The DeSoto County commission should protect the health, safety and welfare of the people they represent, in accordance with the laws and codes of that county. However, as the phosphate industry has systematically plowed its way through Bone Valley, Floridians have witnessed local governments succumb to fear of litigation if phosphate permits are denied. Always lurking is the threat of a lawsuit that would bankrupt the county.
In early 2018, Mosaic asked Desoto County to change the allowable planned land use of 14,000 acres of agricultural land to allow for an inconsistent and extremely destructive PMI, or Phosphate Mining Industrial. After hearing many hours of competent and substantial evidence, commissioners voted 4 to 1 to deny the request. The people of DeSoto County celebrated and rejoiced when their commission made a heroic and righteous stand and simply said NO to Mosaic.
Mosaic will not take NO for an answer, however. After reminding the county of its ability to challenge the rezoning denial in court, they have forced them into a settlement mediation process. Mosaic intends to use this settlement to get a MAYBE and erase the county’s previous NO, thereby gaining a foothold towards getting what they want. This way they can control “county” workshops to their advantage and erase and cast doubt on the county’s original decision. This gives the impression immediately as Mosaic having their property rights unfairly burdened, essentially weakening the county’s currently strong position.
While the April 3 mediation hearing was open to the public, the settlement agreement prepared by county staff did not include public input. No public workshop was ever called. We don’t exactly know whose idea this agreement was. When this agreement was presented at the hearing, the members of the public were simply asked whether they agreed with it or not, on the spot.
The Board of County Commissioners must reject this bad deal and defend its decision in court, if it comes to that. There is no doubt that it would have the support of its citizens. The board had more than enough substantial evidence to make a lawful, informed decision last year. It must stand by that decision.
We do not need four years of county hosted workshops, inevitably slanted by Mosaic propaganda, wearing down public opposition. The board must not kick the can down the road. If it is to fulfill the will of its citizens and its own land-use mandates, the DeSoto Board of County Commissioners must say NO again on April 23. To do otherwise would doom the county’s fate as the next mining hellscape. Just look at the counties to the north and see what is to show for their strip-mined, clay-mounded lands.
People for Protecting Peace River, representing Heartland Floridians, many of whom reside in DeSoto County