Thursday, August 14, 2014

U.S. Sugar Wants Control Of Huge Land Area To Write It's Own Rules?

Giant Master Plan Sought By Sugar Producer

CLEWISTON, FL. --  U.S. Sugar Corp. of Clewiston is asking to get approval from government agencies for a huge 66 year master plan including over 43,313 acres of land it owns with a portion owned by another large agricultural company, Hilliard Brothers.

The companies went before the Hendry Local Planning Agency Tuesday night asking for approval to "master plan" over 43,000 acres of land in eastern Hendry county for "smart growth over the next 66 years, until 2080.

The pie-in-the-sky plan calls for 18,000 housing units and 25 million square feet of non-residential industrial and office buildings, plus agricultural land, green belts, all surrounding the proposed Airglades International Airport, that U.S. Sugar and Hilliard are trying to buy from Hendry County.

The real thought behind the giant plan said part of the submitted written application to Hendry County is to "complement the expansion of the Airglades International Airport." U.S. Sugar and Hilliard joined forces several years ago to buy the now public Airglades Airport located between LaBelle and Clewiston.

The so-called Airglades International Airport idea has been sold to county and government officials over the last several years as a reliever to air cargo operations at Miami Intercantional Airport. Supposedly, a large portion of the imported flower trade can be moved from Miami to the Clewiston airport.

Hendry county government has contributed considerable funds and efforts to make U.S. Sugar and Hilliard's proposed purchase possible, and try to lobby for Federal Aviation Adminisstion approval.

Observers point out the county's sales price is probably way less than actual market value of the airport and it's current infrastructure, while an FAA approval to allow privatization of the county airport may not be very likely notwithstanding the money and effort poured into the project already.

But, given any eventual government blessing to the 43,313 acre master plan, and a sale of the Airglades Airport to the venture of the two agricultural companies, U.S. Sugar and Hilliard would control a substantial portion of Hendry county and theoretically be able write their own rules for the proposed huge industrial, office and housing sector in Hendry county.

In the application, a proposed "Employment Center" is a focal point of the project, with 30 to 80% of the land proposed for industrial use. 10 to 80% is proposed for offices, and 20 to 70% for urban mixed residential use. 10% is proposed for multi-family apartments with six to 21 units per acre.

U.S. Sugar and Hilliard are calling for, among other things, to be exempt from a current zoning requirement called the Gateway Overlay Corridor, regulating development of land along State Road 80 from Lee county to West Palm Beach county, so they will be able call their own shots as far as zoning and building rules.

What Up In The Future For U.S. Sugar?

In news this week U.S. Sugar has agreed to purchase acreage and assets of real estate company Knight Management, Inc. of Belle Glade, currently producing sugar cane and vegetables, including over a million boxes of corn this season.

A press release said, "“United States Sugar Corporation and Knight Management, Inc. have entered into a Purchase and Sale Agreement whereby U.S. Sugar will purchase the assets of the Knight organizations. It is anticipated by the parties that a closing will be conducted either in late summer or early fall 2014. The terms and conditions of the Purchase and Sale Agreement are subject to a Confidentiality Agreement. In the interim, all business operations will be conducted as normal.”

U.S. Sugar purchased A. Duda & Sons' sugar cane business in Belle Glade two years ago for $150 million, two years before that sold 26,800 acres to the South Florida Water Management District for $197 million, or $7,350 per acre.

It may be guessed that the company will ultimately propose giant land master plans to Palm Beach County similar to that lined up for Hendry county, as well as sell off unneeded lands to government agencies for a nice profit.

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