Commissioner Cathy Townsend to host town hall meeting to discuss proposed M Ranch mine in St. Lucie County.
ST. LUCIE COUNTY — Residents of a quaint, agricultural community on Carlton Road at the county's western border have mounted opposition against their newest neighbor: A coquina rock mining operation.
The mine, just north of Glades Cut Off Road, would provide construction materials for more than 30,000 homes planned within 10 miles. But some have environmental and public-safety concerns and worry the project would create traffic burdens.
"I'm not against them doing this mining and then us having houses," Kayla Short, a Carlton Road resident, told TCPalm. "I'm just worried about how they'll go about doing the mining, because what they tell you they're going to do and what they actually do, that's where everything gets messed up.”
M Ranch Properties 1000 LLC, developer of the mine, dismisses those concerns, believing misinformation has played a role in opposition.
Buzz about the mine has exploded over the past five months, evidenced by petitions signed by disgruntled neighbors touting the slogan "No time for a mine."
The project has yet to come to the County Commission for permitting and other approvals.
Commissioner Cathy Townsend, however, is hosting a town hall meeting to discuss the issue 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in County Commission Chambers, 2300 Virginia Ave., Fort Pierce.
This is not the first time a company has shown interest in mining on Carlton Road. In 2004, the county denied Dickerson Florida Inc. permits for a lime rock mine on Carlton Road because of noise and traffic concerns.
Now, 18 years later, some residents are hoping this application turns out the same way.
M Ranch, home to a cattle ranch and citrus groves, spans 2,300 acres. It's managed by Anthony Mastroianni, who works for Allied Capital and Development of South Florida — the same company that developed the controversial Harbourside Place in Jupiter.
He plans to use 164 acres for mining with only 80 acres excavated, according to county documents. The mine would operate eight hours per day, six days per week, according to a traffic-impact report.
The remaining 93% of land would be reserved for a sod and hay farm, citrus production, cattle grazing, an organic nursery and regenerative farming, Stacy Ranieri of The Firefly Group, a PR firm representing M Ranch, said in an email.
This would be Mastroianni's first mine, and the third permitted coquina rock mine in St. Lucie County, according to spokesperson Erick Gill.
Coquina rock, comprised of limestone and shell fragments, is a valuable resource needed by the local construction industry for new housing developments, according to M Ranch.
The mine would operate for seven to 10 years before it's transformed into a water reclamation project, documents show.
Kayla Short, the Carlton Road resident, and others worry the mining will contaminate aquifers and release toxic elements into residential wells.
“We have a lot of well permits because our fish need that water,” said Jamie Josephs who owns a tropical fish farm on Carlton Road. “…If there were accidents over there, you know that could hurt the water quality and that would affect our fish as well.”
M Ranch maintains there will be buffers and both the South Florida Water Management District and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection will require protection of adjacent residential wells.
"The mining process will not be using any toxic elements that could negatively impact local water resources," Ranieri said.
Additionally, she said, any discharges would be treated storm water that meets or exceeds FDEP and SFWMD requirements.
Residents also believe the projected 242 daily truck trips from the mine a 4% increase in truck trips, according to the developer's traffic-impact report, is too much.
“We have school buses coming through, and we have more and more traffic coming through because there's more and more developments in the area,” said Kathy Dwonch-Schoen, who has lived on Carlton Road since 2003. “...It just really makes me crazy. It is so dangerous."
For its part, M ranch said it will build a haul road, beginning at Glades Cut Off Road and running through its property, crossing Carlton Road and the entering the mine area. There will be signs on the road and a flashing light to promote safety, Ranieri said.
Concerns over large amounts of dust, as a result of wet mining rather than blasting, is another reason many oppose the project.
The spread of dust, according to M Ranch, would be controlled by adding landscape buffers.
The stockpiling area would be on the farthest southwest corner of the property, more than 2,000 feet from Carlton Road and away from adjacent residential properties in order to reduce dust, noise, and visual impacts, according to the project's website.
"Anthony has had a lifelong passion for agriculture, farming and ranch life," Ranieri said. "...The proposed mining operation offers a successful financial model to help the 2,300-acre ranch remain viable and in active agriculture."