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Cleanup will save nursery

The Planning Commission lets a man keep his home nursery business on the condition he tidies it up.

By JAMES THORNER

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 15, 2000


LAND O'LAKES -- The way Tom Elliot describes his work, he's sort of a Pasco County version of Johnny Appleseed, planting sago palms in the community.

But Adele Bricking has a less lofty opinion of the sago palm nursery Elliot runs east of Land O'Lakes Boulevard off Treasure Lane.

"It has been more of a junkyard than anything else," Bricking told the Pasco County Planning Commission on Wednesday.

Elliot went before the Planning Commission to request commercial rezoning for the property. He's been operating his business in violation of zoning regulations for a couple years in a district reserved for mobile homes.

Elliot, who said he is disabled and living on Social Security, started raising sago palms seven years ago, partly as a way to employ other disabled people. He brought his girlfriend, Linda Bryant, to the meeting as a witness.

"He's trying to help out the world," Bryant told the planners.

But Bricking, his next-door neighbor, said he could start by cleaning up his lot.

She provided pictures showing the debris littering the property: empty cable spools, Styrofoam, piles of potting soil, plastic bottles, rusty racks.

The previous owner of the property, Pat Patterson, who bottled his own brand of barbecue sauce on site, always kept the site clean, Bricking said. Attempts to discuss the problem with Elliot were met with abuse, she said.

"I can't get along with the man, I can't talk to the man," Bricking said. "He goes from one pile of junk to another."

Elliot said the "junk" was equipment he needed to run a nursery of about 5,000 sago palms. He told the commission he planned to distribute many of the palms free of charge to the county.

"All I want to do is beautify Pasco County and make it look nice," Elliot said. "That's my dream."

The Planning Commission eventually sided with Elliot, pointing to the county's comprehensive plan, which designates his lot for commercial development.

But the thumbs-up recommendation came with strings attached: Elliot has 45 days to clean up the junk on his property.

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