The Hendry County Board has approved proposed changes in an amendment to the county Code of Ordinances’ sections on airports, zoning districts and dimensional and density regulations, which will limit residential and incompatible land uses in the vicinity of Airglades Airport.
Commissioners conducted their second and final public hearing on the amendment Tuesday, May 22. Board Chairman Mitchell Wills asked if there was any public input. Planning and Community Development Director Margaret Emblidge rose to outline the modifications that the board was considering at the prompting of Commissioner Michael Swindle, who said some people in the audience had come specifically to ask questions about the changes.
The staff report said, “The county is required to update and amend the (Land Development Code) as it relates to airspace protection and compatibility with airport activities pursuant to the Florida Statute 333, Airport Zoning. This amendment applies to both the Airglades Airport and the LaBelle Airport.” However, the changes mainly apply to areas around the future Airglades International Airport’s new perishable air cargo complex and related development, on which construction is expected to start within a few months.
Ms. Emblidge started to speak, but Commissioner Karson Turner interrupted her to ask the chairman whether they could bypass the presentation because “we’ve beat this airport to death” and just skip to any questions from the public. Mr. Wills consented, and one man stood up to speak.
“My name is Art Gallagher, and I’m a resident in Montura Ranch, and I was just concerned with the noise,” he said. “It’s been a quiet life out there, and we’re wanting to maintain that, and I wanted to know if there was going to be times, restrictions on the noise, and when the planes can be coming in and out of the area.”
Mr. Wills asked Hendry County Engineer Shane Parker to respond. “There’s going to be no time restrictions,” he said. “They can come any time of the day they want to; they’ve got their flight paths set up.” He showed a slide from the staff’s presentation about the noise contours in areas surrounding the airport, which is east of Flaghole, and noted that Montura is farther away, so noise will be much less there. “So the noise shouldn’t bother him, right?” asked Commissioner Darrell Harris. Mr. Parker responded, “No, sir, it shouldn’t.”
Mr. Turner asked whether the presentation was available on the county’s website. Ms. England answered: “Our staff report with our recommendation and attached exhibits is online. The presentation that the consultants were going to do or are prepared to do, that can be made available on our website, if that’s the desire of the board.”
Chairman Wills said: “I believe that would really enhance the opportunity for members of the public who cannot be here, to pull that up and sit and discuss it. Personally, I believe that would be a good idea.” Mr. Turner said, “And in a galaxy far away, in the event that we’re able to update our audio-visual capabilities, that is something that we would move to, but right now, I think this is fine, so I appreciate you all just making that available to everybody online, and I’m excited to move this forward.”
Commissioners unanimously approved the amendment.
Next, the board was to conduct a second public hearing on amendments to the county code’s noise control regulations’ definitions section, but staff requested a continuance of the public hearing until 5 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 28. It was approved 5-0, and no one from the public asked to speak.
The board also approved a rate increase of $345 for new customer connections to the Port LaBelle Utility System, as recommended by PLUS Director Roger Greer, after a second public hearing on the matter during which no one asked to speak. The first public hearing was May 9, conducted by the PLUS Advisory Board. The increase was due to higher costs incurred for installation of new service lines and meters. “This is for new customer connections only,” Mr. Parker explained, adding that “there was nobody from the public even present” during the first hearing. The new cost is $2,205 for water connections.
Among other items approved by the Hendry commissioners on May 22:
• A proclamation of Trauma Week Month, observed during May, after a short presentation by Chris Hanson, a member of the Lee County Health System Board of Directors, on behalf of the county Trauma Services District, which covers Hendry County.
• An amendment to the county’s procurement ordinance increasing the county administrator’s emergency purchasing authority. It goes to $40,000 from $24,999 for repairs or purchases required because of emergencies under normal circumstances; is set at $50,000 during any declared local state of emergency such as during a hurricane; and is unlimited in situations where, due to emergency conditions, there is a need to replace, reconstruct or repair any public building or structure.
• The 2018-19 budget of the Southwest Florida Workforce Consortium, which proposes spending $14,161,000 during the year ending June 30, 2019, in its territory of Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry and Lee counties on its workforce development activities. The Hendry representative currently sits as chairman of this board.
• Sale of a surplus property at 900 Mississippi Ave. in Harlem to Michael and Myrtice Carrigan for $3,500, almost $3,000 less than the property appraiser’s valuation, but staff recommended the sale because the parcel had been on the market for nearly five years.
• A listing agreement with Sugar Realty for three lots in Harlem, extending a listing that had been approved last year.
• Advertising a Request for Qualifications for design and construction engineering and inspection services for the Florida Department of Transportation’s project to make safety improvements to curves along County Road 835. The board did this as part of authorizing the agreement with FDOT for the $1.52 million project, which is being financed in full by the Florida DOT.
• Ratification of a union contract with Hendry County employees covered by the International Association of Fire Fighters; the articles already have been approved by IAFF Local 1826. The contract provides for a raise for starting full-time emergency medical technicians from $9.75 to $10.04 per hour and for paramedics from $12.50 to $12.88 an hour. It also gives current full-time EMTs a 23-cent-an-hour raise and paramedics 40 cents more, retroactive to Jan. 1.
• Acceptance of the annual reimbursement grant from the Florida Emergency Preparedness Assistance Trust Fund for the county’s Emergency Management Department in the amount of $105,806, which requires a county match of $85,455 and finances the department through the 2018-19 fiscal year ending June 30, 2019.
• Sheriff Steve Whidden’s request for release of $20,000 in contingency funds for upgrades to the kitchen at the county jail to bring it into compliance with health codes.