Sarasota County Commission narrowly denies recycling facility near Celery Fields
SARASOTA — Highly controversial plans to build a recycling center near the Celery Fields were denied in dramatic fashion Wednesday night after a day-long special hearing.
The Sarasota County Commission ultimately voted 3-2 to deny businessman Jim Gabbert’s proposal to recycle construction and demolition debris at the corner of Palmer Boulevard and Apex Road, near the environmentally sensitive watershed and park area just down the road.
The vote capped an almost nine-hour hearing that included protests outside the county headquarters, hundreds of opponents, more than 80 public speakers and hours of deliberation.
Despite praise for Gabbert both personally and professionally, Commissioners Nancy Detert, Charles Hines and Chairman Paul Caragiulo agreed they could not support the proposal as presented.
Hines succinctly summarized the crux of the entire issue early in the day, during the commission’s initial questions.
“This is a good business. It’s a needed business. We like the idea of recycling, separating and not going to the landfill,” he said. “We like the business. To me, it’s the location.”
Nestled at the southwest corner of Palmer and Apex, Gabbert had proposed purchasing 10.3 acres of undeveloped county-owned land to combine with an already-approved waste transfer facility for the site immediately to the west. Combined, it would create a full-service recycling center in a central location to encourage contractors’ recycling as development continues to boom here, he has said.
But the property is about 1,000 feet from the Celery Fields, a stormwater management system the county has spent millions to improve and that is now a wildly popular park, recreation area and bird watching area.