|DeSoto Planning Board Passed Phosphate Mine Rezoning by the Narrowest of Margins
The DeSoto County Planning Board heard about seven hours of public testimony on June 5th and 6th last week, as well as a report from their Planning Department and a pitch from Mosaic fertilizer company. The Planning Department presented the 5-member board with a skewed directive, in the form of a Staff Report, that required them to determine the acceptability of the Rezoning Proposal – 14,000 acres of agricultural land to phosphate mining and industrial use – based on 15 criteria. The way the Staff Report was worded, however, in many cases completely dissociated the process of rezoning from the consequences of having draglines operating 24/7 and 4,000 acres of slime/fuel oil containment with railroad level crossing on your western border where SR 70 runs from Bradenton/Sarasota. The mine operation, it was said, will be determined later down the road over the course of the next 3-4 years, in later hearings, and should not even be considered as a rational reason to deny the rezone.
The Staff Report was written thusly; “This policy (drainage, wetlands, conservation, flood plain, environmentally sensitive etc) addresses operational issues that are determined and applied through Master Mining Plan and Operating Permit process …. As a consequence, this policy is not applicable to a rezoning application.”
Even at that, during their deliberations it became obvious that two of the commissioners (Martin and Masters) were prepared to deny, and a 3rd vote seemed to fall on the shoulders of the retired rancher (Hudson) and the former bank president (Schaefer). Ms Masters moved to deny the rezone and her motion was seconded by Ms Schaefer, implying that the latter also opposed the rezone. The remaining commissioners (Hudson, Provau) voted against the denial. For a moment it appeared as though the motion had passed, and the public broke out in cheers, but when the meeting was brought to order, as it turned out, even though she had helped bring the motion to the floor, Ms Schaefer was actually voting against it.
So, despite passionate and factual testimony by 48 people, most of them local, including a retired hydro-geologist and an attorney certified in land-use, compared to two employees of Mosaic, the commission followed the convoluted and wonkish directions of the DeSoto County planning director, Mr Hahn, who had positioned himself both nights of the hearing on that side of the chambers reserved for the Mosaic representatives. County Attorney, Conn, was also very instrumental in steering the matter through.
This makes our job harder. Even though the planning board is an advisory board, and had previously (May 2010) denied a Mosaic proposal for expanding the mining overlay, the Board of County Commissioners disregarded their recommendation and approved changes for the overlay. It would have been much better if we had carried the night. The County Commission meeting is scheduled for July 24. Stay tuned for updates….
Dennis Mader (Lily, FL)
This link will take you to media coverage of the Planning Board meeting: