Glades County prepping for more development

MOORE HAVEN — Glades County commissioners took several actions to ease business development and also reap more revenue from anticipated growth during their regular morning meeting July 14.

Anticipating higher demand for industrial and commercial properties in Glades because of the impending development of Airglades General Aviation Airport in Hendry County into a privately owned entity to handle international shipping, the commissioners:

• Rezoned two properties by the county’s own petition to make available more commercial opportunities in the county (a vacant 0.75-acre tract at the northwest intersection of U.S. 27 and State Road 29, on Fisheating Creek, and a 2.25-acre tract east of U.S. 27 and south of Third Street in Palmdale), to which there were no public objections;

• Adopted a schedule increasing fees for inspections and permits, plus a separate plan for commercial site plan review requirements and higher fees for the county planning staff’s reviews, which will help cover more of the costs to taxpayers of regulating new development;

• Sought a way forward to get the Glades County Business Park property legally prepared for shovel-ready development due to interest expressed in parcels there to several county officials;

• Considered putting out an RFP (request for proposals) that needs some further alterations by the county attorney for development of the former Glades Inn site, 1100 U.S. 27 in Moore Haven; and,

• Voted to move ahead on the extensions of their Small County (One-Cent) Tax for another term (unspecified in the staff report) and the Local Option Fuel Tax of 6 cents per gallon for another 10 years. Those were allowed by the State of Florida and/or approved by voters and have been extended before. Because of its small population, Glades often misses out on state funding that larger counties get, and the county and City of Moore Haven have come to depend on these revenues.

Business park plans not set

County Manager Bob Jones and others including a couple of commissioners have said business and industrial entities lately are expressing interest in acquiring or leasing sites in the Glades County Business Park. It consists of spacious, vacant acreage near and around the Glades County Sheriff’s Office and Detention Center complex and the Glades County Regional Training Facility, west of State Road 78 and north of U.S. 27.

The problem is, the board never had decided on a master plan for the property. The staff report said the board would:
“Discuss ideals and provide direction for the county’s business park. There has been some interest of companies wanting to locate in the business park. Maps of the park are provided that show a general parcel layout.”

Attached were drawings of conceptual plans dating to 2013, prior to the Training Center’s construction. The report added:
“Items for discussion — (1) Cost per parcel; (2) type of business; (3) building requirements, building frontage; (4) outside storage; (5) fencing; (6) paving requirements; (7) any restrictions on operation hours; (8) restrictions on the number of parcels a business may own; (9) how long after the business agreements are made before construction needs to start etc.”

This discussion all took place after the commissioners reconvened on July 14; the audio recording of it was not immediately available, as Clerk of Court Sandra Brown and Manager Jones could not be reached Thursday.

County Board Chairman Tim Stanley said the commissioners had a back-and-forth about “what we want to do with the business park, as far as whether we want to lease it or rent it out or whatever. Basically what we told Bob (County Manager Jones) was to check with a consultant before we act … have the consultant look at it and give us some options.”

During a previous discussion on an unrelated matter in the meeting, Commissioner Weston Pryor suggested there soon will be a need to hire more county staff to deal with new programs being offered due to the coronavirus pandemic and new development.

Talking about a new housing program the county has decided to offer for housing assistance, Pryor said, “I think this is all fine and great … (but) we don’t have the staff to keep up with this stuff … we need to get somebody in there to help our staff with all these documentation requirements.”

Then after the business park discussion started, Commissioner Donna Storter Long threw out the idea of making the training center over partly into a county office facility.

“We’re going to need some space for county offices especially if you’re going to want to add staff,” she pointed out. She also stated they would need to have a set of regulations in place for the business park so that there is a continuity of pleasing designs among whatever facilities are eventually to be constructed on the property.

Mr. Jones told the board, “We really never had any discussions about what you all want out there … we put this on the agenda to get some direction on this because we are getting some interest in the park.”

Chairman Stanley acknowledged Long’s suggestion as one idea but said: “We didn’t agree to do anything as far as what’s going to happen. We’re basically trying to decide what kind of businesses we want in there, or what we want to do with it, but we want to keep it looking nice, too.”

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