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Kirk steals show but loses out

The former governor speaks out against an industrial proposal. Officials still approve it.

By CHUIN-WEI YAP, Times Staff Writer
Published December 7, 2007


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DADE CITY - When he was governor in the 1960s, Claude Kirk appointed attorney Clyde Hobby as a city judge to help quell student unrest at St. Leo University.

There was a reunion of sorts in Dade City on Thursday, when the former governor met Clyde Hobby's son, Clarke, at a public hearing before the county's top staff planners - except this time the younger Hobby was opposing Kirk's interests.

Kirk had flown in from his West Palm Beach home to protest a proposed industrial site in Odessa, which the younger Hobby represented.

Kirk's friends, James and Helen Rosburg, live on 85 acres next to the Coastal Caisson plant, just over the Hillsborough County line.

The Rosburgs are fearful of what the Coastal operation would do to their environment, so they hired a lawyer and called Kirk, who stole Thursday's show.

Getting to the podium, he quipped that he was pleased the younger Hobby didn't just "roll over and play dead" because of his dad's relationship with Kirk.

Kirk said he didn't believe Coastal would be a clean operation, and demanded the company send in a clear business plan.

And don't even think about pretending there isn't one, he said.

"This is a German company," he said. "Germans are a very thorough people. You may remember, I married one, and she's thorough as hell. They will send you the total business plan, this and this is what we're going to make. Keep 'em straight."

The Rosburgs' attorney, Cathleen O'Dowd, was more conciliatory.

"We're not questioning the land use and zoning," she said. "We just want to ensure there's no objectionable impact on neighboring residences."

Coastal Caisson builds foundations for bridges and power plants, and needed Pasco's approval for a new headquarters that would add 30 jobs next year to the county, chief executive Charles Puccini said.

Puccini also pointed out that Coastal took pains to clean up the Odessa site, a former illegal dump.

Hobby indeed didn't roll over.

"I appreciate the governor being here," he said. "I can tell you it's a long way from West Palm Beach. ... But we're here today to see if my clients meet the code."

The county staff said Coastal did.

Hobby showed records that said Hillsborough County has no objections. He showed the plant is at least 400 feet from the Rosburgs' property line. He told Pasco officials that the Southwest Florida Water Management District had approved the Coastal plan. And he promised to organize a meeting with the Rosburgs and experts from both sides to allay the environmental concerns.

Officials approved the Coastal proposal, with an additional condition to keep the state Department of Environmental Protection - a Kirk creation - copied on its plans. The Rosburgs can appeal the decision to the County Commission, but O'Dowd indicated they would meet with Coastal officials.

Chuin-Wei Yap can be reached at 813909-4613 or cyap@sptimes.com.

[Last modified December 6, 2007, 23:55:32]


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