Our Last Chance to Dig in Against Proposed Mining Deregulation

We need you to help us show the County Commissioners that
we will not be discouraged by their past unwillingness to listen
to the strong arguments against their pending action.  

Please join us for this final opportunity
to fight back against mining deregulation:
County Commission Meeting
Wednesday, June 19 at 9:30am
Old Lee County Courthouse, Downtown Fort Myers

Mining is a very intensive land use, the expansion of which conflicts with conservation and residential land uses in the Density Reduction/Groundwater Resource (DR/GR) Area in southeast Lee County. The DR/GR Area was established to protect public water supply, groundwater recharge, and wildlife habitat. (Get a brief overview of the DR/GR.)

Expanding the mining opportunities beyond the currently designated areas undermines both of these missions.

County officials are about to repeal the current Lee Plan policy of limit mining activities to the Alico Road industrial corridor.

“The proposed mining amendment is symptomatic of this County Commission’s practice of abandoning good ideas and sound planning practices to accommodate the demands of a few, even when they conflict with the needs of the many,” said Don Eslick, founding member of Lee Future.

Background: The 2010 DR/GR Lee Plan Amendments

Following an interim DR/GR development moratorium (in part due to proposed new limerock mines) in 2007, Lee County undertook a comprehensive land use re-study of the area. The re-study involved County staff supplemented by a broad array of expert consultants, including planners, ecologists, hydrologists, transfer of development rights experts, water modelers, geologists, and so on. In the course of this multi-year effort (called the 2007-2009 Dover Kohl Study), the County spent about $1.6 million on this project.

Recognizing the inherent land use conflicts of mining, conservation, and residential land uses, the County was determined that land uses in the DR/GR would achieve a balanced policy and regulatory approach based on science. This type of factual foundation would allow for appropriate support if legally challenged.

In fact, several aspects of the new Lee Plan policies that were adopted in 2010 following the Dover Kohl Report were challenged in court – and all were sustained.

One of the primary goals of the initiative was to separate conflicting uses, primarily housing, mining, and conservation. This was accomplished by creating a Future Limerock Mining Overlay (Map 14) that concentrated future mining activity in the Alico Road industrial corridor and by mandating that no new limerock mines would be approved outside Map 14 “until such time as there is a clear necessity to do so,” based upon the County’s finding that regional demand for limerock would exceed supply from the designated mining areas, determined through a quantitative analytical approach.

The boundaries of the Mining Overlay were determined by a study of the future limerock supply and demand in the seven-county market area from Sarasota County to Collier County, recognizing the DR/GR was likely to continue being a major (though not sole) supplier of this market. The Lee Plan includes a requirement that this type of study be updated by the County every seven years so that a 20-year supply would always be available.

As the Dover Kohl Report stated, “Limerock mining is a high disturbance activity whose effect on the surrounding area cannot be fully mitigated.”

The 2010 Lee Plan amendments recognized the unique, non-reversible nature of mining and its significant impact on the water table and wetlands in the area surrounding each mine, along with downstream watershed water quality, water supply, and flooding impacts.

The 2010 amendment’s second major goal was to “reestablish the area’s historic flow ways and protect the future water supply for the County.” Unneeded expansion of limerock mining in the DR/GR may threaten our future fresh water supply, much of which is now obtained by the County from about 250 wells in the DR/GR area.

The County’s Pending 2019 Mining Expansion Proposal

The County is currently considering rezoning applications for two new extremely large limerock mines in the DR/GR, both outside the Future Limerock Mining Overlay (Map 14). In December 2018, County staff proposed to nearly deregulate limerock mining in the DR/GR by eliminating the Alico Road Corridor mine location standard and eliminating the requirement that new mines could be considered only when there was a legitimate need for more mines.

Succinctly, the County’s proposal is to allow rezoning for new limerock mines anywhere in the DR/GR, regardless of need.

Equally troublesome is the fact that, after spending 2+ years and $1.6 million to get this issue right, the County refused to conduct meaningful public workshops on these critical issues.

On April 17, the County Commission voted to transmit these Lee Plan changes for state review over the objection of more than 300 Lee County residents who attended that meeting, with over 80 of them testifying in opposition to the mining expansion proposal. Members of the public were allowed to speak for 3 minutes to the BOCC – period. The motion passed by a vote of 3-1, with Commissioner Frank Mann in opposition.

The final public hearing on these amendments will be on June 19, 2019.

No matter where you live in Lee County, this decision will affect you and your community. Upstream land use decisions like expanding the areas of Lee County that can be mined have a direct effect on downstream flooding and estuarine water quality. Last summer’s water quality problems and related economics are not just because of Lake Okeechobee releases, but also because of decisions like this that are made in our name in our own backyard.

If these Lee Plan amendments are approved, they won’t only affect current residents throughout Lee County – they’ll affect future generations as well.

This is our last chance:
County Commission Meeting
Wednesday, June 19 at 9:30am
Old Lee County Courthouse, Downtown Fort Myers

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