Hernando commission votes to send controversial mining plan on for state review

Published Dec. 10, 2014

BROOKSVILLE — A standing-room-only crowd of Hernando County residents packed the County Commission chambers on Tuesday, most of them urging commissioners to reject plans that would allow rock mining on hundreds of acres of residential and agricultural land at the western edge of Brooksville.

Many residents warned that the 20-year mining lease proposed for land owned by some of the county's most prominent and influential business leaders would negatively affect property values, ruin wildlife habitat, and taint the water and the air.

But four of five county commissioners were not convinced that the plan was so problematic and voted to send the proposal by Cemex Construction Materials Florida and the land owners to state officials for further review.

After that review, the proposal will return to the commissioners. To give final approval, a super-majority of at least four commissioners will have to vote for a change to the Hernando County Comprehensive Plan allowing the mining expansion and reconfiguration of a commercial project previously approved for part of a 730-acre parcel that fronts State Road 50. Ownership of the various parcels includes former mining executive Tommy Bronson, local lawyer Joe Mason, bank executive Jim Kimbrough and real estate broker Robert Buckner.

Commissioner Diane Rowden cast the opposing vote.

Attorney Darryl Johnston, who represents the property owners, and Cemex expert witnesses argued that many of the residents' criticisms were invalid, including the number of protected species that would lose habitat, the impact of blasting and the potential effects on water, air quality and property values.

Commissioners and the audience watched videos showing a virtual view of the proposed mining operation from the top floor of nearby Bayfront Health Brooksville hospital, as well as what drivers on State Road 50 would see.

Cemex official James Morris said the operation would not be visible from State Road 50, the hospital or Fort Dade Avenue because of berms and tree buffers.

Residents presented more than 1,000 petitions, as well as statements from local doctors and supporting resolutions from groups including a church and nearby Sierra Clubs representing more than 4,000 members. More than 40 people spoke against the proposal.

DeeVon Quirolo, who has led opposition to the plan, told commissioners that the expansion was "a bad deal for Hernando County" and detailed its inconsistency with various parts of the Hernando County Comprehensive Plan.