By DOTTY NIST
Walton County is seeking a court order to prohibit further mining activity by D&H Sand, a sand pit operation located on Sand Plant Road north of Freeport. The county’s complaint was filed with the First Judicial Circuit on June 2.
In July 2008, the Walton County Code Enforcement Board (CEB) found the sand pit in violation of county code for not obtaining a development order prior to undertaking mining activity. An additional violation was found for mining activity in a Large Scale Agriculture land use area, contrary to allowable uses for this land use classification. The company was directed to apply for a development order within 30 days and not to expand its activities horizontally until such time as the development order was obtained or code compliance was otherwise achieved.
D&H Sand initiated the development order application process as directed. However, on Nov. 10, 2008, Walton County Code Enforcement posted a stop-work order on the property in connection with the alleged clearing of an area to the north of the existing pit area of native vegetation. On Nov. 20, the CEB found the company in violation for the clearing activity and for the failure to cease operation after the posting of the stop-work order.
The company was ordered to comply with the stop-work order. Fines were also imposed, including $250-a-day fines beginning with the date of the stop-work order and continuing each day until compliance.
In January 2009, D&H Sand appealed the Nov. 20, 2008, CEB order in court. That lawsuit is pending.
On May 28, 2009, D&H Sand appeared before the Walton County Zoning Board of Adjustments (ZBA) to seek approval of a special exception for the operation of a pit in an agricultural land use area. Approval of this exception would have made the business a conforming use within its Large Scale Agriculture land use classification.
However, a majority of ZBA board members voted against hearing the request until such time as code enforcement issues and access issues in connection with the business had been resolved.
The county lawsuit, a complaint for temporary injunction and permanent injunction, alleges that D&H Sand “has and continues to operate a mining operation on the Property.”
“To date, Defendant continues to ignore the Stop Work Orders and repeated warnings by County Officials,” it also states.
The complaint argues that the issuance of an injunction is supported by the likelihood of “irreparable harm” to the county government if activity continues. “If a local government cannot enforce its own local laws as to one property owner, it will be unable to enforce its laws on other properties. This is irreparable harm to any government,” the complaint reads.
“The county and its citizens have a clear public interest in compliance with the County’s (land development code) and Comp Plan,” the lawsuit concludes.
Dotty Nist can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org