Resident addresses Commission on rentals

(Courtesy photo/Swamp Cabbage Committee) “The Executive Board Members of the 2019 Swamp Cabbage Festival presented an appreciation photo to the City of LaBelle Commissioners. The partnership between the SCF and City is essential for a successful festival. Thanks City of LaBelle! And, thank you to Thin Line Photography for the amazing shot!”

The March 14, 2019 meeting at city hall began with the City of LaBelle Local Planning Agency Meeting where Alexis Crespo, City Planner, went over the information, and answered questions about the following ordinances:

Ordinance 2019-06. The motion to approve passes 4-0.

Ordinance 2019-02 City Initiated Future Land Use Comprehensive Plan Amendment: The motion passes 4-0.

Ordinance 2019-05 84 Hall Street Rezone: a 0.15-acre area, current used as a florist shop, current zoning was R1 residential medium density. Historically, prior to 2015, Crespo explains they had been within a B1 commercial zoning district. The motion passes 4-0.

As the Regular Meeting began, role call revealed that Tommy Smith, Hilda Zimmerly, Julie Wilkins, and David Lyons were present for the meeting. Daniel Akon was absent.

The Executive Board Members of the 2019 Swamp Cabbage Festival presented the City Commission with a beautiful framed photo, taken by Chelsea King of Thin Line Photography, in celebration of another successful Swamp Cabbage Festival. The Commission personally thanked the SCF committee and City for doing such a great job.

A home owner came forward to speak about some ongoing issues that she has been dealing with. Introducing herself as someone who has grown up in LaBelle and is very proud to be part of LaBelle, Maribell Ramos is the owner of 433 S. Lee Street, and spoke on about a rental property located in front of hers, that is upsetting the neighborhood and doesn’t fit within the zoning of the property. Ramos said the lights and noise of the 18-wheelers is causing negative impact to them and their neighbors at all hours. The workers on the rental property recently moved equipment which resulted in the loss of access to internet access, which has caused many problems for their family. Ramos pleaded with the Commissioners for a solution. Julie Wilkins visited the property, and several staff members have been working on a solution. The city has been trying since January to solve this problem. The business has been cited once so far. The Commission agreed that city staff should work hard to get this problem solved via citations and whatever else it takes.

A Special Event Permit was requested by New Wave Auto Sales for a tent to be put up from April 16-22, 2019 for a sale. No one was present to speak on behalf of the permit request. Commissioner Julie Wilkins and Mayor David Lyons discussed that they didn’t approve of temporary sales events from businesses outside the city that compete with LaBelle’s permanent local businesses. Permit approved 2 to 1. (David Lyons opposed)

Fire Chief, Josh Rimes, celebrates 27 years on the job next month! Approached the podium with his monthly report, smelling of smoke due to the brush fire he had just responded to prior to the City Meeting. He reported 75 calls in the last month; a busy, but overall good month. Rimes also reported that there is $67,000 remaining in the building project fund. He discussed some small projects around the building that needed to be completed. He also stated that the LaBelle Fire Department did receive a donation of a working generator, in good condition, from the Florida Division of Forestry. He then discussed the pros and cons of the Cancer Presumption Bill that would possibly be adopted as soon as July 1, 2019. Rimes also wanted to recognize a few dedicated individuals, starting by saying “Webster defines loyalty and being loyal as giving or showing firm and constant support or allegiance to a person or institution; it goes on to define dedication as a quality of being dedicated or committed to a task or purposes.” I currently have a roster of officers who are currently stepping up to the plate. These officers choose 5-7 days a month, as volunteers, to respond 24/7 within two minutes to any emergency that arises. He then surprised Ron Snell with a promotion to Captain of Administration for the LaBelle Fire Department, and David White, who was the Deputy Chief of Operations, to Assistant Chief of LaBelle Fire Department.

Hendry County Sheriff Lieutenant, Shaun Reed, reported that the during month of February, HCSO received 10,001 calls for service. Among them there were 158 traffic stops, 73 arrests, 1 sex crime, 2 stolen vehicles, 2 business thefts, 4 residential thefts, 2 burglaries residential, 2 vehicle burglaries, and 1 criminal mischief. Reed also commented that the Swamp Cabbage weekend went well, as there were no arrests at the festival. There was only one call for a missing child, who was found within a few minutes.

Gary Hall was approved by the Commission (4-0) as the new Superintendent of Public Works, Mayor David Lyons expressed how excited he is to have Hall onboard. Being new, there was nothing significant to report.

Finance Director, Ron Zimmerly, asked the Commission for an authorization of a Change Order for the Fire Department; motion approves 4-0. Zimmerly then provided an update on Civic Center, there was not a large enough pay request submitted, so the closing has been rescheduled.

Commissioner Julie Wilkins spoke about how the Swamp Cabbage Dance lost money on their event and asked about refunding/waiving the fees. A discussion about waiving fees for one event that fails, would open it up to waive fees for any or all events that fail.

Commissioner Hilda Zimmerly asked about any modifications of the abutment on Forrey Drive after an accident that occurred. Discussion revealed that a modification has been made.

Julie Wilkins asked for the board to re-address an issue with a food truck vendor at the Flea Market location operating out of the warehouse units. She believes he had a once thriving business has suffered and that maybe they could try to find a solution. This topic was tabled until the next meeting.

Two members of the public, who did not disclose their names during the meeting, spoke up about the ongoing issue of the city owned property located at Fort Thompson Avenue and N. Cypress St. the issue is that the property has a private fence and gate blocking the public from access to the river. The members of the public disclosed that the lock was taken off the gate, but there are very big and ill-behaved dogs that jump on people and will likely knock someone down. Neighbors are afraid to walk through the city owned property access point. The Commission spoke about trying to obtain an estimate for a fence for the dogs to be contained or finding a way to solve the issue, that has been going on for months. The Commission and staff said they will review prior meeting minutes and work to resolve this issue quickly as possible. The Meeting was then adjourned.

The regular business meetings of the LaBelle City Commission are held on the 2nd Thursday of every month 6:00pm at City Hall, 481 W. Hickpochee Ave. The next meeting will be April 11, 2019. Meetings are open to the public and everyone is invited to attend. If you would like to be included on the agenda, call City Hall at 863-675-2872.

Julie Wilkins asked for the board to re-address an issue with a food truck vendor at the Flea Market location operating out of the warehouse units. She believes he had a once thriving business has suffered and that maybe they could try to find a solution. This topic was tabled until the next meeting.

Two members of the public, who did not disclose their names during the meeting, spoke up about the ongoing issue of the city owned property located at Fort Thompson Avenue and N. Cypress St. the issue is that the property has a private fence and gate blocking the public from access to the river. The members of the public disclosed that the lock was taken off the gate, but there are very big and ill-behaved dogs that jump on people and will likely knock someone down. Neighbors are afraid to walk through the city owned property access point. The Commission spoke about trying to obtain an estimate for a fence for the dogs to be contained or finding a way to solve the issue, that has been going on for months. The Commission and staff said they will review prior meeting minutes and work to resolve this issue quickly as possible. The meeting was then adjourned.

Danika can be reached at dhopper@newszap.com

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