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Judge's decision will allow industry

Published April 28, 2007


City Council members bowed to neighbors' fears last August and rejected a countertop maker's request to move into an industrial park near Pinebrook Estates.

The owner of the park sued, saying the city was wrong to keep the countertop maker out of a park designed for such uses.

Now, a Circuit Court judge has sided with the park owner, opening the way for the countertop maker to move into the complex.

"Of course we're disappointed, but we knew this was a possibility, " said Bob Jilek, a board member of the Pinebrook Homeowners Association, which helped spearhead the fight against Surface Technology Corp. "We figured if they sued, they would probably win."

Jilek said the homeowners' association board is scheduled Thursday to decide what, if anything, can be done. It's unlikely that legal action will be involved, he said, because of the expense. The association likely will wait to see what the Pinellas Park council will do, he said.

And that may be nothing.

City Attorney Jim Denhardt has recommended that the judge's April 13 order should stand, city spokesman Tim Caddell said.

Sac Chic LLC bought the industrial complex, which is east of Belcher Road between 114th and 118th avenues N, in November 2005 for about $4.5-million.

Early in 2006, representatives from Sac Chic and Surface Technology met with city staff members to discuss the possibility of STC moving from its Gulfport operations to Pinellas Park.

Staff members agreed and issued permits to STC. They also asked that STC take steps to limit noise and dust from the manufacture of Corian, quartz and granite countertops. The company did.

Then, Pinebrook residents and members of the homeowners association protested. They argued that the noise and dust would be unhealthy for the neighborhood. They also argued that countertop makers were not allowed in the industrial complex, although cabinetmakers and metal fabricators were permitted there.

STC responded that a countertop maker is essentially the same as a cabinetmaker or a metal fabricator. The company also said it would install units to absorb dust, even though they didn't believe it was a health hazard.

Pinellas Park leaders sided with the neighborhood and decided that STC could not locate in the park.

Circuit Court Judge R. Timothy Peters of the Appellate Division of the Circuit Court for the 6th Judicial Circuit for Pinellas County said the council was wrong to deny STC the right to locate in the complex.

Peters noted that most of the objections from the neighbors were "along the line of 'not in my back yard.' " He also pointed out that Pinellas Park has the area zoned for manufacturing and industrial use. "The Court concludes that the City Council departed from the essential requirements of law and that its decision is not supported by competent substantial evidence, " Peters wrote. "The City Council failed to demonstrate that the application did not meet its code requirements and that it was adverse to the public interest."

[Last modified April 27, 2007, 22:55:31]

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