property owners who said a waste treatment plant was not appropriate for an area bordered by homes and professional businesses.
"This is not in my mind compatible with what we see in the future" for the State Road 50 corridor, said Commissioner Wayne Dukes, who made the motion to deny the request.
Commissioner Dave Russell and Chairman James Adkins joined Dukes. Commissioners Jeff Stabins and John Druzbick dissented.
"I cannot in good conscience vote against it," Stabins said. "After listening to every bit of the testimony, I have not heard the preponderance of evidence to turn this man down."
Residents and property owners told commissioners they worried about odor, diminishing property values and increased truck traffic. They also pointed to the company's spotty record with customers and the state Department of Health.
Among the opponents was the St. Petersburg Times. The company's Hernando bureau and distribution center are located directly to the west of Crescenzo's property.
"We wish Mr. Anthony a lot of business luck, but we feel that type of business should be in an industrial zone," resident Susan Joy told the board.
Crescenzo insisted that odor from the facility would not waft beyond about 40 feet. He said the plant would allow him to hire more workers.
"I need this," Crescenzo said. "I have nowhere else to go. I've put everything on the line to get this project approved."
At least one resident told commissioners she initially had concerns about the plant but no longer opposed it.
The plan called for three 10,000-gallon, above-ground tanks, a lime storage building and a large container bin. Waste would have been trucked in from septic tanks, pumped into the tanks, aerated and mixed with lime, which increases the pH level to kill bacteria. Solid materials would have been separated, dumped into a bin and trucked to the landfill.
The treated waste would have been hauled away and sprayed onto a portion of a 12-acre tract that Crescenzo owns on Sweet Gum Road, near Sunshine Grove Road, west of Brooksville.
Crescenzo noted that a lime stabilization facility had operated for years across State Road 50 and did not draw complaints. It has since closed.
The Health Department monitors lime stabilization facilities. Al Gray, environmental health manager for the Hernando County Department of Health, said the plants are closed systems.
"There's not really an opportunity for odor in this case," Gray said.
Opponents said they worried that the plant, if built, would not be operated properly. They noted a pending administrative complaint filed by the state Department of Health on July 6, stating that the company's history of questionable business practices since 2006 warrants the most severe action against Crescenzo's septic tank contractor's license: revocation.
The complaint cites incidents with three separate customers in November of last year and January of this year that could be considered "evidence of gross negligence, incompetence and misconduct." In all three cases, Johns by John failed to completely empty customers' septic tanks.
Crescenzo has called the pending complaint baseless.
It's the second time the County Commission has rejected a lime stabilization facility. The board voted in June to deny a rezoning application from Crescenzo that would have allowed him to build the plant on his Sweet Gum Road property. Neighbors complained there, too.
Reach Tony Marrero at email@example.com.