Palm Bay-Republic Services vs Powell Subdivision-A must watch item for the City Council Meeting on November 5th.
By Palm Bay Live News
Edited by Cathy Oasheim
Republic Services began providing waste and recycling collection services on Oct. 1st, 2020, to residential and commercial customers throughout the City of Palm Bay. The new 10-year service contract with Republic Services is estimated to bring more than 60 new jobs to the Palm Bay area. This was a significant change for as Republic Services is replacing the City’s previous waste services provider of 30 years. Republic Services setup operations in the old Diamond Community School building located at Northview Road. In addition to space, their fleet includes 58 trash collection trucks and other vehicles.
The Palm Bay Planning and Zoning Board voted 5-1, with former Mayoral Candidate Kay Maragh being the sole “no” vote, to approve a conditional use permit. The conditional permit has two pending items: 1) Republic is required to install an 8-foot opaque fence along the west and north property lines to screen views of garbage trucks, and 2) The [what type of tank is this Kevin?]tank location should be moved behind an existing 10,294-square-foot building and serve as a physical buffer for nearby homes. While these are reasonable precautions, they did not seem to address potential air and underground hazards.
The decision to allow Republic Services in the area, close to residential buildings, was controversial and met many residents’ contention.
Furthermore, debates about the increasingly industrialized neighborhood were reignited after a Sept. 9th explosion at the FAR Chemical, Inc. plant (located at U.S 1 and R.J. Conlan Boulevard).
The explosion did not result in injuries; however, black plumes of smoke were seen for miles.
Unfortunately, this event, coupled with the induction of Republic Services’ new location, exacerbates neighborhood apprehension about industrial companies moving in and around the residential area. Connie McClary, president of the Powell Subdivision Neighborhood Watch, a predominantly minority, working-class neighborhood, says the changes should be more closely examined before implementation as they raise health and safety concerns that the city is not taking seriously.
City Council Information Officer Keely Leggett provided Palm Bay Live with an exclusive response to some of the community’s most pressing questions:
Q: Can you explain what “light industrial” zoning entails?
A: The City of Palm Bay’s Code of Ordinances section § 185.045 LI – Light Industrial and Warehousing District includes provisions for permitted land uses, including storage yards and the housing of public utility equipment and related facilities. The Light Industrial designation also includes conditional uses, including on-site fuel pumps and storage. The conditional use approval for the refueling activity is on the City Council agenda for Nov. 5th, 2020. The complete ordinance for Light Industrial zoning is available at https://codelibrary.amlegal.com/codes/palmbay/latest/palmbay_fl/0-0-0- 12852
Q: Was a safety assessment done of the Republic Services location including, considerations regarding fumes and/or drainage runoff?
A: The City of Palm Bay assesses many factors, including environmental impacts, when determining zoning designations for land use. Republic Services’ operation in Palm Bay includes efforts to mitigate the environmental effects, including collecting and removing Graywater runoff from the site. Since Republic Services’ operations did not require significant changes to the site and fall within the Light Industrial zone’s permitted uses, additional permitting and inspections or a site plan approval was not required. City’s Code Compliance Division will initiate appropriate citation(s) if Republic Services does not comply with permitted Light Industrial site use standards.
Q: Can you provide general comments regarding the surrounding community’s concerns?
A: The City of Palm Bay will continue to work with residents and Republic Services to address community questions and facilitate a smooth transition to the new solid waste and recycling contract.
Still, McClary says she feels like City Council sold their community to the highest bidder and expressed dismay at the odor emanating from the trucks and wetlands runoff and other health hazards. McClary further stated that she “doesn’t believe they would have done this to an HOA community” and asserts that they only “do this to low-income neighborhoods.”
Republic Services, External Communications Manager Deirdre Edgar addressed their intentions for the area and their safety record in the following statement to Palm Bay Live: “Republic Services is proud to be the new recycling and waste services provider for the City of Palm Bay. The company was founded in Florida in 1989 and provides service in Orlando, Tampa, Lakeland, Jacksonville, St. Johns County, Hernando County, Indian River County, and Broward County, as well as Palm Bay. As part of our commitment to Palm Bay, we hired more than 60 new employees and physically located our operations within the city limits to provide the exceptional service Republic is known for. Across the country, Republic has operations in 41 states and has contracts with more than 1,100 municipalities nationwide. We understand what it means to be good neighbors in the communities we serve. Safety is the top priority for our company, and we are committed to operating safely in Palm Bay.”
While the City has not given any indication that they will rescind the provisional use permit, the final vote on Republic Services’ presence in the area is scheduled for this Thursday, November 5th at 7pm. Connie McClary declared that residents plan to fight for answers and push for the company and its trucks to leave the neighborhood. The Powell neighborhood watch will be at the upcoming city council meeting to make their voices heard.