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Hillsborough to consider incinerator restrictions

The question of burning yard waste follows a now-abandoned push to put an incinerator in Lutz.
A week after killing a permit application from Louis Geraci LLLP to install two log-burning incinerators in Lutz, commissioners said Thursday they want to consider restricting where those facilities can locate in the future.
A week after killing a permit application from Louis Geraci LLLP to install two log-burning incinerators in Lutz, commissioners said Thursday they want to consider restricting where those facilities can locate in the future. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Aug. 25|Updated Aug. 25

TAMPA — Hillsborough County commissioners don’t want to be burned by another yard waste incinerator proposal.

A week after killing a permit application from Louis Geraci LLLP to install two log-burning incinerators on the Geraci property off Crystal Lake Road in Lutz, commissioners said Thursday they now want to consider restricting where those facilities can locate in the future.

Adam Gormly, Hillsborough’s development services director, said the landowner filed a request with the county Wednesday to strike yard waste incinerators as a permissible use on the property. That application to modify the development rules for the Geraci agriculture land won’t be official until commissioners vote on the request in October.

“Clearly, that’s outstanding news,” said Commissioner Ken Hagan.

Commissioners, sitting as the Environmental Protection Commission, voted on Aug. 18 to stop all work on a permit request from Geraci amid vocal opposition from nearby residents who said they were concerned about air pollutants. A day later, Geraci withdrew the request for the environmental permit.

The yellow star shows what had been the proposed site of a yard waste incinerator off Crystal Lake Road, Lutz.
The yellow star shows what had been the proposed site of a yard waste incinerator off Crystal Lake Road, Lutz. [ Hillsborough Environmental Protection Commission ]

However, the county development rules tied to property still allow agricultural uses including a game preserve; private or passive recreation and the ability to operate a home-based business; a helicopter landing pad; open storage and an incinerator or composting facility for yard waste.

Commissioners instructed Gormly to review the county’s land development code to suggest changes to restrict some of those uses on agricultural land in close proximity to residential neighborhoods. Any potential changes likely wouldn’t be considered by the commission until next year.

Geraci had sought permission to install two 40-foot-long metal incinerators to burn trees, brush and other yard waste. The so-called air curtain incinerators blow a layer of air over the top of the burning debris to increase combustion and reduce smoke and pollutants.

Hagan said last week that 50 such incinerators operate in Florida, including two in Hillsborough County, but that most are used temporarily. The Geraci proposal called for a permanent, commercial operation entailing round-the-clock burning 7-days-a-week to dispose of 22,000 tons of waste annually.

Scores of Lutz residents objected, noting the site on Crystal Lake Road east of N Dale Mabry Highway was near Idlewild Baptist Church, an adult living facility and residential neighborhoods.

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Commissioners, too, expressed annoyance that the specific agricultural use hadn’t been delineated when they approved zoning changes for the property last year.

In November 2021, commissioners authorized a change to the planned 173-acre development that had been approved in 2000. The change permitted 198 homes — reduced from 205 — with 25.5 acres, including the homestead of Peter Geraci, reserved as agricultural land.

Lennar Homes purchased much of the land from Geraci the following month for $21.735 million, according to county records.

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