PLANT CITY – Commissioners, who less than a month ago were on the verge of approving the city’s largest housing development, will have a chance to ask how they could have come so far yet know so little.
City officials said they were reassured by state and county regulatory agencies that it’s safe to build houses north of Coronet Industries, a phosphate processing plant with a history of air and water pollution violations. Developer Sunrise Homes wants to build 2,600 houses in the Lakeside Station project on 1,300 acres just north of the plant.
Officials also said the county’s Environmental Protection Commission told them air pollution from Coronet shouldn’t be much of a problem except for asthma sufferers, city officials said.
Land-use changes redesignating the industrially zoned property to mixed-use residential got stamps of approval from city and regional planning boards and the state Department of Community Affairs.
Representatives from the state Department of Environmental Protection Commission, the county’s environmental protection commission, and county health officials will answer city commissioners’ questions at a meeting 7:30 p.m. Monday.
It seems commissioners have many questions.
Commissioner Richard Glorioso said he wants to know “why everything fell through the cracks.”
“I think the EPC and other agencies have made a huge coordination error,” he said.
Glorioso is angry. He said the city was the last to learn of environmental problems associated with Coronet Industries and potential health problems being evaluated to determine if there is a link to the plant or old landfills in the area.
The plant is in the county, and Glorioso says county officials never notified the city of its many pollution violations.
Lakeside Station has been the main topic of discussion at city meetings for more than a year.
But environmental concerns weren’t discussed much.
Commissioners and planning board members were busy deciding lot sizes, street widths, whether garages should or shouldn’t protrude from the home, and other design elements.
City Commissioner Mary Yvette Thomas and Mayor Bill Dodson couldn’t be reached for comment recently, but Thomas expressed serious reservations at a meeting July 14. Former Mayor Mike Sparkman has said he doesn’t see the proposed development site as being a problem.
A federally mandated public health assessment is under way and could take up to a year. State, local and federal authorities also are investigating allegations Coronet employees were ordered to dump toxic waste and deceive government regulators.
State health officials are evaluating to determine if high levels of carcinogens such as arsenic, lead, cadmium, chromium, gross alpha radiation and fluoride found on Coronet property might affect public health in nearby neighborhoods.
Residents in those neighborhoods have told health officials there is an unusually high rate of cancer and other illnesses in their communities.
* Reporter Deborah Alberto can be reached at (813) 754-3765