Tampa Bay Times: Hernando Times: After cutting comments short, Brooksville council steers clear of mining issue

March 20, 2015


Barbara BehrendtBarbara Behrendt, Times Staff Writer



Tuesday, March 17, 2015 5:36pm

conveyor belt

WILL VRAGOVIC | Times (2011)

Some Brooksville residents are vehemently opposed to plans by Cemex to expand mining on Cortez Boulevard, just outside the city limits.

BROOKSVILLE — The City Council got a small taste Monday night of what county officials have become all too familiar with in recent months — the vehement opposition of some residents to plans by Cemex to expand mining on Cortez Boulevard, just outside the city limits.

After hearing limited public comment, the council decided to stay out of the fray rather than urging the County Commission to either approve or deny the land-use change. The county hearing is April 28.

Cemex Construction Materials of Florida and the influential business leaders who own the 738-acre tract of land are seeking the change in the county’s future land-use map to allow expanded lime-rock mining for 20 years on property now slated for residential construction.

“The new mine is too close to residents,” and the property lies along an entryway into Brooksville, argued DeeVon Quirolo, who heads an organization known as Neighbors Against Mining. “County government does recognize that the city has a role. … Now is the time to say no to this bad deal.”

A mine, Quirolo said, would not be compatible with surrounding residents, businesses, Bayfront Health Brooksville, the Fort Dade Avenue tree canopy or the historic Spring Hill Cemetery, “all of which would be greatly damaged by open-pit mining so close to them.”

Weeki Wachee resident Hamilton Hanson said the City Council should be concerned about property rights because if the expansion negatively impacts residents, they will sue. He suggested it would be better if “the pertinent governments step in to protect property owners from future harm.”

Joe Lemieux of Spring Hill asked why private meetings were allowed with Cemex officials and council members. Mayor Frankie Burnett said he wanted to be sure all sides of the story were told. He also asked that public comment Monday night be limited to 20 minutes, leaving a number of residents without a chance to speak.

City Council member Betty Erhard said she believed the council should recommend that the commission say no to the mining expansion. She asked the landowners if they were going to live near the mine or be affected by its operation, like the actual neighbors would be.

“Let me remind council: We represent the people, we work for the people, and we are accountable to the people,” she said.

But council member Natalie Kahler said she felt differently. She said she believed that the city’s only way to enter into the discussion would be its first right of refusal to provide utilities to the site. “Because our water lines are in the commercial area that will be untouched, this is not our issue, and I would encourage us to not write a letter because we didn’t like it when the County Commission was telling us how to run the city.”

Instead of a letter, council member Robert Battista suggested that the city staff meet with county staffers who are working on the mining expansion to be sure that the city is aware of the details of the plan. Then, at some future time, if the council needed to weigh in on an issue, the staff could let council members know.

Council member Joe Johnston agreed.

At the end of the meeting, Burnett was criticized for limiting public comment.

Rosemarie Grubba told council members that it was their job to weigh in on the mining expansion, especially since more than 500 of their constituents signed petitions against the project.

“We want to be represented by you to that County Commission,” Grubba said. “I am extremely disappointed that you took the coward’s way out to say you’re going to keep your eye on it in case it affects us. You damn well all know that it affects us.”

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