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Incinerator zoning held for review

The Port Richey mayor points out flaws in the rezoning bid for a tree incinerator near a mobile home park.

By MATTHEW WAITE

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 15, 2000


PORT RICHEY -- If it weren't a public meeting, Ed Schultz told the mayor, he would kiss her.

Schultz was beaming from the front row of the packed Port Richey City Council meeting Tuesday night. He had just listened to Mayor Eileen Ferdinand give a speech that may have stopped an effort to put a tree limb incinerator near his mobile home park.

It was a strange, and temporary, victory that wasn't expected and almost didn't happen.

"I've got all summer dedicated to this," Schultz said, speaking for his small army of retirees who live at Suncoast Gateway Mobile Home Village on Ridge Road. "And the fall and part of the winter. My people are retired. We'll keep coming back."

For now, the zoning change is in the hands of city staffers, who were told to do a review of the zoning change after Ferdinand pointed out that city officials hadn't checked with the comprehensive plan before sending the change to the zoning board. She also pointed out a half dozen places where the proposed incinerator ran afoul of the city plan.

"We shouldn't even be at this step," Ferdinand said.

But in strict parliamentary matters, the council wasn't there Tuesday night to debate an incinerator going into their city. It was a hearing on a zoning matter, one that would take a piece of swampy agricultural land at the end of Siesta Lane and make it commercial property.

And the petitioner wasn't there. Gulf Line Inc. and its representative, Cindi Walker, asked the council to delay the meeting until the end of the month. Walker was out of state Tuesday.

Against the advice of the city attorney and the protests of Schultz, who wanted his opponent present, the council rejected a motion by Joe Menicola to delay the hearing.

That opened the door to more than 70 people there to talk about an incinerator, not a zoning matter.

That anyone even knew about the incinerator was because Gulf Line Inc. mentioned it this year in its first meeting with the city's planning and zoning board. Under the law, they didn't have to say what they were planning.

"There is nothing up here that is requesting that an incinerator is going to be put on this place," Vice Mayor Bob Leggiere said during a speech before debate got going. He chided the audience that Gulf Line Inc. has the right to get a zoning change, and could sue them if the city denied the change without a clear reason.

Every seat in the council chambers was filled and another 20 people were standing around the back. And they brought others. Tom Finn, a New Port Richey councilman, spoke against a potential incinerator, promising other neighboring council members would be upset. And Schultz has spent time lobbying state regulators on the incinerator.

Before he spoke, Schultz brought a box of copies for the council, a three-ring binder with materials indexed by tabs from A-Z and a herd of jeering residents from his mobile home park.

"We're on the brink of doing something that is stupid," Schultz said. "This property is a long way from seeing if it can be C-3 (commercial property)."

The council voted to send it back to the city to review, and another hearing will be held at the next council meeting on June 27. But any more may be moot; by the end of Tuesday's meeting, a majority of the council said they were against an incinerator going in the city.

"Do you think that anyone in their right mind is going to do this?" Leggiere said during debate, adding that he wouldn't "even consider it."

-- Staff writer Matthew Waite can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6247 or (800) 333-7505, ext. 6247. His e-mail address is waite@sptimes.com.

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