MASARYKTOWN — Tom Mott likes his version of a "gated community.''
Behind his gate is landscaped acreage, a pond and his house in a peaceful, rural setting east of Masaryktown and just north of the Hernando/Pasco county line.
Here is a home, he said, "to get away from it all.''
But all that, Mott and several dozen neighbors fear, might soon change.
Another neighbor, Andrew "Drew" Pittman, has plans for the 1,400 acres he owns just over the line in Pasco County. His company, Massey Partners Ltd., plans to run a sand mine operation from the site and use Arlanie and Ayers roads to truck the dirt from the pit to U.S. 41.
In April, the Southwest Florida Water Management District permitted 290 acres for the Darby Oaks Borrow Pits on the site. Pittman plans to pull 10 million cubic yards of dirt and sand from the site.
"That's 200 trucks a day, from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m., five days a week,'' Mott said. "That's not real nice for the kids or the people on horseback.''
On Thursday night, Pittman gathered the neighbors at the Cafe Masaryktown to try to ally their fears. Some were not convinced and are preparing a visit next week with the County Commission.
Public Works director Charles Mixson on Tuesday will bring county commissioners a concept plan on how to improve Arlanie Road, which is now a dirt road, to make it appropriate for the hauling route Pittman proposes.
The plan outlines the level of upgrade and maintenance that will be needed on Arlanie, depending on the number of trucks using it. Once the number rises above 20, the suggestion is to put down limerock and a surface treatment. If more than 200 trucks use the road, paving is suggested.
Pittman would pay two-thirds of those costs with the county paying the rest and taking over maintenance.
The county staff analysis also notes that Hernando County would not get any property taxes or impact fees from the operation because it is in Pasco County.
Hernando County also would have no say in other aspects of road planning in the area after the sand mine closes. As many as 600 dwelling units could be built on the site.
Mixson said he is bringing the proposal forward for discussion and to see if commissioners have any interest in pursuing a more formal agreement with Pittman's company.
Residents have been contacting county officials voicing their strong dislike for the plan and their worries about how the operation might affect their neighborhood.
Mott argues that making a road on the Pasco side of the property would affect fewer people, even if it means a slightly longer route for the trucks. Pittman has said he needs to truck the dirt to the north and west, making Arlanie the best option.
Mixson said the roads on the Pasco side of the property are in worse shape than Arlanie. He also said "this story has two sides.''
While the trucks will bring more traffic and noise to the neighborhood, they would also get the road improved, Mixson said.
But Mott said the neighbors aren't interested.
"We don't want a paved road,'' he said, describing what an attractive race track the 1.2-mile straight-as-an-arrow road would be to young drivers if it were paved. "The residents, and I can say I speak for a lot of them, are really opposed to this.''
Pittman followed up his meeting with an e-mail sent Friday detailing his plans to make sure truck drivers mind the speed limit and don't clog the road by parking along it before the pit opens in the mornings.
He also promised to replace any wells tainted, follow all the laws designed to protect the environment and he assured nearby residents that the operation will not dry up their wells.
"You already know about my commitment to improve the road,'' he wrote. "Between the dust when it's dry and the soup when it's wet, our road is a mess. As part of this process, we will improve the road and pay the county to maintain it at no cost to you.''
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1434.