Plans for 16,000 homes in south Lake County, near Disney World, were nearly thrown for a loop Wednesday after the county’s staff recommended approving a sand mine in the middle of the proposed development.
A sand mine controversy has pitted Lake County landowners against Cemex Construction.
Located off US Route 27, south of Clermont, there are thousands of acres of citrus groves and other farmland. It’s an area developers want to turn into the project called Wellness Way, with homes, health sector businesses and about 2,000 new jobs.
“It’s the whole in the doughnut,” said Jim Carr, and landowner. “It’s the best property left in Central Florida. Lake County and Clermont have done a good thing they’ve planned.”
That’s why many people were shocked to find the county’s staff recommended approval of the 1,200-acre sand mine.
The issue went before a zoning board Tuesday. Landowners, mayors of surrounding cities and other residents unanimously voiced concerns about the Cemex mine, which would operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week for the next 30 years.
Roger Sims, an attorney for Cemex, said property rights are important – for both parties.
“Our property rights are just as important as anybody else’s,” Sims said. “Our owner has the right to develop his property the way he sees fit as long as he complies with the law.”
During the meeting, it became clear the sand mine will be facing an uphill battle. None of the surrounding landowners said they’d sell an inch of their land so that Cemex could build a road to US Route 27 for the company’s 160 trucks per day.
The company suddenly said it would build the road to Orange County instead, but commissioners voted to deny that permit, stating there were no traffic studies presented to support that idea. Orange County residents were not properly notified of the idea, either.
“We’re very disappointed,” Sims said. “We think we met all the criteria, and they decided differently.”
Sims said Cemex had not decided whether it will continue to pursue the project or find an alternate location.
Lake County is working with the state on a sector plan for developing the Four Corners area. That proposal is due back Friday and could potentially ban mining from the Wellness Way project.