MOORE HAVEN — The Glades County Board of Commissioners on Dec. 8 shined a green light for home developer Glenn Harvey’s plan to build a subdivision near Buckhead Ridge, the unincorporated northeasternmost community in the county.
First, the commissioners conducted a public hearing on a change to the Glades County Code of Ordinances, regarding “an ordinance revising Section 105-24 to the code’s Chapter 105 – Administration, in order to provide consistency between chapters of the Glades County Code of Ordinances for the approval of subdivision plans.”
County Attorney Richard Pringle, who requested the change along with the Department of Community Development, explained that it would resolve conflicts between Chapters 105 and 137 of the code, the latter titled “Subdivisions,” while the former deals with the administrative procedure for Planning and Zoning Commission (P&ZC) consideration of preliminary and final plats and a subdivision plan.
Answering a question from Commissioner Donna Storter Long, he said it strikes inconsistent language in the original ordinance with the Florida State Statutes (Ch. 177), “where it appeared that the planning commission performed the final approval, and that’s what we were addressing. The planning commission actually performs the initial review and recommends, then — they don’t have an approval step, they make a recommendation to the board on whether you should approve.”
Long said she knew that, but there were too many iterations of the word “final” in one rewritten sentence that confused her. Pringle confirmed she was right, saying, “you’re making sense.” The board voted 5-0 to approve the change, removing one “final” from the wording, on her motion with Commissioner John Ahern seconding. There was no public input on the matter, and the two new commissioners on the dais, Jerry “Gator” Sapp and Tony Whidden (who replaced former Commissioner Donald Strenth and County Board Vice Chairman Weston Pryor) cast their first votes as members.
Estate homes plan gets OK
Then, Community Development Director Susan BuChans presented her report on the G. Harvey Estates Subdivision preliminary plat, of which the P&ZC recommended county board approval. She said it was consistent with other development in the area and was properly noticed in the newspaper. The first-phase plat is for 100.552 acres of what is currently vacant pastureland. “This ... proposes 84 residential lots, 83 of which are single-family (zoned) and one is a commercial lot.” It will have a new through street, with ingress/egress off the highway, to be built before a final plat approval comes from the board. In fact, all requirements must be met before that point.
She added that the roads inside the area will be private, “and not maintained by Glades County.” She said the county approved (on Feb. 11) a rezoning and later a development agreement with Harvey (May 12) for “the entire development, which is 531 acres in four phases; this is the first.” The agreement sets out what the county requires of the developer, and lists each item, including road and wastewater system improvements plus the development of a master homeowners association for the entire development, including all future phases.
“The agreement has been attached and provided in this staff report. (It) details all of the contractual agreements,” BuChans said. Among those (all to be at the developer’s cost) are construction of left-turn lanes for the new road running from State Road 78 East, eastbound toward the lake; dedication of all other internal roads to the homeowners or property owners association (an entity still in the process of being created, so its exact nature is not yet determined); water lines to be provided by the Okeechobee Utility Authority or other source, with a minimum of 6-inch diameter, and fire hydrants that the Public Safety Department will inspect; most lots on septic systems, but lines must be put in for an eventual tie-in to whatever sewer system is established for the area; connection of all Phase 1 lots to a wastewater treatment system at the beginning of Phase 2, with drainage systems to be maintained by the HOA or POA under a five-year county permit; and all documents to be simultaneously recorded by the Glades County Clerk of Court’s Office.
BuChans explained that after county officials are assured all requirements have been met, only then can a final plat be approved for the whole 531-acre mixed-use development. Lots will be about a half-acre each.
Commissioner Sapp, who now represents the nearby Lakeport community area a few miles down SR 78 East, asked whether there had been any public feedback, especially from neighbors in Buckhead. The county manager’s administrative assistant, Susan Whidden, said no letters had been received, and there also was no public comment during the hearing.
Project engineer Steve Dobbs said Harvey had started planning the subdivision nearly four years ago. “My client has been through a lot to get this going. It has been difficult, but we’re glad we finally made it.” He said the project’s future phases will include more commercial uses to serve the growing population in the area.
Board Chairman Tim Stanley, who represents Buckhead residents, asked if any of the lots would be connected initially to OUA water lines, and Dobbs responded that over 20 of the lots would, and that they would be sold as the prime lots. The development will include a drainage pond that will cover about 20 acres.
The commissioners voted 5-0 in favor of letting the developers start fulfilling their plans and move forward with the specified improvements needed before any occupancy is allowed.