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Tuesday, Jun 19, 2018
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St. Leo, San Antonio to work on plant plans

— Talks are expected to resume Monday on a controversial Saint Leo University plant operations facility off tiny Pompanic Street.

The St. Leo Board of Commissioners voted last month to continue the discussion after listening to the university’s land-use attorney and traffic expert, among other officials, during a three-hour meeting.

“I’m just looking forward to getting to a resolution,” St. Leo Mayor Richard Christmas said.

Residents and officials in St. Leo and nearby San Antonio have questioned how increased truck traffic to the 16,000-square-foot building might affect safety. Owned by both municipalities, Pompanic is just north of State Road 52.

The San Antonio Board of Commissioners is expected to approve on second reading Tuesday an ordinance that allows “occasional and infrequent delivery of services to businesses or residences by trucks that do not weigh more than 16 tons.”

The San Antonio board unanimously approved the ordinance on its first reading.

San Antonio Mayor Tim Newlon said if the ordinance passes, the next step for town officials will be to pursue an interlocal agreement with St. Leo officials over jurisdiction of Pompanic.

“The border (between the towns) is right down the middle of that street,” Newlon said. “My motivation is to keep the residents safe. Pompanic is maybe 24 feet wide in some areas, but in others it’s not wide enough to be a two-lane road.

“If there’s a lot of delivery traffic, that could be a burden on taxpayers, and I have to be concerned about that.”

During last month’s meeting in St. Leo, residents and officials in both towns questioned the veracity of a traffic study done by Michael Raysor, the university’s traffic expert.

Raysor said that the stretch of Pompanic between the proposed building site and S.R. 52 currently carries 600 to 700 vehicles a day. The plant operations facility would likely add 26 trips to that number, Raysor said.

St. Leo has since contracted with Lincks and Associates of Tampa to do a separate traffic study. Christmas said it was not clear whether that study will be ready for Monday’s meeting.

The town also hired an arborist to determine whether a centuries-old tree near the proposed building site is “in good shape,” Christmas said.

Christmas said he is open to working with San Antonio officials on an interlocal agreement and that he understands the university’s logic in wanting the proposed building on Pompanic.

“You usually have your plant operations not in the center of campus, but at one end or the other,” he said. “They want theirs on the west end, not the east. Of course, they have a lot of land and could put it” wherever they see fit.

At last month’s St. Leo meeting, university officials said that the building would be constructed as not to obscure the view of Lake Jovita, and the university’s land-use attorney, Joel Tew, said the issue is not “a popularity contest.”

“Whether 200 people like it or hate it is irrelevant in the eyes of the law,” he said, adding that the proposed facility is consistent with the town’s comprehensive plan and zoning requirements.

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