Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Hendry Speedway - 'Not Here!' Say Residents

Port LaBelle Not Happy Over "Car Club" Race Track Proposal

LABELLE, FL. -- At a Tuesday night meeting at the Church of the Good Shepard in Port LaBelle, area residents spoke against a Naples developer's proposed car club and sports car track on the Hendry and Glades county line at Birchwood Parkway.

Paul Roberts of the Southland Group of Naples, Fl. told a group of about 120 residents he is helping current landowner Armboz, Inc. develop a 240-acre Glades County "Driving Club" including a track where up to 25 sports cars can race around at speeds as fast as 150 m.p.h. on the straight away.

About 20 acres are in Hendry County's Port LaBelle along the county line near Birchwood Parkway.

The tract of land was foreclosed last May and two of the partners got title along with a $4 million note due in November, so the Southland Group is reportedly scrambling to find a plan to salvage the property to bring in money to save the owner's investment.

The proposed track and development is to include garages and storage areas with owner's apartments above and is sited less than a football field away from several well established residential subdivisions including Laurel Oaks and Port LaBelle Unit 101. Nearby are the condos and townhouses near the Port LaBelle Marina.

Roberts told an often angry crowd his plan is based on the as yet to open Autobahn Country Club in Joliet Illinois, billed as "The Fastest Club Around." Roberts says he may incorporate about 70% of the ideas from that development. The Illinois speedway is proposed to open in April, 2010.

Roberts cited the nearness of a hotel and marina for the site selection, saying his development was based on demographic studies in a 250 mile radius from the Glades county site. Roberts says State Road 80 will be perfect to bring people from all over to his "one of a kind facility."

He plans to begin construction one year from now taking nine months to complete, and spending $55 million on the track, claiming to add "83 people" to maintain the track. Residential homes are not the priority he said, but apartments above the storage and garages will be sold to car club members.

He speculated about 300 homes could be built there with some four to ten unit apartment buildings at some future date. He claimed to have 25 commitments from prospective sports car owners who "plan to store and work on vehicles" and join his club.

Roberts admitted he has never developed a car driving park project before, but said he's "never had a project go bad" and said he's currently working on three other much larger projects without specifically naming them and their success. He said eventually his group would become part owners of the development in the future under his agreement with the land owner.

The land owners purchased the property as it was under foreclosure of the previous owners.

Roberts said the cars to be raced on the track will be "street legal" but after audience questions admitted some cars might not be so. When questioned about why Glades county, he mentioned there's no noise ordinance in the rural county.

Noise was the main complaint from the audience comments and questions. Roberts tried to quell the uproar by saying the developer was studying the noise problem and had met with Glades officials, and suggested vegetative "walls" and berms would be his proposed solution, admitting he was not an expert in noise abatement.

Roberts repeatedly insisted he was not "proposing a race course" but a "driving park," but could not definitively answer audience questions about the difference between the two.

Sports cars would race around the track trying to go as fast as they can, competing for best times, as there's no speed limits, but Roberts said training would be required and drivers would be rated as to their abilities to handle the track.

He speculated the project would raise Glades County's tax base by 20%. Glades county's primary land owners currently are in agriculture, cattle,  and timber, with Lykes Brothers being one of the largest land owners.

Roberts said he is about "midway" through the permitting process. The next public meeting will be  at the Glades County courthouse in Moore Haven Tuesday, March 13th at 5:05 p.m. to consider an amendment to the Glades Comprehensive Plan to allow the new use. The Glades County Commission will meet on Tuesday April 10th at 9:00 a.m. to consider the proposals after the zoning hearing.

For details of the developer's submission to Glades County for an amendment to the Glades County Comprehensive plan and a change to County Ordinance 91-1:



  1. Anonymous9:09 PM

    This is not an accurate depiction of this meeting. Plenty of residents are certainly against the course but the most vocal critics at this meeting reflected poorly on our community.

  2. Anonymous1:13 PM

    AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! I think this is great! They can have demolition derbies on the weekends and swamp buggy races when it floods.... I love it! Typical.

  3. Anonymous9:29 PM

    This would be a big boost for Labelle and the area. I previously lived fairly close to an identical Driving Course/track and the noise is a non-issue and the benifits to our community and property values outweighed any negatives!
    This will have a major positive effect on Glades county. There are always people who don't want any kind of change, even if there are gains for the community as a whole!

  4. Anonymous9:58 PM

    I am a resident of Port Labelle (about 1/4 mile from the proposed development) and attended the meeting last Tue. I think the concept is just what Port Labelle needs to bring back our statue and give the community a needed boost in image and property values and economic benefit. Our county commisioners should not let this one get away!

  5. Anonymous10:39 AM

    I attended the meeting and the concerns for noise were loudly expressed and were well received by the developer. One person spoke out regardinig the positive aspects to the community.
    That is the right way to evaluate the proposal. Not a bunch of unorganized "Howling"! This concept has a lot of possible merits. What other use would bring a $55Million investment? Certainly not "Low Income Housing"!

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