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Keystone dirt pit owner seeks no peat inspection, different route

KEYSTONE — Landowner Stephen Dibbs and his neighbors disagree on a lot when it comes to his big dirt-hauling operation on Lutz-Lake Fern Road.

But when it comes to Dibbs' request to bring dump trucks full of sodden peat onto the property, there is one point both sides agree on:

Hillsborough County's proposed rules for that operation just wouldn't work.

County officials have suggested allowing Dibbs to bring in the peat from wetlands disturbed by a construction job in Tarpon Springs. But they have recommended requiring that every truckload be analyzed for petroleum hydrocarbons, solvents, pesticides, lead and other heavy metals.

That's not practical, a representative for Dibbs and opponents of the project said at a public hearing this week.

"It's completely unenforceable, and it would do no one any good," said Steve Allison, a consultant representing Dibbs.

Neighbors likewise questioned who would take the samples, where the lab would be, who would step in if hazardous materials were found, who would keep the records and who could see the records.

One resident of Ivy Lake Estates, which is in Pasco County immediately north of Dibbs' property, said the peat could smell even if it meets federal environmental standards.

"You call it peat moss; I call it muck," Ben Collier said. "I am very, very concerned about the odors and the smells that this would create for our neighborhood."

The request to bring in peat is only one of the ways Dibbs wants to change the rules governing a dirt-hauling operation on 320 acres he owns on Lutz-Lake Fern Road.

In February 2008, after two years of debate, Dibbs received county permission to excavate up to 2.5 million cubic yards of dirt from his land.

But the approval came with 38 conditions. One bans Dibbs from bringing anything onto the property. Another prohibits trucks from going west on Lutz-Lake Fern Road after they leave Dibbs' property. A third requires Dibbs to hire an off-duty deputy to direct traffic at the entrance to his property during rush hour.

Dibbs wants to change all three and has applied to the county to do so.

It isn't the first time. Less than a year after getting his initial approval, he asked for county permission to send trucks west on Lutz-Lake Fern Road. Making them go south to Van Dyke Road adds nearly 4 miles to the trip and pushes up costs, he said.

A county hearing officer denied the request last year. Lutz-Lake Fern Road isn't built for heavy trucks, he concluded. Also, the hauling would disturb residential areas to the west.

Now Dibbs is back before a different hearing officer with a similar request. This time, Allison said, the biggest difference is that engineers have studied Lutz-Lake Fern Road for Dibbs and determined that it is sturdier than Van Dyke Road, a county-designated truck route.

The engineers found that the asphalt on Lutz-Lake Fern Road is thicker than on Van Dyke Road. They also concluded that Lutz-Lake Fern is safer: Going west, they said, the route is shorter, and the Van Dyke detour takes trucks by the Keystone Recreation Center.

Hearing officer James Scarola will decide whether to grant Dibbs' latest request. His decision is expected by mid September.

Richard Danielson can be reached at danielson@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3403.

Keystone dirt pit owner seeks no peat inspection, different route 08/26/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 25, 2010 1:30pm]
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