Probably few people came away from last weekís Highlands County Commission meeting happy with the end result. Neither side got what they wanted. On the same token, the final result is exactly the best solution for the county.
The commission finally decided to give the folks wanting Swamp Hammock a one year conditional-use permit. That permit hasnít been approved but it looks like it will be in a 4-1 vote in a month. Perhaps a commissioner will change his mind, but as it stands, thatís probably how itís going to happen.
What had been proposed was a permanent land-use change from agricultural district to an ag-planned development unit. If the commission had approved it, developers of Swamp Hammock could have gone ahead and built their mud bogging, shooting range, ATV trails, ball fields and myriad other things that have been mentioned for use on the land. Once approved, the county would have a difficult time ever changing its mind without lawsuits and headaches.
We support the idea of Swamp Hammock and all the recreational opportunities it would bring to Highlands County. The location isnít ideal, due to access and other concerns. But thatís the site that has been chosen so all of its limitations must be weighed and considered.
There have been problems in some counties where something similar has gone in. In other places there have been none. Highlands County has never seen anything quite like this and there is a lot of concern about unknown issues that could pop up once it is up and going.
The commission decided at the last minute to propose a conditional-use permit that would allow the activities to happen, but also with the county holding the right to change its mind at a later date if there are problems that cannot be managed. This solution makes sense, considering how many people are concerned.
We hope a conditional-use permit is granted and Swamp Hammock is a big success. And if it is, and all the concern about problems is unfounded, then maybe a permanent land-use change can be approved.
For now, though, a conditional-use permit seems like the perfect answer. Itís too bad it took so long for this idea to be considered, but better late than never.