MOORE HAVEN — The Glades County Board of County Commissioners unanimously voted to approve the amended Lakeside Estates development agreement at their May 22 meeting.
Lakeside Estates and Villas, to be built on State Road 78, west of Buckhead Ridge, will include up to 1,300 homes as well as schools, restaurants, stores and public buildings.
Public comments at the meeting included concerns about the increased traffic on State Road 78 and demand for fire and ambulance services. Commission Chair Tim Stanley pointed out the ad valorem tax revenue generated by the new homes will make it possible to hire firefighters/EMTs to staff a fire station at Buckhead Ridge, improving service to the whole area.
He said Glades County has needed improved fire and ambulance services for a long time, but residents don’t want to pay increased taxes to pay for it. This development will help Glades County pay for improved services which will benefit everyone.
“We need the service. We have tried to get the service forever,” Stanley said. He pointed out the county considered implementing a fire tax, but county residents rejected that idea.
He said Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is responsible for State Road 78, and FDOT will base future improvements on traffic studies.
County Attorney Richard Pringle said the development agreement includes the installation of fire hydrants with sufficient water flow to ensure fire protection.
“Maybe we’re remiss in not going forward with our impact fees sooner,” said Commissioner Donna Storter Long.
“This is the classic chicken and the egg,” said Commissioner Tony Whidden. “Without growth, we don’t have the money to provide these services. We need this growth to provide these services.”
Engineer Steve Dobbs said the Lakeside Estates residents will pay for their own roads, water, sewer and drainage as well as pay county ad valorem taxes.
Pringle said SR 78 is a state road. "You don't have authority over SR 78," he said. FDOT builds roads to their design standards.
"There are occasions when FDOT might be willing to modify the design standards for a road, but it takes a considerable amount of effort on the part of the county government to make that request," he continued.
"Glades County has an agreement with Okeechobee to provide EMS service in that area," Pringle said. "By interlocal agreement, the Okeechobee ambulance responds first.
He said at budget time, Okeechobee County looks at the number of calls and the ambulance service fees they have been able to collect and then makes adjustments to what Glades County pays for EMS service to Glades County.
Long said the logs indicate in 2022, Okeechobee County Fire Rescue responded to 267 EMS calls in Glades County and transported 188 patients.
In addition, Okeechobee Fire Rescue responded to 143 fire calls.
"That seems like an awful lot for one year. I was amazed how busy they were," she said. With new construction, buildings are less likely to burn," she added.
Pringle said the fire calls were not all structure fires. He said that total includes response to accidents and false alarms.