The Clewiston News

Hendry County to consider code changes for Airglades in May

HENDRY COUNTY — The Hendry County commissioners will be talking a lot about developments around Airglades International Airport (AIA) this month as two major sets of changes to their regulations will come before them for discussion.

Next Tuesday, May 8, they’ll have a first reading of noise ordinance modifications that will affect operations at the airport and the ancillary businesses that are expected to spring up around AIA in the near future. It is poised for expansion to become a cargo hub, intended to relieve bottlenecks at Miami International Airport, and will become a privately operated (rather than county-owned) enterprise.

Planning and Zoning Director Margaret Emblidge asked the county board April 24 to postpone the noise ordinance changes until this month; they’ve been continued several times now. Commissioner Michael Swindle wanted to know, “Is timing an issue, or are you getting pushback on this?” She said, “At this point, no…”

County Administrator Charles Chapman interrupted to explain further. “I know when we were talking about the noise ordinance prior that there was a business looking at relocating from Miami. That business is still interested; however, they really do need to provide us some more due diligence as far as … their noise profiles, and a little bit more information.

“In terms of this being an economic driver, to hurry up and get the ordinance done, that’s still in play but we need to coordinate this a little bit better based on scientific reasoning and what design standards are put in place for this,” Mr. Chapman went on.

Commissioner Swindle pressed: “But we’re not asking for them to give us that, to design our ordinance around. We need to go by our standards and what we want, and they can fit or not, right?”

The administrator said the noise issue is related to the airport land use study that’s under way. “They’re all intermarried, so there’s just some more information that we need to be able to bring you back a solid product.” Mr. Swindle replied, “So it’s not turned into a big ugly ordeal, it’s just time-consuming and you need more time?”

Ms. Emblidge said, “Right, but … we still have some things to work out to be able to make a better recommendation from staff’s perspective.” She added that they also “will be bringing an update to the land development code on the airport section … that does speak to noise control and compatibility around the airport, not on the airport. They’re two separate situations.”

Commissioner Darrell Harris and Chairman Mitchell Wills both expressed concern that the public get ample notification about the upcoming discussions. “Will you notify people living around the airport?” Mr. Wills asked. When told that wasn’t required, he emphasized that staff should make sure it’s announced on social media. “As a courtesy, I do believe we need to reach out in as many (ways) as we can.”

Mr. Chapman explained that “this is not … a land use or a comprehensive plan amendment recommendation that was made in a vacuum. There were many public charrettes that had been done out in the community that had the involvement of the residents around the airport, as well as into Flaghole and 7K (Montura Ranch) Estates. This particular recommendation … has had significant public input.”

Ms. Emblidge clarified: “We’re actually talking about two different things here. One of them is the land development code for the airport’s sections. The other one is the Airglades Airport Area Land Use Study, which will also be presented to you May 8 on first reading. They are … two big agenda items that we will be presenting to you, somewhat related but not dependent on each other.”

Tuesday’s meeting is in Clewiston; public hearings will take place on Tuesday, May 22, at the county courthouse in LaBelle.