Glades board told it needs to acquire a so-called county road

MOORE HAVEN — Glades County commissioners were a bit surprised to learn Tuesday that they may have to purchase and upgrade the one-lane country road erroneously marked as County Road 78B in Buckhead Ridge.

The Florida Department of Transportation will require a turn lane be built on State Road 78 to CR 78B for access to the proposed G. Harvey Estates. Lake Okeechobee News/Chris Felker.

That’s because it is actually named “Access Road” on other signs and on maps and is controlled under a fee simple deed by the South Florida Water Management District to give district workers and contractors access to the S-127 Lock structure. Neither the county nor Buckhead Ridge Subdivision nor another small development nearby has any access rights, the county board was told. Yet residents of Buckhead Ridge and of the five developed lots along Access Road, called the Pearson Vivian Unrecorded Subdivision, have been using it for years. Now, it will need widening and upgrades to accommodate a new development proposed just southwest of the 1,502 canal-fronting lots in Buckhead Ridge, where more than 2,000 people already live.

Community Development Director Susan BuChans explained that developer Glenn Harvey proposes to utilize the road’s path for access to his planned G. Harvey Estates development.

He’s been working with the Florida Department of Transportation to make sure all state requirements are met before presenting his rezoning and development plans for Glades County review, planned in November, according to Ms. BuChans and Mr. Harvey’s representative, Steve Dobbs.

Commissioner Tim Stanley worries that the bridge to the left also may need improvements when the access road to the S-127 lock and the Herbert Hoover Dike actually becomes a county road as it’s already marked. Lake Okeechobee News/Chris Felker.

G. Harvey Estates is envisioned to be a four-phase development of about 531 acres, with a total of 495 lots when completely built, and would include some commercial buildings along State Road 78.

Ms. BuChans provided a report listing four options for how commissioners might proceed in light of these previously unknown facts. In any event, acquiring the road from SFWMD will affect the county’s budget because under the most desirable scenarios, she said, the county would take control and thus be responsible for maintenance, although she suggested establishing a cost-sharing agreement with the developer. The other option is putting it up for public bid.

Mr. Dobbs came to the podium to give some background and said he believes the county should formally acquire Access Road from the SFWMD and bring it up to standards. He brought drawings of the development plans and said Mr. Harvey will only seek approval for the first phase initially.

“Putting it up for public bid is a danger not only to him but to the county, to the water management district and to Buckhead Ridge,” Mr. Dobbs pointed out. “I think the county needs to get in with SFWMD and acquire the road. On the other hand, if my client was the only one that was going to benefit out of this, I would say he needs to bear the burden of bringing it up to a two-lane road. Since he isn’t, I would request that we look at … trying to get into a block-grant situation.” He explained that former County Manager Paul Carlisle had looked into that when G. Harvey Estates was first discussed.

Ms. BuChans noted that the state will require that the developer construct a turn lane from SR 78 to the so-called “CR 78” and that it must be accepted by the FDOT before any lots are sold or developed.

Commissioner Donna Storter Long suggested “we prepare a cost-sharing agreement before we go anywhere with it.” And Commissioner Tim Stanley noted that improving the road could be very expensive and also might require improvements to a county-owned bridge on Hunter Road that connects to Access Road.

The board voted unanimously to have County Manager Martin Murphy and Ms. BuChans investigate purchasing the road from the SFWMD, report on potential costs of bringing it up to standards, work on an agreement to share costs with developer Harvey and bring back their recommendations as soon as possible. Mr. Dobbs said they were looking to secure all final approvals by Feb. 8, 2019.

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