Comments of Robert Widmar on Aggregates Study supporting need for Economic Impact Study

January 15, 2015

January 14, 2015
Ms. Diane Rowden
Mr. Wayne Dukes
Mr. Nick Nicholson
Mr. James Atkins
Mr. Jeff Holcomb
Mr. Len Sossamon
Mr. Ron Pianta

Re: FDOT 2007 Strategic Aggregates Study

The study above, referenced and voted for review at the January 13th BOCC meeting is the subject of this communication.

As the “largest contractor of aggregate materials”, the study was undertaken by the FDOT to assess their supply chain in light of “judicial decisions, permit challenges, local government moratoria, land use compatibility” concerns (page 22 – Key Findings).

The study identifies Florida’s need for crushed stone and details production and imports for the current and past years. It identifies the Miami-Dade “Lake Belt” as supplying 46% of Florida’s needs via 5 mega-mines. It further identifies 5 areas around the state that supply the remaining 54% using approximately 100 smaller mines.

Key Findings (page 22)
• Judicial decisions may limit access to the highest quality limestone
in Florida;
• Mine expansion permits are routinely challenged and seriously
delayed;
• Local governments consider or invoke moratoria on new mines;
• Residential developments, particularly large Developments of
Regional Impact (DRI) in rural counties impinge on existing mine
operations and limit options for expansions or new mines;
• Land use categories commonly associated with local government
comprehensive plans may not be compatible with place-based
resources such as limestone;
• Quality of rock available outside the Lake Belt Region for many
engineering applications is declining;
• Identified aggregate reserves in Florida do not appear adequate to
produce 150 million tons per year for 5-10 year growth period and
beyond;
• Infrastructure for increasing imports – either by rail, barge or ship
is not in place, and
• Florida is heavily dependent on resources from a single area: the
Lake Belt of Miami-Dade County.
Preliminary Recommendations (page 22)
• Regulatory changes will be needed to continue to mine existing
reserves efficiently and cost effectively;
• Florida needs to consider limestone from a statewide perspective;
• Port capacities will need to be increased 5-10 fold, and
• Rail infrastructure improvements and additions will be needed to handle imports and efficient intrastate distribution of aggregates.

Part II of this study examines the economic impact to Florida’s economy that arises from a curtailment of crushed stone mining (pages 79-126).

Major findings of Part II are summarizes on pages 87 and 88. They pin the annual losses to the economy as greater than $28.6 billion, one quarter million jobs, and reduced labor income of $11.2 billion should the Lake Belt region be completely shut down.

Analysis:

This study is a great commentary on the effect of aggregate mining to Florida’s economy. The study addresses aggregate mining from the standpoint of curtailment of supply to Florida’s largest contractor. As shown in Key Findings, their curtailment concern stems from judicial and local government decisions and not limestone supply nor effects to the communities in which the mining occurs.

As such, the study is not germane to Hernando County’s proposed mining extensions. It does not address extension of mining activity into non-mining Comprehensive Planned FLUM areas, nor the resulting impact to the community, nor the taxable impact to the county and city of Brooksville. The study does not address housing and transit impacts.

The study is also 7 years old and the present needs and production data may be quite different. Are bullets six and seven of the Key Findings still relevant? Are Florida reserves declining to the extent that more Hernando crushed stone is the only savior?

Cemex in Hernando County is not a major producer in the Florida crushed stone industry. Their representatives are on record as saying that “extending mining would not create any new jobs” and “existing jobs would not be affected by a denial of the mining extension”. The impact of extension on the community economy, jobs, housing, transit, and labor income is not clear. The impact on Cemex’ bottom line is very clear.

There is no doubt that Cemex can control noise, groundwater pollution, dust, and hide their operation (with the exception of the overhead conveyor across Fort Dade) from view. There is also no doubt that Cemex has been a valuable contributor to the economy of Hernando in general. This extension decision is not a referendum on Cemex.

Contrary to some residential hopes, there is no expectation that this land would or should remain pristine in light of the current future land use (FLUM).

The extension of mining to the south is an extension to the wrong area and deprives the county and city of potential upside in a recovering housing market for a period of at least 20 years. The proposed mining extension would be less than 1.5 miles from the city limits of Brooksville.

As the FDOT study points out on bullet five of Key Findings, limestone is a place-based resource and the currently planned land use is incompatible with this resource. For that matter, the city of Brooksville itself sits on more of this limestone. Should Cemex then be allowed to further extend its operation underneath Brooksville?

The extension further erodes the possibility of the Regional Commercial area from ever being developed, and robbing the county and city of these revenues.

A football analogy is useful here: Trade your next 20 years draft picks for a proven star or draft a newcomer while maintaining the draft picks. That is, let Cemex work the land for 20 years shutting out any development opportunities that may arise, or market the area as an extension of the city of Brooksville, abutting a commercial area and a hospital campus.

Please consider supporting an economic study for expansion into potential urban land and not just a study of aggregate mining.
Respectfully,

Robert Widmar
Citizen Hernando County – former member of HC Planning and Zoning Commission

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