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"Dust Control" on BOCC Meeting Agenda Next Week

Commissioners to discuss possible regulations to mitigate "development dust storms"


BRADENTON — Commissioners will receive a  staff presentation on the topic of dust control at large-scale housing developments during an upcoming meeting. The presentation comes months after many residents say they first contacted their local government and commissioners seeking help.

The meeting will convene at 9:00 a.m., this Tuesday, April 23.

Almost six months ago, commissioners voted unanimously to direct county staff to research options for addressing airborne debris and dust from large-scale development sites. 

Commissioner George Kruse first raised the subject last year during a Nov. BOCC meeting after placing the item on the agenda under Commissioner Comments/Agenda Items.

Kruse said, “This is something I have talked to development services about, and it didn’t go anywhere. And, now, these last couple of months, it's seemingly gotten crazy around here.”

He said he brough the topic forward in a meeting because commissioners and county personnel were receiving numerous communications from upset residents about impacts to their homes and communities from nearby development sites. Kruse suggested the board should consider directing staff to explore potential increased regulations regarding clear-cutting practices.

During that meeting, commissioners mentioned the Lake Flores development site, where residents reported significant smoke and dust coming off the site and onto their properties.

Lake Flores is located in West Bradenton, along 75th Street West and Cortez Road.

Aerial view of the Lake Flores development site in west Bradenton Image taken on October 31, 2023.
Aerial view of the Lake Flores development site in west Bradenton Image taken on October 31, 2023.

Twenty miles east of Lake Flores, in Manatee County’s Parrish community, local reporters met with residents who had captured video of the blinding dust storms surrounding their Foxbrook community, and the dirt-covered lanais and swimming pools.

Speaking with TBT by phone, Foxbrook resident Kim Bruenner said she was just about at her wit's end trying to get anyone from the county or the Rye Ranch development site to take appropriate action. The project is by developer Lennar Homes.

In a recent interview with WFLA’s News Channel 8 On Your Side, Bruenner said, “You can’t come outside. You can’t breathe. I don’t know that anybody cares.”

Speaking to ABC Action News, Marcos Alvarez, another resident of Foxbrook, said he was concerned about ongoing property damage.

Speaking to TBT by phone, Alvarez’s wife said the black dust was getting in their screened-in pool, inside their garage, AC vents, and even the soffits.

Carolyn Alvarez told us, “We’ve had to cancel family get-togethers, church gatherings, and other functions planned at our house due to the patio and pool space being entirely unusable most of the time.”

But the problem isn’t isolated to residents of Foxbrook or those near Lake Flores. There are more neighborhoods with residents who say they have been contacting county officials begging for help for months. The residents who spoke to TBT said they feel those efforts have gotten them just about nowhere.

Roughly three miles south of Foxbrook, the Rivers Reach community is also experiencing negative effects from clear-cutting.

One resident—who asked that we only refer to her by her first name—said by phone that the same development site impacting Foxbrook and D.R. Horton’s Rye Crossing development site were impacting her neighborhood. 

Though the Rye Crossing development is much smaller than the Rye Ranch development, Rye Crossing adds almost 35 acres more of clear-cut former ag land to the area.

According to Diane, who lives across the street, problems with the Rye Crossing site began when massive piles of organic debris were piled and burned.

“The fires were burning through the night,” Diane said via phone. “The burn piles were right up to the road almost.”

The massive piles' proximity to the street and the smoke they produced inspired her and other Rivers Reach residents to call the county and complain. In that instance, said Diane, someone did respond to the complaints, and the developers moved the burn piles further from the road.

Though the burn piles were moved, Diane said it wasn’t the end of the problems.

“Then came the earth moving,” she explained. “Our chandeliers began shaking. We could hear them. Over time, exterior stucco on some of our houses began to develop cracking.”

Next came the dust and dirt. Diane says she has to clean her lanai every few days to keep up.

“First, it was the burning and smoke,“ she said. “We could smell smoke in our house. Then it was the dirt, now that gets in our houses. I cannot go outside and walk my dog. It affects my asthma.”

As other residents expressed, Diane says she and her husband have also hit a wall in their attempts to get something significant done to fix the issues.

“The dream of our retirement home is becoming a nightmare due to the irresponsibility of the developer and the county for not enforcing building codes,” she said.

About three miles south of Rye Crossing, along Rye Road Northeast and 167th Boulevard East, is another housing development called the Hillwood Preserve. This approximately 78-acre development site in Bradenton will eventually house 195 single-family residences.

Bo Mortensen is a resident of Rye Wilderness Estates who says he has experienced months of negative impacts from the construction and clear-cutting at the Hillwood Preserve.

Mortensen told TBT that he has filed multiple complaints with Manatee County Code enforcement about the problems. He shared that he currently has an active code enforcement claim number due to reporting the dust and debris entering his property from the site.

“Overall,” said Mortensen, “the outcome of my complaints has been dismal.”

Mortensen said his negative experiences have been ongoing since last fall, and he showed us a photo he took just this Friday that he said demonstrated the issues of airborne dust remain ongoing.

In the Waterline Road community about two miles east of Mortensen’s neighborhood, Mark Vanderee tells TBT that he, too, has felt the impacts of the airborne dust and dirt from the Hillwood Preserve development. But Vanderee said that isn’t the only development causing his community problems.

“The other offending property out here,” Vanderee wrote in an email to TBT, “is Palm Grove on State Road 64 East.”

Vanderee said in 2023, about 300 acres of land was clear-cut at the Palm Grove development site. Vanderee said that not only have there been problems with airborne dust and debris, but he also has concerns about “storm runoff into the nearby creeks” from the site.

Tuesday’s Presentation

The Construction Dust Reduction Presentation will be heard early in Tuesday's meeting. It appears on the meeting agenda as item number three.

A presentation slideshow is attached to the agenda and available for preview. The 17-slide presentation begins with photos of the airborne dust from various sites before asking on slide four, “What is the current rule?”

Currently, Manatee County’s Land Development Code, Section 520 General Standards for Temporary Uses, Part J, includes, “Upon notification by the County that dust, particle emissions, erosion, and siltation control measures are inadequate, the developer shall immediately cease operation and restore all damaged surfaces and initiate additional measures to correct the adverse impact before commencing further operations.”

Despite making numerous calls to the county, residents who spoke with TBT said they were unaware of any development site being temporarily “shut down” by the county due to airborne dust problems.

The presentation slide also highlights the Manatee County Code of Ordinances, Article VI - Property Maintenance and Structural Standards, Section 2-9-103 (37e) Definitions:

“Nuisance condition means any nuisance as defined by law, or any attractive nuisance which may be detrimental to the health or safety of others, whether in a structure or building, on the premises of a structure or building, or upon an occupied or unoccupied lot or any condition or use of premises or of building exteriors/interiors which is detrimental to the property of others or which causes or tends to cause substantial diminution/declines in the value of other property in the neighborhood. This definition includes, but is not limited to, the following:

e. Unsanitary condition or anything offensive to the senses or dangerous to health, including, but not limited to, the emission of odors, sewage, human and animal feces and waste, liquids, gases, dust, smoke, vibration, noise or whatever may render air, food or drink detrimental to the health of human beings"

Additional slides in the presentation include identifying the current problem, a goal, and possible code requirement changes or additions.

Commissioners Respond

In an April 12 report by the Bradenton Herald, former Commissioner James Satcher said he was “on the people’s side” and “was looking for solutions.”

The same day the story was published, however, Governor Ron DeSantis named Satcher as the new Supervisor of Elections. As a commissioner, Satcher represented Manatee County’s District 1, which includes Parrish. His appointment to the SOE creates a vacancy on the commission and leaves D1 residents without a district commissioner.

Satcher also told the BH that a contributing factor to the dust problem was the “unusually” dry winter.

Speaking to ABC Action News on April 16, Commissioner Mike Rahn said the issue is not only a problem in Manatee County but across the state. Rahn said the county was “lending water trucks” to the Lake Flores site to help contain the dust.

"...the problem is water trucks too, there's not a lot of them,” Rahn said. “So we can use sprinkler systems."

The average capacity of watering trucks used at a development site is 2,000 gallons—or sometimes 4,000 gallons. Even one 4,000-gallon watering truck would struggle to spread enough water to contain the dust within just one acre on one filling.

According to an EPA 2021 Dust Control guide, “Water is one of the most common ways to control dust on a construction site… However, water requires frequent reapplications to remain effective.”

The EPA’s guide includes that “excessive use of water can also be inappropriate in water-scarce regions.”

Can Residents Participate?

Residents who would like to participate in the discussion on Tuesday may not have an opportunity to provide public comment after the presentation unless the chairman decides to open the matter for public comment.

Even though the commission is never required to take public comment on any item for which there is no action (or vote), the board’s chairman, Commissioner Mike Rahn, could choose to include residents in the conversation if he desires.

Even though the item’s cover memo states “no action is recommended,” all hope is not lost for residents who plan to attend the meeting to address their commissioners in person.

Even if no motion is made to require public comments on the item automatically, Chairman Rahn presides over meetings and taking public comment on a non-action presentation item is at his discretion. Such a preferential decision by the chair could, however, be overridden by a majority vote of the board.

Dawn Kitterman is a staff reporter and investigative journalist for The Bradenton Times covering local government news. She can be reached at dawn.kitterman@thebradentontimes.com.


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  • Cat L

    Unconscionable. Developers are more valuable to the BOCC that their constituents, that much is obvious.

    And when you take out all the plants and trees, what else is going to happen? I hate what is happening to my home state.

    Sunday, April 21 Report this

  • David Daniels

    Apparently this reporting is referring to the pre - Beruff/Knapp version of the Land Development Code 520: “Upon notification by the County that dust, particle emissions, erosion, and siltation control measures are inadequate, the developer shall immediately cease operation." That was before Nicole Knapp went through and "clarified" the code via memo ala the ADU memo for Beruff. Can't wait to hear the Knapp pretzel logic on Tuesday. And then there is the "unusual dry winter exception" (Satcher) and the severe nationwide shortage of water trucks exception (Rahn). According to SW FL Water Mgmt Dist, Year to date Rainfall for the district is 10.17 inches, the average ytd rainfall is 10.98. So we are at 93% of average. Nice try Mr. "people's side." And I googled Commercial Water Trucks, the first site listed has no fewer than 15 available water trucks for sale, with pictures. https://www.commercialtrucktrader.com/Florida-Water/trucks-for-sale?category=Water%20Truck%7C2008240&state=Florida%7CFL. Our county government lies to us. They think we are idiots. Lake Flores is in KVO's district - Mr. "leading the way" against developers has done squat. VOTE THEM OUT

    Sunday, April 21 Report this

  • rayfusco68

    I live off 75th street and observed both the burning of vegetation and the dust storms from the clear cut property at the corner of Cortez and 75th street. At one point new grass of some kind sprouted on a large section of the clear cut and the dust from that area stopped. I think there are two simple solutions that could work; 1. as the builder clear cuts the land should be seeded and watered to promote the growth of a gras other other fast growing ground cover 2. don't allow burning of vegetation it releases toxin filled smoke to go where ever the wind blows, require mulching and trucking to an appropriate collection site, this can be done, it was done when we had the near hit but a hurricane a few years back.

    Sunday, April 21 Report this

  • jimandlope

    My first thought is if water trucks are in short supply why are county water trucks being loaned to developers? I live very close to Lake Flores and the equipment amassed at this sight is staggering but no water trucks? This construction site has been a community mess for months and nothing changed. My experience with KVO is that he never responds and gets annoyed if you ask a question.

    In addition to the “ site” this operation has played havoc with traffic on Cortez Rd. And 75th St to accommodate the developers plans. The developer has dug up both roads to afford its infrastructure building prior to building houses, stores apartments etc . Who approved this project? Who approved this project during “spring break”?

    This group, (commissioners) are not fit to serve in any capacity except to accommodate builders. Hope they have a future traffic plan. James Tierney

    Sunday, April 21 Report this

  • misty

    “Land clearing in anticipation of development” used to be defined by Manatee County as “Development”. And, since a Final Site Plan is required prior to “Development” the clearing was phased in smaller chunks as the site developed. Today, the definition of “Development” has changed and developers often get a “Mass Grading Permit” from SWFWMD - and the county allows them to clear the entire site. There is a legal argument that the county MUST allow them to clear the entire site. The site is sometimes cleared while still zoned “general agriculture” and the clearing is determined to be “agriculture”. All that aside, if the site will be clear cut, it will be difficult and expensive to control dust and erosion, but the responsibility lies with the developer - and the county needs to ensure it happens by requiring extra silt screens, more watering and anything else it takes to protect the public.

    Sunday, April 21 Report this

  • Dianna

    It took a year to only have a presentation? What I find odd is that I have seen residents on the news and have heard this being brought up at meetings. You know that the public has contacted the county for the past year + on this item -yet there is no public comment attached to the agenda on this item? If public comment has been attached through an update, why is it mixed together in 558 pages of updates? Why exactly are the comments not posted to the citizen’s comments section or the items listed on the agenda? Attaching comments to the agenda will at the very least allow other residents to see what issues others in the community are facing- especially when 6 of them are doing their best not to address the needs of the public.

    Monday, April 22 Report this