The Board of County Commissioners’ office buzzed Monday.
Hundreds of calls and emails were fielded and forwarded to commissioners regarding Thursday’s 9 a.m. land use meeting on to mine for Mosaic Company’s proposal to rezone about 3,600 acres of its Wingate East property for phosphate mining, officials said.
A “call-in day” was planned by ANSWER Suncoast, a local political organization involved in a range of issues, including environmental. The group had also staged a protest outside of the Manatee County Administration building on Jan. 14, where about 40 people attended.
The majority of the calls were in opposition to the approval of Mosaic’s plan, said county spokesman Nick Azzara. Most of the more than 450 emails sent to commissioners Monday also asked the board to vote “no” on the rezone.
By 1 p.m. Tuesday, another 100 emails came in from citizens voicing their opinions about Mosaic.
Mosaic spokeswoman Jackie Barron said the company welcomed the public input.
“Throughout the years this permitting process has been underway, it has benefited greatly by input received from the community,” Barron said in a statement. “We remain confident that the people of Manatee County support this permit, the jobs it creates, the farmers across America who rely on our products, and our plans to reclaim the land we use back to nature, farming and other productive uses.”
Susan Klaus, who said she is a Myakka City rancher, sent an email in opposition.
“Besides destroying the land, environment, and wildlife in our beautiful area, the mining will effect (sic) the water in my well, the main source of drinking water for me and my livestock,” she wrote to the commissioners.
Theresa McLaughlin sent an email in support of the rezone, saying she is a 10-year resident of Winding Creek, a subdivision that borders the Wingate East property to the south.
“Mosaic has been a very conscientious neighbor, and easily accessible by our residents,” McLaughlin wrote in an email to Chairman Betsy Benac.
Commissioners have to weigh a multitude of factors, including the economic benefits and environmental risks.
According to Mosaic’s website on their proposed Wingate East mine, an estimated $16 million in ad valorem taxes and $6 million in severance taxes would go to the county over the duration of the project.
Yet many citizens voiced their concerns on how Mosaic’s operations would affect local water sources. On Aug. 27, a sinkhole opened up under a “gypstack” — or the structure created when storing the product of extracting phosphate ore, essentially making a larger-than-life lake, into which acidic wastewater is held and reused — and 215 million gallons of wastewater filtered through to the Floridan aquifer.
Two public comment sessions will be held during the Thursday meeting, according to the special land use agenda. If the three-minute comments exceed 30 minutes at the beginning, commissioners will listen to the remaining comments toward the end of the meeting.