1. News

Residents say mining boom supplants their peace and quiet

A dump truck emerges at the Lago Verde sand mine in Spring Hill. At a recent meeting, about 50 neighbors objected to a proposed expansion of mining, fearing their quality of life will decline.
Published Jan. 21, 2016

SPRING HILL — Arlen Black and her late husband, James, moved from Tampa to their 142-acre homestead in northern Pasco County 13 years ago for a simple reason — peace and quiet.

It hasn't worked out. Her husband died several years ago, and the hoped-for peace and quiet disappeared after nearby land morphed from agriculture to lime rock mining, which has neighbors complaining about the blasting.

That mine, initially rejected but later approved in 2013 by Pasco County, is Lago Verde and sits on the west side of U.S. 41 about 4 miles north of State Road 52 in the largely rural area of Pasco's northern tier, but close to about 200 homes. A second mine, the Equis Reserve Borrow Pit, now operates across the street. And Seven Diamonds LLC, a 2-year-old company affiliated with developer and eye surgeon Dr. James Gills, is now seeking permission to operate a 143-acre sand and lime rock mine north and west of Lago Verde.

"This proliferation is exactly what we feared would happen," neighbor Stephanie Schatzman said. "The county has failed us big time."

Lawsuits over county approval of the Lago Verde mine and the administration of an escrow account to cover property damages are pending. In the meantime, about 50 neighbors came to a community meeting Tuesday night at New Beginnings Family Church on Michigan Lane, mostly to object to the proposed expansion of mining. Black was accompanied by her Tampa attorney, Ed Turanchik, a former Hillsborough County commissioner.

"Of course, we have concerns, a lot of concerns, about the potential impacts on lifestyle and property values," Turanchik said.

There was no formal public hearing on the Seven Diamonds proposal. But people still shared stories about their disdain for the County Commission and Lago Verde and expressed fears that their quality of life is about to get worse from another mine.

"The last blast shook the rafters in the attic," said Nita Mehnert, who lives on Bakersfield Drive.

She said her husband, retired Air Force Col. A.E. Mehnert, has Alzheimer's and post-traumatic stress disorder, and her chore after the blasts is "to convince him he's still in Florida and not back in Vietnam."

Real estate agent Cheri Pasterchek of Pasco Lake Trailer Estates said she won't do business in Pasco County.

"I don't want to be party to subjecting anyone to the disrespect the County Commission has shown the residents of this area."

"It's really not right," said Mary Wilson, also of Bakersfield Drive. "People go home to their peace and quite, and instead, we get this. It's like an earthquake."

The influence of Gills, whose companies developed Trinity, and one of his top officers, Seven Diamonds president Lew Friedland on the Pasco Economic Development Council's board of directors, hasn't escaped the neighbors' attention.

Other corporate entities overseen by Friedland have contributed more than $20,000 to the current or the most recent campaigns of the five sitting county commissioners.

"The owners of this company are people who have been in Pasco County and been developing in Pasco County a long time. We're not shy to say that," Friedland said. "We build good projects. We meet all the requirements.

"(Lime rock) is a resource. You can't build roads and other construction projects without it, and the resource happens to be here."

Three public hearings will be held in the future. Seven Diamonds needs conditional use and mining permits approved by Pasco's Development Review Committee, the Planning Commission and finally the County Commission before operations can begin.


  1. The Bookstore at the  Oxford Exchange during its First Friday event on 09/06/13. TIMES (2013)  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Plus other Instagram-worthy spots around Tampa Bay.
  2. FILE - In this Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018 file photo, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi speaks to reporters outside the West Wing of the White House in Washington, after meeting with President Donald Trump about about responses to school shootings. Bondi is preparing to defend Trump against accusations that he pressured a foreign government to aid his re-election campaign. And she’s stepping down from a lobbying where she represented foreign interests (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File) J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE  |  AP
    The special advisor to President Trump incorrectly stated Sondland’s role while appearing on national TV ahead of the EU ambassador’s testimony.
  3. Although people with insurance pay nothing when they get their flu shot, many don’t realize that their insurers foot the bill — and that those companies will recoup their costs eventually.
    Federal law requires health insurers to cover the vaccines at no charge to patients, but the companies eventually recoup the cost through higher premiums.
  4. Check for the latest breaking news and updates. Tampa Bay Times
    The FDLE is investigating the incident, during which deputies fired their weapons in an attempt to stop the driver.
  5. For the latest news and information, go to TMCCARTY  |  times staff
    The lawsuits claimed the individuals were unable to access public establishments because they did not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  6. The latest advisory from the National Hurricane Center shows the storm moving toward the northeast out to sea. National Hurricane Center
    An early morning advisory shows the storm turning toward the northeast.
  7. Check for the latest breaking news and updates. Tampa Bay Times
    The Shih Tzu, owned by the suspect’s uncle, was then tossed into a canal.
  8. Check for the latest breaking news and updates. Tampa Bay Times
    Both victims had gunshot wounds that deputies said were not life-threatening.
  9. Pasco County School Buses. Times (2018)
    The School Board also approved a student calendar for 2020-21, with Aug. 10 as the first day of classes.
  10. Enterprise Village in Largo is celebrating 30 years this month. The facility, which provides hands-on education about economics, has served generations of children across the Tampa Bay area. In this photo from Nov. 7, fifth-graders from Safety Harbor Elementary School begin their day at the village. SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times
    More than 400,000 kids in the Tampa Bay region have gone through the program, which offers a hands-on look at the free enterprise system.