Levy County approves controversial sand mine exception

The Levy County commission meeting in December that began the sand mine discussion.
The Levy County commission meeting in December that began the sand mine discussion.
Photo by Glory Reitz

The Levy County Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously on Tuesday to move forward on approving a special exception for a sand mine on land currently zoned agriculture/rural residential (ARR) and rural residential (RR). 

The mine is planned to take up about 400 acres, with another 713 used for sand truck ingress/egress. The applicant, Williston resident Ryan Thomas, was represented by Douglas VanDeursen, president of DNM Engineering Associates, Inc., who agreed to all 22 conditions set forth by the board

These conditions include requirements for reducing light, noise and air pollution, and restricting operation hours to keep roads safe for commuters and school buses. The commission also limited the process to digging 15 feet above the water table, instead of the three feet originally planned. 

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Thomas intends to mine 20 acres at a time over the next 45 years, and the commission asked to have staff inspect each completed section to approve it before the operation can move to the next 20 acres. 

The mining exception previously came before the board in a quasi-judicial hearing in December 2023, where the board received a lengthy presentation and public comment time. After some discussion, as well as back-and-forth with the citizens present, the commissioners said they were uncomfortable voting on the exception and chose to continue the deliberation and vote portion of the meeting on Feb. 6. 

Because Tuesday’s vote continued a previous public hearing, the board had already received the information and only heard an update on the conditions. The citizen input portion was already complete, and Tuesday’s special continuation lasted less than an hour before Commissioner Tim Hodge moved to approve the petition. 

The board did not provide another opportunity for public comment, though many citizens attended the meeting and voiced their displeasure with some restraint throughout the meeting. After the vote, an uproar of angry shouts such as “You’re fired!” and “Vote them out!” exploded across the commission chambers. 

County Attorney Nicolle Shalley clarified at the start of the meeting continuation that the quasi-judicial format does not allow commissioners the personal discretion they normally have. She said their votes on this matter must be based on competent, substantial evidence about whether the applicant meets the requirements set forth in the comprehensive plan and land development code criteria. 

The item will come back before the commission on March 19 at 9 a.m. for orders. 

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