RCMA requests rezoning

At the City of LaBelle Local Planning Meeting held on August 11, LaBelle city commissioners gathered to listen to a motion for proposed ordinance changes. Redlands Christian Migrant Association (RCMA) requested rezoning their subject 4.8 acre property from Hendry County designations of Commercial (C1) and Residential/High Density (RG3) to City of LaBelle Planned Development (PUD). The applicant is seeking approval of a rezoning to Planned Unit Development (PUD) to allow for a school and future commercial and/or residential uses on the subject property.

Brian Smith represented the City of LaBelle. The applicant is seeking approval of a voluntary annexation petition for the RCMA’s property. At the time of the staff report, the applicant had already received letters of conformation from the Hendry County Sheriff’s Department, EMS, Hendry County Schools and the LaBelle Fire Department that the proposed services can be received by each of these departments. City of LaBelle water service is available to the subject property as well as onsite sewer service. Mr. Smith informed the commissioners that the planning staff had determined that the proposed annexation would not adversely impact the city or surrounding area, and that the application satisfies the Florida Statute Section 171.043. The applicant concurrently presented a comprehensive plan amendment and a zoning application to a PUD for the piece of property. The staff recommended the approval of the voluntary annexation of the property.

Larry Bennett, of H.L. Bennett & Associates, Inc. explained that another reason behind the expansion of this site is due the fact that the RCMA facility located next to LaBelle Elementary School is set to close. Both RCMA sites will be consolidated on the 4.8 acre property. “This will help alleviate traffic issues along Cowboy Way near LES,” Bennett said.

The RCMA property is already fully developed with multiple structures, driveways and parking spaces. The Redlands Christian Migrant Association’s site plan will increase their parking spaces from the required 48 to 85. There will be a considerable amount of extra parking for staff and visitors. A designated school bus area and a circular vehicular access pattern are also planned. The existing structures will continue to be used with the exception of one building that is planned to be demolished. Concrete modular units will be brought on site and will meet city codes. New playgrounds and equipment storage facilities are planned as well.

LVFD Fire Chief Josh Rimes expressed some concerns about the proposed changes regarding emergency service access. It was noted that there is an access road from the south that is on Redland’s property that will allow for accessibility if needed. Commissioners will have further discussion with Chief Rimes regarding emergency services.

The motions were passed during the regular commission meeting later that evening.

In other business:
-Lt. Josh Woods, with the Hendry County Sheriff’s Department, noted that there had been an increase in the number of calls inside the city. He stated that often during the summer when there is no school, there tends to be a rise in the number of incidents occurring. He also mentioned that even though the sheriff’s office is currently down several officer positions, two new K-9 handlers have joined the department who are to be dedicated to the schools. These K-9’s are trained in both narcotics and explosives.

-Fire Chief Josh Rimes noted that during the month of July there were 69 calls within the city. He also discussed the purchase of desperately needed equipment. The LVFD now owns its own “gear extractor”. This cleaning machine will allow the crew to clean and care for their own bunker gear eliminating the need to go to other fire stations. Chief Rimes reviewed the final resolution for retirement changes. All members of the fire department voted ‘yes’ to the changes. The modifications made will not create any fiscal impact to the district. Chief Rimes stated that at their pension board meeting, the League of Cities told the LVFD that they have the best financial pension in the entire state of Florida, being about 210 percent overfunded.

-City Finance Director Ron Zimmerly updated the board on two current projects. He said the recycled water project is going well, and barring any complications the start up of the project should be done on August 22. The water treatment plant had its electrical inspection and everything looked good. The city has talked to the USDA about upgrading the current software system. If the USDA will not cover the cost of the software upgrade, there are still some funds available in the budget.

-The Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Grant (Byrne JAG) Program was addressed by City Finance Director Ron Zimmerly. Monies are designated to the county and divided up by the Edward Byrne Memorial Fund. The funds of $70,974 for the Federal fiscal year of 2016 are to be divided by the Hendry County Sheriff’s Office for their mobile computing initiative, the Clewiston Police Department for their mobile communications upgrade and the Hendry County School Board’s truancy intervention program.

-City Attorney Angela Hall noted that after meeting with LaBelle Animal Control Supervisor Doug Morgan and Director of the Caloosa Human Society Alex D’Stefano the feral cat definition changes addressed at last month’s meeting will be incorporated into the city’s existing ordinance. The Humane Society will be the agent to administer the program and assume all costs incurred. This should alleviate some of the work for Animal Control. A first reading will be held in September followed by the adoption in October.

Amanda can be reached at cbnews@newszap.com

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