Group forms to fight landfill
PUNTA GORDA — Several rural landowners — outraged over what they say was an attempt by a developer to push through a plan that would adversely impact the environment, their property values, and their quality of life — have banded together to stop a proposed landfill from being built on what is currently zoned agricultural property in eastern Charlotte County.
The seven-member board of the Southwest Florida Rural Landowners Association will hold its first official meeting today in Punta Gorda. The group said it vows to fight the efforts of developer Calusa Green LLC, which last month submitted an application to the county’s Planning and Zoning Board to rezone 554 acres of agricultural land near the Babcock Ranch preserve so it can build a regional landfill that would accept biosolids and garbage from communities possibly as far off as Miami.
Under the proposal, no garbage from Charlotte County is expected to be dumped in the landfill unless a special request is made.
The zoning board, by unanimous decision, denied Calusa Green’s request, saying the application contained numerous inconsistencies relating to traffic impacts, operations, hazardous materials and ground water protection. The matter is now slated to go before the County Commission, which can rule in favor of the plan despite the board’s recommendations against it. It was uncertain when the commissioners would consider the proposal.
The facility would include a 189-acre solid waste management facility, 30-acre construction and demolition debris facility, a biosolids composting facility, a recycling center and an energy recovery plant. It would be located north of Bermont Road (County Road 74), about nine miles east of State Road 31.
Property owners are adamant that a landfill is not what Charlotte County needs, particularly since Charlotte County already has a landfill on Zemel Road that can handle the county’s garbage through 2026 — with the capacity to expand beyond 2050 — according to the county’s comprehensive plan.
“Wrong is wrong and right is right, and this dump is just plain wrong,” said association chairman Fred Hill, who owns an approximately 1,600-acre cattle ranch about two miles northwest of the proposed landfill site.
Businessman Bruce Laishley and other officials of Calusa Green LLC could not be reached for comment.
Hill said the landowners association has hired Orlando attorney Gordon “Stumpy” Harris and environmental consultants to do its own studies of the proposed landfill’s impacts.
After suffering two heart attacks, Hill, who purchased his land in 1984, said the ranch’s peaceful surroundings have helped him overcome many tragedies in his life. He said he is not opposed to progress or development. But a landfill is not what the county needs, he said.
“We plan on fighting this all the way,” Hill said. “This is personal to me.”