Controversy surrounds Cone Ranch Proposal

06/03/09 Mitch E. Perry
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Earlier this month, Hillsborough County Commissioners heard about a proposal by private developers to purchase much of county-owned Cone Ranch, north of Plant City.

The proposal comes from Florida Conservation and Environmental Group, or FCE&G. FCE&G is led by a former Chief of Staff to former Mississippi Senator Trent Lott.

The proposal has been supported by Commission Chair Ken Hagen. Many environmentalists are concerned, including Pam Clouston. At the County Commission meeting this morning, one citizen, Joyce Newnam, complained about activites going on right now in the area.

But Commissioner Al Higgenbotham said that was action being done by the County’s Forestry division.

WMNF contacted the County’s Forestry Department. A official there said that department does not cut any trees, but does contract out such work to a subcontractor called South Florida Timber out of Arcadia.

Plant City resident Marcia Spivey says she’s been protesting the cutting of trees in the area, and says because of that she’s been threatened by loggers there.

Commissioner Ken Hagen, who has been spearheading the idea of selling the land to FCE&G, said his intentions have been misunderstood.

Hagen is hoping to get a Task Force to review the potential sale to FCE&G. Commissioners have appointed their own representatives to that Task Force. Hagen had called for environmental activist Denise Layne to chair the committee, but others said the Board should let the Task Force to choose their own leader.

Commissioner Mark Sharpe confessed to doubts about the plan for Cone Ranch.

Commissioner Hagen said the Task Force should not just give a recommendation about FCE&G’s proposal, but simply what’s best for the land overall.

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