Guinn vetoes landfill change, City Council considers override vote

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Posted May 5, 2021 | By Ainslie Lee,

Jerry Lourenco and Friends Recycling might have struck out for the third time, but they’re still swinging.

On April 29, Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn vetoed a zoning change that could have allowed Friends Recycling, a construction debris landfill located at 2350 NW 27th Ave., to expand. It’s the third veto by an Ocala mayor related to the landfill dating back more than a decade.

On Tuesday, Lourenco, the landfill’s owner, was back at the podium in the council chambers during its regularly scheduled meeting to voice his displeasure with the veto. Guinn did not attend Tuesday’s meeting.

“We’re trying to do the right thing by the community,” Lourenco said. “We made an agreement to west Ocala. I can remember back in ‘09 with Narvella Haynes that we were going to run this facility the best we could to be good neighbors and we have upheld that.”

The most recent veto came after the city council voted 3-1, with Councilman Ire Bethea voting against, on April 20 to approve an ordinance reinstating construction and demolition landfills as approved uses under a special use exception in the M-2 and M-3 zoning districts. Friends Recycling, which has operated since the late 1980s, predates the city’s decision to remove C&D landfills from the code in 1991. As such, they can continue to operate, but cannot expand.

With the change to the zoning ordinance, Friends could have petitioned to expand its landfill operations to the north onto other parcels the company owns. Lourenco has said the landfill is nearing capacity.

Lourenco first sought the change in 2009. The council approved, but then-Mayor Randy Ewers vetoed the change.

In Feb. 2020, the issue returned, and council members again approved the change. But Guinn vetoed the move. A vote to override the veto failed to get support from a supermajority of four council members.

When the issue resurfaced on the April 6 council agenda, Guinn said he did not plan a veto if the measure passed. The mayor does not vote on council decisions.

“I would respect council’s vote, whatever that vote is,” Guinn said on April 6. “I’m not going to veto it again.”

But the opposition to the landfill from area residents has not waivered.

City staff recommend the council deny the change due to the potential for an increase in noise, occasional strong odor, groundwater contamination, a decrease in the value of nearby properties and an increase in truck traffic.

There was also concern about the visibility of the landfill from the expansive West Oak residential development being built immediately to the east. The development will include upwards of 1,400 residential units on 217 acres of the former Pine Oaks Golf Course.

Lourenco argued by expanding north, Friends would be able to keep the height of the landfill lower.

Councilman Brent Malever missed the April 20 vote. His vote could likely be the deciding one in whether Guinn’s veto stands. Malever voted not to override Guinn’s last veto leaving the vote 3-2, with Bethea also voting not to override.

While council members briefly weighed an override vote, they eventually decided to wait, as Malever asserted that he’d feel better having more conversations with all parties involved.

“We gotta do the right thing at the right time for the right people,” Malever said.

While Guinn has 10 days to veto a council decision, Councilman Jay Musleh hoped Guinn would have signaled his reluctance to the issue.

“He vetoed it within his authority and I’m not knocking him for that,” Musleh said. “But he has never given me an indication of what he’ll do. He just makes his mind up at the last minute… or afterwards. And that’s what’s frustrating to me about this whole issue. Because I don’t want to go down this path again.”

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