3PR News: Life in the Dead Zone

We’ve all seen this news. I’m sending the article from the Tampa Tribune because they dared to print my opinion on it. Read on….


Mosaic to transform Polk mine site into luxury resort

By RAY REYES | The Tampa Tribune
Published: November 17, 2010
Updated: 11/17/2010 07:41 pm

AUBURNDALE – Land scarred from years of excavators gouging the earth for phosphate deposits will soon be home to a luxury resort with 160 guest rooms, five villas and a 20,000-square foot convention center Hills and quarries, created to mine the key mineral for fertilizer, are being transformed into the resort’s two golf courses. Details of how the desolate landscape on 16,000 acres in Polk County will become the Streamsong resort were unveiled today by the tract’s owners, The Mosaic Co. The resort and its adjoining golf courses mark the phosphate-mining giant’s first venture into real estate development. Tourist officials said the construction and operation of the resort creates jobs and gives the local economy a much-needed boost. Some environmental groups are pleased the property will be refurbished and put to good use. But other environmentalists locked in legal disputes with Mosaic remain wary of the company’s every move. “I’ve been watching it with amusement,” Dennis Mader, president of People Protecting Peace River, said of Streamsong’s development. “Their plan is to create a resort out of what I call the dead zone. All I can say is good luck if they truly think they can compete with Orlando or Miami Beach. I wish them well.”
Tom Patton, the executive director of the Central Florida Development Council, said the transformation from phosphate mine to tourist attraction is welcome news for that rural area in southwest Polk. “It’s remarkably exciting,” Patton said. “The long-term effect is the tourism and bringing the visitors in.”

Streamsong, expected to open in 2013, is about five miles east of Ft. Meade on the Polk-Hardee county line. Other planned amenities for the resort include a spa, two lounges, retail stores and outfitters, bass fishing, croquet, a sporting clays range and nature trails.
Construction of the golf courses began over the summer. Bill Coore, of golf course-designing firm Coore & Crenshaw, is building one course. The former mines, Coore said, “contain some of the most unusual, interesting and dramatic land forms we have ever encountered.”
Lead architect Alberto Alfonso, whose father designed Tampa International Airport, said he wanted the resort to take advantage of the rural setting and lakefront views by building a rooftop veranda and other features. “The challenge is to try to keep intimacy for the guest experience on such a big piece of property,” he said. Mosaic spokesman Dave Townsend said more than 70 percent of the 16,000 acres will remain open space. The resort won’t adversely impact adjoining wetlands and other environmentally sensitive lands, he said. “There are no environmental issues on-site that would be a concern,” Townsend said. But Mosaic, and the phosphate mining industry, has been no stranger to controversy. Mader’s environmental group, along with the Sierra Club, has clashed with Mosaic in court over permitting issues involving phosphate mining in Manatee County that Mader said threatens the Peace River. A judge issued an injunction July 23 stopping Mosaic from mining near wetlands; the mining company is appealing the ruling.

Then there is the plethora of scientific studies suggesting radon contamination exists on the sites of old phosphate mines. Guerry McClellan, a former University of Florida geology professor who now runs his own consulting firm, said much of the data conflict.
“This is not a cut and dried business,” McClellan said of scientific research into low-level radiation on land stripped of phosphate. “There’s a whole lot of opinions and very, very few real facts. There’s a conflict of data that doesn’t make much sense.” Mosaic is a historically conservative company that wouldn’t propose a resort like Streamsong if its scientists thought the land was unsafe, McClellan said. “They don’t make a habit of doing screwy things,” he said.
Eric Draper, the executive director of Audubon of Florida, said Mosaic appears to have a solid plan with Streamsong. “Generally, you’ve got to do something with reclaimed land,” Draper said. “It’s better to develop damaged land than go after pristine land.”

Polk officials approved an amendment to the county’s comprehensive plan in June, paving the way for Mosaic’s project, Growth Management Director Tom Deardorff said.
The county has had successful reclaimed land projects before, including the Lakeside Village outdoor mall, the Imperial Lakes Golf Course and the Lakes at Christina subdivision in Lakeland, he said.

(813) 259-7920
News Channel 8 reporter Jennifer Leigh contributed to this report