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Pinellas County
County shuts down Clearwater business
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The property outlined in yellow is the center of attention as Pinellas County Commissioners rules to rescind a special conditional use permit that allows operation of a solid waste facility.
CLEARWATER – Pinellas County Commissioners voted unanimously Nov. 27 in favor of a staff recommendation that shuts down a piece of a Clearwater business.

The action rescinds a conditional use permit for an outdoor solid waste management facility at 16604 Hwy. 19 N. in unincorporated Clearwater.

Bob Shehu through his company Berati #2 LLC, headquartered in Belleair Beach, owns the property. He requested the permit in 2010 and approval was granted based on him satisfying nine conditions. A 10th says if any of the nine conditions are not met, the County Commission could rescind the permit.

Staff says six of the nine conditions remain unmet despite the business being in operation for two years since the permit was issued.

Shehu was represented by Housh Ghovaee, Northside Engineering Services Inc., who said the noncompliance was due to the owner not knowing exactly what would be needed for the business. He said it grew faster and required more than expected.

Todd Myers with Pinellas County Code Enforcement outlined the problems at the site where landscape debris is recycled. Shehu also runs a landscape business from the location. The permit only deals with his business of transferring vegetative debris.

Myers showed photos of piles of telephone poles and debris stacked almost as high as the standing electrical poles on the perimeter of the property. He showed fuel tanks in an inappropriate location, bins moved to a different location than originally permitted and other problems. Residents of Embassy Mobile Home Park located adjacent to the facility complained about having to look at the piles of debris, as well as noise, which they said came outside the permitted hours.

According to a staff document, the business did not submit a full site plan, one of the nine conditions. One violation of operation outside of hours was confirmed.

Another reason the owner gave for the uncontrolled pile up was that the purchaser of a grinder was cost prohibitive. Staff pointed out that one of the nine conditions for the permit was no grinding or mulching type of equipment was allowed.

Height of the debris was not to exceed 12 feet – another violation. The debris is not being removed every two days – another unmet condition. Only vegetative debris was allowed. Piles of telephone poles are a violation.

The owner also was required to get a permit from the state Department of Environmental Protection. Staff said its last contact with the DEP showed a permit had not been granted. Ghovaee assured commissioners that the permit did exist.

“We can show it to you tomorrow or other time that you wish,” he said.

Ghovaee represented the company during an appearance in front of the Special Magistrate on Oct. 29. The magistrate-referenced inspections of the property conducted May 25, 2011 and Oct. 24, 2012 that confirmed violations of the conditional use still existed. He gave the company until Dec. 13 to comply or face fines up to $1,500 a day.

Ghovaee assured commissioners that the owner did not want to pay the fines and would comply by Dec. 13. He also said a permit to expand the business was in the works and indicated the process would be delayed if commissioners rescinded the conditional use. He asked for a delay at the very least.

“From now on, we’ll be good neighbors. We’ll follow the rules,” he said.

The commission was not swayed.

“This has been problematic from the beginning,” said Commissioner Karen Seel.

County Attorney Jim Bennett said the Special Magistrate had the authority to levy fines, but could not shut a business down.

“The board has to decide whether to shut down,” he said.

In other business, the Commission:

- Approved advertising a Dec. 11 public hearing on re-appropriation of fund balance in the fiscal year 2013 budget for the STAR Center Fund. Staff proposes using the leftover $1.34 million to support completion of three capital improvement projects for the Center’s “anchor tenant,” Raytheon.

- Granted authority to the County Attorney to settle in the administrative challenge of Pinellas County versus Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Bennett said a review of the final permit is still pending. Staff must notify the administrative law judge by Dec. 14.

The county filed suit against the state due to a draft permit that would have increased the monitoring requirements and a new Total Maximum Daily Load for water quality. New language in the final permit would allow staff to use current techniques to monitor local water quality.

- Approved scheduling a public hearing on a proposed ordinance amending the 10-year water supply facilities plan of the potable water supply, wastewater and reuse element of the County’s Comprehensive Plan. No date was set.
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