Wheeler Estates moves toward development style

LaBELLE — The Hendry County Board of Commissioners has begun a process that will result in a special set of Land Development Code regulations specific to the area along the Lee County line known as Wheeler Estates.

Southwest of LaBelle and lacking direct access to Florida State Road 80 (the east-west artery connecting to the west coast and points east), that large region is a frontier in an outlying part of rural Hendry County, near several water conservation and wildlife management areas and just east of Lehigh Acres in Lee County.

As Commissioner Karson Turner pointed out when Board Chairman Mitchell Wills called up the subject, “This is in your ’hood, right?”

“Yes, sir,” Mr. Wills answered. “We’ve had quite a few community outreach meetings, and the community has been very involved, so this has been a good process.”

Planning and Community Development Director Margaret Emblidge stood to answer questions, but a motion was quickly made and seconded to approve the county-initiated amendment to the “Comprehensive Plan Future Land Use Element and Map for the Wheeler Estates Community.” No one stepped forward to speak when Mr. Wills called for comment (it was a public hearing), but Commissioner Turner wanted to know, “How many people live out there, roughly?”

Ms. Emblidge, caught off guard, said, “That’s a good question; we have not found out what that number is.”

She added that they’d be checking on it but said, “There are a little over 1,000 parcels out there and, just to let you know, we’ve had a lot of purchases out there, and we get probably an inquiry once a day on folks that are interested in that area.”

“Good grief,” responded Commissioner Michael Swindle.

“So we need to continue to work on that community for some of the services it needs,” she went on.

Chairman Wills jumped in. “Access,” he said. “A road,” echoed Commissioner Swindle. “Break out the napkin, get it going, let’s get after it!” exclaimed Mr. Turner.

To which Mr. Wills replied, “If I can get Mr. Harris (Commissioner Darrell Harris) to leave Shane (Parker, county engineer) alone, we’ll get something done over there!” Mr. Parker has been working on many projects north of the Caloosahatchee River, other commissioners noted.

Ms. Emblidge interjected, “Before you guys get going … The land use study will result in three actions, one of them being this comprehensive plan amendment. … This is a transmittal hearing; the second item is a land development code regulation specific to that area, which will have two readings and you’ll hear that at the April 23 board meeting; and then we also have rezoning of the existing A-3 and RG-1 parcels to a rural residential Wheeler Estates new zoning category … with the final approval at the end of May.”

Chairman Wills finished with this commendation before the 5-0 vote to approve: “This has been a process they’ve done a very good job on.”

Chris Felker can be reached at cfelker@newszap.com.

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