Comments of Tina Henize

July 10, 2014

To:     Hernando County Planning Dept. and Planning and Zoning Commission

From: Tina Henize, 508 Jewel St., Brooksville, FL 34601

Subj:  For July 14, 2014, P&Z hearing, Item F.4., CPAM1102 Cemex request to amend the Future Land Use Map

Date:  July 9, 2014

Dear Planning Staff and P&Z Commissioners:

Please do not recommend changing the Comp Plan to allow this mining expansion.

The hearing next week is quasi-judicial and I am not qualified to submit comments accordingly having no legal background or standing in the legal sense other than being a citizen living within 2 miles from the site. I do understand a fair bit about Planning and Comprehensive Plans, but I also confess I have not yet seen the Staff Report. My remarks here (too late for inclusion into the packet anyway) obviously won’t be considered officially in your recommendations to our BOCC, but it’s my hope you are also looking at the big picture as you become more and more familiar with this issue. I only ask that you think long and hard about what you are being asked to do as it relates to every aspect of the character of our community, now and for the future. As a retired public service employee myself, and still a volunteer public servant, I am aware of the responsibility to serve all the citizens of our County, not just a few.

The proposed 730 acre area for expansion of Cemex’ rock mining is not owned by Cemex, is not zoned for mining, is full of natural features treasured by many, and is surrounded by residential property, by a small, historically significant cemetery, by one of our irreplaceable canopy roads, and by the Cortez Bike Trail, an asset to the greater effort of spreading the word about our county as a nature tourism destination.

The general tone of the EAR Survey — completed by those residents who cared enough to weigh in on our community character – would indicate a Comp Plan change should not be considered for expanded mining. In fact, one item in the 2040 Plan says “policies should anticipate future transition of mining lands.” Nowhere in the Comp Plan are new lands considered for mining. Until recently very few in this county would ever have imagined there could be a proposal to mine between Ft. Dade Avenue and Cortez. Crossing our Canopy Road? Not a chance. And, part of the proposed mine area was even considered at one point for a Green Space area within our Environmentally Sensitive Lands program. Mining this new area is absolutely an inappropriate land use.

Unfortunately for the rest of us, it’s bad enough Cemex owns thousands of acres on the Brooksville Ridge, and though I have not checked it all, I believe most of it is zoned already for mining and much of it is already being mined. One of the many reasons we chose to move to Brooksville from S FL was because of our awareness of the unique Brooksville Ridge and we knew mining would be winding down very soon. The Ridge is indeed a unique geological formation which includes a complex mosaic of equally unique natural systems. Additionally, The Ridge has been at the base of defining the character of this area since long before white European and Euro-American settlers arrived here. If we truly intend to honor and preserve the integrity of our physical location and culture, we will welcome an end of the rape of The Ridge.

Now, however, we are hit with this new Cemex lease agreement on land not Cemex-owned with those who have only their own financial gain in mind. They care not at all about escalating the destruction of The Ridge near increasing population density; they are set to blatantly take full advantage of all of us in the area who care about everything from general quality-of-life, clean air and water conservation, and on through numerous aspects of geological, hydro-geological, and ecosystem composition of this special place, the Brooksville Ridge. If I was not living through this, I would not have believed it could happen.

One government employee (not local, but I will not ID him/her) expressed it like this: “It’s a monumental sacrifice by the community and the Brooksville Ridge for the benefit of only a few rich people, and once it’s done, there’s no turning back.”

What this person was referring to regarding the last bit is the folly of “reclamation.” You know this term is thrown out there to pacify someone, and works only for the uninformed and those who don’t care. “Reclamation” is a far cry from “restoration” and no one pretends it’s similar. But reclamation here generally means slope it to prevent sliding, get rid of invasive exotics, and plant some trees. Sadly, even when reclamation occurs, without complex soils replaced, and with so much alteration of the natural condition remaining from the mine operation, the result is ongoing cogon grass infestations and the recolonizing of the most extremely disturbed land by more invasive exotics. Even when repurposed, the ‘reclaimed land’ will always be ripe for invasive exotic infestations. What does not get structures becomes a pest plant nightmare dotted with, in some cases, sterile and/or toxic substrates. The complex composition of the plant communities and wildlife habitats never returns, precisely because it cannot under the conditions left from the mining.

All that said, in my view, rock mining in general, but especially this proposed expanded mining into a new area with the subsequent requisite misnamed “reclamation”, is Mother Nature’s nightmare, and thus my own and that of everyone else (except for the wealthy land owners and Cemex), whether they know it or not.

Thank you, all.

I hope you read this even though I know it’s not acceptable for the P&Z hearing.

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