It was right to bury the sand mine

OUR OPINION

It was right to bury the sand mine

“The Lake County Planning & Zoning Board last week voted down an application for a controversial sand mine in the center of the Wellness Way Sector Plan. CEMEX wants to build its mining operation on 1,200 acres outside Clermont, a proposal that has drawn criticism from environmentalists, residents, farmers and even some business leaders.

Environmentalists worry about the effect on water, noting that state hydrologists consider that area a critical recharge zone for the aquifer. Residents worry about the noise and traffic. Farmers fret about dust from the mining operations blanketing their delicate young crops.

All good arguments.

But perhaps the strongest argument against the mine comes from business and political leaders who worry that it will put a damper on plans for Wellness Way, an ambitious plan to create a massive community infused with high-tech, well-paying medical services and companies.

At buildout, Wellness Way visionaries expect 16,000 homes clustered around parks, trails and other amenities. They envision the community being self-sustaining — that is, they want it to attract enough good, clean industries that its residents don’t have to travel to Orlando or elsewhere to work.

It’s an exercise in high-end urban planning that area leaders hope will result in a lively community that has few, or none, of the problems that plague other fast-developing areas of Florida. Think of sprawling Orlando, with its traffic snarls, and you get an idea of the kinds of issues Wellness Way planners want to avoid.

Yes, it’s a bit idealistic, but we applaud such planning idealism in an age when vast swaths of the state have been scarred by overdevelopment or poor development … and we are left to foot the bill for those mistakes.

Permitting a sand mine in the midst of this little planning oasis invites trouble. True, CEMEX plans to do everything it can to mitigate the impacts of mining — paving roads, limiting truck traffic, creating buffers from the dust and noise, and more. But mining, while important to producing the raw materials needed to build roads, is an inherently gritty and visible process that is, frankly, incompatible with any residential area.

Put simply, if you wouldn’t permit a mine to be built next to an existing community, why would you permit a community to be built around a sand mine?

The Planning & Zoning Board was right to deny the mine. It is now up to the Lake County Commission, which has the final say.

We encourage the County Commission to follow the Planning Board’s lead and deny CEMEX’s request. We support mining, but not here, not now.”

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