The Highlands County Board of Adjustment delayed action until January on a proposal to mine sand for the next 15 years at a site north of Archbold Biological Station between State Road 70, which is scheduled to be widened, and Lake Placid, a 3,320-acre lake on the Lake Wales Ridge.
The decision on the case was postponed after Hilary Swain, Archbold’s director, asked for more time to evaluate the mine’s impact on Lake Annie. The 86-acre lake lies on Archbold’s property and is part of an international environmental monitoring network.
The staff report raised questions about whether some of the work that had already occurred on the mine site was done with proper permits and also raised questions on the hydrological impact of dewatering associated with the mining operation.
The property is owned by Black Bear Citrus LLC. Bert Harris III, the Lake Placid lawyer who presented the case and frequently clashed with Swain during her testimony, is listed as the property’s manager in state corporate records.
There is also a concurrent request by the same owner for the same 200-acre parcel to change its land-use classification from Agricultural to Mixed Use. Although county planners are not objecting to the proposed map change, the report did point out that any plans for future development will require more extensive environmental review on the site, which contains cutthroat seeps, wetands and scrub.
It is unknown when any planned development could occur, but mining often is used to create water bodies that can be used to market residential development.