News Cast 9/29


September 29, 2023

News Cast for September 29th:

Housing development approved

1,006 acres of cattle pasture could turn into homes over the next eight years just north of Okeechobee .

The Board of County Commissioners approved a rezone ordinance for Cow Creek Cattle and R and L Farms for the Dovani planned unit development.

The project includes 4,500 housing units, 208 villa’s, a hotel and resort, 200 acres of lakes and open space, a new fire station, schools, churches, and various indoor and outdoor facilities.

The developer will pay for the fire station, a fire truck and ambulance, and pay for a new 4 lane road connecting 98 and 441 north.  Red lights will also be put in on 441 and 98 and 441 north widened to four lanes past the development entrance by a half mile.

Commissioner Frank DeCarlo said they need commercial businesses and tax base noting he couldn’t find a place for his growing business.

“I’m trying to consider everyone’s opinion.  This almost seems like a good deal for Okeechobee with the tax.  We struggle to pay for things because the ad valorem tax base is so low.”

The developer projected at full build out, residential property taxes of up to $28 million per year.

Mayor Dowling Watford spoke as a private citizen in opposition.  He decried the growth in South Florida and the impacts it will have on the small-town atmosphere of Okeechobee.

He said Broward didn’t want to be like Dade, Palm Beach didn’t want to be like Broward, but now they are urban areas.

He said as a proud Florida cracker each time he drives to Orlando and sees the Villages, it is enough to break his heart.

“I could not allow this to go one without speaking out.  I would ask you to uphold the planning and zoning boards recommendation to deny.  I know that is a losing battle.”

He suggested the county consider ways to lower densities of housing projects to regulate growth.

Loma Gordon, a neighbor of the project, wants Okeechobee to stay a small town.

“I moved from Broward County to here for the rural nature and peace.  I see cattle pasture.  We talk to the cows and they moo at me.  I love it just like it is.”

Okeechobee Police Chief Donald Hagan said the community is invited to welcome the body of officer Jason Chapman back to town today.

It is expected to be at about 11:30 am when the procession will arrive.

The Florida highway patrol will provide a rolling road block in the downtown area on 70 west to the main light and then north to Buxton Funeral Home.

Residents are invited to line the streets to express condolences and support for the fallen officer.

Officer Chapman was killed Tuesday in a car accident in DeSoto County.

In the courts, Edgerrin Billie was sentenced to 25 months in prison with credit for time served on drug charges.

Prosecutors did drop a charge of methamphetamine trafficking.

The narcotics task force said a 2020 traffic stop in Treasure Island resulted in the seizure of 13 grams of illegal narcotics.

One of the charges was selling drugs near a school.

St. Lucie County will keep litigating a lawsuit over the access to the Pinelands Preserve off route 70.

It is a popular place for hikers and horseback riding.

A neighbor challenged the road they were using VPI Road for lack of an easement and won the case at the trial court level.

County attorney Dan McIntyre explained the neighbor contested the right of ht ecounty to use the title easement.  The Circuit Judge issued a partial ruling that the access did not exist for the county.  There is another claim pending before the court.

They are working on a new access and parking area further east.  They hired a company to design the small parking area and welcome area.

The property was purchased in 1998 from Murphy White Dairy for $1.028 million.