Packet: Levy County Planning Commission, with 3RT Sand Mine Special Exception application 2023-07-10

Update 2023-07-23: Levy County 3RT Sand Mine is in Springshed of Rainbow Springs 2023-07-23.

Only one Levy County Planning Commissioner, a former miner, voted against recommending a Special Exception for a proposed 1,100-acre sand mine, after 70 people testified for four hours under oath that the mine is a bad idea in a rural residential agricultural area.

The county mailed about 2,800 notices in April to residences within two miles of the site, because of the large number of truck trips that would be required, about one every 90 seconds.

When this case comes up before the Board of County Commissioners of Levy County, I recommend interested parties show up and speak. And meanwhile send them a letter or call them.

If approved, this mine will be there for 40 years, and maybe 100 years.

[Collage, 3RT Sand Mine, Levy Count Planning Commission Packet 2023-07-10]

This case will not be heard by the Levy County Commission at its next meeting on Tuesday, July 25, 2023, because on July 18th the Planning & Zoning Office received official notice from the 3RT Sand Mine (SE 23-01) applicant, Ryan Thomas, requesting a continuation to a date uncertain to have time to assess the project with the Planning Commission conditions.

This is a standard developer tactic: delay hoping the opposition will forget. I recommend the opposition keep on it.

The Levy County parcels of the mine site and other parcels proposed for access are shown in yellow on this map. Manatee Spring on the Suwannee River is highlighted towards the left. Levy County staff wrote, “e) Site is not located within one mile corridor (one-half mile on either side) of known geological features with the potential to Impact Manatee Springs or Fanning Springs. Additional study is not recommended to be required.” Apparently the staff believe what DNM Engineering & Associates, Inc., told them on behalf of the miners. I’d prefer to see further study.

[Street Map: 3RT Sand Mine and Manatee Spring in SRWT]
Street Map: 3RT Sand Mine and Manatee Spring
in the WWALS map of the Suwannee River Water Trail (SRWT)

As you can see, the mine site is not in the Suwannee River Basin. Yet there are concerns about springs that are in that Basin. And a WWALS member asked Suwannee Riverkeeper to look into this mine application.

Levy County staff included seven proposed conditions in the board packet:

[Conditions of Approval for SE 23-01 3RT Sand Mine]
Conditions of Approval for SE 23-01 3RT Sand Mine

According to Laura Parks Catlow, “…after 4 hours the board took all of our objections turn them into suggestions and came up with a list of 19 stipulations he would have to rectify.”

[Future Use Parcel Map 3RT Sand Mine (mine parcels)]
Future Use Parcel Map 3RT Sand Mine (mine parcels)

That’s a lot of notices, and a two mile radius still doesn’t include everybody living near roads that would have all that truck traffic.

[Because of the number of daily trips this sand mine required the two-mile radius mailing requirement. Approximately 2,800 notices were mailed on April 14, 2023.]
Because of the number of daily trips this sand mine required the two-mile radius mailing requirement. Approximately 2,800 notices were mailed on April 14, 2023.

The Planning Commission board packet is on the WWALS website as PDF and with images of each page. The PDF is also on the Levy County website. There is much duplication in those 444 pages, probably because many of the same materials were submitted to the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD), and the Planning Commission included all the SWFWMD ERP materials.

Nick Anschultz, News Reporter/Editor, Levy Citizen, July 12, 2023, Levy County residents voice concerns over proposed sand mine operation,

BRONSON — Issues with the AC created a warm environment inside the auditorium of the Levy County Government Center Monday evening.

Mixed in with that hot air was a number of heated residents who had filed into the auditorium to express their concerns over a proposed sand mine operation during a roughly four-hour Levy County Planning Commission meeting.

Applicant DNM Engineering Associates, Inc., based out of Ocala, is seeking a special exception for a major mining operation located just outside the Town of Bronson.

According to a Levy County Planning and Zoning Staff Report that was included in the meeting packet, the total project area would consist of over 1,100 acres (400 acres of mining and 713.35 added acreage for ingress/egress).

Additionally, the property where the proposed mining site would be is currently designated as Agriculture/Rural Residential (ARR). According to the LCPZ Staff Report, sand mines require a special exception in Agriculture/Rural Residential.

“Special exceptions are what allow certain things to be permitted in different zoning districts based on our land development code,” Stacey Hectus, LCPZ director, said during the meeting. “Those usually come with conditions…”

Hectus confirmed that a special exception does not involve rezoning and that the BOCC (board of county commissioners) can revoke it.

Douglas VanDeursen, president of DNM Engineering Associates, Inc., was in attendance at Monday’s meeting and gave a presentation on behalf of the property owner, Ryan Thomas.

VanDeursen addressed several points that were outlined in a cover letter sent to the planning and zoning department in May.

The letter states Thomas “is proposing to permit the subject property as the 3RT Sand Mine to be able to excavate the sand (from) the subject property to be sold to independent contractors to be utilized for fill material for construction of new road/highway construction, road/highway improvements, single family residences, residential developments, commercial developments, industrial developments, concrete foundation, concrete production, horse track developments, equestrian facilities, etc. throughout Levy and other neighboring counties.”

After VanDeursen gave his remarks, members of the commission then proceeded to ask follow-up questions based off the information they had heard.

A couple of those questions came from Kelly Bishop. She first wanted to clarify with VanDeursen that they will not be mining for minerals.

VanDeursen confirmed this statement and said it will just be sand.

Bishop then followed up with a question regarding the mine’s life expectancy and how many years they are looking at for “this type of traffic.”

VanDeursen answered by saying “it will be 100 plus years.”

Also brought up was the concern of dust control. Cochairman Parks Wilson stated that there was nothing in the plan regarding this issue and that he would be “hesitant” in recommending the approval of the exemption without some sort of a plan for “best management practices for sand control.”

Wilson continued on the topic with dust control and said there’s also been concerns brought up about this as it relates to the University of Florida Rosemary Hill Observatory, which is situated close to the property where the mining operation would be.

Other worries brought up by the commission included bringing in unsuitable materials (rock and clay are examples) to help with the reclamation of the property over time.

In addition to the commission addressing the concerns above, there were several others that residents of both Bronson and Williston also brought up during the public comment portion of the meeting.

A majority of these points had to do with traffic, health and noise concerns.

Health is utmost a worry for Bronson local Melissa Smallwood, who said she deals with asthma and has had “multiple strokes.”

Smallwood also said she moved to the town “for clean air, quiet and peaceful surroundings.”

“I can’t stay here if the (sand) mine goes through,” she said.

Zitlali Solache, WCJB, July 11, 2023, Levy County Planning and Zoning Board recommends sand mine operation despite resident concerns: The board says it will take up approximately 1,100 acres of land.

BRONSON, Fla. (WCJB)—After almost four hours of discussion, the Levy County Planning and Zoning Board recommended approving the sand mine operation.

The sand mine would be located south of Bronson near Northeast 102nd Court. ‚It will take up approximately 1,100 acres of land.

Dozens of residents and activists took their concerns to the podium, worried about health hazards, environment destruction, noise and traffic.

“The oil and the petroleum products leaking out of these giant trucks are going to go right down into the water table and affect our drinking water,” shared resident Robbie Blake.

Several residents were against it because of the proximity of the sand mine near several homes and the UF Rosemary Hill Observatory.

“We have a lot of people here, who are retirees, people have put every dime that they have into their property,” shared resident Laura Catlow.

One big topic of discussion was property values. Residents say putting an industrial sand mine in a residential area, is a not a good idea. However, the majority of the board said the mine may point the county towards growth.

They recommend the sand mine to operate 5 days a week from Monday through Friday.

The final approval lies in the county commission’s hands. The first hearing will take place on July 25th.

Terry Witt, Spotlight Senior Reporter, Spotlight on Levy County Government, July 13, 2023, Retired Miner Goes It Alone, Votes Against Sand Mine,

The only member of the county advisory board to vote against a proposed 1,100-acre sand mine near Bronson Monday, a facility that would be surrounded by nearly 3,000 residential properties, was a retired miner.

Thad Barber, who spent his life in the mining industry in Levy County and has served on the Levy County Planning Commission for nearly three decades didn’t think the mine was the right fit for that location.

“I feel for every one of you sitting in here, and like I said, there’s a right place for a mine and a wrong place. We got to look at the good and the bad,” Barber said. “You all talked about the roads. We have to look at what it does to our roads. We have to look at what it’s going to do to those people who can’t breathe. We have to base our decision on that, and the water wells, and the aquifer. We have to take in all that. We have a few minutes to compose it and then make our decision that will benefit you all. We’re here to serve you all too.”

The lifespan of the mine will be 45 years. Earlier in the meeting, however, the engineer representing Thomas, Douglas VanDeurson, of DNM Engineering Associates of Ocala, said the mine’s owner was expecting the mine to operate for 100 years.

The angry crowd of opponents roared its disapproval, filling the former school auditorium with a thundering response. Later in the hearing, Planning Commissioner Tommy Harper suggested reducing the life of the mine to 40 years. Planning and Zoning Director Stacey Hectus changed the number to 45 years. The board didn’t challenge her number. At least 70 residents testified in the four-hour hearing, telling commissioners, among other things, the sand mine would devalue their property, ruin the health of many, and potentially destroy what they have established in a relatively pristine, rural area of Levy County.

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

You can help with clean, swimmable, fishable, drinkable, water in the 10,000-square-mile Suwannee River Basin in Florida and Georgia by becoming a WWALS member today!

One thought on “Packet: Levy County Planning Commission, with 3RT Sand Mine Special Exception application 2023-07-10

  1. Pingback: Levy County 3RT Sand Mine is in Springshed of Rainbow Springs 2023-07-23 | WWALS Watershed Coalition (WWALS) is Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

Comments are closed.