Report spurns mining firm's land proposal
County staffers are concerned that Dixie Hollins' overlay district plans could skirt environmental standards.
By CATHERINE E. SHOICHET
Published March 31, 2006
Dixie Hollins has said his plans for the 1,542 acres his company owns north of the Cross Florida Barge Canal are visionary and environmentally friendly.
But in a report completed this week, county staffers recommend denial of the proposed Hollinswood Overlay District.
Under the plan, Citrus Mining & Timber's property would eventually include homes, an industrial area, a commercial port district, more than 20 public boat ramps and a waterfront retail area. It would also include expanded mining areas.
Long-range planning for the property is a good idea, the staff report said, but the large-scale comprehensive plan amendment application submitted is "troubling" and could have major ramifications for development across the county.
"If approved it would set a precedent for developing custom land use regulations to suit a specific project that does not meet the requirements adopted by the County," the report said. "Applications such as this could become a common practice to circumvent our coastal and environmental standards."
Hollins could not be reached for comment Thursday. Community development staffers were at a retreat and also could not be reached for comment.
The Planning and Development Review Board is slated to hold its first workshop on the proposal Thursday.
Since attorney Clark Stillwell submitted the application last month, Hollins has met with a number of community groups and local leaders to explain his plans.
"I want to do something my father and grandfather would be proud of," he told the Economic Development Council's executive committee earlier this month.
An overlay district would allow Hollins and county planners to address the unique nature of the property, he said, the majority of which is currently zoned for industrial and extractive use.
Hollins has said he plans to use the highest environmental standards in the development.
The county staff report includes a list of nine general areas in which the overlay district would contradict the county's comprehensive plan, including expansion of mining into environmentally sensitive lands, creation of residential use within five miles of Progress Energy's nuclear power plant and a reduction of residential setback requirements for new extractive areas.
Stillwell also submitted an application to change the zoning on 60 acres of the property from low intensity coastal and lakes to extractive.
County staffers have recommended denial of that application, as well. One third of the site consists of wetlands that would be "significantly impacted, or destroyed" by mining, the report said. It would also violate the Citrus County Code, which requires a 3,000-foot setback from residential property for new or expanded mines.
As Hollins tries to drum up support, opposition is mounting from some neighboring residents and from the Save the Manatee Club.
Charles Miko, a representative of an informal alliance of Yankeetown, Inglis and northwest Citrus County citizens who live near the property, said Thursday that Hollins' plans were "preposterous."
"Mining is the issue here . . . we think that all of the other stuff in that proposal, it's just smoke," he said.
Helen Spivey, co-chairwoman of Save the Manatee Club, has said she is concerned about the impact the proposed large public marina would have on a prime manatee birthing area.
But others have said the plan would create major opportunities for area businesses and residents.
Earlier this month, Madeira Beach Seafood president Bobby Spaeth told the St. Petersburg Times that his company, one of the gulf's largest grouper distributors, was considering moving its operations from Pinellas County to the property's proposed commercial port district.
Catherine E. Shoichet can be reached at email@example.com or 860-7309.