Land baron and developer Ron Bergeron’s plan to open a garbage transfer/recycling station at his industrial park on the edge of the Everglades isn’t dead yet.
The politically connected, cowboy-attired Bergeron two weeks ago withdrew his application for a zoning change to allow him to build the transfer station in Pembroke Pines commission meeting, but Bergeron has already made changes to the plan that could make it more palatable to nearby residents who don’t like the idea of a garbage dump — or the garbage trucks it will attract — near their neighborhoods.
He’s moved the proposed site farther away (to a half-mile) from the neighborhoods affected and he’s trying to make sure all those trucks are routed on U.S. 27 to reduce the traffic and noise impact on those same neighborhoods. And he’s honed his sales pitch. This isn’t about the garbage business anymore, it’s about the very survival of the United States, both in terms of the environment and competition.
“America was built by small business and competition,” Bergeron told me this morning, referring to the near monopoly enjoyed by Waste Management at this point. “I don’t believe in monopolies — do you? And I don’t think our environment can stand the cost involved in burying the bulk of our resources that can be used. Recycling is the answer. The governor (Charlie Crist) said he had a goal of having 75 percent of our waste recycled by 2020 and this is going to help make that happen.”
Pembroke Pines Commissioner Iris Siple doesn’t quite see it that way.
“I do not think it’s good for my city or my residents,” she said. “My residents are taken care of by a garbage contract for the next ten years. Why would I want to bring in garbage from other cities?”
This is looking a whole lot like a “Green Now” rerun from Sunrise, when a similar plan by garbage company owner Jim Feeley (who was backed by his good friend, then-Sunrise Mayor Roger Wishner) went down in flames. Taking the lead in that fight were Commissioner Sheila Alu and a lawyer named Mike Ryan. Today Ryan is the Sunrise mayor and Wishner is working solely in the private sector. That may not be a coincidence.
To be fair, Bergeron’s project has been the victim of a misinformation campaign. Flyers have been, yes, flying around the nearby neighborhoods claiming that the garbage will be incinerated (it won’t). But even if it’s a good idea in general terms (and it might be) it looks to be a hard sell in the Pines for the reasons outlined by Siple.
Bergeron has put in a lot of time on this effort, creating a company, Bergeron Environmental and Recycling LLC, and employing his girlfriend/lobbyist Ali Waldman and son Lonnie to try to persuade politicians to back the plan. Between them they’ve visited Sue Gunzburger, J0hn Rodstrom, Chip LaMarca, Dale Holness, and Kristin Jacobs regarding the matter. Most recently, Waldman met with Stacy Ritter, though the reason was listed as “personal.”
Still, Bergeron says he’s not sure he’s going to keep pushing the garbage proposal.
“This isn’t life or death for me,” he said. “I’m so busy I’m like a one-legged cowboy in an ass-kicking contest. I got so much going on. I’ve got to evaluate whether I’m going to go forward.”
Siple’s not buying it.
“He’s coming back with it, you better believe it,” she says. “He’s just circling the wagons.”