LAKE WALES – At the intersection of Scenic Highway and Burns Avenue, the road with entrances to Bok Tower Gardens and Lake Wales High School, is a vacant concrete mixing plant that is anything but scenic.
At a Lake Wales City Commission meeting Sept. 10, staff with the legal firm of Peterson & Myers petitioned the city to vacate its right of way on the property, saying the Florida Department of Environmental Protection was demanding the change.
If you have no idea what that means, don't feel bad — neither did the Sun prior to some research. Lake Wales City Manager Ken Fields said city staff were not aware of all the details, either.
“All we knew was that they needed the street vacation to clear up a FDEP issue to allow the sale,” Fields said. “They never told the city of the exact nature of the violation.”
According to FDEP documents, the concrete mixing plant was open from the 1960s until 2014 under the names Florida Rock Concrete and Cement Products Corporation. Around 2014 the property was put up for sale. The sale required FDEP staff to verify the property was not contaminated with pollution.
Assessment reports indicated that multiple fuel tanks on the property had contaminated the ground and water underneath the plant with multiple chemicals. The reason why this property has been a vacant industrial eyesore for so long is that it took five years to clean the property up.
FDEP staff verified that contamination on site is no longer a public hazard and the final step before case closure is clearing the property title.
In the past, there was a north-south railway through Lake Wales. A portion of the property still had right of way for the railroad tracks, which had to be removed before the property could be officially sold.
The location of this vacant cement plant has been in the news recently for a different reason. City leaders are considering building a “Welcome to Lake Wales” traffic circle immediately south of this property.
Bok Tower Gardens President David Price has made multiple public statements about this property, mostly to request city staff mandate the property be hidden by fencing or landscaping so visitors to the park couldn't see the property as much from the roads.
Contact Charles A. Baker III at email@example.com.