State Rep. Thad Altman is taking a dim view of Brevard County commissioners’ choice to look at buying a 36-acre landfill site in Melbourne instead of using about 2,800 acres the county already bought in 1991 to expand its solid-waste capacity.
Altman served on the commission from 1984 to 1992, and thus voted in the fall of 1991 to buy about 2,800 acres of ranchland north of U.S. 192, just east of the Osceola County line, from Deseret Ranches of Florida.
Now the Indialantic Republican, who has become a fixture in Brevard County politics, represents House District 52, which includes a section of the barrier island from south of Cocoa Beach to South of Melbourne Beach.
“It would be a huge mistake to vacate that” U.S. 192 property, Altman said last week. “The best thing about it is it’s a tremendous amount of land with lots of space for buffers.”
Buffers would keep any landfill operations from directly impacting surrounding agricultural or residential properties in the area, he said. Altman said he wasn’t initially thrilled about the site, but changed his mind after a string of environmental, financial, geological and other consultants – all hired by the county – preferred the U.S. 192 site over other alternatives, like hauling Brevard County waste to Osceola or Okeechobee counties.
But it wasn’t an easy deal. The county took the Utah-based Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints – the owner of the Deseret Ranch – to court under threat of an eminent domain action.
Rather than risk uncertainties of such a trial, the county and the Mormon church reached a settlement in September 1991.
The county paid $8.25 million for the property, in addition to $1.08 million for expert witnesses and the Mormons’ attorney fees and $717,609 for the county’s own attorneys.
That made an initial cost of $10.05 million in county taxes to acquire the land. And since then, figures show, the county has spent $14.13 million to get state and federal permits to run a landfill on the site.
The settlement allows the church to buy back the land, at the sales price plus interest, if the County Commission decides not to use it.
Current county commissioners, however, seemed unimpressed with their predecessors’ work in a July 9 meeting.
“When you look at other options, any way you slice it, putting another landfill out on (U.S.) 192, at the entrance to the county, is a bad idea,” commission Chair Kristine Isnardi told her colleagues.
Isnardi, a Palm Bay Republican, represents a district that overlaps some of Altman’s turf – the Indialantic area on the barrier island, as well as Melbourne and the 80-acre Sarno Road landfill.
County Solid Waste Director Euripedes Rodriguez says that landfill is some 85 percent filled and could last up to 4 more years before needing to be capped.
He said the U.S. 192 land would extend the county’s waste-disposal life by 60 years.
Isnardi couldn’t be reached for comment last week. But on July 9, she led the opposition to signing a permit with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit for the U.S. 192 land.
Isnardi argued, in part, that turning that land into a landfill would present a poor view of the county to visitors driving here from Orlando.
“Is this what you want to see when you drive into the county?” she asked. “Do you want to tell people coming to Brevard County, ‘I live on 192, right after you pass the landfill’?”
Altman said the landfill area would be a “mile or two” off the highway.
He contrasted that with Indian River and St. Lucie counties, whose “Mount Trashmore” landfill hills can be seen – and sometimes smelled – by motorists passing by on Interstate 95.