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Saturday, Mar 28, 2015

Group forms to oppose Brooksville mining expansion


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A group of county residents and property owners oppose a plan by Cemex Construction Materials to build an open pit rick mine on 728 acres of undeveloped land along State Road 50.

Neighbors Against Mining (NAM) has launched a petition drive and hopes to build a groundswell of opposition by July, when planning and zoning commissioners will consider a rezoning request to accommodate the project.

“The mining activities have the potential to damage property in the area from cracks in homes to sinkholes from the percussion of the blasts, in addition to degrading our quality of life from the perpetual noise that will be heard in downtown Brooksville for the next 20 years,” a Neighbors Against Mining news release states.

The project would lower property values and “reduce the kind of environmentally-sustainable growth that Brooksville desperately needs,” the group maintains.

“This is inappropriate so close to a historic town and at a time when Hernando County is seeking to promote cultural and historical tourism as well as ecotourism of the Nature Coast.,” NAM states.

The property is across from Bayfront Health (formerly Brooksville Regional Hospital) on State Road 50, leading into Brooksville. North of the property is Fort Dade Avenue, a canopy road, and beyond that a current Cemex mining operation and cement plant that would receive all the material from the mine.

The group fears that large, 10-wheel trucks will transport the rock from the property over or under Fort Dade Avenue to the plant.

Hernando County Planning and Zoning staffers will start processing the Cemex application in July in advance of a public hearing. It ultimately will go before county commissioners for their consideration.

Cemex plans to use that property during the next 20 years for open pit industrial mining activities that will include blasting and removal of the existing pine forest, grassland and wetland habitat adjacent to Spring Hill Cemetery, according to NAM.

Paul Wieczorek, county senior planner, said he anticipates there would be blasting to get at the limestone along State Road 50.

If successful in getting the county to amend its future land-use map, this would be one of the biggest mining expansions in years, according to Wieczorek.

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 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 begin mining would be in about two years, Wieczorek said.

Cemex originally tried to expand operations in 2011, 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 opponents, including residents who live along Fort Dade Avenue who worried about environmental effects, loud blasting noises, the loss of trees and a devaluing of their properties.

Several people commented on the Cemex application on the Neighbors Against Mining web page.

“I’m very concerned that mining operations will further reduce property values (that) have already suffered a serious decline resulting from the economic downturn,” wrote Jill Graddy of Brooksville. “Why would the county commissioners approve something that will so negatively impact hundreds of property owners and benefit so very few? We are only now seeing values increase and, even then, it’s minimal.”

Gwen Bassick of Brooksville posted on the Neighbors Against Mining website that mines have been “good for Hernando County” in the past but not anymore. “Hernando County has a bright future as an eco-tourist destination that will attract much needed economic growth,” she wrote. “Mining is just inconsistent with that vision and this project will not create any new jobs.”

DeeVon Quirolo said the county would be better off with an “environmentally sustainable activity” that would improve the economy and environment.

“There is no compelling reason to change our land use plan to allow mining so close to the historic district of Brooksville and across from the hospital,” Quirolo wrote. “It’s hard to believe this is the highest and best use of this land. I’d like for us to be the community that just says ‘no’ to mining.”

Sara Engdahl, director of communications with Cemex, said people need not worry.

“Blasting is an understandable concern from the neighbors and surrounding businesses,” Engdahl said in a recent interview. “But blasting would take place at levels that would not cause structural damage and it is strictly enforced by federal and state agencies.”

Vibrations emanating from the site will be minimal and below levels that would cause any damage to water wells, she said.

Engdahl said the original proposal from 2011 is essentially identical and – if approved – mining operations would begin in 2019.

(352) 544-5290

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