G. Harvey Estates plans on 90-day hold

BUCKHEAD RIDGE — Developer Glen Harvey, who is near the final stages of planning a 509-home development called G. Harvey Estates near Buckhead Ridge, requested and received a 90-day extension on his rezoning petition from the Glades County Board this week.

He had hoped to be ready for final approval after a scheduled second public hearing Monday, Feb. 12, on his 532-acre planned development. Instead, however, a delay was requested on behalf of the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD), so the public hearing was continued until probably May.

Community Development Director Susan BuChans explained that the parties, including the county, still are working out the ownership matter regarding Access Road (labeled County Road 78B at the turnoff from State Road 78). As a condition of approval, the county now still may end up having to take over ownership of the road directly from the SFWMD.

Mr. Harvey’s representative, consultant/engineer Steve Dobbs, said he wanted to relate for commissioners that in his contacts with water district officials, they listed three options for dealing with Access Road — which runs for roughly a mile to the SFWMD’s S-127 lock and drainage facilities at Buckhead Ridge, and also serves as a “back way” into that community via a one-lane pavement. It’s lined with grassy areas next to a ditch on the planned development side, and a canal on the Buckhead Ridge side.

Mr. Dobbs said: “One was for my client to get an access easement, which we requested back in July. Number two was for my client to purchase the property, which would require them to make this property excess property, and they would have to go out to bid. I’m not sure how they could do that, with it providing access to their facility. Number three was, they could simply transfer it to the county as it is.”

County officials have met with SFWMD officials, and made a request that the district transfer the road into the county’s possession. The county’s ordinance calls for Mr. Harvey to acquire the property from SFWMD — but Mr. Dobbs said he doesn’t see how that can occur. “The only path I see is for the county to take direct ownership of the road.”

He added, “The county is not giving up any of their leverage to get the road brought up to county standards if the road is simply transferred. You could make acceptance of the final plat contingent on the road being brought up, because we have to get the preliminary plat done before we can start our construction.”

The development already has a Department of Transportation-permitted turn lane for access that would also serve the Buckhead Ridge residents who currently use the road to get to the small bridge entering their development onto Hunter Road, Mr. Dobbs said.

“DOT thinks you own the road, because they have it named CR 78B,” he said.

A title search has been conducted, and the WMD’s report, Mr. Dobbs said, was that it owns the road and never has granted access to anybody, legally.

County Attorney Richard Pringle said he has not seen the title search documents and that he believes the issue must be resolved for plans to move forward. He was echoed by Public Works Director Archie Branch, who said that if a homeowner along the road — where additional homesites already are permitted — complains about the condition of the 90-degree curves, he wouldn’t know whom to go to in order to do any upgrades.

CR 78B/Access Road has two narrow, right-angle turns where the pavement is one lane, and a narrow gravel shoulder at those curves allows room for two-way traffic to pass.

Lake Okeechobee News reporter/editor Chris Felker can be reached at cfelker@newszap.com.

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