DeSoto’s Mining Overlay Draws Fire

  from The DeSoto Sun

 09/01/2010

 By CLINTON BURTON

 Staff Writer

 DESOTO COUNTY — The Florida Department of Community Affairs has objected to proposed changes to DeSoto County’s Future Land Use map. The DeSoto County Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously on May 25 to seek state approval of a map overlay that specifically defines where in the county a company may make an application to mine phosphate.

 The application to amend the county’s land use plan was made jointly by the county planning department and Mosaic Fertilizer which owns most of the property within the proposed map overlay area in the northwest part of DeSoto County near Pine Level.

 Following the BOCC approval, the application was transmitted to the Florida Department of Community Affairs to begin a comprehensive review process that included other state agencies.

 On Aug. 16, the DCA communicated its objection to the proposed overlay in a memorandum to county officials.

 “When the county updated its comprehensive plan in 2008 many of the mining-related policies that established criteria, buffering and protection of natural resources were deleted,” the memo says. “The deletion of these polices reduced the strength of the protection area for the land. The mining overlay and related policies do not adequately protect and conserve wetlands and fail to direct incompatible uses away from wetlands. The overlay does not restrict land uses that would adversely affect the quality of the water resource … the overlay does not protect the natural functions of the soils, fisheries, wildlife habitats, river and floodplains and does not meet the requirements of Rule 9J-5.013 (20)(b)4, F.A.C. that requires the conservation, appropriate use and protection of wildlife and wildlife habitat,” the written objection stated.

 But DeSoto County Planning Manager Jason Green said some of the objections raised by the DCA do not take into account polices that the county already has in place.

 “They are looking only at what we sent to them,” he said.

 Mosaic spokesperson Russell Schweiss said the company is working with DeSoto County to respond to the DCA’s concerns.

 “Some of the issues that were raised are going to create logistical problems and we are working to address those issues,” he said. “This is nothing unusual. It’s just something that has to be worked through.”

 The DCA’s objections echoed concerns raised by some neighboring counties and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

 In a letter to the DCA from that agency, the FDEP’s Director of Intergovernmental Programs, Sally Mann, wrote, “The department believes that the proposed GOPs (goals, objectives and policies) supporting the overlay do not adequately protect important floodplain and wetland resources in the area” and the proposed GOPs “should be strengthened to provide for the adequate protection of tributaries and floodplains connected to the Peace River and Horse Creek.”

 Lee County also commented on the proposal. “The mining overlay area will result in substantial impacts on areas designated for protection or special treatment within Lee County jurisdiction. The proposed plan amendment must be augmented to include goals, objectives and polices to establish measurable objectives so there is a clear basis for evaluating the effectiveness of those policies in accomplishing in the goal of protecting the ecosystems that depend on the Peace River,” according to Lee County commissioner Tammy Hall who asked the DCA to urge DeSoto county to establish “specific and measurable objectives” so that the effectiveness of protecting the ecosystems could be evaluated.

 Hall’s objections were supported by Manatee County Commissioner Joe McClash who also wrote to the DCA.

 Roland Ottolini, director of Lee County’s Division of Natural Resources, said decisions made in DeSoto County could have far-reaching effects,

 “Some of the reasons we’ve challenged the changes to the comprehensive plan is the potential impacts downstream. Phosphate mining involves a lot of major landscape changes and that can mean a major change to the quality of water,” he said. “Charlotte Harbor is a major economic draw for us.”

 Ottolini said Lee County is not necessarily against phosphate mining but county officials believe DeSoto’s overlay plan was not done properly.

 “There was not enough detail. We need a lot more information,” he said.

 E-mail: cburton@sun-herald.com

DeSoto County Poised to Adopt Mining Overlay

Desoto County Board of Commissioners has posted the purpose of the September 28 meeting on their website: The plan is to adopt the generalized mining overlay and future land use map allowing Mosaic a firmer foothold in their county. They have placed this extremely important matter as the very last item of business on their agenda for the meeting, so attendees will have to sit through an entire evening of irrelevant business to be heard (if they allow further public comment).

You can follow the link below to see more detailed information and a copy of the document in question. There are 269 pp. of information so it will take a while to download. Then scroll to the very last few pages….

Please disseminate this email widely so that all interested parties are informed.

Ordinance/LS #2010-01-Mosaic Fertilizer LLC

Request to adopt the Ordinance approving LS#2010/Mosaic Fertilizer LLC amending the Comprehensive Plan objectives and policies related to the creation of a Generalized Mining Over; and amending the Future Land Use Map based on comments provided by DCA.
http://co.desoto.fl.us/images/packets/Packet.pdf

DeSoto County Defends Comp Plan

(from DeSoto County website)

 

http://www.co.desoto.fl.us/images/bocc/Newspaper%20article%20response.pdf

 Once again our local newspaper and author Clinton Burton have provided the public with an article that distorts facts and paints a completely inaccurate picture. The context of the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) response, commonly referred to as an ORC, at times can be vague and easily misunderstood.

We know of this potential misunderstanding because it is exactly what the Central Florida Regional Planning Council did when preparing their review and comments for DCA. After a brief discussion and clarification with the Planning Council’s reviewer, they resubmitted comments and found no objection to the proposed Phosphate Overlay; and furthermore, found it in compliance with regional goals, objectives and policies.

The point about the greater context of an amendment is necessary to understand because it can easily be dismissed. As part of the 2007 adoption and 2008 remedial amendments to our 2030 Comprehensive Plan, the County Commissioners adopted policies that ensure the protection of our natural environmental features and habitat. As a rural county that offers ample eco-tourism opportunities and relies on the river system for potable water, we recognize the importance of the Peace River and its tributaries. This is why the Conservation Overlay, a guiding map not a technical survey, was adopted in 2008 to include all wetlands, floodplain, endangered species habitat, and other environmentally sensitive areas, as identified by best available data from State and Federal sources. Due to the fact that this data is an estimate or best guess, the Conservation Overlay is not all inclusive. Many areas will be identified at future dates as on-site technical surveys are conducted by land owners. In addition, some Conservation Overlay areas will be removed from protection because additional analysis will document the property does not have environmentally sensitive areas.

Most of the protection policies are already included in our Conservation Element and therefore did not need to be resubmitted to DCA. There are seven separate policies sprinkled throughout the Conservation Element and an entire Objective with fourteen (14) additional supportive policies solely regulating mining, including Phosphate. It is these Objectives and additional policies that protect our natural resources. The proposed Overlay was intended only to map potential areas for phosphate mining and to clarify that this use could occur in those areas. The County is not introducing phosphate mining to our Comprehensive Plan. That was done in 1991 with the adoption of the first Plan. The BOCC did this in 1991 because phosphate mining had been recognized through zoning (9,000+ acres since 1981) and ownership by mining companies (since 1970’s). The potential presence of phosphate mining should not be a surprise to anyone within DeSoto or adjacent counties.

The proposed policies and Overlay are reliant on and enhanced by the existing environmental protection policies. DCA’s comment about the removal of protection criteria is misleading. The policies that were removed when we adopted our “new” Plan were specifically related to setbacks from uses, such as a residential structure. The setback regulations are not necessary in the Comprehensive Plan because technical

setback restrictions are only appropriate in the Land Development Regulations (LDR); and because we already have those standards clearly delineated in the LDR and by Ordinance adopted by the BOCC. The approval by DCA to remove those setback standards when they approved our Comprehensive Plan in 2008 is sufficient evidence that this was not detrimental to the protection of our environmental and natural systems.                                                                                          

Our Comprehensive Plan is already loaded policies that protect the environment (21 policies). DCA staff complimented us upon adoption of the Plan in 2008 for our progressive policies and commitment to protecting the environment. Nothing has changed since the 2030 Plan was adopted and nothing will change as a result of a Phosphate Mining Overlay.

In conclusion, there is nothing unique about this proposed Overlay. It is nearly identical to those of Hardee County, Manatee County, and Hillsborough County, which all were approved without issue by DCA and with no objection from Lee County. Staff is working diligently to resolve outstanding issues, incorporate several of DCA and FDEP’s recommendations, and to communicate the relationship between existing and proposed policies. The Comprehensive Plan is a document where each Element within it works in concert together, not in isolation from each other. We continue to follow basic procedures for responding to comments by a state agency.

DCA Frowns on DeSoto County Mining Overlay Proposal

DCA Registers Objections to DeSoto County Mining Overlay

The Florida Department of Community Affairs, the state’s land planning and community development agency, published their response to DeSoto County’s proposed comp plan amendments and mining overlay on their website.

In a series of public hearings in May 2010,  the DeSoto Board of County Commissioners, in defiance of their Planning and Advisory Board and the majority of citizens attending the hearings, voted to transmit comp plan amendments and expansion of their mining overlay to the DCA for approval. Essentially the proposal increased the existing 9,000 acres dedicated to Phosphate Mining  by an additional 17,000 acres to bring the total “Phosphate Overlay District” up to 26,000 acres on the west side of the county at Pine Level (Next to Manatee County’s border). It included part of the Keys Mine & part of the Pine Level Mine. It straddled Horse Creek omitting the previous clause restricting mining from the 100 year flood plan.

The DCA did not approve.

To comply with the transmittal process DeSoto County has to address each of DCA’s objections when the plan is resubmitted for compliance review. In addition the DCA made it clear that by law local governments are required to provide the names and addresses of all citizens who have an interest in the outcome of the plan, and who have given their names and addresses at the hearings of transmittal or adoption. Therefore, if you attending the hearings, and submitted a form to address the commission, please be sure that the county communicates that information to the DCA so that you will be included in a Notice of Intent.

 

The DCA noted in its objections that when DeSoto County updated its comp plan in 2008 “many of the mining related policies that established criteria, buffering and protection of natural resources were deleted. The deletion of these policies reduced the strength of the protection policies for the area.” It sited violations of numerous rules relating to lack of comprehensive planning process for protection of wetlands, water quality, and the natural function of soils, fisheries, conservation of wildlife habitats, rivers, and floodplains. They recommended specific and appropriate buffering between mining activities and agricultural and residential uses, prohibition of mining of wetlands in the 100-year floodplain of the Peace river, Joshua Creek, Horse Creek and Prairie Creek, as well as the unaltered portions of the direct tributaries of the Peace River including Brandy Branch and Buzzard Roost Branch.

The complete DCA report can be viewed online at the following link:

http://www.dca.state.fl.us/fdcp/Advisories/Desoto%20County%2010-1%20ORC_00001.pdf