Winter Springs annexes EPA Superfund site

Winter Springs is on the grow after the City Commission voted to annex the former Gould printing property, now a 9.81-acre Environmental Protection Agency Superfund cleanup site along U.S. Highway 17/92, on May 22.

Winter Springs is on the grow after the City Commission voted to annex the former Gould printing property, now a 9.81-acre Environmental Protection Agency Superfund cleanup site along U.S. Highway 17/92, on May 22. 

The decision came after more than a month of back-and-forth debate with the property owner (Florida Auto Auction Properties LLC), the Environmental Protection Agency and other authorities to determine the status of the cleanup of an industrial site that had discharged industrial cleaning chemicals into the ground over the course of decades before Gould took over the property.

“We had a very long and informative conversation with the EPA attorney,” Winter Springs City Attorney Anthony Garganese said. The result was the indication that the site is being cleaned up and will require little work to get ready for its newest occupant.

“It appears one way or another that site will be remediated,” Garganese said. 

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That new owner will be using the property to park cars for an auto auction business, according to that business’ attorney, James Willard. 

“We’re a little surprised at the reluctance of the city to annex the property,” Willard said, indicating that the site was already being cleaned up and that the city would have no responsibility for the site’s damages or remediation. 

The property, almost completely surrounded by woods, is located along U.S. 17/92, on a weaving boundary line between Winter Springs on the east and Seminole County on the west. To the north of the site is the Spring Hammock Preserve. To the south is the former Sprague Electric Company, also an EPA Superfund site where groundwater contamination was also found. To the east are a daycare facility and Highlands Elementary School. It would represent the north-westernmost property owned by the city, part of a slow push that’s gradually absorbed property stretching toward where the city boundary nearly meets Lake Mary.  

“For years we’ve wanted to gain all of the property down 17/92,” Winter Springs City Commissioner Cade Resnick said. “Why do we continue to put roadblocks up when it’s gift wrapped right there for us?”

The property, in debate before the Winter Springs City Commission for two public meetings before coming to a vote, is a former electronics manufacturing facility that was owned by General Dynamics Corporation. The business printed circuit boards and other electronics from the mid-1960s through early 1980s, according to a city staff report on the site. Degreasing chemicals used there contaminated the groundwater, according to the EPA. It was later used as a printing publication business known as the Gould property, but the chemicals remained in the soil and groundwater below, leading to the site being declared an EPA Superfund priority site in 2010. 

Only two groundwater wells are present in the area, and all others receive water from Winter Springs’ drinking water treatment facilities which do not pull water from the area. But that didn’t stop Commissioner Matt Benton from airing his reluctance to annex the site before the cleanup was completed, echoing statements he’d made at a previous meeting. 

“Once the property is clean, once the pollution is gone, once they’ve done their due diligence and cleaned up the site, then we can look at annexation if they still want that,” he said. 

Garganese said that he expected the site to be cleaned up more quickly than some other areas. 

“This site is on EPA’s priorities list so that’s rather significant,” Garganese said.  

The vote was a rare split for the Commission, with Deputy Mayor Rob Elliott joining Resnick and Victoria Colangelo in voting for the annexation. Commissioners Benton and Ted Johnson were opposed. 

The next step for Winter Springs’ newest property will be creating a preliminary future land use plan, which will be part of the next amendment to the city’s comprehensive plan. Until then, the lot will continue to fall under Seminole County’s future land use and zoning, which is M1 industrial. 

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