Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day - Fort Denaud Cemetery

LABELLE, FL. -- The American Legion celebrated Memorial Day at the Fort Denaud Cemetery in Hendry County.

(Click on photo to see more 3D photos)

Friday, May 28, 2010

Bicycle Friendly Hendry-Glades Florida

Relaxation And Recreation By Bicycle In Hendry-Glades

LABELLE FL. -- Florida jumped 20 places to rank 12th in the nation among the most bicycle-friendly states, according to the League of American Bicyclists.

Rural Hendry and Glades county are some of the more bicycle friendly local areas, according to some enthusiasts, pointing to the many miles of sparsely traveled roadways in Port LaBelle including Banyan Village.The Port LaBelle subdivision is Hendry county's largest.

The Corps of Engineers maintains a path accessible by bicycles along the entire length of the Caloosahatchee River from Port LaBelle to the Ortona Locks. At the locks, bicyclists can walk over the lock to reach Glades county at Ortona.

Hendry county has in recent years completed a bike path completely surrounding Port LaBelle's Eucalyptus Village, with the path continuing east to the LaBelle Middle School, and sidewalks and a bike path traveling to the west on Cowboy Way all the way to State Road 80. The county has erected 'Share The Road' with bicycles at the Hendry/Lee county line on County Road 78 on the north side of the Caloosahatchee River.

Glades county also has many rural roads with not much traffic including the communities of Muse, Ortona , Buckhead Ridge, Lakeport, and streets throughout Moore Haven.

''Making Florida safer and more accessible for bicyclists is a priority for the Florida Department of Transportation,'' said Stephanie Kopelousos, Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Secretary. ''We're encouraged by the progress we've made and are committed to making the Sunshine State a better place to ride your bike.''

The Bicycle Friendly States program ranks states based on a 95-item questionnaire that evaluates a state�s commitment to bicycling and covers six key areas: legislation, policies and programs, infrastructure, education and encouragement, evaluation and planning, and enforcement.

Florida ranked third in the nation in policies and programs and in the top 10 for infrastructure and evaluation. FDOT worked carefully with other state agencies and bicycling groups to compile the state's responses. In fact, the department has formed the Bicycle and Pedestrian Partnership Council which meets for the first time in late June. Working with multiple partners, the council will make recommendations on design, planning, safety and other programs involving bicycle and pedestrian issues throughout the state.

FDOT's seven districts have pedestrian-bicycle coordinators who consider the pedestrian and bicycle aspects of FDOT facilities, projects and programs in their areas.

For more information about the 2010 Bicycle Friendly State Rankings, please go to . For more information about FDOT's bicycling programs, please go to and select 'Bicycle' from the list of topics on the menu of topics.

Record LaBelle Home Sales

Bargain Prices And Climbing Sales

LABELLE, FL. -- In what may be a sign of a coming resurgence of home sales among the many vacant homes in local inventory, the LaBelle area had 15 sales registered in the last week.

From 5/18/2010 to 5/25/2010, there were 15 homes sold in ZIP code 33935 for an average price of $64,000. Many of the homes sold were bank owned and sold "as-is" with some repairs needed. The sales included: 

1) $51,000 on Acorn Cir
2) $69,000 on April Ave
3) $60,000 on Calhoun St
4) $40,000 on Caloosa Loop
5) $36,000 on Everglade Ave
6) $75,000 on Fort Simmons Ave
7) $30,000 on Old County Road 78
8) $65,000 on Rainbow Cir
9) $91,000 on Rich Cir
10) $70,000 on Saturn Ct
11) $36,000 on School Cir
12) $69,000 on Wild Goose Cir
13) $45,000 on E Briarwood Cir
14) $190,000 on S Elm St
15) $33,000 on S Montana Cir

Monday, May 24, 2010

Three Florida Panthers Killed In 3 Days

Three panthers in three days met untimely ends on U.S. 41, a highway that cuts right through the middle of panther habitat in Collier County. On Sunday, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) found a 6- to 8-month-old kitten that was hit early that morning. Officials with the FWC believed the mother of the kitten could be close to the highway and stepped up law enforcement patrols in the area Sunday.

The panther population has increased five-fold since the 1980s, when the population had dwindled to 20-30. Its increase to a current estimate of 100 is a success story, but one tempered with the knowledge that an increasing population means more opportunity for vehicle collisions.

"Losing three panthers in three days saddens all who care for these endangered animals. However, we're heartened when we have a good capture season like this past one, when we captured 11 new panthers," said Darrell Land, the FWC's panther team leader. "Panthers breed throughout the year, and our radio-collared females have already produced 12 kittens. The increase in panther numbers also means that more panthers are roaming the roadways in the Big Cypress area, and drivers should always obey the panther speed zones and slow down from dusk to dawn no matter where they might be driving."

Land noted that two litters of kittens have been lost because of the death of their mothers in the past two months. Kittens are not able to survive on their own until they are big enough to capture prey at approximately 8 months old.

The natural expansion of the panther population means that panther sightings may start to increase throughout Florida; however, the majority of the population still resides south of Lake Okeechobee.

To help protect the large cats from increasing traffic threats, the FWC, Collier County and Lee County sheriff's deputies and the Florida Highway Patrol regularly enforce panther speed zones. Panther speed zones are well-marked, with speed limits reduced at night to 45 mph.

So far this year, 66 citations and nine warnings have been issued to motorists violating panther speed zones. Motorists should be aware that violators often receive fines exceeding $200 for their first offense, and any violation of more than 29 mph over the posted limit will result in a mandatory court appearance.

''The increasing number of panther road kills mirrors the increase in panther numbers,'' Land said. ''However, this does not indicate that the increase of collisions is causing the population to decrease. The FWC continues to work closely with the Florida Department of Transportation to develop measures that will increase motorist and panther safety along Florida's roads.''

FDOT has constructed wildlife crossings, erected fencing and established special panther speed zones, which help lessen the danger to panthers on the roadways.

Panther research and management funding comes directly from the additional fees collected when individuals purchase the Protect the Florida panther specialty license plate. Money also goes to law enforcement to increase patrols in the areas where panthers reside in South Florida.

"We can all assist with helping the panther survive," Land said. "Buy a specialty plate to help fund research, management and enforcement. Lots of people will be on the road this Memorial Day weekend, so please slow down in panther speed zones, particularly from dusk to dawn, when panthers are most active."

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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Weekend In Glades County

Cypress trees at the Fisheating Creek Water Management Area, along a hiking trail east of U.S. 27 in Glades County, Florida. (Click on photo to see 3D photo gallery.)

Friday, May 21, 2010

Pizza Comparisons - Lots Of Calories, Fat, And Salt

Three LaBelle Pizza Shops - Lots of Fat And Salt!

LABELLE, FL. -- With the opening this week of a third franchise pizza restaurant in LaBelle in Hendry county, consumers may want to compare the nutrition numbers among them for a typical large pepperoni pizza. We compared the calorie count along with the fat, salt, and sugar content.

We compared eating one-quarter of a large pepperoni pizza at each store, noting that Hungry Howie's cuts it's 14'' large pies into 10 slices, while Little Caesar's and Pizza Hut's are cut into 8 slices. The leader by far in salt content is Hungry Howie's at a whopping 1350 mg. of salt.

A rule of thumb for healthy daily calories and fat is 2000/20; 2000 calories and 20 grams of fat. Fat content of all the pizza portions below are near or over the recommended daily amount.

Hungry Howies - Main Street - Large 14'' pepperoni (whole pie -10 slices)
(For 1/4 pie or 2 1/2 slices)
Calories 575  Salt 1350 mg.  Fat 17.25 grams (only saturated fat disclosed) Sugar (not disclosed)

Pizza Hut Express - SR80 - (KFC/Taco Bell) - Large 14'' pepperoni (whole pie - 8 slices - large available at main store in Ft. Myers - med. size only in LaBelle)
(For 1/4 pie or 2 slices)
Calories 500 Salt 1180 mg,  Fat 24 grams Sugar 4 grams

Little Caesar's - Bridge St. - Large 14'' pepperoni (whole pie - 8 slices)
(For 1/4 pie or 2 slices)
Calories 560 Salt 1040 mg. Fat 22 grams Sugar 6 grams.

Pizza Hut Nutrition
Hungry Howie's Nutrition
Little Caesar's Nutrition

Banks Selling Homes Cheaply In Hendry?

21 Homes Sold In Last Month

LABELLE, FL. -- In what may be a record month in real estate sales in western Hendry county, 21 homes were recorded as sold. From April 20th to May 18th, there were 21 homes sold in the LaBelle area for an average price of $83,857.

Most homes sold in recent months seem to be either bank owned or 'short' sales where banks allow sales at less than the amount of mortgages existing on the home.

The sales, two-thirds in LaBelle and one-third in Port LaBelle, the county's largest subdivision, in the last four weeks:

1) $30,000 on 6th Ave
2) $35,000 on Brittany Ln
3) $60,000 on Buttercup Cir
4) $58,000 on Caloosa Loop
5) $55,000 on Dustin Dr
6) $75,000 on Fort Simmons Ave
7) $39,000 on Gramercy Rd
8) $58,000 on Hardee St
9) $132,000 on Hardee St
10) $376,000 on Hidden Hammock Dr
11) $65,000 on Iris Cir
12) $37,000 on Maddox St
13) $35,000 on Memory Cir
14) $40,000 on Palmdale Ave
15) $54,000 on Quail Run
16) $290,000 on Shell Ln
17) $120,000 on Springview Cir
18) $40,000 on Wallen St
19) $40,000 on S Beechwood Cir
20) $52,000 on S Edgewater Cir
21) $70,000 on W Briarwood Cir

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Florida Pather Experts Honored

Conservation Award Goes To Three In South Florida

Three Florida panther experts recently received a conservation award from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) for their work in managing the endangered species. Darrell Land and Mark Lotz work on the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission�s (FWC) panther team, and Deborah Jansen heads up the panther program at Big Cypress National Preserve.

All three have spent considerable time during their careers to conserve Florida�s state animal for future generations. Part of this conservation strategy was development of a plan to help deal with interactions between people and panthers.

The panther�s numbers declined to approximately 30 cats by the early 1980s, but efforts to conserve its dwindling population began as early as 1958, when the state listed it as endangered. The low population resulted in severe inbreeding, which created many health and physical problems. A genetic-restoration project in 1995 brought success by improving the genetic health and vigor of the panther population. Today, biologists estimate there are approximately 100 panthers in South Florida. One of the biggest threats today involves negative outcomes from human-panther interactions.

Land, the FWC's panther team leader, wrote the original Panther Response Plan and worked on various drafts before the final plan was approved in 2007. Using a puma management plan developed in the Western United States, the current plan balances public safety while still protecting an endangered species. Ever since graduating from the University of Florida with his master�s degree in 1985, Land has been involved with the state�s panther team.

The USFWS acknowledged that Jansen's input into the plan development was crucial. She received the award because of her experience in dealing effectively with human-panther interactions, which enhanced development of the plan. She heads up the panther capture team for Big Cypress, where she has worked for the past 30 years for a variety of agencies, such as the FWC and the National Park Service. Her wildlife career began in Everglades National Park working with crocodiles.

Lotz's interest with panthers began as a seasonal firefighter with the USFWS at the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge. He has been on the state�s panther team since 1994. Lotz received the award because of his work on the ground actually carrying out the plan by responding to all human-panther calls on both private and state lands. The records of these reports aid in the updates needed each year to the plan to assist in addressing public safety issues and protection of Florida panthers.

For more information on Florida�s state animal, visit PantherNet at .

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Hendry Drivers May Be Stopped For Checks

Officers Targeting Impaired Drivers May 21

LABELLE, FL. -- The Florida Highway Patrol in conjunction with the Hendry County Sheriff's Office and Florida Department
of Transportation Motor Carrier Compliance will conduct a comprehensive roadside safety checkpoint in Hendry County on May 21, 2010.

The central focus of this checkpoint will be the apprehension of impaired drivers. The goals for this checkpoint are:
Deter DUI; thereby reducing the death, injury and property damage caused by alcohol and drug impaired drivers.
Intercept currently impaired drivers before a traffic crash occurs.
Conduct the checkpoint with a minimal amount of intrusion and motorist inconvenience.
Ensure the safety of the motorists and officers

In 2008, the fatality statistics indicate Hendry County had 41 alcohol related crashes and 12 alcohol related fatalities. Driving Under the Influence is a crime and these deaths were preventable. The law enforcement community in Hendry County takes this crime seriously and has a zero tolerance policy for Impaired Drivers.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Glades-Okeechobee Get New FWC Trainees

New Wildlife Officers Come From Varied Backgrounds

The 33 new officers, including two who will train in Glades and Okeechobee county, make up the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's most recent graduating class are a diverse bunch. But, however unique their backgrounds, they share a common goal.

When the 14th FWC law enforcement class graduated Friday at the Florida Public Safety Institute in Tallahassee in front of more than 350 guests, they pledged their effort to the state of Florida and to protecting its unique and valuable natural resources.

While 18 of the graduates are native Floridians, 13 are from other states; 16 have four-year-college degrees; 14 are married or engaged; and nine have children.

Before joining the FWC academy, they were Marines, teachers, lifeguards, pilots, scuba instructors and professional athletes. One had previous law enforcement experience.

The individuals came together six months ago, when they began extensive training that included accuracy with firearms, vessel operation, defensive tactics, all-terrain-vehicle operation, BUI/DUI identification and a comprehensive study of all Florida laws as well as federal wildlife and fisheries laws. 

The class also assisted in a missing-person case in Leon County. The recruits traveled to a Georgia landfill, where they donned hazmat suits and picked through trash to help find evidence for the case.

The 33 individuals will now join a special group as they face the challenging and rewarding path ahead.  As FWC officers, they will patrol Florida's lands – almost 54,000 square miles of it – and Florida's nearly 6,000 square miles of water. These officers will be protecting the ''Fishing Capital of the World'' in the Lake Okeechobee region, and one of the largest public hunting systems in the country. In addition to enforcing all state laws, FWC officers are authorized to enforce federal fisheries and wildlife laws.

Two of the graduates, Jesse Alford in Glades  and James Gay Jr. in Okeechobee will now spend three months in each's assigned county with a field-training officer.  

Friday, May 14, 2010

Former Moore Haven Resident Dies

1968 Moore Haven Graduate Patricia Barker

Patricia Dillon Barker, 59 of Fort White, FL passed away on Monday May 10, 2010. Mrs. Barker was born on December 10, 1950 in New York. As a child her family lived in New York, New Jersey, and California before moving to Moore Haven where she attended high school.

Mrs Barker was a 1968 graduate of Moore Haven High School and worked for the school district after graduation. She met and married her husband Frank C. Barker while still in Moore Haven. She travelled and lived all over the United States, the Caribbean, and South America with her husband Frank during his career with CBI & Co. of Houston Tx. After retirement, she and her husband settled in North Florida in Fort White, a rural town 30 miles northeast of Gainesville.

Pat had many fond memories, friends, and relatives in Moore Haven. She was well known and admired for her organizational skills, cooking, entertaining, cake decorating, and selfless service to others.

She was preceded in death by her parents George & Ollie Mae Dillon formerly of Moore Haven, and an older sister Barbara Lesch. She is survived by her husband of 36 years Frank C. Barker of Fort White, Fl, two brothers George �Tom� Dillon of Clovis, Ca, and Robert Dillon of Orlando FL, and three sisters, Stella Johnson of Lake City FL, Frances Sabo of Newberry FL, and Judith Preimsberger of Temecula, Ca, and many aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews and also other extended family members.

A Memorial Service was held on Saturday, May 15, 2010 at 2:00 p.m. at the Evans Carter Funeral Home in High Springs FL.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Glades Commission Honors Teacher - Students

Glades Teacher Of Year And Students Honored

MOORE HAVEN, FL. -- At Tuesday morning's Glades County Commission meeting, Chair Russell Echols recognized Steve Petti who was recently honored as Moore Haven High School Teacher of the Year, and Mr. Petti and Shannon Bass helped Echols present recognition certificates to the following honor students graduating with the MHHS Class of 2010:
Amber Hughes, Valedictorian; Eric Simmons, Salutatorian;Tyler Wilson, Kassandra Mesa, Ethan Harris, Rebecca Langdale, Kendra Murphy, Stephanie Schafer, Adrianna Cervantes, Anabel Jacobo, Ethan Warren, Misael Garcia, Edgar Gamez, Cale Rives, Porshia Parker, Patricia Ainsworth, Alejandra Cruz, Esperanza Ontiveros., Anaiza Miranda, Jose Cisneros, and Deshonte Humphrey. McKenzie Green and Yuriria Pardo were not present but are part of the honor group. 
Almost half of the 48 students graduating from Moore Haven have achieved honor status. 

In other business Tuesday, the Board approved County Manager's recommendation to hire Tycee Betts Prevatt as Glades County Agricultural Extension Agent.  Mrs. Prevatt was the unanimous choice of the interviewers including Mr. Taylor and the 4H Advisory Council and UF IFAS District Extension Director Dr. Joe Schafer.

Glades County pays 40% of the agent�s salary, with 60% funded by the state. Glades County welcomes Mrs. Prevatt and looks forward to exciting programs for the area youth participating in Glades County 4H.
Public Safety Director Bob Jones stated that the position of Animal Control Officer is vacant and applications have already been received tentative the approval by the Board to fill the position.  Board gave approval with $35,000 budgeted.  Mr. Jones is qualified to teach required classes in chemical capture and euthanasia if the applicant hired is not certified.  It also requires ACO classes.

A Memorial Day service is planned at 11 AM at the Ortona Cemetery

Monday, May 10, 2010

Avoiding Jury Duty In Hendry

Most People Ignore Jury Duty Summons

LABELLE, FL. -- It's 8:30 a.m. at the historic Hendry County Courthouse in downtown LaBelle. About 50 people sit quietly filling out paperwork for the court, and others occasionally talking with fellow prospective jury members in Court Room number 1.

The two score and a half showing up today for jury duty, are only about 15% of the actual 350 jury appearance summonses for today, sent out several weeks ago by the Hendry Clerk of Court Barbara Butler demanding an appearance for jury duty.

Most of the 300 prospective jurors are presumably out and about around Hendry county, doing their own thing today, ignoring the summons for jury duty today, for each of their own reasons, defying the court's order. Some may be ill, some may have changed addresses without notifying the Driver's License Bureau, some had notified the court beforehand of legitimate excuses to not appear, but most are just simply ignoring the summons.

For those who do show up, they may be entitled to a token payment of $12 daily for duty should they be one of six chosen for a jury, if they are not also being paid by their employers while at court. For the other 300 not showing up, maybe they have a job and just can't afford to take a day off. Or maybe they're just lazy.

Circuit Judge Christine Greider, who greeted the jury pool this morning before selection started, is aware that many just simply don't show up for jury duty and gave her heartfelt thanks to those who did show up.

Greider explains that she had seven trials set for today but as is typical, defendants make last-minute plea agreements to avoid a trial, and she said six of the seven defendants pled guilty this morning, leaving only one defendant who wanted to proceed to trial.

Done. By about noon, six jurors are chosen after a bit of attorney questioning of some of the jury pool. Greider dismisses the remainder, and takes a short break, after again thanking those not chosen and dismissing them from further obligation this week.

Citizens 18 years and older are likely to get about one jury duty summons a year under the current circumstance of most people not bothering to show up. That's assuming you actually have shown up at court for jury duty before. If you aren't required to come in or ignore the summons, expect a summons every few months. The court must send out many hundreds of letters for each trial in order to get 40 to 50 to show up, for which six to seven jurors must be selected.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Deer Poachers Arrested In Hendry

Three Miami Men Charged With Taking Deer At Night In Closed Season

 LABELLE, FL. -- Knowing that high water forces deer out of the swamps and up near roads to feed, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers conducted surveillance on County Road 832 near Okaloacoochee Slough Wildlife Management Area when they noticed a van turning around several times and shining lights in the woods. Officers stopped the van and questioned the subjects.

Inside the van, the officers found four deer that had been shot.

Officers charged three Miami-Dade county men - Lazaro Lopez (DOB 03/03/62) of Hialeah, Andres Mena Jr. (DOB 03/25/85) of Miami and Andres Mena Sr. (DOB 11/01/65) of Miami - with four counts each of illegally taking deer at night with a gun and a light during the closed season and four counts each of hunting from a county-maintained road.

The men were booked into the Hendry County Jail on the misdemeanor charges.

 "As this case shows, suspected poachers will travel long distances to kill deer," said FWC Capt. Jeff Ardelean. "FWC officers are dedicated to protecting our fish and wildlife resources, particularly when they are most vulnerable."

Monday, May 03, 2010

Chemical Thefts Continue In Hendry

Hendry's Gene McAvoy Gives Growers Tips On Securing Chemicals

LABELLE, FL. -- The theft of agricultural chemical products around Southwest Florida is continuing says Hendry Agricultural Extention Director Gene McAvoy.

Between 10 pm Sunday night and 5 am Monday morning, someone cut the locks on a gate to a farm east of LaBelle and then cut the locks to the chemical trailer, reports McAvoy,  It appeared to be three people judging by the footprints.  Thieves
stole Ranman, Previcure, Quadris, K-Phite, Forum, Manzate, Firestorm, Intensity, and Scanner worth over $20,000. 

Another farm south of LaBelle was hit Friday night.

McAvoy advises growers to keep farm entrances and storage areas locked and maintain surveillance.  Lock up all chemicals, they are essentially like cash money for a thief.

Others Safety Tips From McAvoy:

Locate chemical storage well away from access roads.

Request that chemicals be delivered on the days you need them and not before.

Return excess chemicals to the chemical distributor. Not having a stockpile of chemicals in your shed you will decrease the opportunity for theft.

Consider installing alarms on chemical shed doors or windows.

Buy only from reputable dealers and do not be tempted to buy "cheap" chemicals from unknown sources - you are only supporting a thief and you may be next.

Look out for your neighbor and report suspicious vehicles and activities to the Sheriffs' Office.

Port LaBelle Marina Caught Without It's Cows

Port LaBelle Marina Loses ''Farm'' Classification

MOORE HAVEN, FL. -- One of Glades county's large property owners apparently tried fool the county tax appraiser this year to keep a parcel of land classified as agricultural use even though it has not been used for agriculture at all this year and half of last year.

The Port LaBelle Marina, owned by multi-millionaire Walter R. Ferguson,  tried this year to keep acreage surrounding the Port LaBelle Marina classified for an agricultural classification for pasturing cattle, even though the property has no cattle and did not have a fence enclosing the property for much of last year.

Port LaBelle Marina, owned by Walter R. Ferguson, has scores of acres of vacant land surrounding it's commercial marina business on the south side of the river in Glades county. In the Spring of 2009, the company put up a fence around the property east of the marina, bordered by the Caloosahatchee River on the north and Oxbox Drive on the south. A lease was drawn up with a cattle owner, and Ferguson submitted an application to Larry Luckey, Glades County Property appraiser to lower the land's property assessments by using the acreage as a cattle pasture.

Cattle were placed on the land and Luckey approved the agricultural classification last year, lowering the property taxes by tens of thousands of dollars in 2009. From records it appears the marina property value was lowered from $2,310,321 to $1,431,183.

But shortly thereafter, it seems the Ferguson made a mistake when he installed the fence, as it was determined they had placed barbed wire fences on property owned by the Army Corps of Engineers along the length of the river. The fence was installed about 50 feet inside the Corps property. The Corps told them to remove the fence. The cattle and the fence were removed last summer. Cattle were only on the land for a few months in 2009.

Workers put up a fence last week apparently in the correct location along the river, but no cattle were observed on the land as of May 2.

By March 1, 2010 the company was required to tell Larry Luckey's Glades County Property Appraisers office that they no longer qualified for an agricultural classification, since there were no cattle and no fence to hold them in as of January 1, 2010.

According to Luckey, Ferguson was sent a 'automatic agriculture classification renewal' form, which Ferguson should have returned, checking a box that he no longer qualified, as the lands were not being used primarily for agriculture. Luckey says Ferguson did not return the form.

Around April 6th, Luckey inspected the property and determined Ferguson did not have the right to the ag classification since there were no cattle and a fence was missing on the entire north side of the property. Luckey said he therefore cancelled the Port LaBelle Marina's agricultural classification for 2010. 

State laws require county tax appraisers each January to send a DR499 renewal application form each year to property owners holding an agricultural classification, to verify their land is still used for an agricultural business. The form sent may also take the form of a DR499C, a renewal and certification application, or an automatic renewal receipt, a DR499AR.  The DR499AR, automatic renewal instructs the owner to check a box if the land is no longer eligible for an agricultural exemption.

If land is being used for a legitimate farming business use, Florida allows a substantial reduction in assessed property value, resulting in property taxes that might be reduced from ten of thousands of dollars yearly to a few hundred dollars. Florida wants to encourage farming, realizing that lowering property taxes on farm lands will help farmers keep farm lands productive.

Temptation For Tax Cheating

But, the incentive for greatly lowered property taxes can be a temptation for cheating as it would appear in this Glades County case. From Glades property assessment records, it appears about $1,000,000 in property valuation was deducted in 2009 by Glades Property Appraiser Larry Luckey for the Marina property. And Port LaBelle Marina owner, Ferguson apparently thought he could continue this year even without bona fide ag use.

The appraisal process for renewal of agricultural classifications may be flawed, according to what one local tax appraiser office employee told us. Renewals for farm land classifications may take up to several years to be actually physically re-inspected after an original application is approved. So a land owner, like Ferguson might be able to save thousands of tax dollars for several years without actually farming the land beyond the first few months of the first year.

Ferguson can appeal to the county's Value Adjustment Board in August if he feels the Port LaBelle Marina is entitled to the agricultural classification.