Mosaic rezoning voices, what July portends
DeSoto’s planning commissioners voted 3-2 to recommend the rezoning of Mosaic Fertilizer property from agriculture to mining. The June 5 hearing brought many voices to the decision, many of which will attend the July 24-25 public hearing to rezone before the DeSoto Board of County Commissioners.
The Arcadian is publishing what some of those involved in the controversial topic say about mining and the future of DeSoto County.
Judy Kirkpatrick, DeSoto County planning and zoning commissioner
Here are points I wish the public was aware of concerning the Planning & Zoning Commission and the decision: 1) The Planning Commission has no power. Zero. None. As appointed volunteers, we assist the county commissioners by reviewing staff reports and making recommendations based on information supplied by staff, applicants and the public. To quote the county’s Code of Ordinances: “The report and recommendations of the Planning Commission shall be advisory only and shall not be binding upon the Board of County Commissioners.”
2) Our charge is to follow planning regulations that apply to this beginning step on the zoning change request path. One important part of our process is reviewing the 15 factors from our Code of Ordinances, along with staff responses to these factors. These are general guidelines, not fixed rules. Our involvement is merely the opening of a door to an applicant’s zoning change request. There are many steps down this path to a final decision by the county commissioners.
3) Opinions and feelings cannot come into play during this process. We must follow regulations and use only expert evidence when making decisions. We all have our opinions. My homesite is within 350 feet of Mosaic owned property and the railroad will be less than a quarter mile away. I have an opinion, as well.
4) There are currently three vacancies on the Planning Commission Board. I would invite any county resident to apply for one of these volunteer positions.
Andy Mele, Suncoast Waterkeeper, Bradenton Beach
What transpired at the June 5 Desoto County Planning Commission hearing on a rezone of 14,000 acres, from Agriculture to Mining, was a deeply flawed exercise in circular reasoning that could usher in a generations- long era of economic despair, environmental devastation and the demise of the county’s culture and character.
Earl Hahn, County Development Director, presented a staff report— since removed from the county website—that exonerated the rezone from having any impact whatsoever upon the 15 requirements that must be satisfied in order to earn a rezone. In other words, perfect compliance with the county’s Comprehensive Plan and LDR.
Hahn accomplished this through magic thinking, by claiming that a rezone cannot possibly have any influence on the Comp Plan, or on quality of life, or traffic, or drainage problems, or breaching toxic clay ponds, or any of the 15 requirements, because it is merely an administrative act. A piece of paper. He claimed—and three commissioners agreed—that “This policy is not applicable to a rezoning application,” hence such impacts will be taken up during the application process for the Master Mine Plan some time in 2019. The rezone, it is clearly implied, is a mere formality.
The flaws in this logic are readily apparent. Sure, the physical piece of paper doesn’t create traffic or toxic clay spills that drive people out of their
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homes. But the actions it permits do create those direct impacts. Rezoning is the first door that must be opened for Mosaic to mine some 25,000 total acres in Desoto County. The act of rezoning makes mining possible, whereas, without rezoning, it would not be possible. Therefore, rezoning is directly responsible for the impacts of mining. That’s a no-brainer.
What is not so readily apparent, but is more destructive to the county’s independence, is the fact that if the BOCC approves the rezone, believing it to be a mere formality, it will have crossed the threshold for a Bert Harris Act lawsuit, one that will run into the billions. That’s how much profit Mosaic anticipates in return for its $3 million rodeo arena.
The biggest weakness in Hahn’s bending-over-backward logic is this: if, as he appears to be claiming, a rezone must be approved because it has no bearing on the established, documented impacts of the proposed activity allowed by the zoning change (!), then each and every rezoning application in county history should have enjoyed the same immunity, and no rezones should have ever been denied, because if one rezone has no impact on anything, none of them do.
I would be willing to bet money, however, that the county has denied rezones. Any prior denials will conclusively affirm that, yes, rezones do have concrete, direct impacts, sufficient to elicit a denial.
I urge the Board of County Commissioners to assert governmental integrity and independence by reviewing this matter before they take the dais to consider this rezone application, so that justice can prevail without being forced through a legal challenge.
The biggest problem with the Planning Commission was one of almost total ignorance. That is not intended as an insult. The permit process creates an avalanche of dense administrative language and quasi-factual red herrings, with very little reality behind it. Mosaic willfully cultivates ignorance, because when elected officials see what phosphate strip-mining does to a community, they will deny. Planning Commissioners did not know what a CSA is, and had clearly never seen photographs of what mining does to the land.
Please don’t make your public spend half their precious testimony, as we had to do at the Planning Commission, just to bring you up to speed on mining, and how the phosphate process actually works. You need the facts.
Heather Nedley, Mosaic Public Affairs Manager
We appreciate the thoughtful and thorough consideration given by staff and the Planning Commissioners to our re-zoning application. Being a good neighbor is important to our company and, over time, we hope to earn the trust of our neighbors who voiced concerns about the rezone. We look forward to a long and productive partnership with the county that supports the local economy, delivers an essential product to farmers, protects the environment, and does right by our community.
Henry Kuhlman, community activist, Hardee County
Are you reading the Facebook page Wake Up Desoto? It has been up less than a week. The top post has 1,845 people reached in 14 hours over night. One post of the mining map of Bone Valley titled “Three Votes Determine the Fate of Desoto” has 4,980 people reached (not boosted) in three days. You might want to read the post on Commissioners Decision Tree, it is a great explanation of how the game is being played in D (DeSoto County).
I keep hearing this but have not had time to do research. I’m told from multiple sources that the incidence of ALS and brain cancer in Hardee and mined out areas of Polk (250,000 acres) are multiple times higher than baseline averages. A retired doctor from Watson Clinic is one person that has said this. Two speakers last evening (June 5) have direct experience living next to Riverview Gypsum Stack and in Mulberry. There was an expert witness (forensic geologist and hydrologist) speaker last night that spoke to this also. This is an area that D needs to explore now.
You may have looked at Wake Up Hardee. This page is about nine years old. It’s mostly about exposing corruption and stopping the flow of public money before they can get the scams going. We have about $15,000,000 trapped in cash they cannot divert because of our use of public records laws and lawsuits.
My only interest in D is stopping Mosaic now. If they get three votes on July 24, D is as dead as Hardee and southern Polk.
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