published: Wednesday, April 04, 2012
County withdraws Swamp Hammock permit
By ED BALDRIDGE
SEBRING - As tensions rose high during the Tuesday county commission meeting, county staff withdrew their recommendations of a temporary permit for organizers of the eXtreme Fitness Challenge at Swamp Hammock.
County staff based their decision on a response from Swamp Hammock land manager Jeff Kennedy, who answered "yes" if his organization would continue with its event without county permission.
Kennedy said he was frustrated with the county's process and that his group planned to have the event with or without a county permit, but would try to comply with the list of hurdles needed to be completed before any permit was issued.
Adjacent landowners protested the proposed use of the land and were concerned with the amount of traffic and noise that could be created if a permit was granted.
"It's a rough estimate, but I could lose $8,000 to $12,000 in beef production if this happens," said adjacent landowner Donald Skipper. "There is no way I can prove it, but you can look it up on the Internet."
Commissioner Barbara Stewart asked staff if they were willing to withdraw their recommendation of a temporary permit because of Kennedy's statement.
"You were coming to us for consideration and now you are withdrawing, is that correct?" Stewart asked Zoning supervisor Linda Conrad. "You are stating that you are withdrawing your consideration for a temporary use permit. You and Mr. (Mark) Hill and Mr. (Ricky) Helms are withdrawing your request to take action on this at this time?" Stewart asked.
Conrad answered that she was withdrawing her recommendations and would not approve a temporary permit.
"I would suggest, unless directed with this commission, that I would not even continue to entertain a temporary use permit," Conrad said.
Hill, the director of Development Services, told the commission that he had some "real concerns" about following through with the permit if the group had no intentions of following county code.
"This morning the applicant stated that they intend to proceed with or without permission. That raises concerns with the staff," Hill said.
Commissioner Greg Harris asked why county staff would approve an event and then withdraw their recommendation a few weeks later after money was invested.
"Let me interject. You and I sat in the meeting with Linda (Conrad) and told them that they could proceed with this. Two weeks later, there is a problem with code," Harris said.
"At the time they were given the permission to proceed with this, that was at the end of a meeting. In the future, we will be much more conscious that we have all the facts before we make a decision on these issues," Hill said.
"I am still very concerned for anyone here that will sit here and say 'yes I will violate the code,'" Hill said.
"In my 35 years of doing this, I have never seen anyone sit before an elected body and tell them they would violate the county code. I have concerns to what effort they will exert to try to comply," Hill said.
Chairman Jack Richie interpreted Kennedy's 'yes' to Stewart's question about continuing without a permit into a threat.
"To have a person come before this commission and say, no matter what you say I am going to do what I want to do ... I commend you for withdrawing your endorsement of this situation," Richie said.
Richie asked how much a fine would be per county code and was told by staff that the fine was traditionally $50 per incident with a maximum of $250.
"How can we charge a $5,000-per-incident fine if the event happened without a permit?" Richie asked.
"Any threats you make is not well received by this chair. I will not be threatened to stop or endorse something. I really object to the things that have gone on out on the streets," Richie said.
Richie was told by county staff that commissioners would have to change county ordinance to get the fines up to the levels that Richie requested.
"I would like to see a motion to withdraw this permit and have it brought back in the future after due diligence," Richie said.
"Mr. Chairman, I don't think you are going to get that motion. I don't want to hear it back here next week," Stewart said.
not accurate (by: Eric M - 4/29/2012)
Mr. Skipper talked 3-4 minutes, giving EXACT percentages that he expects rates of conception and production to be reduced, then explained just how many cows he has and what the ranch grosses in a year, and then did the math and gave the numbers (which have been misquoted elsewhere as well.) Unfortunately Ed Baldridge didn't seem to comprehend the numbers Mr. Skipper gave and spun his argument into this pithy quote. The majority of the speakers at this particular meeting were neighbors asking the county not to let an event with so many people impact a quiet, peaceful part of the county. Sebring reporting at its best, for sure.
Sarasota problems (by: Ray Napper - 4/7/2012)
I would think that when people who live out of county and some even out of state where there are really giant problems not just little ones like we have here, that those posters would be more concerned with correcting their problems in their backyard before they tell us what we should do. Because your right Howard, Lord how it hurts. I want this event to happen but why don't you tell us why the Skipper ranch doesn't matter. He pays taxes and hires people also. He can also shut this down by changing what he raises so folks don't push people too far because they will fight back. None of us posters have money involved and the people with the land do. I think it's their voices that need to be heard. You and me want a place to play and the Skippers want a place to maintain the business as he has for years. Sorry but there are two sides to this. What he told them was he would break the law. What exactly do people in charge do at that point? Praise them and move on,,,I don't think so. Jeff and Gabe will probably have it because it won't be that much of a fine right now and they have invested many dollars in this. However what will happen is that the ord. covering these events will have a very large fine and county jail time attached to it. So we may get by with this one but the next one could bring real trouble for two very good people. How many of you will go and serve thier 60 days?
Progress (by: DK - 4/7/2012)
In this tough economic times we should be embracing someone who wants to spend their own money to promote our area. Our area is already way behind other cities in new development and we will continue to stay in the past unless we welcome new events/business. I hope everyone remembers this come election time!!!
Government Loves Itself (by: Lord Howard Hurts - 4/7/2012)
The group was qualified for a permit, then one of the promoters said that he would have the Fitness Challenge even without a permit...and then the county staff and the commissioner's decided that because these promoters did not "praise them", the request for a permit would be denied. What "Ego Morons." I am sure the county attorney is thinking about purchasing a new car or boat. This insanity is what keeps his world afloat. Lord Howard Hurts freedomfiles.blogspot.com
County Leadership (by: William Sueppel - 4/6/2012)
Unbelievable! You all should be embarrassed of your performance or lack of! As always, the government cannot handle the truth, instead their little feathers get ruffled because someone has the nads to follow through. I will attend this event out of principal and to support a worthy cause. Wake up America and take our government back!
yeah that'll help get it allowed (by: Ray Napper - 4/5/2012)
These guys are trying and i can understand you wish to vent but first off it doesn't have anything to do with the type of event. People are concerned with the impact on the area with issues such as parking and traffic control.
In all fairness (by: Just sayin - 4/5/2012)
I expect to see every single 5k race, every golf tournament, and every spaghetti dinner fundraiser to have a permit.
Seriously? (by: Yeah, I Said It... - 4/4/2012)
Skipper didn't take the time to give a more accurate calculation on his projected "losses" but simply said you could look it up on the internet? Well if it were that simple, then do it yourself, sir. How exactly will a fitness challenge cause a loss in cattle? This has been a fiasco since the word "Go". The two organizers are simply trying to raise money for charity and the BoCC and staff are acting like they own the entire county lock, stock, and barrel. Anyone else notice that Stewart seems to be more belligerent than she used to be since she announced she wasn't running for re-election?
Well... (by: djkitty - 4/4/2012)
Cows : 1
About time (by: Ralph S. - 4/4/2012)
This County and this Country needs the people to stand up and speak. and not let the current government control every thing we do. What happened to Free enterprise and free speach? All politicans need to realise that they are public servents not totalitarians
enough is enough (by: RESIDENT EVIL - 4/4/2012)
Well, Mr Skipper, if you read it on the internet it must be true. It's time for a recall.
No Leadership (by: Concerned - 4/4/2012)
Wow! It's official, county staff is now running the show instead of the BOCC. Never seen such a lack of leadership by elected leaders.
commission (by: Jeff Goodall - 4/4/2012)
what a bunch of douchebags that cant get it together. this is a fitness challenge.
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