BRADENTON -- Mosaic Phosphate showed up with nearly 200 employees to fill all of the seats at Thursday's Land Use Meeting in the BOCC chambers. As early as 7:30 am, they were lined up in front of the doors of the county administration buildning. They weren't going to take any chances in possibly walking away without approval of the next step to mine their Wingate extension in East Manatee. They Got it.
It was a long day, and not just for the throngs of Mosaic employees in the BOCC Chambers. The crowd was moved up to rooms on the fourth and second floors, where TV's were waiting so those that couldn't fit in the chambers could tune in. The last meeting from February 2 had been continued, and some of those who weren't allowed to comment because commissioners broke-up that meeting with a three hour gap, came to get their opinions in.
Many that opposed the approval suggested to wait until the Army Corp Of Engineers (ACOE) completed the Areawide Environmental Impact Statement (AEIS) that is being prepared by CH2M Hill for the ACOE. The AEIS was ordered by the federal courts to study the past, present and future accumulative effects of phosphate mining, but Mosaic representatives and four of the sitting commissioners decided that study didn't mean anything. The controversy to the application was carried into this meeting, as it was in the last, by professionals and specialists, but the deck was stacked in favor of the applicant.
Two of the commissioners, DiSabitino and Gallen, asked the bulk of the questions concerning operations. Then they actually read the oath they were required to abide by when they accepted the job once elected to the commission in order to drive home the point regarding their opposition. Manatee county attorney Bill Clague, on multiple occassions warned the commissioners of potential legal consequences against the county if they were to accept any action other than an approval, though he never mentioned the possibility of lawsuits from the oppostition groups, who all said they would be looking at taking such measures afterward.
There were many people from organizations like Manasota 88, 3PR Manatee Coalition for Responable Government and other groups opposed to what they said was a reckless rush to give Mosaic what they wanted. Most of the dialog seemed inadequate and almost scripted, except for the well thought out line of questioning by Gallen and DiSabatino. Commissioner McClash, who also ended up voting against the bill, seemed to see the writing on the wall after raising such concerns at the previous meeting.
Before the final vote, McClash did try unsuccessfully to amend the motion to include a $5 million "public benefit" payment be made by the applicant to offset the wetland mitigation at approximately $100,000 per acre. Commissioner Hayes called the proposal extortion, and it was voted down 5-2 with only Gallen and McClash in favor. Then McClash joined DiSabatino and Gallen in opposition to the approval on the final vote of 4-3 in favor of the applicant. Mosaic must go before the BOCC again for their final permit before ground breaking begins.
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