There was a throwaway mention at the DeSoto County Commission hearing last week that really whistled around the chambers.
Finishing comments about an upcoming arbitration hearing in which he would participate, the county’s lawyer in his precise and quiet manner tossed a grenade: Mosaic Fertilizer likely would ask for farmland rezoning to phosphate mining into January 2023, according to Donald Conn, well beyond what both sides of the issue had imagined.
The common thread in DeSoto County was that the Fortune 500 firm would storm back with fresh plans to rezone some 14,000 acres to allow mining. Mosaic Fertilizer was denied the rezoning in July, a stunning defeat, considering the company mines in Florida with little intervention. Opponents hate phosphate mining; proponents like the jobs and revenue.
Conn on Tuesday, in fact, had just outlined an April 3 dispute resolution hearing in which a Jacksonville lawyer hears from Mosaic and DeSoto County and possibly decides terms of a settlement. What that would be is anyone’s guess. But either side may reject Terrance Schmidt’s decision, Conn told the commissioners. He added that public comment at the dispute hearing will be allowed. Notices had been mailed to affected property owners and those testifying in the quasi-judicial hearing to rezone last July.
And then Conn spooned in Mosaic’s apparent decision to delay the rezoning application for four years, possibly moving shoveling well down the road.
Mosaic officials, however, weren’t as firm on the timeline.
“Mosaic’s rock strategy evolves as the market conditions change,” said Heather Nedley, Mosaic’s public affiars manager in DeSoto County. “Possible timeline for future hearings in DeSoto will be discussed during the mediation proceedings next month and be presented to the board as part of the ADR (alternative dispute resolution) process.”
But Commissioner Elton Langford wasn’t surprised that Mosaic would delay its plans in DeSoto County, however long that may be, he said.
“I’m reading about (Mosaic) cclosing mines, different things,” said Langford, who led the commission’s 4-1 vote to deny rezoning last summer. The holdout was Commissioner Terry Hill. “It’s not like (the phosphate) is going to rust or rot. You use up what you got, first.”