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That's one mine hearing down ...

Sally Sevier, outspoken leader of the Citizens Alliance for a Responsible Mining Ordinance, wore a blue dress and a bright orange sticker declaring "I SUPPORT MINING."

The sentiment may have surprised some at Tuesday's hearing on the proposed mining ordinance. Particularly those who have claimed Sevier's goal has been to destroy the mining industry in Hernando County.

"I think it should be made quite clear that no one in CARMO wants to put mining out of business or to put their employees out of work," she told county commissioners and an audience of about 100 people at the National Guard Armory on Spring Hill Drive. "That has never been the intent on our side."

The first of two hearings, the latest effort to reach agreement on county regulation of the mines, opened amicably. The next hearing is set for June 29.

County Development Director Grant Tolbert briefly summarized the proposed ordinance, which is a product of nine months of intense collaboration among Tolbert, mining representative Jake Varn and CARMO's attorney, Doug Bevins.

The ordinance includes compromises from both sides on several issues. And where Varn and Bevins could not reach middle ground, Tolbert reached it for them.

"We have honest differences of opinion" on legal and philosophical levels, Varn said. "Some we can do something about, and some I don't think we can."

The prime sticking points, which were not resolved Tuesday, include:

Setbacks: The draft calls for 500 feet between mining activity and residential property lines. The mines want 100-foot setbacks. CARMO wants 1,500 feet.

Water: The draft would allow Southwest Florida Water Management District to continue regulating water use. The mines agree. But CARMO would rather the county have the power to consider water use during five-year reviews of each mining permit.

Permitting: The draft provides for 25-year mining permits, subject to extensive reviews every five years. The mines want indefinite or 25-year permits without reviews. CARMO wants the county to reconsider permits every five years.

Vesting: The mines want all existing property they own "vested," or grandfathered, so the new ordinance does not apply. CARMO wants vesting granted on a more site-specific basis.

Charlie Price, president of the Hernando County Mining Association and plant manager of Vulcan ICA, said that despite the remaining disagreements, he is pleased to have reached this point.

Jake Varn agreed.

"In my opinion, I am of the view that we have delivered a document where we probably have a consensus of opinion on 90 percent of the ordinance," he said. "This is far superior to what we had a year ago."

When commissioners meet again in two weeks at the armory, they are expected to take action on the ordinance.

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