The Gainesville Sun has an article dealing with the proposed phosphate mine in Union and Bradford Counties. According to what is written below, HPS II seems to believe that their property rights extend to putting the aquifer and local rivers at risk.
We believe HPS II has the right to dig holes in their land, but the problem is that phosphate mines can and have caused spills and sinkholes which contaminate the aquifer, pollute rivers, and kill wildlife. HPS II’s property does not extend to the aquifer and the rivers. In addition, phosphate mines can and have gone bankrupt, leaving an environmental mess behind that taxpayers much clean up. HPS II has already violated rules, indicating they are either incompetent or lacking in respect for the law. It seems likely that their lawyers will discover that the Bert J. Harris Private Property Protection Act will not serve them in this case.
We also believe Union County has the right to decide what industry may or may not operate in their jurisdiction.
The battle between Union County officials and a company established to mine for phosphates in the county is now a legal one.
The company, HPS II Enterprise, filed a lawsuit last Monday against Union County through the Florida Eighth Judicial Circuit in hopes that the court will force the county’s hand in deciding how to proceed with accepting and processing applications for special-use permits that would let the company mine for phosphates in the county.
Last month, Union County commissioners voted to extend through February 2019 its moratorium on such permits, but HPS officials contend in the lawsuit that the moratorium, which is entering its third year, “is wholly unreasonable and has no rational relationship” with the county reviewing its existing comprehensive plan and map.
“The true underlying purpose of the moratorium was to prevent HPS from engaging in mining activities,” the suit reads.
“The right to due process and the ability to reasonably use one’s own property are cornerstones of American democracy, enshrined centuries ago in the U.S. and Florida constitutions,” according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit claims that since Union County developed its comprehensive plan in 1991, it has treated mining as an allowable use of property in designated areas. It also states that HPS, in an attempt to mine for phosphate on its property, has gone to great lengths to ensure its proposed operation is consistent with the county’s comprehensive plan and land development regulations.
With the filing of the lawsuit, HPS has abandoned attempts to use an independent mediator to negotiate an agreement to settle the issue.
According to the lawsuit, HPS was hopeful the mediation route would eliminate “the potential for costly and unnecessary litigation. However, it is now clear that the county is not interested in fulfilling its statutory duties to work with local constituents.”
As a consequence, according to the lawsuit, the matter will be resolved in court in order to preserve the private property rights of local landowners.
Meanwhile, Bradford County officials are moving forward with reviewing an application by HPS to mine for phosphates in the rural county northeast of Alachua County.
The issue isn’t scheduled to be discussed at any Bradford County Commission meetings or public hearings in the near future, Sexton said.
Attempts to reach Union County Attorney Russ Wade and other Union County officials were unsuccessful Thursday and Friday.