Commissioners: No to building by variance

Members of Clewiston High School Public Safety at the City Commission Meeting on Monday, Oct. 19.

Members of Clewiston High School Public Safety at the City Commission Meeting on Monday, Oct. 19.

Clewiston City Commissioners denied two variance requests at their last regular meeting held Monday, Oct. 19.

The first request came before the commission at its September meeting. Commissioners asked the applicants, Pedro and Omar Diaz, to take their plan back to the Planning and Zoning Board for further approval. The Diaz’ were asking for an exception to the yard requirements to build a four-unit apartment building on Central Avenue.

The commission was divided on whether or not to approve the request. With Commissioner Kristine Petersen abstaining from the vote due to a conflict of interest, the motion to approve the request made by Commissioner Julio Rodriguez ultimately failed with a 2-2 vote.

The second variance request made by resident Christopher Vary was also denied by a 2-3 vote, with commissioners Petersen, Mali Gardner and Sherida Ridgdill voting nay.

Vary was requesting a variance to the yard requirements to construct an open porch on his property on East Osceola Avenue. The Planning and Zoning Board approved the request with the condition that the porch never be enclosed.

When it came before the commission, Commissioner Gardner stated she would not approve the request because Vary had been granted a variance to build on the same property in the past. She said homeowners should not build by variance.

Commissioner Rodriguez, though voting in favor or both variance requests, said the commission sent a clear message that night that unless an applicant shows a hardship, he will be denied. (Variance requests are granted if a hardship justifies the request.)

Mosquito Fees Increased

Commissioners voted 5-0 to increase mosquito control fees charged to utility customers by $1.
Commissioner Mali Gardner said user fees were no longer covering the cost of the city’s mosquito control program and there was no doubt fees needed to be raised.

The city has been starting its mosquito control efforts earlier in the year for the past couple years due to unusually wet and balmy winters.

Boat Basin Rehab

Commissioners expressed their dismay for the reportedly poorly executed rehabilitation of the boat basin parking lot. The boat basin was repaved and new parking spaces painted and bumpers installed.
Mayor Phillip Roland said it was the worst case of workmanship he had ever seen. Though the contractor went back and corrected some issues, the Mayor said it was still not 100 percent.

The commission agreed to pay 90 percent of the project cost, amounting to about $31,000, but is holding the last 10 percent of payment upon further investigation.

South Florida Water Management District also asked the commission to approve an agreement to work cooperatively to replace the S-169 structure, which plays a dual role in providing flood protection and irrigation, as well as access to the picnic area at the Herbert Hoover Dike.

Water Management would first build the new structure at a new location west of Walmart before taking down the existing structure at the boat basin. The city would pay for a new permanent access bridge to the picnic area, and possibly provide a temporary access bridge during the construction phase.

The city has not yet decided where the new bridge would be located, as it may not be built exactly in the same spot.

Though it was originally thought Water Management would have to wait for the Army Corps of Engineers to finish its construction on the dike before beginning work on the structure, it is reported Water Management will be able to begin work in the summer or fall of 2017.

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