The Loxahatchee Groves Town Council approved the first reading of an ordinance Tuesday to immediately stop the dumping of waste material that has been piling up on some residents’ property, possibly at the consent of owners who receive tipping fees from the dumpers.
On April 7, the council instructed town staff to draft an ordinance that would prohibit the dumping of waste materials on land within the town limits after hearing complaints from residents.
Town Manager Bill Underwood said the ordinance is a stopgap measure intended to immediately stop the dumping of trash. “It will stop future dumping but won’t correct what has already occurred,” Underwood said, explaining that his staff is working on a more detailed ordinance that would prohibit dumping without infringing on legitimate agricultural operations. “We wanted something that would put a halt to it immediately.”
Underwood said that the ordinance would be the town’s first line of defense in halting more dumping, and that further action may be required to incorporate the provisions with the town’s unified land development code. It would become effective upon final approval, set for May 19.
The council also added a clause suggested by former Councilman Dr. Bill Louda to prohibit dumping of any material where the property owner receives a tipping fee.
Councilman Tom Goltzené said he thought prohibiting dumping where a tipping fee is involved would be effective. He pointed out that mulch grinding for personal use is an agricultural operation, but felt that prohibiting the dumping of material where haulers pay a tipping fee would prevent dumping of material that is considered a nuisance.
The ordinance would impose a $100 fine for the first offense, $250 for the second offense, $400 for the third offense and $500 for all additional offenses. The town may also file charges in court for any offense where the penalty would be a fine of $500, imprisonment not to exceed 60 days, or both, for each violation. The town would also recover its costs of prosecution.
Mayor Dave Browning said residents had told him about mulching operations going on that involve the use of noisy grinders.
“To me, for an agricultural operation to grind it and use it, that’s ag,” Browning said. “To grind it and sell it is commercial.”
Solid Waste Authority Executive Director Mark Hammond complimented the council on its action and pointed out that there are laws in existence that prohibit the practices that had been described.
“This is an important step that you’ve taken,” Hammond said. “Clearly, one of the things is protecting the environment, surface water and ground water, and reducing the nuisance activities.”
Hammond offered for the town to use the SWA as a resource for further development of regulations, and urged the town to report any materials that they consider unacceptable, explaining that two Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office deputies are trained and available to enforce dumping violations.
Vice Mayor Ron Jarriel asked whether the deputies could investigate several properties that have been specifically identified by the town.
Hammond said that they could investigate the sites, and the owners could be cited for already existing violations. “If somebody does something illegal already, it doesn’t mean they get a pass,” he said. “It is illegal for any of those activities to take place.”
Councilman Ryan Liang made a motion to approve the ordinance with a tipping fee prohibition, and it carried unanimously.
In other business:
• The council approved the first reading of an ordinance changing the terms of Planning & Zoning Board members from three years to one.
Town Attorney Michael Cirullo said the change would make the length of terms the same as those for members of other advisory committees.
Planning & Zoning Board Chair Dennis Lipp said he hoped there would be few changes on the panel due to the historical knowledge of the board. The ordinance passed unanimously.
• The council approved the engagement of its engineer, Keshavarz & Associates, at a cost of $154,500, to commence with B Road improvements associated with the development of property including the Palm Beach State College campus and a commercial parcel on the west side, and commercial property on the east side.
The town will use more than $1 million in funds provided by the three developing parties to pave the road, which includes asphalt paving from Southern Blvd. to the college entrance on B Road, and open-graded emulsified mix (OGEM) from the college entrance to Okeechobee Blvd.
Liang made a motion to approve the contract, which carried 4-0. Goltzené recused himself due to work he is doing with one of the developers.
• The council approved a motion to authorize a letter to Palm Beach County requesting that Folsom Road be withdrawn from the thoroughfare map in order to move ahead with traffic calming and other safety devices.
Browning explained that some residents had met with Commissioner Melissa McKinlay asking for traffic calming. “The county is saying that they will pay for it, as well as a traffic light at Folsom and Okeechobee,” he said.
Liang made a motion to approve the letter, which carried 5-0.
• The council postponed a hearing on the possible forfeiture of office by Liang, who had pled guilty to disturbing spiny lobster traps in 2001 in Key West.
Underwood explained that the attorney for Keith Harris, who had filed complaints against Liang, was out of town, and Liang’s attorney did not object to the postponement. Harris narrowly lost the election for Seat 3 to Liang in March.
• During his manager’s report, Underwood announced that the town engineer had been able to get 162 of 212 homes out of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s flood plain using light detection and ranging (LIDAR) aerial laser scanning, and asked the council for piggyback funding the next time the county conducts a flyover to locate other homes that might be exempt.
Underwood added that the new town hall offices at Southern Blvd. and F Road are open and functioning, and he hopes to hold June’s second council meeting at that location. He also noted that town staff is working with the PBSO to establish a Citizen Observer Patrol (COP) division for the town. They are looking for 30 volunteers to participate in the program.
• The council agreed to a joint workshop with the Loxahatchee Groves Water Control District on Tuesday, June 16 at 6 p.m. to discuss the development of equestrian trails.