People for Protecting Peace River Executive Director Dennis Mader has written the following update on the latest on Mosaic’s attempt to change zoning laws in DeSoto County so they can mine there.
It seems this process is identical to that in Marion Co. where AZ Ocala Ranch was denied permits for a huge development near the Withlacoochee River about a year ago. Two mitigation meetings failed to settle the dispute, so now the developer is suing the county to get its way.
Marion County has held fast in resisting this environmental disaster, as is Union County and as we hope DeSoto County will.
Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-
Florida Land Use Environmental Resolution Dispute
Now we know how Mosaic has decided to respond to DeSoto County’s refusal to rezone 14,000 acres from Ag to Mining/Industrial…: A little known Florida Statute ( 70.51) called the Florida Land-Use Environmental Dispute Resolution Act.
This law outlines a process whereby a land-owner, like Mosaic, can initiate a mediation process. The law allows for the selection by the two parties (DeSoto County and Mosaic) of a “special magistrate” who first organizes an “informal hearing” and then acts as a mediator to facilitate a resolution. If the mediation fails then the special magistrate issues a report and determines whether the county has acted “unfairly or unreasonably.”
Given the rationale of DeSoto County’s objections to the mine, it seems like it would be be a stretch to interpret them as “unfair and unreasonable.”
Briefly here are those statements of non-compliance as presented in Ordinance 2018-13 denying the rezone application:
- 1) significantly alters historic and existing residential and agricultural uses of the proposed and surrounding lands,
- 2) creates an isolated and unrelated district among adjacent and nearby agricultural and residential land uses,
- 3) would have immediate adverse effect and instill uncertainty on living conditions of the property owners in the area who have been there for generations
- 4) level train crossing (8 crossings/day @ 10 minutes) would affect traffic, congestion and public safety on State Road 70 to Bradenton,
- 5) 4,500 acres of impounded process water, destruction of existing wetlands and discharge quantities would constitute drainage problems,
- 6) uncertainty and other factors (dust, noise, pollution) would adversely affect real estate and property values,
- 7) the rezoning would be out-of-scale with any proposed or prior land use of the surrounding area – a zone greater than the nearby city of Arcadia.
If mediation fails and the special magistrate’s recommendation is rejected by either party, then the Dispute Resolution is abandoned and the owner, Mosaic, can litigate, but as our Attorney Ralf Brooks has made clear: The Florida Supreme Court has already decided that a county can deny a rezoning for a legitimate public purpose. The applicant bears the onus of convincing the county that the rezoning complies with comp plan regulations and accomplishes a legitimate public purpose. Mosaic was not able to do that during the DeSoto Mine rezoning hearings of July 25-26, so time will tell what new proposals and offerings they have up their sleeve. Mosaic already has their name in lights on the new rodeo arena on the outskirts of Arcadia, and yet they were still flatly rejected for rezoning. That’s like hitting a bases-loaded HR in the first inning and losing the game anyway….
It is stated that the hearing is to be “informal and open to the public.” Anyone living contiguous to the mine automatically qualifies to express their opinion at the hearing on this matter, or anyone who previously testified during the rezoning hearing. Apparently, the special magistrate has discretion in the matter of public participation, so at the beginning at least we should appear in droves and demand that we are included in all aspects of this process. It must be obvious to the commissioners that we support them and the decision that they made on July 26 when they denied the rezoning.
3PR is prepared to retain the services of Ralf Brooks Attorney to represent our organization and others who are qualified and wish to protect the public purpose: perpetual sustainable agriculture production including crops, cattle and equestrian operations, and the ecological integrity of wetlands, streams, rivers, wildlife habitat and tranquility.
Other organizations who have been in this effort since the beginning (Center for Biological Diversity, Suncoast Water Keepers, and Sierra Club) have all expressed their willingness to stay engaged during this critical period in our efforts to save the environment of the Peace River watershed and the Charlotte Harbor Estuary.
The next meeting of the county will take place Monday afternoon, Aug 27 at 3PM when County Attorney Don Conn convenes the Commission to seek direction pertaining to the choice of a Special Magistrate and their response to Mosaic’s letter of request for dispute resolution. There is no indication of what kind of public participation there will be, although I tend to feel that based on events of the recent past the public will also be invited to provide input. The timing is not the best, but for those who can make it, it always helps to have good numbers.
If our members and readers wish to support 3PR’s efforts with a donation, you can contribute via the 3PR website by clicking the link below:
I’ll stay in touch as this recent development unfolds and we have more facts to share with our readership.
3PR Executive Director