Future land uses changed for 1,586 acres near Airglades Airport

CLEWISTON — Hendry County commissioners approved comprehensive plan future land use amendments for two huge properties near Airglades Airport after conducting public hearings on the petitions Jan. 8.

Both requests were for a change from agriculture to multi-use development.

The first tract is just over 904 acres and is owned by the Joe Marlin Hilliard Revocable Trust and the Hilliard brothers, Joe Marlin Hilliard II with Chelsa R. Hilliard and Bryan R. Hilliard with Shea Hilliard, and is known as Bixby’s Place. It is 3 miles east of the intersection of State Road 80 and U.S. 27 and 3.5 miles west of the City of Clewiston, directly south of the Glades County line. Bordering it on the west is a large property known as Long Hammock Groves that also was recently re-designated to the multi-use development future land use.

Current uses on the Hilliard acreage are agricultural and residential, and the change to the county’s future land use map will allow farming to continue, alongside recreational facilities and residential, commercial and industrial uses. County taxes on the property in 2017 were $47,537, while potential taxes are estimated at $767,372.

The county board approved the petition and transmitted it to state agencies Nov. 13 for comment; it was reviewed by the Florida Departments of Economic Opportunity, Transportation and State, none of which had any objections. Technical assistance comments pertaining to the adjoining highways, State Road 80 and U.S. 27, were provided and will be considered when development requests occur. The property has frontage of about 1.5 miles along U.S. 27.

According to the staff report, the petition was for a simple map amendment, with no development plan yet filed. Future development will require a planned unit development zoning, site development plan review and compliance with the county’s Gateway Overlay Corridor requirements. Staff found the future land use was consistent with the comprehensive plan as the property is adjacent to Airglades Airport and the Airglades Industrial Park, and developers would be positioned to benefit from economic and development opportunities that are expected to arise from the airport’s privatization. It is county-owned at present, but Hendry has an agreement with Airglades International Airport LLC, a consortium of investors, to see it developed into an international air cargo hub.

Staff said that granting final approval of the future land use change would spare any interested business or developer from going through the comprehensive plan amendment process, minimizing the time required and costs to be incurred. The amendment was approved on a 5-0 vote after no one came forward to comment.

Commissioner Michael Swindle made the only remark from the dais about the petition, saying, “I’m glad to see that my part of the county and my neighbors are quote-unquote making a positive impact on the county that will further the county’s goals of economic diversity.”

The board then moved to a public hearing on a very similar petition from Southern Garden Groves Corp. for Hendry’s Corner, a property of about 682 acres located at the northeast corner of SR 80 and U.S. 27, with about 1.8 miles of frontage on U.S. 27. The land is currently in agricultural use, primarily sugar cane farming, and the petitioner seeks an identical change to the comprehensive plan future land use map to multi-use development. This land is 6.5 miles west of Clewiston, and Airglades Airport is directly to the southeast across U.S. 27.
Development of this land is subject to the same requirements as the first petitioner’s plan. The 2017 taxes were $11,391 and potential taxes are estimated at $389,998.

Chris Felker can be reached at cfelker@newszap.com

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