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County expected to vote on limerock amendments

June 19, 2019
By MELISSA BILL ( , Lehigh Acres Citizen

Lee County Commissioners are expected to decide today whether to adopt amendments to Lee County's Comprehensive Plan that would change existing policies on limerock mining.

The June 19 hearing will begin at 9:30 a.m. at the Lee County Board of County Commissioners in Commission Chambers at the Old Courthouse at 2120 Main St. in Fort Myers.

This will be the public's last chance to speak on this topic before the vote.

Those opposed to the removal of Map 14 and a supply/demand study are asking for members of the community to give their input.

The proposed changes being considered are to amend Lee Plan Goals 1, 9, 10, 33, 47, and 114, Chapter XIII, and Map 14.

If passed the amendments would eliminate the Alico Road site location rule calling for mines to be located on the "traditional Alico Road corridor" and remove the current limerock mining supply/demand inventory requirements, which are based on study.

The last report commissioned by Lee County was the Waldrop report, which determined there was enough limerock to meet demand until 2032.

Recently the Village of Estero also completed a Lee County lime rock peer review that those opposed to the changes say confirm that Lee County's tri-county resource area has an ample supply of limerock to satisfy regional demand for at least 30 to 40 years.

Randy Johnson, branch manager at Sakata Seed is one of those opposed to the changes. His concerns about the adoption of the proposed amendments center around how the modifications could affect his Lehigh Acres business.

"Our business has been here since 1993 and we sit right at ground zero, surrounded by mines and mining businesses. We can't just put a greenhouse on a flatbed trailer and move somewhere else and neither can the homeowners. There are also health issue concerns from the dust," said Johnson.

Johnson said he is amazed that after so much public outcry, it seems that the amendments may go through.

"Map 14 and the rules that go with it give us peace on mind. This amendment will strip the homeowners and business owners from that peace of knowing that they are not going to be under siege from a mining operation," Johnson said.

Johnson, who has battled against the proposed Troyer Mine, said he recently received a favorable outcome when a Lee County hearing examiner recommended against the proposed rezoning of the Old Corkscrew Plantation.

Lee County hearing examiner Donna Marie Collins stated in a memorandum that "After careful consideration of the testimony and evidence submitted during the seven-day hearing, the Hearing Examiner recommends denial of the request. The Hearing Examiner finds the proposed Industrial Planned Development is not consistent with the Lee Plan because mining is not compatible with long established, and ongoing residential development patterns in the area."

The hearing examiner's recommendations on the Troyer Brothers mine has not yet been released.

Johnson said even with a favorable outcome in the Old Corkscrew case, the Lee County Board of County Commissioners can overrule her opinion and vote how they wish.

On April 17, the Lee County Commissioners voted 3-1 during a transmittal hearing towards approving the proposed changes to county's land use policies concerning limerock mines. They did so following a day full of public testimony given from local representatives and community members opposed to the changes.

Those in support of the mine amendments called limerock the "cornerstone" of the region's economy and something that should be sourced locally.

"Limestone mining provides cost-effective building materials and local jobs and is partially responsible for Lee County's ability to sustain rapid growth. Local limestone mines are essential in Lee County," Henderson Franklin attorney, Kaylee Tuck said during the transmittal hearing.

A wide range of community groups have also voiced their opposition to the proposed comp plan amendments during public hearings including: the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, Sakata Seed America, the Village of Estero, the Estero Council of Community Leaders (ECCL), the Audubon Society, the Cape Coral Friends of Wildlife, the Sierra Club, the Florida Wildlife Federation and the Eyes on Conservation 20/20 Coalition.

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