Tarmac wins another round in court

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1st District Court of Appeal denies W.A.R. lawsuit

By Lou Elliott Jones

Tarmac America LLC won another round Friday in its 8-year drive to mine more than 6 million tons of lime rock on 2,757 acres on a 4,750 acre site known as the King Road mine near Inglis over a 110-year period. 

The 1st District Court of Appeal — in a terse 2 1/2 page ruling — denied W.A.R., Inc.'s claim that approval of a special exception permit by the Levy County Commission violated the county's Comprehensive Land Use Plan.  W.A.R. claimed the Conservation Management and Coastal Management elements and the environmentally sensitive lands policy of the land use plan were ignored in issuing the county permit. The ruling upholds an earlier decision by 8th Judicial Circuit Judge Robert E. Roundtree Jr. 

"We agree with the trial court that the development order is consistent with the County's Comprehensive Plan and affirm," the three-judge appeals panel said in the decision. 

Jeff Harris of Tarmac, who helped shepherd the project to county approval, said the decision by the appeals court "indicates to me that the case is solid for Tarmac and it removes some hurdles going forward."

This is the second time the court has upheld Roundtree, now chief judge for the 8th Circuit, on a case involving the Tarmac mine. In February, the appeals court denied the Town of Yankeetown's claim that the commission violated its rule requiring the mine have a federal water permit approved before being issued the special exception permit. 

Roundtree's ruling in the Yankeetown case said the special exception permit carried conditions that included requiring the federal water permit be approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and that an excavation and fill permit must be approved by the county before mining can begin.

The county approved the Tarmac special exception permit 3-1 at a public hearing that started on the evening of May 3, 2011, and ran into the early morning hours of May 4. The lone dissenter was Commissioner Marsha Drew of Yankeetown (R-District 3). The mine is in her district. The hearing was held while the District 1 commission seat was vacant due to the suspension of a commissioner and the election of his replacement to another commission seat.

The permit carried 22 conditions, including the federal water permit requirement. The Corps issued a draft environmental impact statement on the project on May 11, and held a public hearing on May 29. It gathered public comment until June 11 that it is considering in preparing its final report. 

The mining would leave behind 22 lakes, some more than 100 feet deep and at least one a mile long by the end of the proposed mining. The operation would employ 80 people with indirect employment totaling about 300, according to the company.

It also would generate 500 truck loads of rock leaving the mine daily to deliver it within a 70-mile radius to home and road construction sites. 

The truck traffic — half of which will go south on U.S. Highway 19 through the middle of Crystal River,  is an issue that has concerned Crystal River officials. The town's officials voted to join W.A.R. in its lawsuit.