Collier Commission notebook: Decisions on $92 million lawsuit, spearfishing and more

Lawsuit settlement

Collier County commissioners voted 4-1 Tuesday to settle a long-standing $92 million lawsuit that pitted property rights against environmental protection.

In two cases filed in 2008 and 2011, the Hussey family, mining company Winchester Lakes Corp., and others sued the county over a landmark 2002 rural growth plan that grew out of an order from then- Gov. Jeb Bush and the Cabinet to enact better environmental protections in rural Collier County. The Husseys lost the first round of litigation, and the case is now on appeal.

The rural growth plan forbid rock mining on almost 1,000 acres the Husseys owned in North Belle Meade, which is north of Interstate 75 and east of Collier Boulevard.

At the heart of the settlement is a proposed swap that would allow the Husseys to apply for a permit to mine rock on their land in exchange for less rock mining at the Jones Mine off Immokalee Road.

Environmental groups opposed the settlement on the grounds that it guts environmental protections from the 2002 plan and that the mining swap preserves land of less ecological value at the cost of endangered species like the Florida panther and the red-cockaded woodpecker.

Under the state's property rights protection laws, the settlement isn't final until a judge signs off on it as being in the public interest.

Commissioner Donna Fiala voted against the settlement, citing concerns about effects on roads in Golden Gate Estates neighborhoods from the mine truck traffic.

New animal control ordinance

Collier County commissioners postponed discussion on the county's new animal control ordinance Tuesday.

Commissioner Tom Henning told commissioners he would like to see the ordinance discussed in a workshop scheduled for 1 p.m., Tuesday, March 5.

Spearfishing ban

Collier County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to support an end to the ban on spearfishing in waters off the county's coast, but the proposal still needs more approvals.

Spearfishers had pushed for the ban to be dropped, citing a need to control invasive lionfish populations on the county's offshore reefs.

The proposal next goes to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which has rules that mirror the county's original 1956 ban. The Conservation Commission could take it up as soon as today in Orlando.

Even then, because the Collier ban is also in Florida statutes, the state Legislature also would have to act to end the ban, Conservation Commission spokeswoman Amanda Nalley said.

New roof for library

The Collier County Public Library system's Vanderbilt Beach branch is getting a new roof.

The shingles on the current roof are deteriorating and some are missing due to wind and other inclement weather. A green, seam metal roof to match the roofs on the adjacent county buildings will replace the current roof.

The library will not close during the four weeks it will take to replace the roof. However, patrons may experience more noise than normal and parking may be affected due to the presence of the roofing contractor's equipment in the parking lot.

Library officials want to complete the repairs before the rainy season begins.

For more information, contact Marilyn Matthes, executive director of the Collier County Public Library, at (239) 593-3511 or mmatthes@collier-lib.org.

— Kate Albers and Eric Staats

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