The City Commissioners discussed oak tree removal, the rezoning of Yeoman’s Avenue, and the Barron Park Master Plan at the city commission meeting held on March 8. The City Commissioners also heard updates on the Economic Development Council and approved the Chamber of Commerce’s “Night on the Town” and LaBelle Downtown Revitalization Corporation’s “Red, White, and Tunes”. Commissioner Hilda Zimmerly was absent from the meeting.
Fire Chief Josh Rimes said the fire department ran 70 calls the past month and 28 of the calls came during the Swamp Cabbage Festival. He told the commission the Division of Forestry loaned the fire department a 1981 pickup truck which they converted into a brush truck. Rimes said Hendry County issued a county wide burn ban and the City is still under a permanent burn ban. Rimes also updated the commission on the progress of the fire station renovations.
“They have the skeleton up for the building,” said Rimes, “it’s moving along pretty quickly now and we’re excited.”
Lieutenant Shawn Reed from the Hendry County Sherriff’s Office reported there were two robberies, one sex crime, two batteries, one stolen vehicle, two business thefts, three residential thefts, two residential burglaries, one business burglary, one vehicle burglary, and two criminal mischiefs in February. Hendry County Sheriff’s Office received 3,812 calls for service, 274 traffic stops, 101 arrests, 1,348 residential checks, 741 business checks, and 331 security checks.
“Swamp Cabbage went well, and we didn’t have any arrests,” said Reed, “We had one missing child and she was found in ten minutes.”
Commissioner Julie Wilkins thanked Reed for the Sherriff’s Office’s help during the Swamp Cabbage Festival and said it was “very well-coordinated.”
City Attorney Derek Rooney notified the commission he will be out of the country the last two weeks in April and Bert Sonders from Naples will be here in place of him.
Superintendent of Public Works Michael Boyle said the new street signs have been ordered.
Finance Director Ron Zimmerly requested to accept the offer Rodney Gregory made to purchase a surplus lot located at 809 Caloosahatchee Avenue. The motion passed 4-0. The deed to a lot declared surplus by the city and sold in 2016 is being modified to correct errors. A motion was made for Mayor Lyons to execute the quit claim deed. The motion passed 4-0. He reminded the commission of the deadline for the Small Community Outreach Program (SCOP) application is the end of the month and requested to have the commission meet to discuss what streets should be addressed before the deadline. The motion passed 4-0.
Business by Commissioners
Commissioner Julie Wilkins requested to have a budget workshop to discuss the replacement of Michael Boyle, Superintendent of Public Works, upon his retirement the end of this year. Commissioner Wilkins said the commission needs to know if they are going to replace Boyle with “two people or one person.”
“We have stuff we need to talk about and plan,” said Commissioner Wilkins, “we should plan to handle it right.”
Petra Esquivel spoke to the commissioners and requested to remove an oak tree from a lot she purchased so she can build a house. Esquivel said the oak tree is in the middle of the lot and big enough for “two or three people to hug around it.” Commissioner Tommy Smith made a motion to “allow Esquivel to get a permit to build her house and to have her replace the tree that is removed with another tree.” The motion passed 4-0.
Public hearings on proposed Ordinances 2018-01 and 2018-02 first introduced during the Local Planning Agency in February regarding the Yeomans Avenue Small Scale Comprehensive Plan Amendment and Rezone were held. Jeff Wright spoke on behalf of his client, the owner of three parcels on Oak Street and Yeomans Avenue, in response to Ordinance 2018-01 and said, “we’re ok with it.”
“We think the downzoning from B-2 to B-1 will hurt my client,” said Wright, “The request would place an inordinate burden on my client and have a detrimental impact on my client’s property.”
Wright asked the commission to postpone the decision on Ordinance 2018-02. Ordinance 2018-01 passed 4-0. The commission withdrew Ordinance 2018-02 for the staff to readdress it later.
Mayor Dave Lyons asked Tuesday Tritt, Chairman of the Hendry County Economic Development Council, to “bring the board up to date” on recent changes. Tritt told the commissioners the focus of the organization is changing.
“Our top three priorities are infrastructure, workforce development, and cleaning up our community,” said Tritt.
Bianca Ross, President of the LaBelle Chamber of Commerce, requested permission to use the wharf on Tuesday, April 3 for their “Night on the Town.” The Chamber postponed their original “Night on the Town” scheduled the week before the Swamp Cabbage Festival.
“It is our annual networking event,” said Ross, “we usually have a few hundred people that attend.”
The commission passed the request to host “Night on the Town” April 3 and approved the sales of alcohol 4-0, contingent upon acquiring a special event permit, paperwork, insurance and deputies on the wharf.
Ellen Woosley, outgoing Chairman of The Swamp Cabbage Festival, thanked the City for their support during the 2018 Festival. She said the Commission’s “continued support of the committee is very much appreciated.”
City Planner Shellie Johnson addressed the redevelopment of Barron Park. The Main Street Organization received a grant from the State of Florida Main Street Program in 2016 to aide in funding the project. After discussion between the commissioners and those in attendance at the commission meeting a decision was made to have a public workshop to further discuss Barron Park’s redevelopment.
Kelly Boone from the LaBelle Downtown Revitalization Corporation requested to once again host “Red, White, and Tunes” in Barron Park on July 4 without the sales of alcohol and change the time from 3 to 9 p.m. Her request passed 4-0.