WINTER HAVEN — A local pallet company may be several boards away from being forced to shut down.

City officials have told Haven Pallet, 347 Ave. O S.W., that the business’s attempt to rezone is “inconsistent with goals and objectives of the Downtown Community Redevelopment Agency plan promoting a mixture of residential and commercial uses in this area.”

Commissioners decided to delay a vote Tuesday after they listened to owner Wayne Berry and his lawyer, Robert Stanz.

“I know it’s not the prettiest place,” Berry said. “But is the city more worried about how pretty it is or 40 employees losing their jobs?”

Since many of the 40 to 45 employees walk to work, they would likely lose their jobs if Haven Pallet moved outside the city limits, Berry said.

The company’s payroll is about $1.1 million a year.

City Community Development Director David Dickey declined to comment for this story. He directed calls to city spokeswoman Joy Townsend.

Townsend said the business is a fire hazard.

Water lines surrounding the business cannot service the area without expensive upgrades, according to the city.

Despite the hazard, Berry shouldn’t be thrown out, said Commissioners Jeff Potter and Charlie Cone.

“As far as I could tell (the business) was OK for awhile and now it has to move,” Potter said. “The way the city processed the paperwork was OK and I think that someone finally from the city looked at it and saw how growth was going along the road.”

“He’s been there that long,” Cone said. “I don’t see any point in telling him he needs to leave right now.”

Berry moved to the location in 2001. His lease ends in about five years.

City officials told Berry in October 2006 that he must apply for rezoning because he was operating the pallet business in a district not zoned for that business.

The Planning Commission denied his request in April.

Commissioners Nat Birdsong and Mike Easterling said they believe the issue will be resolved, but Easterling took a harder approach than other commissioners, saying the business will be allowed to stay for several more years but when its lease ends the pallet company must leave because of the fire hazard.

“There is no adequate safety as far as water is concerned,” Easterling said. “That’s a lot of wood that would burn.”

“It’s not where they need to be,” he said.

Stanz expects a fair resolution.

“As long as (Berry’s) lease runs he should be allowed to operate,” Stanz said.

Stanz and City Attorney John Murphy plan to discuss Berry’s options in an upcoming meeting, Townsend said.

John Chambliss can be reached at john.chambliss@directgates.com or 863-401-6965.