LABELLE — The Hendry County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) reported a dramatic decrease in personal/property calls from 2018 and 2019. This information was shared at the Sept. 16 LaBelle City Commission meeting.
The HCSO monthly report also stated that there has been an increase in vehicle thefts, specifically on the west side of the county. The report stated that in May there were two vehicle thefts, June had just one, July had seven, and August had three vehicle thefts. Several cases involved keys being left in the vehicle.
Regarding the vehicle thefts, Commissioner Julie Wilkins asked, “So, these aren’t brilliant thieves? They’re just driving around LaBelle?”
Mayor David Lyons replied, “I can assure you these are not brilliant thieves.”
Wilkins added, “So, it’s not like a gang is doing this, it’s just a crime of convenience?” The HCSO representative agreed that was the general impression, that it was just some “knuckleheads,” but that the HCSO would continue to investigate the issue.
In other business, commissioners approved a Land Development Code Amendment for industrial wastewater pre-treatment. Much discussion was had regarding illegal operators, both residential and industrial, and holding them accountable.
Commissioners also passed a Small-Scale Comprehensive Plan Amendment for a 9 acre parcel of land located south of Cowboy Way and 1⁄4 mile east of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, known as LaBelle Riverside. They also approved a request to rezone the property as a Planned Unit Development.
The city commissioners voted to extend the local state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Commissioner Daniel Akin asked when the local emergency would be lifted, or how long they planned to continue the order. Wilkins responded that the local state of emergency would likely be continued until both the president and governor declared the emergency to be over, “or until Election Day, which ever comes first.” A motion to approved 4-1, Akin voting against the motion.
Under the topic of new business, commissioners consider a request for a fee deferral for water and sewer connection relating to Oakwood Terrace multi-family project. The importance of the project was mentioned. The need for impact fees for services was also brought up. Waiting until the project began generating revenue, and a wait time of 3-5 years was mentioned.
Commissioners also approved a provision for a new field in the County Village Property Owners Association and Recreation Board Lease Agreement.
A discussion regarding a small business auto mechanic moving to an new property was brought up, but an approval for this required a special exception and several meetings needed to be scheduled.
LaBelle Fire Chief Josh Rimes reported 71 calls for the month of August. Rimes also reported a structure in Port LaBelle. He said it appeared the fire was intentionally set. The fire is under investigation. Training for volunteers has continued, and the training facility improvements and upgrades have continued. September is Fire Prevention month and plans are underway for spreading the awareness regarding fire safety. October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Firefighters will draw attention to safety and proper precautions regarding exposure to chemicals. Rimes spoke about the number of traffic accidents at the Helms Road and 29 extension. He said the traffic light should be turned on.
The topic of some of the older oaks being cut or destroyed, commissioners considered amending the Oak Tree Ordinance in order to hold people accountable for cutting down significant oaks.
“I was going to chain myself to a couple of the oak trees and get really feisty with this,” Wilkins joked. The commission discussed a plan for saving the oaks along both Shady Oaks Lane and Avenue as a possible solution to save trees and address traffic concerns through Moss Landing. Wilkins mentioned there were funds available for planting new trees. They agreed an arborist, one who was not over zealous about removal, was needed to re-evaluate the significant oak trees.
Agendas for the City Commission Meetings as well as the Local Planning Agency Meetings can be found online at citylabelle.com/agendas.
For archived agendas you may contact the Deputy City Clerk at email@example.com or 863-675-2872.
The regular business meetings of the LaBelle City Commission are held on the second Thursday of every month 6 p.m. at City Hall, 481 W. Hickpoochee Ave. Meetings are open to the public. To be included on the agenda, you may call City Hall at 863-675-2872.