Sugar Hill Residential/Industrial Plan Gaining Opposition
CLEWISTON, FL. -- A coalition of community groups and the Sierra Club has asked Florida Governor Rick Scott to prevent U.S. Sugar and Hilliard Brothers from implementing a very large "sector plan" to change zoning on eastern Hendry county agricultural lands to commercial and residential use.
The group says the plan Sugar Hill, already approved by the Hendry County Commission for transmittal to the State for final approval, will interfere with Florida's existing option to purchase some of the land for Everglades restoration and other environmental reasons, citing a probable increase in spectulative land values among other reasons.
Last week, Sierra Club was joined by more than two dozen coalition partners and members in speaking out against Sugar Hill at the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) Governing Board meeting in West Palm Beach.
A letter sent to Scott explains, "Approval of this Sector Plan could end any realistic chance of doing this – either directly by allowing the approval of development that would preclude restoration, or indirectly by increasing the speculative market value of the lands needed for restoration. The proposed Sector Plan appears inconsistent with numerous requirements of Florida’s land use planning law, as a result of its failure to acknowledge state’s restoration efforts, and the suitability of this land for development relative to drainage, water management, water supply and other issues."
U.S.. Sugar and Hilliard have teamed up to get quick approval for the plan, which some say is a way to get the real estate values increased on the 67 square miles of now primarily sugar cane fields, in preparation for a probable sale later to the state of Florida.
The U.S. Sugar plan calls for 18,000 homes and commercial zoning in the region south and west of Clewiston.. Hendry county recently approved two other sector plans which would allow for about 44,000 homes to be built.
The rural county has a population of 37,000 people now and many thousands of acres of existing empty residential lots are still available in Hendry county's Port LaBelle subdivisions, the largest subdivision in the county.
Text of letter sent to Gov. Scott