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DeS_oto OK’s Mosaic deal, rezoning delayed

By CRAIG GARRETT

ARCADIAN EDITOR

It was another chippy meeting placing Mosaic Fertilizer and its opponents in the ring.

The encounter on Tuesday involved a deal between DeSoto County and the Fortune 500 mineral firm. DeSoto commissioners would decide a dispute resolution settlement, which is linked to the county denial of a land rezoning application in July. Rather than hauling DeSoto to court for infringement of property rights, a dispute expert, or special magistrate, listened to both sides and recommend terms of a possible settlement. That hearing was April 3 in DeSoto. Jacksonville lawyer Terrance Schmidt acted as special magistrate for the hearing, which included concerns and some support, just like Tuesday.

Item 14 on Tuesday’s agenda, buried down there after the Pledge of Allegiance, proclamations and bill paying, was to discuss settlement terms and to vote the matter up or down.

Those in a packed commission chambers stewed for 17 minutes, and then came alive as public comments were solicited after Donald Conn, the county’s attorney, laid out a dispute history and the options menu from which the commissioners must choose. The afternoon meeting had the same flavor of July hearings in which Mosaic presented plans to dig phosphate from about 14,000 acres in DeSoto County. Two days of combat then produced a 4-1 vote against the rezoning from farmland to industrial mining, phosphate’s first big defeat in Florida. Opponents cheered, Mosaic retrenched.

After commission Chair Judy Schaefer outlined Tuesday’s purpose— not a rehash of July’s denial— county Administrator Mandy Hines sorted names of public speakers, DeSoto residents, then outsiders, urging a vote as they so wished. Schaefer often steered those speaking against Mosaic back to the issue, not an assessment of the bigger picture. She even hammered a straying Mosaic staffer showering himself and his employer in praise.

Bottomline was this: In exchange for a ‘yes’ vote, Mosaic would not return for rezoning before January 2023, and would stage quarterly workshops, sharing its many benefits. DeSoto, among other concessions, would wipe the slate of its rezoning denial, Conn said. Then hearings to rezone for mining would begin around January 2023.

As anticipated, commissioners after three hours voted in favor of the dispute settlement, which displeased many. But the fouryear window tempered that anger.

For its part, Mosaic in a press release was pleased with Tuesday’s outcome, believing “it provides a fair and clear path forward for both parties.”

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