Estero mine hearing delayed
About 150 east Estero residents had planned to speak out Friday against a proposed mine in their neighborhood.
However, that zoning hearing before Lee County’s hearing examiner has been pushed back to July.
Estero Group Ltd. of Naples wants to rezone 318 acres along Corkscrew Road for a 10-year mining operation to a depth of 40 feet, without blasting.
County staff in October issued a report recommending approval with conditions. The hearing was originally scheduled for November.
County Planner Chip Block said the county has no objection because the mine would abut an existing mine with mostly agricultural surrounding land uses; digging would be limited to 20 feet with no blasting; and 414 daily two-way truck trips would not overload the capacity of Corkscrew and Alico roads.
”The applicant has not supplied any new information,” Block said Tuesday, noting the staff report and recommendations also are unchanged.
Block said mine representatives requested Friday’s hearing be postponed and allotted five days on the hearing examiner’s calendar instead of one.
The hearing is now scheduled for 9 a.m. Wednesday, July 18, with reserve days, as necessary, on July 19,20, 24 and 25.
East Estero resident and anti-mine activist Bill Lytell said the postponement will hurt protesters’ momentum.
”I had a big ole group coming up there, maybe 150,” he said, noting they raised money to pay for signs and fliers and coordinated taking time off work.
”(The property owners) literally, the day of the hearing, can say, ”˜We need a continuance,’ and we’re shot. All our money is gone.”
Lytell said it cost residents $50,000 to battle and defeat a previous Schwab Materials proposed mine a few years ago. He said that hearing lasted six days. Schwab is now suing Lee County over that denial.
The Estero Group mine attorney, Beverly Grady, could not be reached for comment. Block said Estero Group Ltd. indicated July is the earliest date it can get all of its consultants together at one time.
”They wanted to make sure they took care of the complete public hearing process in as short a time as possible,” he said.
Block encourages those who plan to speak to attend the hearing the first day to avoid missing the opportunity if it wraps up sooner than expected.
”About a month ahead, we’ll start e-mailing more often and send a mailing,” Lytell said.
”Does it surprise you that it’s out of season? Think how many people are going to be up north.”
Lytell said he will ask those who can’t attend the July hearing in person to write letters of protest instead.
In the meantime, another mine application for the Corkscrew Road corridor has been submitted to Lee County.
Schwab Materials Inc. applied last month to rezone about 600 acres at 19500 Corkscrew Road to excavate and mine construction materials. The maximum depth would be 110 feet with blasting, about a mile east of Six L’s Farm Road in Estero.
”The case is insufficient for public hearing,” Block said. ”The ball is in their court to resubmit information required by staff.”
He said Schwab technically has 60 days from the Feb. 8 notification to respond, but extension requests are allowed.
Block said the state fire marshal’s office, not local government, oversees permitting for blasting construction materials.
”We will not be providing conditions or saying yea or nay to blasting,” he said, noting it will come to the county for zoning approval only.
Lytell said the new Schwab proposal is less than a mile from his home.
”If the residents, Lee County and the federal government don’t step up to the plate, we’re going to lose for our kids and grandkids a fabulous area,” he said.
Lytell and his group want a moratorium on all new mines ”” Westwind Mine is already operating along Corkscrew Road ”” until the environmental impacts can be studied.
”There are big water-quality questions,” he said. ”This is Okeechobee 50 years ago. We don’t want to sacrifice the permanent on the altar of the immediate.”
Two other mine applications previously submitted for the corridor, Corkscrew Excavation and Golfrock, are also still insufficient for public hearing, Block said.
Corkscrew Excavation, 1,356 acres across from Six L’s Farm Road, is owned by Youngquist Brothers and two east coast partners.
It is proposed for up to eight years of fill dirt mining without blasting, followed by development of a subdivision with 135 2-acre lots around a 600- to 700-acre lake.
Farther east, Golfrock LLC owns 255 acres proposed for 10 years of rock mining ”” with blasting ”” followed by development of a 24-home subdivision.