tampabay.com

Vision for former Hollins Ranch not so beautiful

By CHARLES MIKO
Published April 13, 2006


In recent public comments, Dixie Hollins has discussed his "vision" for the future of the remaining 1,500-plus acres of the former Hollins Ranch in northwest Citrus County. Central to this vision is open-pit mining over the next 35 years.

As the mining operations have moved south, problems for neighbors have diminished, but Hollins is beginning to stumble over his own blasters and draglines. Like the painter in the corner, he has literally mined himself into a problem. Now he would like to solve his problem at his neighbors' expense.

Speaking of his vision, he says, "When the mining is done, our plan calls for a residential area." Is this the long-overdue acknowledgement that mining operations are incompatible with nearby residential use? Pity he has given this no consideration for the last 20 years.

After proposing to move the mining operation onto land not now designated for mining, back to the fence between his mine and more neighbors, Hollins proudly says, "With mining further away on the property, we'll begin building a public marina." Is this an acknowledgement that even a marina would be incompatible with a mining operation?

The issue is not Hollins' vision but the lengths to which he is prepared to go to achieve it. He has made the whole thing conditional upon getting permits to move the mining operation to land not now designated for extraction, within 200 feet of the fence between him and his neighbors: blasters, dragline, earth moving equipment, noise, vibration, dust, the whole ugly mess.

That, indeed, should clear the way for his vision.

Then Hollins says, "Finally, when the mining is done, Hollinswood is a beautiful place." With mining continued for another 35 years, that will make it the year 2042. In the meantime, we can expect that this section of the Nature Coast will continue to be the disaster area he has made of it.

At the Planning Development and Review Board workshop on Thursday, Hollins' attorney, Clark Stillwell, made another announcement. He assured us that the first priority will be to complete mining of the southern section of the property. There are still a couple hundred acres of mining down there. Don't hold your breath waiting for the proposed boating facilities.

Certainly, the Cross Florida Barge Canal is an asset that could offer much to Citrus County, but unfortunately it has been a wasted asset for well into the fourth decade. Mining operations have made it one of the ugliest scars in the county. Is this a magnet for clean industry, for recreational or industrial marine facilities? Hardly! Who would want an open-pit mining operation for a neighbor?

The situation we have in northwest Citrus County cannot be resolved by the Hollinswood Overlay District Plan. That plan ensures that the mess will continue for another 35 years.

For myriad reasons that the county's staff has cited, Citrus County must deny the overlay request and the expansion of mining that it entails.

Neighbors of the mine have lived with it for a quarter of a century. As it has moved away from them, its effects have become less onerous. They will not accept something worse than what they have.

If Hollins would separate the issue of expanded mining from the rest of his vision, each could be judged on its own merit, as it should be.

Using a boat ramp as bait is unseemly.

Charles Miko of northwest Citrus County is a longtime community activist. Guest columnists write their own views on subjects they choose, which do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.