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Columbia County Observer

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Columbia County:
Garbage Capital of North Central Florida?


P&Z member Teena Ruffo wanted to know if the County was going to be known as "garbage town."

Monday night June 6, 2011, the Columbia County Planning and Zoning Board (P&Z) met as the Board of Adjustment and the P&Z. On the evening's docket were two issues: The first was to decide if a landfill was the same thing as a recycling facility; the second was to change the designation of 300 acres of agricultural land to a mixed use district (MUD), a two-year-old designation that had not been added to the County's land development regulations.

Residents of Lake City, who are directly impacted by the proposed changes, had they known about this important meeting, would have had to make the choice between the regularly scheduled City Council meeting and this meeting, as the County scheduled the hearings at the same time as the month's first City Council meeting. Inclusion is not one of the County's strong points.


Chairman Jordan listens. He gave everyone an opportunity to be heard.

Attorney Bob Jordan, in the absence of two of the P&Z board members, chaired the meeting. Unlike other County meetings, Mr. Jordan took a page from Lake City's play book and allowed everyone to contribute and speak their piece, whether they were a member of the Board, the public, the developer or a governmental official. Everyone was treated equally, which was a pleasant relief from the autocratic County Chairman, Jody DuPree and the County's gang of four on the County Commission.

Question one: Is a material recycling facility a similar use to the County's landfill?

Columbia Technology, Inc., a company that was incorporated on April 20, 2009 and rose from the dead on December 15, 2010, was represented at the meeting by Paul Yatsko.

Paul Yatsko addressed the board.

The standard for evidence presented at a P&Z hearing is well established to be what is known as Substantial Evidence. The Supreme Court of the United States has determined that substantial evidence means "more than a mere scintilla. It means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion."

Other than some testimony by the applicant, Mr. Yatsko, no evidence was presented to support the contention that a recycling facility was similar to a landfill.

Mr. Yatsko brought no engineers, although he mentioned that he could have, no drawings, no charts, no studies of any kind that showed his recycling facility was similar to a landfill.

During the Public Hearing some of the conversation went like this:

Board Member Teena Ruffo: How is it going to benefit our city bringing garbage trucks in?

Board Chairman Bob Jordan: We are not here to evaluate the economics of this.

Citizen Barbara Lemley: If you can't get garbage from the County and the City, it's not economically profitable for you to operate.


Barbara Lemley listens to Mr. Yatsko.

Columbia Technology's Paul Yatsko: It becomes very difficult to pay the wages and employ the people that the local and state government has asked us to employ and the numbers they've asked of us and we've committed to -- in order to make that economic formula, which is jobs work, you have to have more tonnage -- absolutely.

Ms. Ruffo: Remember, they didn't want to put the prison here because we didn't want to be known as prison town -- what are we going to be known as now --garbage town?

There was some discussion about the proposed road that went through the property. Ms. Ruffo asked what would happen to the road if the board did not approve the special exception.

Jim Poole, the County's Economic Development Director said the road would go in anyway. The cost for the road: $900,000.

Mr. Jordan explained that the reason "we are here tonight is to decide whether the recycling facility is similar to the landfill. All that we are approving is that he can operate that kind of business on those 10 acres. We're telling him that he can build his recycling facility."

Ms. Ruffo: "So the whole reason that the road is going in there is for this. What if this fails? Then the whole reason that we put the road in is for nothing."

Mr. Jordan: "Then the state has spent $900,000 for a road to nowhere."

Mr. Poole weighed in on the road, "If we don't take it (the $900,000) the money goes back to the state for them to use on another project."

Mr. Jordan: "I assume there are economic feasibility studies that you used to get the grant?"

Mr. Poole: "I mean we used job creation; we used the average wage; we used the capital investment in order to achieve the grant."

Mr. Jordan: "But you had to satisfy the state that there was a reasonable chance that this was going to work, didn't you?"

Mr. Poole answered, "That's correct."

The motion to grant a special exception passed unanimously.

After the motion, Mr. Poole, said that it was "our responsibility" to answer the questions that were brought up during the board's discussion.

Question Two: Should the request from the County Commission to change the zoning of 300 acres from Agriculture 3 to a Mixed Use Development be granted?


Mr. Yatsko (middle) makes a point as Mr. Poole (right) and Commissioner DePratter listen.

The mixed-use development (MUD) classification should have been added to the County's land development regulations approximately 2 years ago, in earth time. This has still not been done.

This hearing went substantially the same way as the previous one.

For another hour there was some lively discussion regarding this amendment.

Once again Mr. Yatsko presented no substantial evidence, other than his testimony, regarding this massive land-use change.

This change, which is subject to review by the County Commission, passed unanimously, however this time the P&Z added stipulations that had to be met by Mr. Yatsko before the land-use change would become final. The County Commission is not bound by these recommendations.

Epilogue: After the meeting

After the meeting, a congenial Mr. Yatsko answered a few questions from Barbara Lemley.

Ms. Lemley told Mr. Yatsko that she liked the idea of recycling, but there were a lot of unanswered questions.

Mr. Yatsko answered that he did a presentation at the Winfield Community Center which was almost 4 hours long.

He said, "I explained the nature of the operation and answered questions at that time. I came there at the request of Commissioner Williams."

Ms. Lemley asked, "How come you didn't bring anything with you tonight?"

Mr. Yatsko answered, "I didn't come with anything based upon the information that I was given before the meeting."

Once again, it's business as usual in Florida's Columbia County.

Barbara Lemley contributed to this article.

This work by the Columbia County Observer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

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More on Columbia County Economic Development:

Plum Creek on the move in Columbia County $190 million,  75 long term jobs on the docket (November 18, 2011)

Columbia County Economic Development: Will Lake City continue as the "red-headed step child?" (August 4, 2011)

Workforce Florida, streamlining by adding another layer of bureaucracy: Cost $750,000 (July 27, 2011)

FL Economic Development Czar Speaks - Musical chairs on the deck of the Titanic? (July 24, 2011)

Columbia County: Garbage Capital of North Central Florida? (June 7, 2011)

Tallahassee: Economic Development Legislative Session Wrap-up (May 31, 2011)

Florida's Economic Development Czar Came to Columbia County - Really (May 31, 2011)

Columbia County Economic Development Blowin' in the wind - 20 years too late (March 2, 2011)

Economic Development in their own words (Jan 24, 2011)

FL Enterprise Zones under the gun (Jan 23, 2011)

County & IDA Drop the Ball - Again (Jan 05, 2011)

Columbia County's inland port decades late (Jan 03, 2010)

Columbia County ranks 5th in the nation in the unemployed (Dec 18, 2010)

IDA Continues sub par under County management (Nov 29, 2010)

County Economic Development
Making it up as they go along
(Oct 06, 2010)

Lake City Planning for Future Downtown - County Commission MIA (June 25, 2010)

The Great Columbia County Dog and Pony Show (June 02, 2010)

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