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Hernando residents meet to organize opposition to mining plan

BROOKSVILLE — Many Hernando County residents are angry about a proposed mine site west of Brooksville, and they are making it clear they will not go down without a fight.

About 80 residents gathered Tuesday night to discuss the negative effects the mine could have on the Nature Coast and to plan opposition to block the proposal, which would allow 728 acres zoned for residential development to be converted into an open-pit lime rock mine.

The land is bordered by Cortez Boulevard on the south, Fort Dade Avenue on the west and north, and Cobb Road on the east. It is owned by several influential county residents who have a lease agreement with Mexico-based building materials company Cemex, which operates other rock mines and a cement plant in the county.

The meeting featured a panel of speakers who informed residents of the mine's environmental, health and economic consequences. Ralf Brookes, one of Florida's most prominent public interest environmental lawyers, outlined an action plan.

Opposition leader DeeVon Quirolo ticked off numerous issues with the proposed mine. Noise pollution would disturb residents of nearby houses, Bayfront Health Brooksville across the street and the historic Spring Hill Cemetery. Dust and other pollutants could cause health problems for residents. And, Quirolo said, she's most concerned about the environmental impact.

"Responsible communities are hoping to reduce their carbon footprint," she said. "Here we are in Hernando County going back to mining."

Speakers outlined the economic impact as well.

Jill Graddy, a retired real estate agent who spent more than 30 years in the business, guaranteed that property values would decline. Sellers would be required to include the home's proximity to the mine in a disclosure statement, she said.

"People aren't moving to Florida looking for a mining community," she said.

Environmentalist Gwen Bassick discussed why the mine would hurt the county's ecotourism potential. Unlike the mine, focusing on ecotourism could create new jobs, she said. Hernando offers scenic nature for runners, bikers and drivers. In fact, she said, the county's tourism website features a photo of Fort Dade Avenue.

"What in the world are (tourists) going to see in the future?" she asked the audience. "I can't even imagine it to be honest."

Cemex first introduced the plan to mine the land in 2011, but because of public opposition it never made it to the County Commission.

The current proposal has slight adjustments, Brookes said, but the opponents' attack plan should be the same: gather as many residents as possible to show up at the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting on July 14 where Cemex will reintroduce the proposal, then to the County Commission meeting in August.

"How do we stop them now? Political public outcry," Brookes said. "You've got to be there in full force."

Kathryn Varn can be reached at kvarn@tampabay.com or (352) 754-6114.

Hernando residents meet to organize opposition to mining plan 06/18/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 18, 2014 7:16pm]

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