Little house not allowed on the Prairie

OKEECHOBEE — At the Nov. 20 meeting of the Okeechobee County Commission, a property owner complained that he purchased a 1.25 acre lot on the Prairie (aka Viking) only to later learn he cannot put a single wide trailer on the property. He said he had also been offered a FEMA trailer, but was told he could not put a FEMA trailer on the lot.

The man said he has been forced to live in his van. He added that he is on disability and his income is only $1,100 a month, and he cannot afford a double-wide trailer.

County planning director Bill Royce said the regulations have a minimum dwelling width of 20 feet for residences on the Prairie. Single-wide trailers are 12 ft. wide, he explained.
He said there are properties in the county that allow single-wides, but Viking is not one of those properties.

He said any single-wide mobile homes on the Prairie were placed there illegally.

“I am sorry you bought a piece of property out there,” said Commission Chair Terry Burroughs. “I would have talked to a Real Estate agent to find out where a single wide can go.

“Some people say ‘this is Okeechobee County, you can do whatever you want.’ Well there are five of us here who say you can’t do whatever you want,” he said.

In other business at the Nov. 20 meeting:

• Okeechobee County has been selected to be included in the Florida Association of Counties 2019 calendar. Sharie Turgeon, with the Okeechobee Tourism Development Council, explained that an annual photo contest is held to choose the photos. She said the county submitted 18 photos under the theme of “Old Florida.” One of the photos was chosen, but the winning photo has not yet been revealed, she said. Throughout the year, all of the photos that were submitted will be in the Florida Association of Counties Instagram page, she added.

• The commission approved a work authorization for $48,680 for CivilSurv Design Group to perform construction inspection for the weir replacement and stabilization of the banks of Otter Creek south of Potter Road.

• The board awarded the bid for waterway marker removal and replacement on Lake Okeechobee and the Kissimmee River to Summerlin Marine in the amount of $35,190. The funds will come from the Boating Improvement Fund Restricted Reserves. Albie Scoggins said the county has already purchased the buoys and signs to keep the cost down.

• The commissioners approved the purchase of a John Deere 304K Compact Wheel Loader from Everglades Equipment for $78,540 for use at the Agri-Civic Center. The price is from the state contract.

• Beth Albert reported the Code Enforcement sweeps continue. They started with Basswood in July, then did Oak Park in October. Code enforcement officers are currently working in Treasure Island. She said the amnesty program for code enforcement liens has attracted 17 applications, and six liens have been paid. In addition, she said two people who saw it in the newspaper, came in and didn’t apply for amnesty, but paid their liens. She said the letters sent out prior to the code enforcement sweeps have been effective. Many people clean up the code violations before the code inspectors arrive in the neighborhood.

• The commissioners also considered alternatives for changes to the Airport Master Plan. Options under consideration include lengthening the primary runway from 5,000 ft. to 5,450 ft.; lengthening the secondary runway from 4,001 ft. to 4,883 ft.; changing the taxiways so they are 90 degree angles to the runways instead of 45 degree angles; adding 21 new spaces for parking in T-hangers, box hangers and conventional hangers; adding more parking spaces for itinerant aircraft to park for those who fly in and stop at the airport for a meal at the restaurant; and, adding more vehicle parking spots at the restaurant. It was noted that runway extensions would also expand the runway protection zone which could impact U.S. 98, the Okeechobee Civic Center and a number of residences.

• The commissioners approved an Independent Contractor Agreement with Deborah Hooker to continue to serve as the Code Enforcement Special Magistrate through 2020. Ms. Hooker has been the special magistrate since 2012.

Publisher/Editor Katrina Elsken can be reached at kelsken@newszap.com

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