Hendry County Commissioners debate: To rezone or not to rezone?

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CLEWISTON - Preserving green spaces, agricultural land, and the overall aesthetic of Hendry County were the main topics of conversation during the regular meeting of the Board of County Commissioners meeting held on the evening of Nov.10.

Commissioners Karson Turner, Emma Byrd, and Chairman Mitchell Wills moved quickly, voting to approve most items on the agenda. Among the approved changes, the definition of and allowance for commercial vehicles was discussed and approved by the board. Also, a proclamation that named Nov. 19, 2020 as National Rural Health Day was read.

The National Rural Health Day proclamation aimed to “encourage citizens to honor our rural communities as wonderful places to live and work; and encourage citizens to recognize the unique healthcare needs and opportunities that exist in those communities, and recognize Lake Okeechobee Rural Health Network, the Florida Office of Rural Health, and the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health for the valuable services they provide to address those needs and opportunities.”

However, when it came to a discussion about rezoning a property, located on CR 833 approximately 3 miles south of US 27, from General Agriculture (A-2) to PUD (Planned Unit Development), neighbors, who own property adjacent to the site in question spoke during public comment, asking the board to seriously consider the negative impact this rezoning would have. They stated that traffic, lighting, and the loss of agricultural space would be detrimental.

The rezoning application included plans for two phases of development. The first phase would be outdoor storage for an auto salvage/junkyard operation. The proposed second phase would be for an Industrial Park with a maximum of 1,680,000 sq. ft. of warehouse and heavy industrial uses. The site, located near the FPL Blue Heron solar project and Southern Gardens Citrus processing facility, is surrounded by primarily agriculture and homesteads. Commissioner Turner also voiced concern about the largely green, agricultural area “snowballing” into an industrial, high traffic zone.

Commissioner Byrd said she had opposed this rezoning when it had been brought up before for the same concerns of heavy industrial uses such as a landfill, lighting, industrial waste, and wastewater runoff, and impacts to adjacent agriculture use.

After lengthy discussion, the applicant requested the matter to be tabled and rescheduled for discussion in early January.

Commissioner Byrd and Turner mentioned that Commissioner Darryl Harris had undergone surgery and could not be present at the meeting, and thanked everyone for their prayers.

The commission’s regular meetings are on the second (2nd) Tuesday of each month at 5 p.m. in the Clewiston City Hall, Commission Chambers, 115 West Ventura Ave, Clewiston, Florida and each fourth Tuesday of the month at 5 p.m. in the Hendry County Courthouse, Commission Chambers, 25 E. Hickpochee Avenue, LaBelle, Florida. Meetings are also live-streamed. There will only be one meeting held in December.

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