TOWN 'N COUNTRY — That mountain of dirt casting its shadow across a neighborhood off Sheldon Road should soon be gone.
That's the word from a special magistrate who set a 45-day deadline for the dirt to be removed.
"There was a petition that indicated close to 70 signatures and many complaints,'' said Hillsborough County's Christa Hull after a hearing late last month.
Special Magistrate Christopher Brown gave Jason's Hauling and the property's owners, Nicolas and Konstantina Tsokos, 45 days to remove the dirt or face a $500-a-day fine each.
"They wanted more time but the neighborhood wanted it out of there,'' said Hull, the county's environmental supervisor for planning and growth management. "The magistrate made it clear to them that they needed to remove the dirt as quickly as possible and as safely as possible.''
The 60,000 cubic yards of dirt sitting on Sheldon between Cluster Avenue and Flora Street came from the Tampa International Airport interchange construction project. But it was Jason's Hauling that dumped the dirt and then told county officials it had a lease agreement with the property owners.
County officials said no permit had been pulled to place the dirt there and that the lot is zoned for commercial and residential use, not stockpiling. They also expressed concern about erosion, dust and the mound's dangerous potential to attract children.
"They were given 45 days to remove the dirt because they said it took them that long to put it there,'' Hull said.
Neighbors also asked that the dump trucks use Sheldon for the removal and not their neighborhood streets.
"Otherwise it would add more dirt and pollutants already in the air,'' Hull said.
Jason's was told to stabilize the piles as they are being removed to cut down on the amount of dust. And all exposed dirt is to be covered with solid vegetation so there will be no lot soil erosion.
If the hearing magistrate's orders are not followed, both Jason's and the Tsokoses will be called to task. They will have 10 days to contest any new charges and could face additional fines.
"If they do not stabilize the pile while they're operating, or if they get complaints about the dust, there could be another $500-a-day fine per complaint,'' Hull said.
Reach Jackie Ripley at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 269-5308.