News Cast for April 2nd:

Mid Town Village has more changes

The Okeechobee County Planning Board recommended approval for some changes to the proposed Mid Town Village Project.

The zoning would be changed from agriculture to planned unit development like the earlier project.

Both sides of Charles Harvey Highway pastures could be developed into over 1,300 units now including single family homes, town houses and a 160 unit assisted living facility.

The developer has cut back on commercial uses, limiting it to four acres, with one access road off 441 southeast.

Residents had some concerns about additional traffic and impacts on schools.

Lance Power told the board there is not enough roads in Okeechobee.

“We don’t even have roads going north to south to connect to 70. You can’t figure Eagle Bay Drive and Treasure Island because they don’t go straight through.”

Mike Myers said they are potentially adding 2,600 vehicles to our roads.

“My concern with this project is the density. It is entirely too many people in one small spot. Our schools are already stressed, our streets are stressed. It used to take a few minutes

to go through town, now it takes 30 minutes. That is ridiculous.”

The county commission votes on the rezoning on April 11th.

The Rivers Coalition again pushed to stop releases from Lake Okeechobee.

The US Army Corps of Engineers suspended releases on March 30 for two weeks and will re-evaluate the strategy.

The lake remains 8 inches higher than it was at this time last year.

Congressman Brian Mast continues to oppose any releases. He said there is nothing anyone can say to stop the Corps from releasing water.

“I don’t think there is an economist that can give you information on what it does to our community. I don’t think there is a scientist that can give you information on what it does to the ecology of our water. I don’t think there is a doctor that can give you information on what the bacteria does for our health that will make you say, sorry we were wrong, and we’ll stop this.”

The US Army Corps of Engineers commander in Florida Col. Jamie Booth said they can’t keep the lake at 18 feet during the rainy season.

While he expressed confidence in the dike, adding four feet of water from a hurricane would put stress on the earthen dam.

Water management had recommended the releases stop.

Runoff election held today in Pahokee for two commission seats. Polls are open until 7 pm.

Glades County commissioners approved the preliminary plats for the first two phases of Lakefront Estates. The plans remain the same, about 525 acres of development, 1,300 homes, 254,000 square feet of commercial space, religious facilities and two private schools.

Also planned is a 16-acre park and several smaller parks.

No body commented at the public hearing.

The state dropped charges but the federal US Attorney picked them up in the cocaine trafficking case of Okeechobee resident Maurico Villalpando Gaitan.

He allegedly arranged a deal with an undercover cop for $33,000 worth of cocaine at a local convenience store on January 29.

A kilo of cocaine and $2,000 worth of suspected drug cash were seized.

The Highlands County Sheriffs Office said an Okeechobee man died in Venus at Cutrale Farms on March 28. The incident is under investigation.

The incident report said a deputy was called at 11:44 AM to 1995 Ellie Lane to a person with no vitals.

The name of the man was not released due to the active investigation.