BROOKSVILLE — When the County Commission spent $383,000 to buy a parcel of land on U.S. 98 adjacent to the county landfill in late 2008, officials said at the time they weren't sure what they would do with it.
This week, they found a use. They swapped it for another parcel adjacent to the landfill.
The county benefits by making the landfill more attractive to companies that might use new technologies to convert garbage into energy and make way for generating solar energy.
The swap would also allow some expansion of landfill operations, create a better access point for a proposed sheriff's firearms and training facility, and ensure that homes aren't built on a sliver of land stuck between the landfill and the Suncoast Parkway, utilities director Joe Stapf told commissioners Tuesday.
For months, Stapf has been talking to Optima DHM Corp. and HDC Commercial LLC, owners of Seville East, a previously approved residential and commercial subdivision that sprawls west and north of the landfill to U.S. 98.
When the development was approved, the companies agreed to provide the county right of way so that it can run the contaminated water that has percolated through the landfill to a wastewater treatment plant.
That will reduce the amount of money the county must place in escrow to close and care for exhausted landfill cells.
During those talks with Optima's representatives Jake Varn and Cliff Manuel, Stapf said the land swap came up. They wanted to trade their 26 acres sandwiched between the landfill and the Suncoast Parkway for the triangular-shaped 18-acre parcel the county had purchased along U.S. 98 bordered on the east by the landfill access road.
Stapf said the county gains growing room to the west and the proposed firearms and training facility would get around-the-clock access without requiring deputies to go through the landfill. And with no residential development west of the landfill, there will be no homeowners to complain about the landfill operation.
But the biggest advantage could be that all the land between the landfill and Progress Energy's high voltage lines running along the west side the Suncoast Parkway would now be in public hands, giving the county an easy connection to those lines.
Stapf said he and the county's business development director Michael McHugh have spoken with a company that is looking for a Florida site for a biomass burn unit.
The lack of easy access to power lines hurt Hernando as a potential location, Stapf said.
Such operations or other new technology for converting garbage to electricity could fit on the swapped parcel, and it could allow the landfill to produce energy to be sold on the power grid, he said.
Also, as the two original landfill cells are closed, solar power panels could be used to cover the cells instead of using dirt and turf, as others have done. Stapf said the county could sell the energy on the electric grid.
The county trades 16 of its 18 acres of higher valued property for the development's 26 slightly less valuable acres. The developer also gets to transfer his vested development rights to the new site, which would extend the Seville East property all the way along the southern side of U.S. 98 to the landfill access road.
Commissioner Dave Russell questioned how those development rights would work on the smaller parcel, but Stapf assured the commission that the developer would still have to go through a series of reviews and approvals before getting permission to develop there.
That satisfied Russell. The commission voted 4-0 to approve the swap with Commissioner Jeff Stabins absent.