Thursday, April 12, 2012

Glades Sport Car Track In Trouble? Or Not?

Neighborhood Groups Say "Vehemently Opposed"

MOORE HAVEN, FL. -- A representative of three homeowner groups told the Glades County Commissioners they don't want a proposed sport car racing facility in their neighborhood. Nonetheless, the board voted Tuesday unanimously for a change in zoning from agriculture to residential, allowing the developer to proceed with plans for car tracks, a hotel, and other commercial like development of a 274 acre parcel to proceed.

A public hearing in Moore Haven, Tuesday at 9 a.m. was held to change Glades County's Future Land
Use Map for 74 acres within the community of Port LaBelle, from Agriculture to Residential to bring it into consistency and compatibility with the adjoining properties and in compliance with the County’s Land Development Regulations.

The proposal was brought by landowner Armboz, Inc., as a first step in getting authority to build a 274 acre sports car racing facility. The 74 acres would allow home to be built providing what the developer calls a "buffer" to his proposed sports car tracks and facilities. 

The developer has indicated it's desire to build two car tracks, a kart track, a 50-room hotel and many other commercial type amenities in the midst of a rural community of residential homes, under the guise of a residential "driving park" for owners of high powered sports cars.

Armboz says they want to market the property to out of area high performance car owners who will visit the facility to drive their cars around the tracks at speeds up to 105 mph, and store their vehicles at the site in garages under second floor apartments for owners.

The Commissioners heard from Rose Quale, President of Villas At River Run Condo, John Hollingsworth President of Laurel Oaks Villa POA 5, Diane Penn, President of Port LaBelle Ranchettes POA who all deferred to Scott Wegscheid, a resident of the Ranchettes and a real estate developer and appraiser, granting him their allotted three minutes to speak to the board.

Wegscheid requested that future meetings with hearings on the Armboz application be considered at the 6 p.m. meetings instead of 9 a.m. to enable other residents who work to be able to attend. 

In addition to the inconvenient meeting time for many, Southwest Florida Online pointed out in a weekend story that the county did not follow it's rules pertaining to posting signs on the property to advise the public of a zoning change meeting. Two small plastic signs were posted on one side of the property but had no dates, times, or places for a meeting printed on the signs. The remaining three sides of the property in question had no signs advertising a meeting.

Wegscheid described the Port LaBelle area affected by the application as a rural community designed for quiet home-town lifestyles and said the groups he represented would not support anything that would change that.

Mr. Wegscheid further stated they were offering no opposition to the change from agricultural to residential sought at this hearing for a parcel in the heart of the residential neighborhood, but emphasized that the groups he represented would only support single family residential zoning for the parcel. 

The application indicated commercial uses would be included in the zoning change to "residential" for stores, day care and other uses.

Wegscheid made essentially the same objection, wanting only single family use, at a prior public meeting with the Glades Zoning Board, who then voted to recommend the zoning change from ag to residential to the county commission.

He quoted the zoning application, showing what the developer really wanted, as saying “the redesign that can occur through this amendment will lead to a greater compatibility with the surrounding residential uses by buffering them from the motorsports club and adding similar uses along the perimeter.”

Wegscheid continued, “It is our opinion that the proposed uses which include bars, cocktail lounges, private and bottle clubs, fuel station, outdoor storage yard, recreational RV parks, gun range indoor firing, and driving club are incompatible with existing use in this area. 

"We vehemently oppose the proposed use and will do everything in our power to prevent from every being constructed. As citizens of Glades County we have the reasonable expectation that our lifestyle, which we each have so much invested in, will not be changed by any such new development.”

He stated the reason for zoning laws is to maintain continuity of use so that the uses of property are appropriate and used in appropriate areas and will protect landowners’ investments and lifestyles. He further
stated “...nearly all of the uses named in the application are incompatible with our residential neighborhoods.”

Mr. Wegscheid stated he is a state certified General Real Estate Appraiser with 25 years in the Glades County market area, and certified as an expert witness in Glades County Court and asserted that in his opinion, this race track will reduce the value of the existing residential properties in the community.

Rose Quale addressed the Board: “I am concerned that the following comments attributed to staff in the Glades County Democrat dated March 29, may unduly influence community.”

She then quoted several staff statements from the newspaper including, “Hilton said the project would not negatively impact the surrounding area which is mostly rural neighborhoods and vacant property;”

She continued reading from the article that opposition to the project will “go away once the project is explained to the public in detail.” She concluded with the quote: “...and there are only five houses in Glades County near the project.” She questioned the validity of the statements.

Storter Questions Staff
Commissioner Donna Storter questioned a portion of the staff report that said ”Requested Future Land Use Residential Land area used predominantly for housing of up to 7 units per acre.”

Storter wanted to know if the “up to 7 units” was a possibility or a probability. It was clarified that this is the definition used in the county’s Land Development Regulations for “residential” quoted by staff and only the change from agriculture to residential for future land use is being approved today.

Commissioner Storter stated she had had a barrage of complaints about the Glades Democrat newspaper article from which Mrs. Quayle read when Mr. Hilton gave an unauthorized press release or so it seemed, she said. 

Storter stated, “Some of those things he had actually said to me, and it was quoting him directly and this would be like Kelly Brantley telling people how Judge Lundy is going to rule; we are quasi-judicial, nobody speaks for us, but us; that’s his opinion and I think that she had a very valid concern that we may seem to be unduly influenced by those statements.”

The Board moved to approve the change 5-0.

-story prepared from public notes by Commisioner Donna Storter, photo Facebook, JTH

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