News Cast for August 4th:

Zomani project raises issues

The large development proposed of 4,500 homes, schools, churches, a resort, and commercial uses, brought out some concerns at the county planning board meeting.

Concerns included more traffic and the density of homes.

A local cattle rancher also opposed as his property would be surrounded by the new development.

Steve Dobbs said the project is adding businesses to Okeechobee.

“This is 59 acres of commercial on the east side of this project.  They are planning on businesses to serve Okeechobee as well as this community.”

Rancher Felipe Soto worried the homes would impact his cattle operation nearby.

“Okeechobee is a small town and we’d like to keep it small.  We are an agriculture community and I’d hate to see another large piece of land taken by development.”

The board voted 3-2 not to recommend approval of the rezoning.

The county commission is expected to consider the project in September.

The planning board recommended approval for an industrial project at 5198 highway 710 and a commercial strip plaza called the OBE business center in Fort Drum at 30398 highway 441 north.

Rose Kendall was honored for 50 years of work with the Okeechobee school system.

She took her first and only job fresh out of high school in 1969.

She had moved her at five years old with her parents, who were migrant workers.

Kendall said she still enjoys her job and helping people solve problems.

Kendall is not retiring, at age 72, she plans to keep on working.

The Glades County Board of County Commissioners approved a feasibility study for their business park in Moore Haven.

They are trying to entice more activity and business in the park.

Planner Ben Smith talked about the county vision for the park.

“A subdivision where you could entice retailers or other commercial entities to come and relocate with a little more shovel ready land.”

The state gave Pahokee until January to repair three floating docks at the marina.  They have been in need of repair since 2007.

Commissioner Sarah Perez didn’t like the rush and said hiring a contractor was not an emergency.  She said they have gotten many delays and should follow their own procurement processes.

The city attorney said they would risk the marina lease with the state if the work is not done.

They are trying to hire a contractor to do the work.

Yesterday afternoon, August 3, 2023, Sheriff Noel E. Stephen received the information about illegal palmetto berry picking on South Florida Water Management Properties in Okeechobee.

Besides a permit to harvest, one of the stipulations is to have written permission to be on the property to harvest the berries. (Information shared below).

Sheriff Stephen reached out and had K9 Handler (FTO) Reno and Deputy Wright head to the suspected trespassing area.

In the suspected area, the deputies saw two individuals entering the woods about 500 yards away. As the deputies approached, the two individuals emerged from the woods on a four-wheeler, driving away from the deputies.

The rear passenger continuously looked back as the driver went faster despite K9 Deputy Reno now having his lights and siren on. Fleeing for approximately 1/2 mile, the driver stopped, and both raised their hands in the air.

Okeechobee resident, John Stripling, was driving the ATV. Although Strilping has a permit to harvest, he needed permission to be on SFWM property to pick, which he admittedly did not.

Stripling admitted to being on the property for around 1.5 hours with Woods, picking berries. Elizabeth Woods, also from Okeechobee, was the passenger on the ATV and admitted to helping pick berries and did not have a permit.

At the original location, roughly 100 lbs of harvested saw-palmetto berries were found piled on a tarp. Stripling was found to have a crystal-like substance in a 305 cigarette pack he threw at the stop site.

The substance tested positive for Methamphetamine and Fentanyl. John Stripling was arrested for Possession of Methamphetamine, Possession of fentanyl, Tampering with Evidence, Flee and Elduing (lights and sirens activated), and Harvesting an endangered plant without being permitted.

Elizabeth Woods was charged with Harvesting an endangered plant without being permitted. Both were transported to the Okeechobee County Detention Facility without incident.

Just to remind you, the following link will give you all you need to know to properly harvest, possess and sell/buy Saw Palmetto Berries for the 2023 season.

General Saw Palmetto Berry Guidelines

To harvest, sell, or transport berries, individuals and landowners must obtain a FREE FDACS permit to harvest endangered or commercially exploited plants.

Saw Palmetto Berry Page…/plant-industry-saw-palmetto…

Permit Application

Online Portal for Electronic Submission

Office hours are Monday thru Friday 8a-4:30p

After-hour questions, call 1-800-342-5869