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Mine neighbor challenges Cemex expansion near Brooksville

A backhoe digs deep into soft limerock at Cemex's Brooksville location. The company has asked to expand its operation. Times file
Published Jul. 18, 2018

BROOKSVILLE — A resident who would be directly impacted by the Cemex lime rock mining expansion has challenged the county's approval of that project with the Florida Division of Administrative Hearings.

In a petition filed last week, Heinrich Bracker seeks a hearing to determine whether the Hernando County Commission complied with Florida law when it changed the county comprehensive plan this year. The change allowed 730 acres of undeveloped land west of Brooksville to go from residential and commercial use to mining and commercial use.

The proposed mine expansion, which Cemex pressed several times in recent years, was opposed by nearby residents organized as Neighbors Against Mining. The county's Planning and Zoning Commission recommended against the land use change, saying it did not comply with the county's comprehensive plan.

Despite the opposition, the County Commission agreed to forward the proposal to the state for review. In June, after the state review, the commission voted unanimously to approve the changes.

Bracker lives on Eureka Drive, next to property approved for mining expansion, and has legal standing to challenge the decision, according to the petition.

The petition cites what it calls inconsistencies between the Cemex proposal and the county's comprehensive plan, including:

• Protections of current and future residential areas from "incompatible uses.''

• Protection of Bay Care Health Brooksville hospital, across State Road 50 from the proposed mine expansion, from incompatible land uses.

• Protection of the county's "citizens, air, land, and water resources from the adverse effects of resource extraction.''

• Protection from resource extraction "in areas of habitats known to support viable populations of threatened and endangered species.'' Gopher tortoises, a threatened species, and protected birds, snakes and the Sherman's Fox Squirrel are found in the area.

• Protection of ground water and historical resources such as the adjacent African American Spring Hill Cemetery.

• A failure to support economic develop goals, because the expansion would move jobs from one mining site to another, rather than create new jobs.

"As a matter of practice, the county attorney's office does not comment on pending litigation,'' said Jon Jouben, deputy county attorney.

County officials have voiced support for the Cemex expansion because it lengthens the life of mining jobs in the county and because Cemex is the county's top property tax payer. The company also routinely gives tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to sitting commissioners and the county's Republican Executive Committee, an issue raised by critics over their years of fighting the expansion.

The Cemex proposal would expand mining onto a new area through a 20-year lease with property owners. After they are finished mining, applicants said they plan to make the land suitable for residential development.

Contact Barbara Behrendt at bbehrendt@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1434.

>>>Previous coverage:> Hernando Commission says yes to 20 more years of rock mining outside Brooksville

>>>Previous coverage:> Hernando Commission grants first approval on lime rock mine expansion

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