Cemex Construction Materials received approval to expand its lime rock mine in Brooksville, FL onto more than 500 acres of land that had been designated for agricultural uses.
Final rezoning approval came from Hernando County commissioners who voted unanimously to rezone the property. The commission also approved a 100-acre site on another mine-owned property as a conservation easement to mitigate the loss of wildlife habitat in the new mining area.
The Tampa Bay Times reported that the applicants for the rezoning of the 573.5 acres were Old Spring Hill, LLC, which owns the property, and Cemex. Other adjacent landowners involved in the swap were Spring Hill Land Trust, BMM Land Trust and BK Land Trust.
Owners of the mining properties sought a 20-year lease with plans to develop the property after that into a residential community.
The Cemex expansion met with years of organized opposition from area residents. Through a series of public meetings, the Neighbors Against Mining group raised concerns about the project.
Commissioners have argued that Cemex is the county’s top taxpayer and that it creates important jobs for the community. Mining officials have said repeatedly that this expansion will not create new jobs, but will extend existing jobs. Cemex official James Morris has estimated the economic impact of the new mining expansion at $50 million for its 20-year life.
The mining application went through several cycles, starting with a proposed change in land use from residential to mining in the county’s comprehensive plan. The proposal was first heard in 2011, but after a meeting with residents who opposed it, the effort stalled.
When the idea resurfaced in 2014, county Planning Commission members recommended denial. County commissioners were in favor, but agreed to consider an economic impact study of the proposal.
In 2015, Cemex withdrew its application when two county commissioners opposed the idea. At that time, the county required a super majority vote to change the comprehensive plan, which meant four of the five had to agree to the change. Since then, the County Commission has repealed the super majority vote requirement.
Commissioners approved the change to the comprehensive plan unanimously last year, but the Neighbors Against Mining filed a formal administrative challenge. In May, an administrative law judge ruled in favor of Cemex, setting the stage for final approval.
Photo: A Lime stone mine, credit Shutterstock.