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After mining, farm land to be reclaimed

The plan, presented by Vulcan and the property owner, gets the nod.

Vulcan/ICA won another round Monday in its effort to expand its Brooksville Quarry by 130 acres along Buczak Road near Brooksville Rock Road.

The plan, recommended for approval by the Planning and Zoning Commission, would let the mining company excavate hard lime rock for up to six years. It also includes more than 30 acres to store topsoil removed from the property so it eventually can be returned to the mining pits.

Land owner Frank Buczak insisted that none of the soil leave his property as part of his agreement with Vulcan. He is requiring that the company restore his land to its current condition and rezone it back to agricultural.

"Reclamation is part of the Hernando County mining ordinance. We've just set a time line to it," Buczak said. "The environmental issues are very important to our family. If you reclaim it to its natural state, nature will take care of the rest."

Planning commissioner Al Sevier took issue with the idea of rezoning 30 acres to mining use even though the land would be used solely for storing the soil. Vulcan officials acknowledged that no lime rock appears to be under that land.

"My big concern is, once something is zoned mining, it almost never goes away," said Sevier, who also opposed a comprehensive plan amendment last year that allowed this project to move forward.

He argued that Vulcan could store mounds of topsoil on land zoned for agricultural uses, and opposed rezoning that portion of the property. He noted that in many instances, promises to reclaim mining pits have not come to fruition.

Scott Steady, a lawyer representing Buczak and Vulcan, said the county can start the rezoning process after six years of mining if the company does not initiate the effort. He urged the planning board to follow the comprehensive plan amendment and approve change to allow mining activity.

Planning Commissioner Bob DeWitt, who moved to support the change, said he thought Buczak's deal with Vulcan seemed a good example of how to hold a mining company's feet to the fire to ensure the land is returned to its original condition while also allowing the company to access the resources it desires.

He suggested that before and after pictures be taken so other land owners and mining companies can see how the process works.

Vulcan sought to use the new location because it is running out of the construction material on an adjacent 4,000-acre site owned by Southdown Inc. No neighbors to the property spoke out about the proposal.