The Winter Garden City Commission approved at its July 14 meeting a resolution that will initiate conflict-resolution procedures with Orange County regarding its zoning manager’s approval of PureCycle Technologies.
PureCycle is attempting to open a controversial waste-recovery operation in east Winter Garden at 851 E. Maple St. The property currently is zoned I-2/I-3 Industrial in unincorporated Orange County.
According to a press release from the city, PureCycle intends to use the site as a central collection point for waste from around Florida, trucking in large bales of compacted trash and other plastic waste.
Once deposited at the site, the company would then break the bales and recombine the waste into new bales before shipping the material to other facilities.
The city first learned of PureCycle when the company attempted to annex its site into the city, as it is adjacent to the city’s boundaries, but withdrew the request when the city insisted on the company meeting certain criteria.
Without the city’s knowledge, the company then asked Orange County to separately approve its proposed plastic waste-recovery use.
Although the county zoning department initially denied PureCycle’s request, the county then reversed the decision and issued an approval to allow the use under county zoning.
Upon discovering the county’s approval, the city then filed an administrative challenge, after commission approval May 26, to the zoning manager’s decision, as PureCycle’s use is not allowed under the existing county zoning for the site.
“PureCycle’s use would require a rezoning,” the city’s press release states. “The county zoning manager refused to consider the city’s challenge, which contained new information submitted to the zoning manager by the city. PureCycle omitted the new information in its submissions to the county zoning manager.”
According to the city, PureCycle also has not obtained other sources of sufficient water supply to handle the potable water and fire suppression needs the organization’s operations would require.
“Under the county zoning manager’s determination, the allowed use includes the washing and shredding of the waste and the use of chemicals,” the city said. “The city would not supply water to PureCycle for their initial proposed use as such use would likely contaminate our water resources with the discharge of microplastics and compromise the city’s wastewater treatment systems for our citizens.”
PureCycle currently is moving ahead with its project, causing the city to enact the resolution with additional measures as needed.
The commission’s approval authorizes the city to commence litigation if necessary.
“Obviously we disagree with the county’s determination and our original concerns with the environmental impacts that PureCycle and its use, if allowed, would have to our water supply, public access free use, Lake Apopka and, most importantly, to our residents of east Winter Garden remains,” City Manager Jon C. Williams said.
District 2 Commissioner Ron Mueller expressed extreme concern for the project.
“We’re talking about Winter Garden becoming the plastic dumping ground for the southeastern United States,” Mueller said. “This is an environmental disaster. … We’ve spent so many decades building this community, and this is something that belongs next to a landfill and not a community…there’s not a greater threat for us.”
The resolution was passed unanimously by the commission.
City Attorney A. Kurt Ardaman said the next steps will include the city manager, city attorney and others who express interest to meet with the county mayor, county attorney and others in an attempt to resolve the issue. If the meeting is unsuccessful, a meeting would then be held between the full city and county commissions with the available staff to consider the issue.
“That does not stop us from proceeding with a lawsuit, but our thought was to … try to make this work rather than litigate it,” Ardaman said.
MAINSTREET COMMUNITY BANK
City commissioners heard the first reading of a series of ordinances pertaining to a request to annex the county properties at 12950 and 12962 W. Colonial Drive, 648 Magnolia St. and a portion of the Magnolia Street right of way into the city.
The ordinances included a request to assign the properties as a Commercial Future Land Use designation and rezone the entire subject property to Planned Commercial Development to permit the development of the site with a new bank building.
The 4,000-square-foot bank would include three drive-thru banking lanes, a 3,000-square-foot office building and a 4,200-square-foot office building on the property.
The project also includes associated site elements such as landscaping, sidewalks and stormwater infrastructure.
Community Development Director Steve Pash said the proposed annexation, FLU amendment and rezoning is consistent with the city’s Comprehensive Plan and the city of Winter Garden Code of Ordinances.
Mayor John Rees asked if the buildings on the property would be demolished, to which Pash said he has been trying to encourage the applicant to do so as it builds.
“It needs to be sooner or later,” Rees said. “We’ve been listening to this for a long time, and the old Golden Corral is pretty dilapidated — it needs to go.”
The ordinances passed unanimously with a second reading and adoption hearing anticipated to be held during the next City Commission meeting, Thursday, July 28.