Sunday, June 24, 2018
News Roundup

Limerock mining plan divides Pasco community

SHADY HILLS — Bill Roth drove through his Shady Acres neighborhood, extolling the virtues of the peaceful rural community off U.S. 41 where horses and cattle roam amid the homes on 5 acres or more.

He lamented the drop in the water level of what used to be lakes in the region, blaming increased pumping as a culprit. Yet he found hope in Pasco County's purchase of nearby land for its environmental conservation efforts.

The critical next step, Roth said, is to stop a proposal for a limerock mine just north of Shady Acres, a middle-class subdivision with houses ranging in size from 1,500 to more than 4,000 square feet.

"We want a greenbelt," he explained, "not a limerock mining belt."

Almost one year ago, county commissioners rejected Outlaw Ridge Inc.'s request to expand its Lago Verde sand mining operation. It wanted to blast for limerock at the location 3 miles south of County Line Road on the west side of U.S. 41.

The developer did not go away quietly, though.

Instead, it claimed the commission's denial decreased its property value, and sought relief through mediation. Months of talks later, attorneys for the county, Outlaw Ridge and some homeowners came up with a deal that goes to the commission on May 7. (It had been scheduled for April 10, but the county ran into problems with its public hearing advertisement.)

The proposed settlement includes the creation of a $510,000 escrow account to pay for any damages from mining, or if there are none, to cover neighborhood improvements. It limits blasting to three times monthly, setting time constraints on excavation, crushing and related activities. It gives the developer one 15-year permit with no extensions, and specifies that after mining ends, the site must be a park, open space or residential housing.

"We have addressed the objections of two of the individuals that live closest to it," said David Smolker, an attorney for Outlaw Ridge. "We've bent over backward to provide measures to mitigate any impacts that occur. We agreed to restrictions more restrictive than those placed on similar limerock mines. . . . I'm not sure what else you could do, short of not having limerock mining at all, to satisfy the home­owners association."

County attorneys are recommending approval, noting the alternative could be expensive.

"The Board of County Commissioners is not required to accept the proposed settlement," assistant county attorney David Goldstein said via email. "If the Board rejects the proposed settlement, Outlaw Ridge has made it clear that they intend to sue the County for damages and withdraw any of the concessions that were made in the proposed settlement."

Smolker said the group's claim exceeds $10 million.

"Not that we are trying to publicly threaten the county. We're not," he said. "I'm just stating a fact."

Roth and others in the Shady Acres homeowners association don't want the county to give in to what they consider bullying threats. The county, they argued, should not approve the mine simply to avoid potentially costly litigation.

"We just hope our commissioners still have enough courage to stand up against the mine," said Susan Hoffacker, an association director.

Hoffacker expressed a concern that if limerock mining is allowed at the Lago Verde site, two other adjacent properties of hundreds of acres could become the next target to expand the mine. She also worried about the potential for sinkholes, and air, water and noise pollution, if the blasting is allowed.

Smolker called those objections the "standard parade of horribles" that neighbors bring forward for LULU (locally unpopular land use) proposals. Goldstein, meanwhile, suggested that there's nothing incongruous about having mining and county-protected environmental lands in close proximity.

"Even if they are incompatible adjacent uses, County staff views the mining operation as a limited duration use in the area," he wrote. "The permanent use for the property is required to be park, open space or residential. These permanent uses are clearly compatible with the nearby conservation lands."

The homeowners association has already spent $70,000 to fight the blasting, money originally slated to pay for road improvements.

Two of the neighborhood's homeowners closest to the mine have abandoned the battle as part of the mediation discussions, in which Outlaw Ridge agreed to acquire their properties.

"I believe what is on the table is the best option that is available," said Kim Vowell, whose land abuts the mine property.

She noted that the developer could petition for a larger mine, and seek to blast more and to operate longer hours. Its offer is a workable compromise that doesn't put the county in a financial hole, Vowell said.

She criticized the homeowners association as intransigent, and said some board members played both sides by having a lawyer participate in settlement talks while publicly criticizing the project.

Roth denied the accusation, saying the association was kicked out of mediation after rejecting a buyout offer, and called Vowell a traitor and a sellout for abandoning the anti-mine cause.

They both acknowledged that whatever the outcome of the mine, the neighborhood is unlikely to be the same.

"The tensions have been very, very high. It's just not going to heal," Vowell said. "I've put a gate on my front, I've put an alarm on my house, because I don't trust my neighbors."

Roth said he would help Vowell's horse if it gets out. But "a lot of other folks will not be as understanding as I am. They will hold it against her. And that's unfortunate."

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 909-4614. Follow @JeffSolochek on Twitter.

 
Comments
Rays team up to beat Yankees again 4-0

Rays team up to beat Yankees again 4-0

ST. PETERSBURG — With all that's been said, tweeted, ranted and written on these pages and elsewhere about the Rays' odd, unorthodox, weird and some days downright wacky pitching plan, this might be the craziest thing yet:It's working.Like, rea...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Greg Auman answers your questions about NFL’s investigation into Jameis Winston

Greg Auman answers your questions about NFL’s investigation into Jameis Winston

There are many unanswered questions and discrepancies about the story of Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston and the March 2016 Uber ride in Arizona that has led to his upcoming three-game suspension for violating the NFL's conduct policy.The Bucs won't ...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Will this be Jameis Winston’s last season in a Bucs uniform?

Will this be Jameis Winston’s last season in a Bucs uniform?

A t his introductory news conference after being drafted No. 1 overall by the Bucs in 2015, Jameis Winston said to judge him on his actions moving forward."Actions speak so much louder than words, or what they may have read or what they may have hear...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Rays Tales: Why ‘trades’ and ‘prospects’ are always in same conversation

Rays Tales: Why ‘trades’ and ‘prospects’ are always in same conversation

Besides the continual evolution of their intriguing pitching plan, the primary topics of conversation for the Rays over the next several weeks will be trades and prospects. And not mutually exclusively.Some sooner than others, the Rays are going to c...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Former Mitchell High player Nathan Smith taken in NHL draft by Jets

Former Mitchell High player Nathan Smith taken in NHL draft by Jets

It's rare to see an NHL draft pick with Tampa Bay ties, but the Jets used a third-round pick Saturday on center Nathan Smith, 19, who played for Mitchell High School in Trinity and most recently for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders of the USHL.Smith was ...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Report: Lightning to talk to John Tavares during free-agent courting period

Report: Lightning to talk to John Tavares during free-agent courting period

Despite limited salary-cap room, the Lightning is among at least five teams expected to talk with Islanders All-Star center John Tavares, who can be a free agent July 1, when the courting period begins Sunday, ESPN reported.Tavares also is expected t...
Updated: 10 hours ago

Strangers are coming together to honor two killed in Bayshore crash

TAMPA — John Reisinger has seen miracles since his niece and 21-month-old grand-niece were killed while trying to cross Bayshore Boulevard 30 days ago. Some, he says, are too painful to talk about. Others he’s still trying to make sense of, such as h...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Rays journal: New confidence carries over for Willy Adames

Rays journal: New confidence carries over for Willy Adames

ST. PETERSBURG — The key to SS Willy Adames rapping two of the biggest hits in the Rays' 4-0 win Saturday actually took place the night before.An RBI single that snapped an 0-for-12 and a second hit two winnings later in Friday's game restored ...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Another small, quick forward headlines Lightning’s draft picks

Another small, quick forward headlines Lightning’s draft picks

Even without a first-round pick, the Lightning wrapped up its draft with seven picks Saturday, starting with Gabriel Fortier, an undersized 18-year-old forward from Quebec in the second round."They were guys that we really wanted," Lightning director...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Saturday’s Rays-Yankees game

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Saturday’s Rays-Yankees game

INF Daniel Robertson has only played two games after a short DL stint, but it seems like he has already made a half dozen great plays. Willy Adames and Jake Bauers get the attention, but Robertson has the skills to steal the show any night.It is obvi...
Updated: 10 hours ago