The push to control limerock mining is far from over, and recent county actions have made the fight against future requests more difficult.
Neighbors and opponents of expanded mining activities in the Density Reduction/Groundwater Resource DR/GR) area should be somewhat heartened by the Lee County Commission decision to reject the rezoning request for Old Corkscrew Plantation on Nov. 6.
But don’t be too encouraged. Recent county actions have lessened overall protections to prevent expansion of limerock mining in the DR/GR, and the next request – or even a legal challenge to this rejection – won’t have Lee Plan language to justify limiting more mining. Why? Because the commissioners removed it earlier this year.
By removing the plan’s Map 14 – the Limerock Mining Overlay — which concentrated mining in an area along Alico Road and was based on the need for this material, and weakening the plan language to control DR/GR mining in general, county officials opened the door for new mining requests anywhere in the DR/GR – regardless of need, regardless of existing infrastructure (and mining’s significant impact on that), and regardless of neighbors and compatibility.
This rezoning request — which was already in the works before the Lee Plan changes on mining were approved – was denied solely on the basis of the Hearing Examiner’s decision on (among other things) compatibility with the county’s land-use policies.
Now that those policies have been changed, how will they impact the next such case before the Hearing Examiner? How will future reviewers – and judges – rule when the rules once in place to protect the people on a whole host of issues are weakened or completely eviscerated?
Attorneys for Old Corkscrew Plantation clearly tipped their hand as to how they (and others) will pursue such requests in the future:
- Their economic model matters more than compatibility, so if citrus groves have to be replaced with 24-hour-a-day limerock mining operations for the good of the bottom line, that is more important than the impact of such a change on the neighbors, the road system and the environment.
- Facts from consultants matter more than facts from neighbors and residents. The facts their client has paid for meet whatever burden of proof is thrown before them, while facts presented by mere people are based on fears and lack of expertise.
- If at first you don’t succeed… change the venue (such as going to court), change the rules or change the officials.
Neighbors, residents and anyone concerned about this growing assault on the DR/GR need to do three things to prepare for the challenges ahead:
- Stay organized and stay vigilant, keep showing up at hearings and keep stating your facts – no matter how much they are denigrated by the “experts.”
- Push county officials to reinstate Map 14, and some substantial protections against mining expansion that tie future approvals to real proven need, sufficient infrastructure and compatibility with surrounding properties and environmental concerns.
- Keep pushing those elected to serve you as Lee County officials to actually SERVE you – to look out for your interests and heed your concerns, not just listen to those interests who can hire experts and sign campaign donation checks.
The fight to manage mining is far from over, and one victory (while welcome) does not end the war.
Lee Future continuously monitors upcoming applications and alerts our readers. Invite your friends and neighbors to join this mailing list and our Facebook page so we can be a strong voice when the next challenge comes.