Planned Hotel Purchase A No-Go For Drug Rehab-Homeless Shelter Group?
LABELLE, FL. -- St. Matthew House of Collier County's planned purchase of the 48-room Port LaBelle Inn and it's Oxbox Restaurant may very well fail, if the Hendry Commissioner take the advice of it's Planning and Zoning Department.
St. Matthews House applied for a special exception in November to allow religious and institutional uses, a substance abuse recovery program within an agricultural and and high intensity commercial zoning district. The organization has a contract to purchase the Port LaBelle Inn subject to getting permission to operate a private drug and alcohol rehab program on the property.
Hendry county's zoning and planning department this week issued it's report saying the proposal by St. Matthews House is not consistent with the comprehensive land use plan for the leisure recreation category, and recommends denial of the St. Matthews House petition for a special exception.
The report notes that there are 60 townhouses and condos across the street from the Port LaBelle Inn and the proposed change in use for a drug and alcohol rehab facility is not an established use for property in this area and the closing of public accessibility to the hotel would not be consistent with the intent of the county's comprehensive land use plan.
The 7.2 acres site is currently used as a hotel and pasture and the county's future land use plan calls for the area to be used for "leisure and recreation." There formerly was an 18-hole golf course surrounding the hotel. Currently there is a fenced basketball court, shuffleboard and tennis court, and swimming pool on the property.
Also working against the Collier county organization's plan for a drug and alcolhol rehab facility is the Birchwood Parkway Community, Inc., a grassroots organization of residents of the Laurel Oaks, Port LaBelle Ranchettes, The Villas At River Run, and Oak Haven Estates communities, led by Jack Zorn, Joe Flint, and Sam Bradley.
The group hired attorney Matthew Uhle to oppose any proposed change in use of the Port LaBelle Inn. In recent years the group successfully fought a developer's plan to build a sports car racing track on the grounds formerly occupied by the golf course.
Saint Matthews House Inc.'s petition will go before the Hendry Advistory Board for their recommendation at it's Wednesday evening public meeting, and then finally to the Hendry Commission public meeting on January 28 where the commissioners will decide based upon testimony by the public and St. Matthews House and consider the recommendation of the advisory board and the planning and zoning department.