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Florida DEP will investigate environmental concerns at old Palmetto golf course

Children that live near the former Palm View Golf Course play in their favorite spot bordering the old course and their homes. Residents are concerned about potential environmental hazards that could be released from the course if a proposed development goes forward. File photo
Children that live near the former Palm View Golf Course play in their favorite spot bordering the old course and their homes. Residents are concerned about potential environmental hazards that could be released from the course if a proposed development goes forward. File photo myoung@bradenton.com

Residents near the former Palmetto Palm View Golf Course became concerned when Manatee County approved a 142-unit housing development on land with a 50-year history of chemical use —without requiring intensive soil testing from the developer.

While Manatee County policy doesn’t requires soil testing in private developments, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection does, if it is brought to light a development site has a suspect history. The DEP is now aware of the golf course’s history and pledges to take a closer look at the land before any development can occur.

The property owner was cited by the county in 2014 for running a “sloppy operation” involving how chemicals were stored and used. The site was cleaned under the DEP Operation Cleansweep program, “but no investigation was conducted by the DEP,” said spokeswoman Shannon Herbon.

“We are now in the preliminary stages of our initial review, but this will be the first investigation conducted by DEP at Palm View,” she said.

The developer, Lakeland-based Highland Homes, has only conducted a phase 1 environmental assessment, which does not include soil testing. However, the report was deemed “incomplete.”

Herbon said DEP is asking the developer for more information and to clarify a few points, “which we are waiting to receive. The assessment is an extensive report, and our specialist is continuing to carefully review it.”

The developer, who could not be reached Friday for comment, purchased the acreage in January for $1.4 million contingent on the development moving forward.

Nearby residents such as Leah Cole said they just want due diligence done to ensure the land is safe to be disturbed.

She previously said: “Over the course of (50 years) a lot of chemicals that are now illegal were used on this ground.”

Children of the nearby Deer Run community use the border of their neighborhood and Palm View as a pristine play area and 9-year-old Sophia Weaver summed up their concerns: “If they dig up all that soil, it could make us pretty sick.”

Manatee County Environmental Planning Director Joel Christian could not be reached for comment Friday, but previously said the county does ask developers to evaluate sites for hazardous materials but does not require it. Christian said the county relies on the DEP to make those decisions. However, DEP only became aware of the potential hazards at Palm View from the Bradenton Herald.

“We can’t speak to the county’s policies,” said Herbon. “But if there is contamination, the DEP requires the responsible party to follow the contaminated site cleanup criteria,” in Florida statutes.

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