Tuesday, August 21, 2018
News Roundup

Commissioner Jim Adkins holds the key vote on proposed new mine

The slim hope of avoiding the worst local land-use decision in years rests with county Commissioner Jim Adkins.

All it would take is a "no" vote on Tuesday, when the commission will be asked whether to approve a 573-acre rock mine just west of Brooksville.

Permission to mine this land requires a change to the county's comprehensive plan, which needs a super-majority — four votes to approve and, more to the point here, two votes to kill.

Or, considering that Commissioner Diane Rowden has said she's against the mine, one additional vote.

That's it. One vote.

But I did say "slim hope" for a reason.

The mining property is owned by people with last names such as Bronson, Kimbrough, Mason and Buckner. Adkins started working as a firefighter in Brooksville in 1972, which means he's had more than four decades to learn that life is easier in this county if you don't tick these people off.

And, to be honest, Adkins doesn't have a long history of standing up to the powerful and for the public.

The previous big, bad land decision came five years ago, in the depths of a housing bust, when the commission approved a planned city in a mining pit, the Quarry Preserve, over the objections of just about everybody who didn't stand to make money on the deal.

Adkins was an unequivocal "yes."

And Adkins was first elected in 2008 as one of that era's classic government haters. He voted against funding for parks and libraries, against the extravagance of installing picnic tables at county-owned Peck Sink and against — absolutely against — THE Bus, the county's public transit system.

But there is reason for at least some hope. Last week, Adkins opposed extending the break on school and transportation impact fees for nearly another year. And if the puppet masters tried to pull his strings via text messages, as they did with Commissioner Jeff Holcomb, he showed that he wasn't quite as firmly tethered as we might have assumed.

The texts to Holcomb's phone last Tuesday, made public at the Times' request, came from former Hernando County Association of Realtors president Ana Trinque and former Hernando Builders Association president Mary Mazzuco, who asked Holcomb how he could possibly vote to restore impact fees.

"Our industry is dead, you guys just stomped us down ... further," Mazzuco wrote.

Holcomb said he didn't see the messages until well after he had made it clear, later in the meeting, that his vote never meant he wanted to bring back impact fees, that it was actually a vote to bring them back later and at a lower level.

In other words, he wanted to make it absolutely clear that he does and always did support the idea of robbing school kids to pay for our continuing gift to builders and Realtors.

Glad to know you're standing by your guns, Mr. Holcomb.

Adkins made no such reversal or clarification. He told me this week that he just thinks the impact fee breaks have gone on long enough.

And he didn't commit to voting one way or the other on the mine. But he did say that he will meet with mining opponent DeeVon Quirolo today, and that he wants to hear what she has to say about the proposed mine's economic impact.

Which is, basically, that tourism is a much bigger part of our economy than mining and that the wrong vote would do much more harm to tourism than it would benefit mining — that, in fact, the benefits won't extend much beyond Cemex, the Mexico-based mining giant that will use this land, and the local giants who will get to lease it to them.

They get a big pile of money, and, in place of one of the county's trademark, highly marketable limestone ridges, we get a big hole.

So, come on, Jim. You're not going to be in office much longer. You've cast enough votes to make your home county a place people are less likely to want to move to or visit.

How about one of the other kind of vote? Just one.

Contact Dan DeWitt at [email protected]; follow @ddewitttimes.

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