At their August 6 meeting, the city commissioners undertook a long and involved discussion on possible confusion for people in the vicinity of areas being considered for rezoning, It was prompted by newly-sworn in commissioner Julie Wilkins.
The ordinance to shrink the designated Downtown Walking District was being heard for the first time that evening, but Commissioner Wilkins questioned the current process for alerting adjacent property owners of impending zoning changes.
Commissioner Wilkins’ motion was for a courtesy letter go to those affected by the change in the Downtown District containing the city’s newspaper ad and a legible map with a note to call City Hall with questions or visit the city’s website (citylabelle.com) under public notices for information on pending zoning issues.
The proposed ordinance had already been the subject of two published ads and two public workshops.
Commissioner Wilkins noted that residents had been caught unaware of another rezoning a while ago that created considerable bad feeling when a neighborhood was changed to allow an apartment complex. The commissioner wanted to prevent that kind of incident from happening again. She was concerned because, she said rezoning affects how people can use their property. She said she would volunteer to hand deliver the letters to residents directly affected, but City Attorney Angela Hill said a hand-delivered letter would need to repeat the technical legal language in order to be defensible in case of a lawsuit. The original idea of the letter was to explain the proposed change in layman’s terms.
Former mayor Paul Puletti suggested that the city consider making the requirements for a city-initiated zoning change the same as for a privately initiated one – that the city send a letter to every individual property owner within a specified distance from the property to be rezoned – a very expensive solution.
It was suggested that the city not make these suggested contact changes for zoning into law, but include them in its policy, making them usual practice without being legally binding.
The proposed rezoning to decrease the size of the Downtown Walking District will go to the Local Planning Agency for its recommendation at 6 p.m. September 10, and will be followed by the public hearing and vote at the regular meeting that evening.
FPL zoning request
A series of ordinances that would allow annex and rezone several properties including Florida Power & Light’s service center on Cowboy Way and Pinecrest Subdivision were read for the first time at the meeting.
The second public hearing and vote will be at the city’s September 10 regular meeting. It will first be taken up by the LPA that evening at 6:00.
Ultimately, FPL is seeking to change the property’s current Hendry County residential high density designation to City of LaBelle Commercial and residential zoning and also its Hendry County Commercial-3 and Agriculture-2 to city business general and residential multi-family.
LaBelle Downtown Revitalization
LaBelle Downtown Revitalization Corporation Program Manager Kim Gillman came before the board for approval to set up a Saturday Market every Saturday from October through April at Barron Park/DeSoto Ave. from 8 a.m. till noon. The Saturday of Swamp Cabbage Festival and December 26 would be exceptions. The markets would be reserved for crafters, high quality sale items and nutritious food.
She said the market would be complimentary to many other events and the board would like to collaborate with others on the project.
Because the request would encompass the entire “season,” City Attorney Angela Hill suggested they narrow their scope and try just two months.
She also maintained that the city would need to control the types of vendors allowed to set up and regulate fire and traffic control issues.
Ms. Hill suggested the group try the Saturday Market for two months, then consider its options.
Ms. Gillman welcomed the city’s guidance saying, “We want to do this right.” She agreed to put the idea on hold.
The DAV flea market at SR 80 and Martin Luther King Blvd. operates by special exception, subject to an annual review.
The details are to be ready for a first reading in September, with the public hearing in October.
The September 10 public hearing will also look at temporary use permits for such purposes as selling Christmas trees, fireworks and fall pumpkin sales.
Lt. Josh Woods reported that in July there was a 41 percent decrease in personal crime from 2014 and a 10.1 percent decrease in property crimes. There were 117 arrests, 439 business checks and over 1,000 security checks.
The LaBelle Water Treatment Plant awarded the bid for CO2 in-line equipment to lowest bidder, WPC Industries.
The city still needs USDA consent for the project, which should end the issues with red water many residents are experiencing due to rust clinging to the insides of old pipes. The project is to be funded by money from the original water treatment project construction.
– The city approved an agreement with Wesley Hansen giving the city an easement across his land south of town for recycled water. In return the city approved a waiver of fees for a future PUD plan and possibly use of some of the recycled water. The motion was approved, 5-0.
In other business:
– Commissioner Daniel Akin was appointed to the LaBelle/West County Rec Board.
– Commissioner Wilkins was appointed to the Regional Planning Council.
– A $350,000 legislative appropriation continuing the city’s wharf project was approved. The city is also seeking a state grant.
– Former commissioner Greg Bone received a plaque in recognition of his 8 years service on the board.