Sunrise City Hall (Photo: Asad Ba-Yunus)
(2/22/10) SUNRISE, FL – The City of Sunrise City Commission is currently set to consider a proposal to build a garbage transfer station, which not only endangers a neighboring private elementary and middle school, but brings to light a disturbing connection between the City’s vice-mayor and the head of the company making the proposal, which may violate state ethics laws.
In early 2009, Green Now, LLC, a company purportedly based in Davie, filed a proposal with the City of Sunrise to build a garbage transfer station along the east side of the Sawgrass Expressway, along the northbound Commercial Boulevard exit. While Broward County apparently approved the proposal, which would allow 75-100 garbage trucks 24 hours a day to dump their loads for sorting and re-loading into larger trucks for transportation, as well as chemical cleaning and disposal operation, the site was not zoned for this type of hazardous activity.
After the zoning board rejected the request for a variance, company appealed to the City Commission. The Commission staff, which normally provides the legal and statutory justification for an issue before the Commission, also recommended rejection of the proposal. The proposal also would cause a breach of the city’s existing contract with its waste hauling contractor.
View of the school from the site of the proposed dump (AMB)
The City Commission is set to hold a public hearing on the issue on February 23, 2010.
Elementary School Next Door
The proposal, while initially seeming quite innocent, has stirred a number of controversies. First, the proposal, which currently carries the support of three City Commissioners including Mayor Roger Wishner and Vice-Mayor Don Rosen, includes plans to build this plant directly adjacent to a house of worship and associated private elementary and middle school. Mayor Wishner himself and Rep. Kendrick Meek presided over the school’s ribbon cutting in 2008.
The private elementary and middle school services over 150 students from Pre-K3 to 8th grade, and has an attached house of worship, attended by a congregation of over 1,000 members. Aside from daily classes, the religious institution hosts a variety of interfaith activities, a weekend school, congregational prayer services, weddings, athletic tournaments, youth sports, picnics, festivals and other family oriented activities which take place on the grounds directly adjacent to the proposed dump site. The garbage smell and chemical fumes from the project would likely put a damper on all outdoor activity, and eventually to all indoor activity as well.
The members of this congregation as well as the parents and staff of the school are petrified at the thought that their school and religious center may be exposed to cancer-causing caustic chemicals, the foul and permeating stench of garbage, hazardous waste run-off and the mortal danger posed by 10-ton garbage trucks driving past the school’s grounds during all hours of the day and evening. They are worried that runoff of waste materials or of dangerous chemicals being used in the dump (for which employees will be wearing respirators) may directly come into contact with the school, its grounds where the kids have their PE classes, and the kids themselves, exposing them to harmful chemicals. Add to that the potential stench of garbage, and the worry that their kids could be struck and injured or killed by a garbage truck.
The school families, supporters and members of the congregation have started an on-line petition, which has over 575 signatures and are considering legal action if the City votes to approve the proposal.
Even Green Now’s attorney, Richard Coker, has represented the school in the past, during its construction and permitting process before the City Commission. The school, its existence, and the potential impact on the health and welfare of the children, staff, parents and others attending the house of worship, are well known to both Mayor Wishner and Green Now’s attorney. Yet they seem to have turned a blind eye to the danger posed to the kids as young as 3 years old. Mr. Coker has apparently even refused to acknowledge a conflict of interests between his two clients, and has seemingly used his knowledge gained from representing the school to the advantage of his trash dump clients. Many members of the community have wondered aloud whether this proposal would have gained any support had it been next to a Christian or Jewish private school, and whether this is a means of discriminating against this religious institution.
No Environmental Impact Study
In addition is the potential impact this facility may have on the Everglades, which lie literally on the other side of the Sawgrass Expressway. The facility, which will require the use and disposal of harsh caustic chemicals, which will likely be disposed of in a manner that will feed them directly into the canal and water system that is literally a part of the Everglades. Yet, there has been no environmental impact study done as a part of this proposal, so the issue has not even been considered.
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