Lee County is inviting the public to an open house meeting Wednesday night from 4 to 7 p.m. at the county's public works building. The move is in addition to a FAQ website the county set up to answer questions about proposed changes to its comprehensive plan, specifically lime rock mining amendments.
The change some environmental groups are concerned about is the amendment to remove Map 14. That’s the map in the county’s comprehensive plan that shows where lime rock is mined, mainly in the southern part of the county.
To begin mining for lime rock, a landowner has to become part of that map, which has a set of requirements including a survey proving there’s a market for lime rock or its aggregate.
Lee County Commissioner Brian Hamman says that market study invites lawsuits over land-use rights, and is the only thing that would really be changed.
"The real mining regulations in Lee County are in Chapter 12 of our land development code," Hamman said. "That chapter remains completely untouched. All of those permitting processes stay completely in place. The thing that goes away is this marketing study that is not required anywhere else in the state of Florida."
But, Julianne Thomas, a senior environmental planning specialist with the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, says getting rid of Map 14 will also change the way land use changes are applied for — from comprehensive plan amendments to zoning changes — which, she says, allow for less public input.
“Everything goes through a hearing examiner, and once it becomes a hearing examiner application, the public is prohibited from talking directly to elected officials about the case. And, this is really problematic to us,” Thomas said.
The Lee County Board of Commissioners will vote on these changes at its April 17 meeting.