Clewiston commissioners continue public hearing on Comp. Plan to resolve ‘inconsistencies’

Clewiston commissioners voted unanimously to continue the public hearing for the city’s comprehensive plan held Monday, June 15 until their next meeting, heeding the advice of City Attorney Charles Schoech.

The continuation came after a Coral Gables attorney, representing two mobile home park owners affected by a change in the comprehensive plan, pointed to inconsistencies within the plan.

Attorney Jeffrey Flannigan said portions of the plan were inconsistent with each other, including the housing element and future land use map, one of which used old population growth projections while the other used updated figures.

One such instance is a higher-income residential area zoned in the area behind Walmart near the lake front, which was included in the city’s earlier plan in the early 2000s before the collapse of the economy. It used population projections which do not match the trends of today.

Planning and Zoning Director Travis Reese said there do seem to be some “perceived inconsistencies,” but they are not necessarily “inconsistencies.”

Flannigan also pointed out that areas designated for residential use were surrounded by areas designated for industrial use, a circumstance he said the city’s plan states it does not want to create.

The main reason Flannigan came to speak before the commission was to ask for a postponement, as the clients he represents had not heard about the changes in the comprehensive plan until a few days before the public hearing.

Commissioners were informed that there had been adequate advertisement of the comprehensive plan, but property owners are not notified individually.

Flannigan’s clients own mobile home parks across from the Hendry County Fairgrounds off of Francisco Street. In the new plan, their parks are changed from mobile home park designations to multi-family designations. Multi-family zones do not allow for mobile homes.

Once the plan goes into effect and the zone changes, any permits pulled for an upgrade on a mobile home in the new zone will be denied as the home will not be compliant. If any mobile home should be destroyed by an act of God or fire, the city will not allow it to be replaced.

Flannigan also argued the new designation is unnecessary, as the plan projects 600 new residents over the next 10 years and states there are 1,300 new dwelling units to be constructed.

With enough housing planned to be constructed for the influx of new residents, argued Flannigan, why redesignate the mobile home parks at all?

Reese went on record saying the city is not trying to “zone out” mobile home parks with the new plan.

Reese also said he did not recommend the commission postpone approval of the comprehensive plan; if the city misses the July 27 deadline for submittal, it will have to start the entire process over.

Reese also said changes can be made even after the city submits the plan to the state.

Taking the advice of the city attorney, commissioners voted to continue the public hearing to resolve any issues and resume the hearing at their July 20 meeting.

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