ENGLEWOOD, Fla. (WFLA) — At one point there were only a few dozen piles of Ian-related debris rising above an Englewood neighborhood near Buchan airport.
But the trucks kept coming.
Now, dozens of piles rise more than two stories above the grass runways of the airfield owned by Sarasota County.
Neighbors said it is an eyesore and often smells. When the wind picks up, shreds, fragments and dirt go airborne creating messes in places like Richard Fowlkes’s patio.
“And of course, it’s inside because of the soffits all around the house,” Fowlkes said. “The dust just coats and covers the inside.”
Tim Durnin, whose property backs up to the land where the piles sit, said odors and dust are only part of the concerns.
“Algae, pollen, insects, mold,” Durnin said. “All the pathogens you would expect from rotting material.”
Several residents said they are also worried about their other neighbors – the gopher tortoise.
“The [burrows] are everywhere,” Durnin said.
“Yes,” Durnin answered when asked if the debris has been piled on tortoise burrows. “No doubt.”
According to the Florida Department of Fish and Wildlife, the reptile is considered “threatened” and the law requires a permit to move them or develop their habitat. The agency’s website states the burrows dug by the tortoise also serve as a habitat for 350 other species.
Sarasota County spokesperson Brianne Grant said several state agencies assessed “the site for feasibility.”
“County staff also performed outreach to homeowners in the immediate area of the airfield, and to those who use the airfield to advise them of the facilities closure and temporary use,” Grant said.
Grant also said the Sarasota County Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Gopher Tortoise Agent continues to assess the site.
“The area of Gopher Tortoises’ habitat was cordoned-off and remains protected from debris management trucks,” Grant said.
That does not ease the concerns of residents like Heather Durnin, who not long ago loved to walk her dog in what was a wide-open field.
“It’s kind of the old saying of paving over paradise,” Durnin said. “The land needed to be preserved. We need to live symbiotic with nature. We can’t just be dumping on the wildlife.”
Her husband said he filed complaints with the county and the state, but he added it has had no impact.
“The answer at this point is to move this stuff over to where [the county has] plenty of room,” Durnin said. “They don’t want to drive the extra miles where it wouldn’t affect the area.”