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Hendry County allows delay on FPL plant decision

CLEWISTON — Hendry County’s Board of County Commissioners agreed Jan. 12 to postpone the last public hearings of three Florida Power & Light amendment proposals from the commission’s Feb. 9 meeting.

Submitted by FPL, the amendments could change the county’s comprehensive land plan and allow the energy monopoly to build one of the largest power plants in the United States on 3,200 acres of land next door to Big Cypress Reservation.

In a letter from FPL’s lead attorney Ethel D. Hammer, the request to delay the readings to March 8 was submitted to allow time for negotiators to “finalize an agreement to resolve concerns raised by an adjacent property owner.”

FPL spokesman David McDermitt confirmed Jan. 22 that tribal leaders and FPL staff have been in discussions that will likely result in significant revisions to the current amendment application.

Two major concerns are on the table, McDermitt said: location of the plant and the protection of the Tribe’s cultural resources.

“Both are very important issues, and we are very sensitive to the Tribe’s concerns. We entered into ongoing discussions that are amicable and collaborative, and we are hoping to file the amendment plan in time for the March meeting,” McDermitt said.

Changes to the plan could mean the power plant will be built on different property owned by FPL than was previously suggested. The new potential site ends about 4 miles north of Big Cypress.

According to the county’s Property Appraiser’s Office, FPL owns 26 parcels of land in Hendry, 25 of which stretch along the west side of Country Road 833 from the Big Cypress Reservation’s north border to Deer Fence Canal. Five parcels in between are still owned by McDaniel Ranch.

In government, public readings occur to allow all people a chance to hear proposals before elected officials take final action. The public is generally able then or before the reading to speak about the issue – regardless of whether they agree.

After the final reading occurs, county commissioners will then be permitted to adopt the amendments and effectively change the comprehensive land plan.

The amendment process is complicated, but according to Florida law the adoption of amendments must be finished and changes made into law within six months of the time when government agencies, such as the South Florida Water Management District, issued formal comments on the changes. In this case, six months is up in April 2016.

However, anticipating that more time may be needed to complete FPL and Tribe agreements, Hammer also submitted a letter to the county to delay adopting the amendments through May 31. The adoption delay was also granted.