Thursday, Aug 21, 2014
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Cemex seeks expansion of mining operations in Brooksville

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BROOKSVILLE - Cemex Construction Materials Florida is again seeking permission from Hernando County to expand its mining operations on 730 acres north of State Road 50 and west of Fort Dade Avenue.

If successful in getting the county to amend its future land use map, it would be one of the biggest mining expansions in years, said Paul Wieczorek, senior planner for the county.

Late last week, dozens of signs went up along that stretch of SR 50, notifying people of a public inquiry workshop to be held at 6 p.m. April 16 at the Hernando County Enrichment Center, 800 Gary Grubbs Blvd. in Brooksville.

To accommodate Cemex, the county would have to change the land use map from residential and regional commercial to mining and regional commercial overlay.

This would be an extension of the Cemex mining operation north of Fort Dade Avenue, Wieczorek said. Cemex would transport the aggregate hard rock at this new site to its existing processing center.

All trucks would use the existing Cemex entrance on Cobb Road.

Wieczorek said he anticipates there would be blasting to get at the limestone along State Road 50.

The map change is the first step in the operation. Before mining takes place, Cemex would have to revise its application and return it to the planning department for review before moving forward to planning and zoning commissioners and the county commission.

Then the project would have to go before state review agencies before again coming back to county commissioners.

Assuming all steps are followed and there are no glitches, the soonest Cemex could actually begin mining would be about two years, Wieczorek said.

But the process kicks off with the public workshop next week and, judging from what occurred three years ago, that could bring out critics.

Cemex had originally attempted to expand operations in 2011, actually getting as far as bringing it before the planning and zoning commission, which directed the company to hold a public workshop to gauge reaction.

That workshop brought out several opponents, including residents who live along Fort Dade Avenue concerned about environmental impacts, the loud blasting noises, the loss of trees and a devaluing of the property.

Representatives of the former Brooksville Regional Hospital, now called Bayfront Health Brooksville, complained of vibrations from the blasting. The hospital is directly across from the proposed mining site.

Wieczorek said the plan three years ago was stopped because of some unresolved concerns from Hernando County and also Cemex had some issues with its ownership group regarding leasing of the land.

The property along SR 50 is owned by several people. Tommy Bronson owns most of the land designated for mining, which amounts to about 573 acres, said Wieczorek. The remaining 156 acres would be part of a commercial overlay district and is owned by various people, he said.

It appears the leasing issues have been resolved and Cemex renewed discussions with the county about four or five months ago, he said.

According to the applicant's original narrative, Cemex mines have been in continuous operation in this area for more than 75 years, "serving as a source of employment for the county and providing a product (rock aggregate and cement) to support growth in the local and regional areas of Florida."

The land along the SR 50 tract contains viable deposits of Suwannee limestone, the principal source of hard rock aggregate material, according to Cemex.

Only three other areas in Florida have such a grade of aggregate and those are found in Dade, Lee and Sumter counties, the report said.

"The source of material from Hernando County serves a regional need for acceptable road building aggregate," the Cemex narrative said. "In addition, limerock is used as a basic component in the production of cement."

County Commissioner Dave Russell said he expects more information from Cemex when it gets to the board's level.

"Obviously, you have to weigh the benefits of the community against the negatives - if the zoning is correct and the future land plans are in place with mining," Russell said. "That's something we will have to take along hard look at.

"I will be looking forward to seeing all the supporting documents arguing their case and the public will as well," he added.

mbates@hernandotoday.com

(352) 544-5290

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