The two companies that had Baker County in a turmoil in recent months seeking to bring their sand mining operations to sites south and east of Macclenny did last week what they had to do.
Both withdrew petitions for zoning exceptions pending environmental review by two state agencies — St. Johns Water Management District and the Department of Environmental Protection.
Opponents were loaded for bear before the hearings cancelled at the last minute the evening of August 21 — a petition with 2000 names and warm bodies to fill the large second-story courtroom at the county courthouse.
Alas, it was all for naught, at least for the present.
The controversy isn’t about sand mining, after all. It’s about water supply, and one could argue convincingly that the environmental impact portion of this should have preceded the zoning exception request.
But it didn’t, and we need to deal with what is.
As mentioned before, the plans of Old Castle Southern Group of Tampa and E.R. Jahna of Lake Wales broke into the public consciousness at an inopportune time — right on the heels of the medical waste incinerator request (also at Trailridge and environs) that turned into a fiasco.
The public perception with all three projects — rightly or wrongly — was that they screamed out “environmental hazard!” foisted on the public after groundwork was laid in secret.
That’s not exactly accurate, but it didn’t matter — perception is everything.