Sierra Club lawyer threatens lawsuit over Wakulla gas station plan

wakulla springs
Environmentalists are up in arms over a land use request that would allow 16 gas pumps above a Wakulla Springs feeder.

Sierra Club Florida has lawyered up, retaining Plantation-based lawyer Richard Grosso to represent them in their fight to stop a land use change in Wakulla County that would pave the way — pun intended — for a new 16-pump gas station.

Grosso, who has 37 years of experience in comprehensive planning and property rights law in Florida, is urging the Wakulla Board of County Commissioners to reject a request to change its comprehensive plan in favor of an oil company … or else.

At issue is a comprehensive plan amendment requested by Southwest Georgia Oil. The company purchased a seven-acre parcel of land on Crawfordville Highway and wants to build a new gas station there. But doing so requires a zoning change, from the current agriculture designation to a rural designation.

The proposed plan has environmentalists up in arms. The parcel of land in question sits above an underground cavern called Chip’s Hole, which feeds Wakulla Springs. The Springs are not only an environmental boon for the area, they are also a main source of local income thanks to the many visitors who flock to the crystal clear, cool waters bubbling from the earth.

Grosso, in a five-page letter to the County Commission, presents several arguments for rejecting Southwest Georgia Oil’s request.

First, the County Commission can deny the comprehensive plan amendment “for any valid planning reason, including to protect resources that bring economic and environmental value,” Grosso writes.

Further, Grosso argues that state statute requires such amendments “to be consistent with the remainder of the Plan’s adopted goals, objectives and policies.” Grosso adds that while he has “not had the opportunity to review the County’s entire Comprehensive Plan to identify all other goals, objectives and policies,” the “environmental protection goal alone would seem to preclude the approval of the requested land use change.”

That goal states that the designations must “ensure that the character and location of land uses allow for appropriate economic benefit and support the enjoyment of natural and man-made resources by citizens while minimizing the threat to health, safety and welfare posed by hazards, nuisances, incompatible land uses and environmental degradation.”

According to Grosso, failure to “adequately protect groundwater resources” would be a violation of that goal and, thus, “would be inconsistent with the comprehensive plan.” Upon legal challenge, Grosso cautions the County Commission the plan amendment could be found in noncompliance.

Grosso additionally argues that “all plan amendments must be based upon data and analysis.”

“In other words, if the data reveals that an important natural resource, like Wakulla Springs, is susceptible to pollution, a land use change to allow the siting or expansion of a land use known to pollute, would not be an ‘appropriate’ reaction to the data and analyses,” Grosso writes.

As environmental reporter Craig Pittman wrote in the Florida Phoenix of the request, including Wakulla County’s long history on environmental governance, “imagine what havoc a single sinkhole could play with a petroleum tank big enough to supply 16 pumps.”

Grosso argues the County has not fulfilled its legal obligation to adequately review data and analyses on the proposed site use.

“Given the issues implicated by this proposal, compliance with the statute would require data and analysis demonstrating that the uses allowed by the land use change, including a larger gas station, are suitable for the property given its geology and proximity to Wakulla Springs,” he writes.

“However, the staff report I’ve been able to review does not even appear to identify, let alone analyze, the potential impacts of the 16-pump gas station and other specific uses the land use change would allow.”

Grosso concludes his letter with a not-so-thinly veiled threat.

“The Community Planning Act authorizes any person who resides, owns property, or operates a business in Wakulla County, and organizations with membership that includes such persons, to bring a formal challenge to an adopted plan amendment at the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings, a costly and time-consuming process,” he writes.

“We urge the Commission to think carefully about this decision and to deny the requested comprehensive plan amendment.”

The letter was addressed to the entire Wakulla County Commission, including Chair Ralph Thomas, Vice Chair Quincee Messersmith and Commissioners Fred Nichols, Mike Kemp and Chuck Hess.

Peter Schorsch

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises Media and is the publisher of FloridaPolitics.com, INFLUENCE Magazine, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. Previous to his publishing efforts, Peter was a political consultant to dozens of congressional and state campaigns, as well as several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella. Follow Peter on Twitter @PeterSchorschFL.


13 comments

  • It's Complicated

    August 7, 2023 at 11:20 am

    Not even considering the underground storage tanks, just the parking lot runoff from a 16-pump station should be enough to convince people this is a terrible idea for that location. Coupled with the terrible track record of this company, it should be a no-brainer. Good grief.

    • Dont Say FLA

      August 7, 2023 at 11:53 am

      Rhonda’s new educational model is that two negatives make a positive, because that’s how math works, so that’s now a notoriously bad company combines with the worst state government. The product will be a positive. /s :crying sadface:

  • Ocean Joe

    August 7, 2023 at 12:27 pm

    Our far right state government has worked hard to limit citizens rights to sue.
    It’s always about paving the way for developers.

  • Linwood Wright

    August 7, 2023 at 12:40 pm

    What the hell is wrong with people?

    Just put the gas station somewhere else. It’s not complicated.
    It almost seems like stuff like this is proposed just out of spite.

  • Earl Pitts American

    August 7, 2023 at 12:43 pm

    Good Afternoon America,
    The gas station is/was a bad idea which the Florida Department of Enviornmental Regulation will never, ever, ever allow to be built. But it is being used as a head-fake issue to please The Seirra Club for nefarious reasons as explaned below.
    “Well Mr. Pitts-American than why do we, the gulliable sheeple, keep on having this dire DoomsDay for Florida’s Jewel Wakulla Springs keep on being shoved in our faces”?
    Thank you for asking I will be glad to explain:
    The Seirra Club along with a few local leftys want you to think the Evil Gas Station is the “Hill They Are Willing To Stand On”. Well it is not.
    Thee “Evil Gas Station” 1. will never be allowed by the FL EPA as explaned above 2. The Seirra Club has a much larger target of their own, which they are unfairley going after, which they dont want anyone talking about right now.
    That target is much of Wakulla County’s Black Citizens.
    Many Blacks in Wakulla are heirs to large tracts of land their ancestors purchased generations ago so their childern and grandchildren could sell off a little now and then to have the security of “Generational Wealth” as is common with many mostly White families.
    Ed Ball came to Wakulla County during The Great Depression and bought a lot of the mostly Black Wakulla County’s citizens land. And thus their “Generational Wealth” went to The St Joe Paper Company. But a significant number of Wakulla’s Black citizens were able to resist Ed Ball’s persistant attempts to buy out their inheritance and generational wealth.
    ***Recently developed technology related to “small communitty micro spray fields” has made small sub-divisions totally safe for Wakulla Springs.***
    The Seirra Club is harrassing and intimidating Wakulla’s mostly Black landowners with threats to “tie you Blacks up in Court Forever” if you even think about putting any sort of development on their own lands.
    In summary the mostly Black landowners are being dis-enfranchized of their property rights by fear and intimadation being made directly and inappropiatly by The Seirra Club. And to add fuel to the fire it looks like The Seirra Club has enlisted the help of at least a majority of The Wakulla County Commissioners in their raciest schemes.
    Notice The Seirra Club strikes out hard at Wakulla’s mostly Black Citizens while Florida’s Govornor is pre-occupied with a national campaign.
    Somebody like Morgan & Morgan should meet with the property owners and agree to represent them. John Morgan we need you this is your classic “I need your help Mr. Morgan but I’m just a nobody” situation.
    Thank you,
    Earl Pitts “Fighting For America’s Nobodys” American

    • Earl Pitts is a Pedophile

      August 7, 2023 at 1:08 pm

      Hang yourself.

      • Earl Pitts "The Ronald's UnOfficial Campaign Manager" American

        August 7, 2023 at 1:45 pm

        You my good Sir are a raciest fool.

    • C’mon

      August 7, 2023 at 2:20 pm

      Ridiculous. Only 13% of Wakulla County is African American; pretty typical in Florida. Beware of MAGAs who bring up race.

  • It's Complicated

    August 7, 2023 at 2:12 pm

    In the 1980s I dove caves around North Florida, including some in Wakulla and Leon County. Some of the cave entrances were hiding in plain site. Several places in Wakulla and Leon Counties, a diver can directly enter the Florida Aquifer just a few feet below ground level in a relative puddle of water – often in an indistinctive stand of cypress trees out in the National Forest (a couple of spots in the now-Leon Sinks area). Many sinkholes and some rivers also connect. In the ‘puddle entrances,’ the water appears black, but is crystal clear with composting leaves on the bottom creating the illusion. My point is the water table is incredibly vulnerable down there. Everyone who drinks well water in Wakulla County should be concerned. Not a conservative or liberal issue, IMHO.

  • Definition of Insanity

    August 7, 2023 at 2:22 pm

    It’s always so shocking when Republicans disregard the environment, isn’t it?

  • Earl Pitts American

    August 7, 2023 at 3:22 pm

    Yes my Dook 4 Brains Leftist posters above I, Earl Pitts American, can only imagine how guilty you all must feel with the knowledge you are helping The Seirra Club to steal Wakulla County’s Black citizen’s land, much like the raciest Ed Ball did back durring The Great Depression. And you know The Serria Club will later on “discover” the 100% safe small communitty spray field technology then sell the Blacks former land at a great profit. You leftys make America sick.
    EPA

    • How do you turn this guy off?

      August 9, 2023 at 4:04 pm

      Wakulla does not have an abnormally high proportion of African American landowners; you are at least consistent in reflecting what appears to be your bias and lack of actual knowledge. Sad.

      • Earl Pitts "The Big Voice On The Right" American

        August 9, 2023 at 6:11 pm

        Sorry Dook 4 Brains leftys,
        There is no $mart @55 leftist “Hate Speach” which can be used as a weapon against The Big Voice In The Right. No weapon you possess shall prevail against me. Not now, not later, not ever. As a matter of record, John Morgan, #LAW, has agreed to take up the case of the unfair oppression being used as a hangman’s lynching noose on the mostly Black Wakulla County Land Owners. As you Dook 4 Brains Leftys all know no attorney other than the powerfull John Marks can or will go after the raicest Serria Club and put a mega financial hurt on them like, #LAW, Thats All,
        EPA
        Thank you Dook 4 Brains Leftists,
        EPA

Comments are closed.


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