News-Sun photo by CHRISTOPHER TUFFLEY County Commissioner Don Elwell (right) asks questions of Jeff Kennedy (left), a partner in the private outdoor recreational project. The gentleman far left is unidentified.
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published: Sunday, August 19, 2012
Swamp Hammock group outlines plans
By CHRISTOPHER TUFFLEY
LAKE PLACID -- There was a community meeting at the proposed Swamp Hammock outdoor recreational club Thursday afternoon and evening. The area has to be rezoned for the project to go forward.
The meeting was held so interested people had a chance to ask what the rezoning would mean and about the club itself.
The partners behind Swamp Hammock were on hand to answer questions, as was Linda Conrad, the county's zoning supervisor.
Currently the site is zoned agricultural, AU. The owners want to change that to agricultural with planned development, AU PD, which allows for a project such as the club.
It will be up to the Highlands County Board of Commissioners to make the final decision.
Jeff Kennedy, one of the project's partners, showed the layout of the club using a large map mounted on a wall.
The property forms a long rectangle. It is three miles long, west to east, and 3,100 feet wide, north to south. Buffer zones and easements are in place as required. There is additional buffer space on the east end of the property, Kennedy said.
The property had once been going to be developed into a residential community -- Swamp Hammock's clubhouse is the original model home -- however the development failed.
Kennedy and his partners want to turn the area into a private club where families can come to enjoy the outdoors and take part in popular sports that they can't take part in elsewhere.
For example, there will be ATV and dirt bike trails and mud bogging holes; an outdoor shooting range and an archery range; a special area for lawn mower and go-cart racing, a field for radio-controlled models and a golf driving range.
Kennedy added that nature walks, a foot race obstacle course, a beach and swimming area, fishing areas, horse back riding trails and protected playground spaces for children and a drive-in theater are also planned. Also part of the vision are ball fields, paintball areas and a war reenactment area.
Special activities are to be included. For example, tractor tug-of-wars, fireworks and laser shows and car and tractor shows.
Space is being set aside for festivals, group events, music concerts and swap meets.
Kennedy said there will be an area for short-term primitive camping, as well as permanent short-term lodging structures. Permanent bathrooms and portable toilets will be strategically placed.
Eventually, the partners plan a general store and local mobile food and beverage vendors.
People coming to the club have to pass through an entrance check, where IDs must be shown and vehicles searched for alcohol.
"We're just trying to do good for the community and young people," Kennedy said. "It's a common complaint, there is very little for kids to do. This a a family park, with activities throughout the year. We expect tourists to come."
Two factors worry critics -- impact on the environment and the neighborhood with traffic congestion and noise.
Kennedy said the Southwest Florida Water Management District has approved the plans. A new entrance will have 3,000 feet of stacking ability. He expects that to absorb most of the traffic. As to noise, the property is isolated, he said, and the noisiest activities are located in the center of the property.
County Commissioner Don Elwell stopped by to ask questions. "I just wanted to hear the pros and cons," Elwell said, "in an informal setting."
Don Skipper and John Skipper, two critics of the project, also came a visit.
When asked for a comment or opinion, both politely declined.
"I've probably said enough already," John Skipper said.
"I don't have anything to say that would be worth writing," Don Skipper said a little later.
"The neighbors have valid concern, but I am convinced we settle things in time," Kennedy told the News-Sun.
The county Planning & Zoning advisory commission will be hearing arguments on Aug. 23 at 1:30 p.m.
The rezoning vote has not yet been scheduled for a county commission meeting, but Elwell estimated it could be on the agenda for the 5 p.m. meeting on Sept. 25.
jobs (by: Dot Q - 8/22/2012)
Will this bring jobs
Is that all? (by: R. Edward Lee, retired Gen. - 8/21/2012)
Do you think anyone would mind if they started up a coal fired smelting plant on weekends? What about MMA full contact cage matches? Why don't they build a scale model of a Roman Colosseum and have people fight wild animals? Another Woodstock? It seems to have taken on a life of its own from the original intent of riding ATV's in mud puddles.
JE (by: Eugene - 8/20/2012)
No, the group is planning now to change the zoning to allow a number of different uses. You may see a full-scale mud event one weekend, a small obstacle course=type event another weekend, a big renaissance fair another....many multiple uses, big and small. Technically, they COULD possibly have something going on every weekend.
I'm Confused (by: JE - 8/20/2012)
Is this going to be just a few people at a time? Or will this still be something that brings in thousands of people for events? Before it sounded like a limited number of large events per year, is that still the case?
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