Cemex mining expansion resurfaces

Cemex mining expansion resurfaces with the yellow rezoning signs re-appearing on Cortez across from Bayfront Hospital. In 2014 and 2015 Cemex went through the process to attempt the rezoning and comprehensive plan amendment for 730 acres along Cortez Blvd (across from Bayfront Hospital) adjacent to their current mining operation. The 730 acres would be leased to Cemex for 20 years for mining purposes. Following the 20-year mining period, the owners, prominent residents including Tommy Bronson, Jim Kimbrough, Robert Buckner, Joe Mason and others, plan to create a residential development.

Ultimately, the Cemex comprehensive plan amendment request was withdrawn in 2015 due to protests from community members and the lack of a supermajority to approve the change.

In May 2017, the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) voted to get rid of the supermajority requirement for comprehensive plan amendments, so now the change could have a greater likelihood of being approved.

Here is an overview of the issue dating back to July 14, 2014.

On July 14, 2014, the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) voted to recommend the BOCC deny a request to amend the Future Land Use Map for the 730-acre tract from Residential Commercial Overlay to Mining and Regional Commercial Overlay. P&Z Commission voted 4-1 for the recommendation to deny.

On Aug. 12, 2014, Cemex requested that the BOCC hearing be deferred to Dec. 9, 2015 so that they could create a virtual view of the property from State Road 50 and Fort Dade Avenue in efforts to alleviate concerns about the appearance of the property during mining.

On Dec. 9, 2014, the BOCC voted to send the comprehensive plan amendment to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) for review. Commissioners Dukes, Nicholson, Adkins and Holcomb voted in favor of sending the issue on to the FDEP with Commissioner Rowden voting against it. The meeting lasted from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. with an hour and a half break.

In February 2015, FDEP and other state agencies completed their analyses of the comp plan amendment. The agencies did not find any major issues, but did relate some recommendations for the project.

A July 19, 2015 deadline to adopt the amendment was given. If the BOCC did not adopt by that date, then the application would be deemed withdrawn.
On Feb. 24, 2015, the BOCC approved the Withlacoochee Regional Planning Council to conduct an Economic Impact study on the project, identifying the impact on property taxes which could have an indirect relationship to property values. It would not directly address impact on property values because it is not a broad economic study or policy study, rather it is strictly a modeling scenario.

On April 28, 2015, Cemex withdraws application for a comprehensive plan amendment. At the time, comprehensive plan amendments required a supermajority vote (two-thirds or 4 out of 5) for approval. While Commissioner Rowden was staunchly against the mining expansion, approval hung on the votes of the 4 other commissioners. Following several hours of public comment Commissioner Adkins stated he would vote against approval.

“The only thing I have on this that has not been produced to me is evidence that there is lack of existing supplies,” he said. Following a short recess, Darryl Johnston, the attorney representing CEMEX withdrew their application.

In May 2017, (with two new commissioners on the dais) the BOCC voted to repeal the comprehensive plan amendment supermajority requirement 4-0 (with Commissioner Mitten absent).

On Monday Nov. 13, 2017, a workshop was held at the Hernando County Mining Enrichment Center to discuss the pending zoning request and development of the property located north of Highway 50 and south of Fort Dade Ave. CEMEX representatives and members of their professional consultant and engineering teams addressed specific resident concerns.

The commission has substantially changed with the election of two new commissioners: John Allocco and Steve Champion replacing Commissioners Adkin and Rowden. The threshold is now three votes rather than four to amend the comprehensive plan. At this point it seems likely to pass, but the opponents of the mining expansion are going to try to convince the commissioners to vote against the measure.

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