County Commissioners Support Equine Waste Plant

The Palm Beach County Commission voted 5-2 during a zoning hearing on Monday, Nov. 23 to approve an equine waste management facility in an industrial area on land owned by the Solid Waste Authority.

The 5.25-acre site south of Belvedere Road between Benoist Farms Road and Pike Road is in an industrial area, where the plant would separate manure from equine bedding to create fresh bedding.

The one-story, 48,000-square-foot building would have 15 parking spaces and three loading spaces. No outdoor storage of equestrian waste, including overnight parking of loading trucks and trailers, would be allowed. Access will be from Pike Road to the east. Existing access to the site from Benoist Farms Road to the west will be limited to emergency access only, said Ryan Vandenburg with the Palm Beach County Zoning Division.

The county received 133 letters and e-mails in response to courtesy notices from residents and others in the notification area objecting to the location of the site, including Breakers West, which complained about possible increased traffic and odors, proximity to residential communities, schools and daycare facilities, and environmental concerns. The City of West Palm Beach passed a resolution objecting to the location.

“The bridge to Benoist Road cannot be used for service,” Vandenburg said. “It’s going to be gated and locked. The subject site is a leased parcel for the SWA lands, so the traffic is going to be through the SWA lands there and over to Pike Road.”

The Palm Beach County Zoning Commission recommended approval in a 7-0 vote, and county staff recommended approval subject to a list of conditions. Vandenburg pointed out that equine waste treatment facilities are permitted in a limited number of areas in the county, and not permitted in the Everglades Agricultural Area.

“This is the largest area in Palm Beach County where this use could be put in,” he said.

Commissioner Greg Weiss said the facility is experimental and asked for an explanation of conditions that would protect neighbors. Vandenberg said there were a number of concerns from a nursery owner to the west, and the property owner and applicant worked out a number of conditions, including a generator, a holding capacity of three days, and that water for processing be held in special tanks resistant to leakage.

“I think we’ve provided sufficient conditions of approval to protect the area residents should anything happen for this facility itself,” Vandenburg said, adding that one of the conditions requires a first-year report by a third party on the operation of the plant.

Senior Site Planner Bill Cross added that code enforcement would have authority to address any issues that might be reported.

Commissioner Robert Weinroth asked about increased truck traffic, and representative Kevin McGinley, agent for applicant Horizon 880, HiPoint Agricultural Bedding and the Palm Beach County Solid Waste Authority, said the site will provide less mileage for the trucks, which would be on the roads whether or not the plant is built.

Commissioner Melissa McKinlay said she had been working on equine waste issues since the day she was elected.

“This project was originally proposed out in the Everglades Agricultural Area,” McKinlay said, pointing out that growers in that area, backed by the Western Palm Beach County Farm Bureau, objected to such a facility near one of the largest leafy vegetable growers in the country.

“Every use around this site is industrial, and it is located on a site that was a landfill,” McKinlay said.

McKinlay made a motion to approve the facility, which carried 5-2 with Weiss and Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner opposed.