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Neighbors' case against rib house goes up in smoke

When the smoke cleared, Rodney Lopez came out on top.

The owner of Uncle Rodney's Rib House had battled with neighbors for months regarding smoke emanating from his S MacDill Avenue restaurant.

However, the city's code enforcement board has cleared Rodney Lopez of creating a public nuisance.

The board closed the case against the Rib House after a hearing master ruled in Lopez's favor Nov. 22.

A few neighbors had complained that the Rib House's wood-burning stove produces such copious smoke and fumes that it interferes with their lives.

The restaurant opened in February at 5712 S MacDill Ave. after moving from a nearby site on W Gandy Boulevard.

In May, the county's Environmental Protection Commission recommended Lopez find a process to better disperse the smoke. He installed a filtration system and blower fan that reduced the smoke's effects.

However, in e-mails to city officials, neighbor Ed Bouchard contended that "in no way has this eliminated the problem .... There are still days that I cannot sit on my back deck, or enjoy my pool, and (I) am forced to be a prisoner in my own house."

Lopez said only a few neighbors complained about the smoke, and that while a petition objecting to the Rib House got 35 signatures at a Ballast Point Neighborhood Association meeting in June, only four came from residents in the affected area.

Rick Gershman can be reached at rgershman@sptimes.com or 226-3431.

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