After more than two hours of testimony and with dozens of people still waiting to speak, Cemex Construction Materials Florida on Tuesday withdrew its application to expand lime rock mining west of Brooksville after learning that it would be unable to get the super-majority of votes it needed on the Hernando County Commission to change the county’s comprehensive plan.
The mining plan was opposed by hundreds of residents, many of whom came to air their concerns to the commission. More than 1,500 people had signed petitions.
But it all came down to the decision of one commissioner – Jim Adkins. Comprehensive plan changes require at least four yes votes on the five-member commission, and it was widely known that Commissioner Diane Rowden, the commission’s lone Democrat, planned to vote against the change. Just before the leader of the opposition, DeeVon Quirolo, was about to speak, Adkins spoke up and said he would not vote in favor of the change.
The proposal was to change 730 acres designated for residential and commercial uses, with 573 becoming mining land and the rest reconfigured as commercial.
Cemex officials had argued that the mining expansion would only be temporary, for 20 years, and that it would provide needed lime rock for future construction projects, would lengthen the time that high-paying rock mining jobs would be available and that the mining could be done safely and in an environmentally responsible manner.
Residents had a different take. Mining in that area would not be compatible with surrounding land uses, they argued. Blasting would ruin the quality of life in the area, they said, and the dust would adversely affect their health. A planned conveyer belt over Fort Dade Avenue, on the north side of the property, would compromise the road’s protected canopy of trees. And the historic Spring Hill Cemetery would be damaged, as would neighbors’ property values, they argued.
Several expert witnesses spoke, and the opponents’ attorney, Ralf Brookes, argued that mining would not be compatible with the surrounding area. Residents also said that the only beneficiaries of the change would be the prominent and politically influential families who own the property and Mexico-based Cemex.
Adkins said he could not vote for the comprehensive plan change because he never saw proof that the lime rock was needed.
“I intend to vote to deny the application,” he said. By withdrawing the application, Cemex and the property owner could potentially file another application in the future
After the withdrawal, Cemex spokeswoman Sara Engdahl said, “Cemex is disappointed in the outcome of today’s hearing, and Cemex will now take time to review our options and explore our next steps.”