One of the most disruptive battles faced by county zoning boards is a local objection to an economically beneficial use that is perceived to be disruptive and a threat to the neighborhood where it is located. Lee County Commissioners are facing such a battle involving a proposed change of use for the Old Corkscrew Plantation in east Lee County. The landowner, a unit of King Ranch, Inc., wants a permit allowing the large scale mining of lime rock, but the people who live close to the proposed mining site are convinced that the mine will destroy their neighborhood.
The bubbling dispute threatened to become a full boil after the commissioners denied the permit application. The commissioners relied largely on a report and recommendation from a hearing examiner who recommended that the proposal be denied. The examiner found that the project would not be consistent with the county’s land-use policies.
The proponent of the mine, King Ranch, Inc., said that the neighbors’ opposition was not based upon sufficient “competent substantial evidence” and should not be taken seriously. The attorney for King Ranch argued that the County Board could rely exclusively upon neighborhood opposition in denying the permit when the proponent of the zoning change produced expert testimony in support of the permit.
When asked if King Ranch planned to sue the county to obtain the permit, its attorney said that the company had won the day because it was able to show that the neighbors’ evidence was insufficient. The key issue in any court case is the amount of weight that should be given to the eyewitness testimony of the neighbors. The neighbors have argued that many of them have lived in close proximity to the proposed mining site and that they are very knowledgeable about how a lime rock mine would adversely affect their neighborhood.