Glades County seeks to loosen development rules

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MOORE HAVEN — At the Oct. 13 Glades County Board of Commissioners meeting, a public hearing was conducted for transmittal of a Comprehensive Plan amendment to the Future Land Use Element allowing development of up to 12 units per acre of residential uses. That is an increase of five units per acre for gross residential density, which Community Development Director Susan BuChans said the county is ready to request from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

The Planning and Zoning Commission recommended approval of the plan last month, she said.

The county has about 11,000 acres total available in what’s called transitional land use areas, BuChans explained. “They (DEO) wanted to see some analysis regarding water, sewer and transportation. This will be sent up to DEO, they may have comments, and I expected it to come back pretty quick,” she added.

She said most of that transitional land lies along arterial (major) roadways but that she analyzed only 25% of the available acreage (5,900 acres). The county’s sewer and water capacity can handle the higher number, she found. “I believe that the county has the things that they need to pursue this 12 dwelling units per acre,” she said.

It will allow developers, if they opt for a Planned Unit Development (PUD), to build up to that number; but a regular residential development that is not a PUD is limited to 10.9 units per acre for multifamily or seven for other residential.

When County Commissioner Donna Storter Long asked how she arrived at that number, BuChans said she believed several of Glades’ neighboring counties have expanded their allowed densities to 16 units per acres, to create space for more apartments, condos, etc.

County Attorney Richard Pringle interjected that “12 units per acre is a reasonable number for several stories of height ... to get more density than that, you’re going to really have to start increasing the heighth of the structures.”

And Long said, “And we don’t have fire protection for that size.”

“That’s the big thing,” Pringle replied.

But he noted that there are things that can be adjusted about developers’ plans like adjusting road widths and such that can allow higher density, and that the commissioners could consider raising the density limits in the future as more infrastructure is built.

There were no comments from the public, and Commissioner John Ahern moved to approve sending the amendment to the state DEO for “expedited review.” Long seconded, and the resolution passed 5-0.

In other actions, the board:

• Approved an amended interlocal agreement with the City of Moore Haven to fix an error in their arrangement for sharing the Small County Surtax, which begins and which the city will start collecting its share of, on Jan. 1, 2022.

• Approved a renewal of the county’s annual contract with the Florida Department of Health.

• On an item tabled from the Sept. 28 meeting, County Manager Bob Jones said there were two bids from contractors for replacing the Glades County Courthouse’s roof. Both were for a shingle roof, with Clyde Johnson Roofing bidding $49,900 and CFS Roofing coming in at $42,988. Jones said either company could do the work within 60 to 90 days, taking three weeks to completely tear off the existing roofing and repairing any rotten plywood or “valleys,” which is included in the total price. On Commissioner Long’s motion, the board voted 5-0 to hire CFS Roofing Services LLC for the work.

• Voted 5-0 to award a contract for $345,106 with Big League Builders to construct the Harney Pond Overlook tower at the park. Theirs was a “middle” bid, but since the county advertised for a request for proposals rather than bids, commissioners were not bound to select the lowest bidder. There were four: Midcoast Construction bid $617,000 but did not respond to requests for details; L. Cobb Construction bid $402,410; and Beck Companies bid $227,800, but they noted lumber prices were subject to change, did not supply any costs for upgrades and were unwilling to give the county a “hard number bid” unless selected.

• Set the date of Dec. 8 for the county Christmas party, which will be catered as usual, and staff will seek price quotes.

• Decided to direct staff to get prices for a new fire truck from the state bid program after Public Safety Director Angie Colegrove said the department was facing maintenance issues on several of its engines, needed permission to look at new ones, and that they’re planning to do a five-, 10- and 15-year replacement plan.

• Heard Supervisor of Elections Aletris Farnam’s report that her office had mailed out 2,100 absentee ballots so far, and 888 had been returned so far. They were to conduct an accuracy test this week of counting machines. Farnam said so far, elections operations have been going smoothly.

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