Wednesday, January 17, 2018
News Roundup

Pasco Commission approves mining over objections from residents

DADE CITY — Allen Bornshceuer wanted to keep his Serenity Stables serene.

That meant stopping a proposal for a limerock mining operation near his business in north-central Pasco County.

"I teach saddlebred riding lessons," he told Pasco County commissioners on Tuesday. "One blast while a 4-year-old is learning to ride and having the horse get spooked and dump the child on the ground is going to be too much."

Other residents of the nearby Shady Acres subdivision warned of noise and damage to their homes from blasts, truck traffic and lower property values.

Despite that, commissioners approved the mine by a 4-1 vote, with Jack Mariano dissenting.

"This was going to be a rural area, a quiet rural area," Mariano said. "If we allow this one mine … don't we open this up for every one of those places that wants to be a mine?"

But the others said the concessions the owner made in a mediation settlement were enough to protect residents.

"I understand the people's concerns here, and they can be scary, but I don't believe it's going to be as bad as you think it is," Commissioner Kathryn Starkey said.

David Smolker, one of the attorneys for Lago Verde developer John Dalfino, said the settlement resulted in the mine exceeding state standards on blasting. He also reminded the county that the mine was compatible with its long-term growth plan.

"Your bases are already covered," he said.

The settlement, which was reached through mediation with the county and three of four residents who filed as interested parties, limits blasts to three times monthly between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays and crushing to between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. weekdays.

The settlement also 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 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.

The settlement ends a process that began more than a year ago, when commissioners rejected mining company Outlaw Ridge Inc.'s request to expand its 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.

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 the deal that went to the commission Tuesday.

County attorneys recommended approval, noting the alternative, a lawsuit, could be expensive.

But homeowners urged the county not to give in to what they consider bullying threats. The county, they argued, should not approve the mine simply to avoid potentially costly litigation.

"You decided in 2012 that it did not fit in with the character of the community," HOA attorney Ralf Brookes said.

Homeowners also expressed concern that if limerock mining is allowed, two other adjacent properties of hundreds of acres could become the next target to expand the mine. Smolker called residents' objections the "standard parade of horribles" and said blasting was "a red herring."

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

"I believe what you have in front of you is a fabulous compromise," said Kim Vowell, whose land abuts the mine property. Several audience members laughed and jeered as she spoke.

After the hearing, some homeowners said they would consider going to court.

Stefanie Schatzman had harsh words for Starkey, who was not on the commission when the matter came up last year.

"She never even came out to look at the area," said Schatzman, who has lived in the area since 1992, before the mine. "We have so much invested in these properties. We were there first."

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