Martin County

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Tom Campenni

Friends & Neighbors is designed to give you the information that is happening within our County. My goal is to inspire you to get involved and make a change to make Martin County the best it can be.

There is lot’s to do!
– Tom

 

News And Views

Friends-and-Neighbors-of-Martin-County-news-and-views

1

 

TWO EVENTS

 

There are two events happening this week that you may wish to attend.

 

The first is the annual Martin County Taxpayers Association Dinner to be held at the Kane Center on January 29th. The MCTA is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. It is the oldest such organization in the state and probably the nation. As a watchdog for the taxpayers of Martin County, it is important that the community support the group.

 

If we do not support our civic organizations, they won’t be here for us. It is up to the public to decide which of those organization are important to them. The Taxpayers are a watch dog group to make sure our dollars are wisely spent. They report when government is fulfilling its obligation and, as importantly, when it is not.

 

For information on the MCTA and the dinner you can go to:

 

MCTA WEBSITE CLICK HERE

 

The second event of interest is for the Center for Constitutional Values. It will have its first speaker in their 2020 luncheon series on January 31st. The speaker is KrisAnn Hall, an author of 6 books on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

 

The CCV has developed a scholarship program with the School District to give college scholarships to those students who participate in its yearly contests which are moderated and judged by actual jurists. We continuously hear how civics and the Constitution are not being studied by our children today. If we believe it is important that students and all Americans know more about these two subjects, then we need to support institutions that help make that possible.

 

The luncheon will be held at Pipers Landing on January 31st.

 

For more information:

 

CCV WEBSITE CLICK HERE

 

2

 

HOUSING, FINANCING & AFFORDABILITY

The City of Stuart held a housing workshop last week to discuss the types of housing to build, the cost, and affordability. The discussion made me remember what it was like starting out and the differences that I faced and those of young people today.

 

When I bought my first house, I had been married a few years. My wife and I had some money saved but not enough for a down payment. In a few years, we would have had enough but we wanted to start a family. The sooner we could be in a larger place than our studio apartment the better. We had looked at renting larger apartments in addition to buying. In most instances, we found the rent was equivalent to what our mortgage would be.

 

Fortunately, both sets of parents could lend us what we needed for the down payment which was $5000 each. We qualified for a mortgage of $39,000, and we found our home. At the closing, we were short $150 so my mother-in-law had to deposit that amount into our checking account to cover our closing fee. I never forgot how grateful I was for the down payment loans and how much the closing charges added to the purchase.

 

Through the years, I have been fortunate enough to be able to help young people when they bought their homes or apartments much as how I was helped. Of course, the cost of a home is much higher today than when I bought my first one. In the past, I’ve leant down payments to individuals, but today I act as the mortgagee on the property.

 

This accomplishes a couple of things. The closing costs become substantially less for these individuals because of all the things I do not require such as application fees. The buyer can save one percent or more off the purchase price. Further there are no loan to value calculations that may prevent a buyer from purchasing a home. 

 

Since I lend to people I know well, I don’t have to worry about not receiving my payment. It is a good investment for me because the interest rate I receive, while comparable to what a bank would charge, is more that I could achieve from current savings rates. This is not a business for me. I know what the financial ability of the borrower is and his/her character as well. Two of my kids and Mike Meier are examples of young people who I have invested in to help them succeed.

 

Our current housing costs are higher than when I was buying my first home. More people of modest means could afford the “American Dream” then. Most young people today have the same dream I did nearly 50 years ago and the same dream my parents and grandparents had…a place to call home.

 

Having enough starter homes, the financing to allow people to buy, and an affordable price for the home is what we should, as a society, be looking to provide. Not every young person wants to own, but the opportunity should be there if they do. The only way that is possible is by having enough product. Not every person has a friend or relative able to help.

 

In Martin County, we are not even building enough housing to replace the units we lose through attrition. That has the effect of driving up housing costs for even old and obsolete units that should be less expensive. We don’t need to build single family homes with acre lots on converted farms and ranches. We can increase housing by having more density within the current urban boundaries thus reducing costs.

 

Florida’s population will continue to grow. How we house that growing population is what we need to solve. 

 

3

 

WHEN ARE YOU AN ADULT?

Frustrated white-haired woman shaking her finger at you to scold you

A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece for Medium asking at what age one should be considered an adult. Is it 18 or 21…25 or 16? We as a nation, are conflicted about the concept of adulthood.

 

I remember turning 18 and knowing that I was now expected to act as an adult. In a span of a few weeks, I did 4 things that marked my passage from adolescence to adulthood. The first was legally having a drink in a bar. The second was registering for the draft and doing so with trepidation because of the ongoing Vietnam War. The third was registering to vote since the 26th Amendment had just been ratified. The final was moving into my own apartment. At that point, I would have dared anyone not to consider me a responsible adult.

 

But in the half century since then, being 18 and graduating from high school does not make you an adult in many instances. Our nanny culture would suggest that an 18-year-old is still an adolescent. They still need protection for their acts. Mommy and Daddy should still be immersed in their lives. But there are some people who believe that while you shouldn’t legally decide whether to have a drink or a smoke until the age of 21, at 16 you should be able to vote. There is something flawed with this reasoning.

 

New research would suggest that your mind is still developing until you are 25. At 25, I was married, owned my own home, had a kid, owned rental property, and had my own business. When I paid my taxes, bought a bottle of liquor and was responsible for my child, no one questioned my mental acuity.  Besides I hope my mind is continuing to develop even now.

 

Just because there is a problem with some teenagers vaping doesn’t mean we need to raise the age to buy these products to 21. It relegates those under that age to being adolescents and somehow, they should not be considered responsible for their actions. This is the nanny state at its worse.

 

The New York Times had a story on this matter. I urge you to read it at:

 

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/18/us/usa-legal-age.html?smid=nytcore-ios-share

 

If you didn’t read my article and wish to do so, the link is below:

 

CLICK HERE

 

4

 

ELECTIONS ARE COMING

 

The 2020 elections could be the most consequential in our lifetime. This newsletter will concentrate on those offices that are local to Martin County. There are municipal seats up, three BOCC spots, all the constitutional officers, two School Board seats, our three state representatives and one congress person to be chosen.

 

In the coming weeks, I will be writing about those races and giving you the opportunity to know the candidates who are running for these positions. I probably won’t endorse any candidate. I will just try to provide you with what I believe are the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses.

 

5

 

SALERNO SEAFOOD FESTIVAL

 

Yesterday was the Salerno Seafood Festival.

 

Earlier the BOCC, began to address how this festival fits into Port Salerno, the commercial maritime community and, most importantly, the people who live there. This year’s event was a one-day festival in the heart of Port Salerno as it has in the past. Depending on what happens this year, the festival may evolve into two days, and it may move to another venue.

 

The Festival is just one thing that the County needs to address. Why is a pier and dock owned by the County being operated by a private entity? How does this fit into our shrinking commercial fishing businesses? Where are the proceeds going for that dock and is the County auditing the operation? Does the County staff feel that the Commissioners are more concerned with politics than taxpayers?

 

These are questions I have and hope to have answers for you in the coming newsletters.

 

PALM CITY CHAMBER

Missi Campbell, the new Executive Director of the Palm City Chamber, wants you to know what is happening at her chamber.

 

I am Missi Campbell and I recently took the position as the Executive Director of the Palm City Chamber of Commerce.  I am close to a Martin County native, having resided here for the past 45 years and retiring after a career of teaching in the Martin County School District for 34 years.

 

The Palm City Chamber of Commerce has a vision to serve as the principle advocate of the community and its businesses, acting as the catalyst in promoting the economic development of the Palm City area, stimulating jobs and improving the quality of life.  We believe that if the business community is involved in all areas of Palm City then our neighbors will support our local economy.

 

We strive to provide activities and events for the entire Martin County community highlighting the benefits of Palm City.  Each year we celebrate Fall with our annual Fall Fest at Citrus Grove Park.  This year we are adding a new event called Cow Plop Bingo.  This event will be held on Sunday, February 23rd, at Rockin H Ranch in Palm City.  This will be a free family fun afternoon with activities for the children including The Circus Cowboy.  Adult fun with a Food Truck Invasion including adult beverages, the Tom Jackson Band, and of course, Cow Plop Bingo.  Land Parcels can be purchased at the Palm City Chamber by calling 772-286-8121 for $100 a piece with a grand prize winning of $3,000!

 

The Palm City Chamber of Commerce recently had a Comedy and Cocktails evening and we will be hosting Red, White and Blues, a Blues music concert at Hutchinson Shores on Thursday, July 2nd to kick off Independence Day weekend.  If you would like more information on our events, please check us out on Facebook or our website at www.palmcitychamber.com.

Friends-and-Neighbors-of-Martin-County-Letters-To-Tom

I urge those who are reading this newsletter to send emails expressing their opinions on subjects. When a reader sends one, it will be included if I find it relevant and I have adequate space. I may edit the letter because of length and clarity. You don’t have to agree with me to have your letter in Friends & Neighbors. All you must do is send it to

Info@friendsandneighborsofmartincounty.com or fill out the form on the website.

 

The first letter is from Rob Ranieri of House of Hope:

 

Good morning Tom. I hope all is well, and that you had a wonderful holiday season. Thanks for giving some column space to the subject of affordable housing. It is a topic that draws quite a range of responses in our community, whenever I or House of Hope speaks on the topic. My experience with local government members, both elected and non-elected, has been that they almost all have a different definition of the phrase “affordable housing.” Some view it in relation to homes that teachers, firemen, etc could afford to buy. Some view it as rentals at a “reasonable” rate, with the definition of reasonable all over the board. Some (very few, unfortunately) view it through the lens of our more economically challenged residents and talk of transitional housing or shelters, and on and on. 

 

The reality is that we need a comprehensive approach that covers shelters, transitional housing, affordable rentals and purchases for low wage earners, affordable rentals and purchases for workforce, and then upward through the housing spectrum. The way the local governments could help would be to encourage and participate in private/public partnerships. They could also be more flexible with their codes around options like tiny homes and container homes, that are helping to solve housing issues in other markets. 

 

You mentioned vouchers for rent, which is a great way to prevent people from sliding into homelessness. At House of Hope, our rental assistance programs and other financial support options are designed to do just that. It is much easier and less expensive to try and keep someone housed than it is to bring them back from homelessness. Thanks again for giving the topic some light. 

Regards,

Rob

 

Rob Ranieri

Chief Executive Officer
House of Hope

From Tom Pine, a concerned citizen, who cares about Martin County:

 

While I have only been reading this newsletter a few months it is a must read if you are interested in the policies and spending habits of our elected officials.

The city of Stuart started giving businesses a grant up to $2,500 to have art painted on their building.

I attended a Jensen Beach Neighborhood Advisory Committee meeting on January 8, 2020 where I learned we the tax payers are now going to be spending $72,000 for incentives to private home owners in CRAs so they can upgrade their property to more fit in with the beatification projects in their area.

We the taxpayers are actually the ones responsible for all this wasteful spending because we are the ones that keep electing the same big spenders.

Take Commissioner Smith, he is the one that pushed for and received 1.3 million dollars [six hunderd thousand in local tax dollars and eight hundred thousand in state tax dollars ] for the mooring field on the southwest corner of the Jensen Beach Causeway, now in his wish list for 2020 an Aerospace Training Tech Training Center at Witham Field.

He is using our tax dollars to support his dreams and the pay to play crowd and the good old boys and we keep electing him.

 

And finally, from Rosemary Westling:

I do not agree with your opinions about affordable housing. I don’t think there is one house available in Stuart for $100,000. or under.

I think there is a lot of four-story commercial buildings going up on Federal Hwy. that could have been designated for affordable housing.

Thanks for putting out this interesting newsletter.

 

MartinCounty

Friends-and-Neighbors-of-Martin-County-Commission

COMMISSION MEETING JAN 14, 2020

 

The Board voted a 6-month extension on the current contract with Waste Management for trash services. It was determined that the bidders for the new contract would need more time to begin services if selected. The bid calls for all equipment to be new. It takes time to procure at least 54 new trucks.

 

A vote was taken to support the railroad seeking the funding for the new bridge across the St. Lucie in downtown Stuart. This item was discussed extensively at the last meeting, and I reported on it in the last newsletter. A motion was made by Ciampi and seconded by Hetherington. It passed 4-1 with Heard dissenting.

 

The resolution can be found at:

 

CLICK HERE

 

 

COUNTY ROADS

When is a road private? When is it public? Can it be both?

 

Most people think of roads as being two kinds. The ones that are public streets which anyone can use and those that are usually within gated communities which are maintained privately for those homeowners’ use exclusively. That is usually how it works but there are exceptions.

 

On October 8th of last year, the Board instructed staff to bring back an agenda item addressing roads that are public roads but privately maintained. There are not very many of these but enough that the Commissioners are asked about them by residents.  The question is who should pay to maintain these roads.

 

Martin County has three different categories of roads. The most prevalent are roads owned by the County and maintained by the County (533 miles of paved and 12 miles of unpaved roads.) There are public roads that are privately maintained (20 miles of paved road and 26 of unpaved road.) And last there are private roads that are privately maintained (406 miles of paved roads and 44 miles of unpaved roads.)

 

For a road to be considered public, the roadway must be dedicated and accepted. Prior to 1977 roads could be platted but not built in order to subdivide property. Since then, the roads would have to be built as part of the subdivision. A roadway must meet certain criteria before being accepted by the County. To quote from the agenda item:

 

“Often, private roadways do not meet County standards. For the County to accept supervision and control over these roadways, the interest in the roadway must be transferred to the County by all of the property owners along the length of the roadway, typically by Deed or Easement.  The interest may also be transferred through County action by maintenance map or eminent domain proceedings.” 

 

If a private roadway is taken in by the County, then it may assess the private owners to do the work to bring it up to current County standards. The assessable paving process is in the Land Development Regulations. That is where the landowners can ask the County to take the road and do the work necessary. All of this is spelled out in the attached agenda item and presentation. It should be noted that it costs between $700,000 and a million dollars a mile for the County to pave and bring a road up to their standards.

 

The Commission was supposed to give staff direction on how to proceed with public roads that are privately maintained (usually not very well) and where funding would come to bring them up to code and then have the County maintain.

 

Smith thought the residents along those roads should not have to pay for the maintenance or to bring them up to County standards. His reasoning was they are paying taxes as other homeowners are. Ciampi said that there were many miles of unpaved roads in his district and some of his constituents like it that way.

 

Heard stated that there was no secret about who owned and who maintained these roads when people bought their homes. If the County were to absorb the costs of paving and bringing the road up to standard, then what about the many other homeowners who were assessed when their roads became part of the County network?

 

Jenkins wanted to carve out an exception for thoroughfares which he defined as roads leading to somewhere else and not just to the property owners who are along the road. Hetherington said that Heard’s position made sense. But she has a resident on Myrtle Street where only two people use the road, and no one is maintaining it. While public safety vehicles can get down the street, trash hauling cannot. In this instance, the accessible paving program would not work because of how few people live on the platted street.

 

Heard shot back that the homeowner asking for relief bought his home in 2016 and knew about the street. She implied that the cost of the house had this unpaved and uncared for road figured in its purchase price. Ciampi stated that this homeowner was paying the same taxes as anyone else who had the same valuation assessment. Kryzda piped up that the assessment considered the condition of the road, and perhaps the value of the property would be higher if the road was paved and County maintained.

 

Ciampi made a motion seconded by Smith for staff to come back with a multi-tiered approach…whatever that means. It passed 4-1 with Heard dissenting. Heard’s position is the right one. Why should other County taxpayers come to the rescue of those that do not want to pay for the improvements when others have. We must keep in mind that it is election season.

 

The agenda item and presentation can be found at:

 

CLICK HERE

 

CLICK HERE FOR PRESENTATION

 

 

PUBLIC WORKS COMPLEX

 

From time in memorial, the County has been kicking around the idea of moving the Public Works Complex. Most of it is currently at the airport where the County pays over $200,000 rent per annum. There are approximately 90 employees sharing 2 toilets. Ideally, moving to a larger location will allow for better employee morale but, more importantly, will allow the County to build more modern facilities and put all Public Works and perhaps Parks with their equipment in the same place.

 

There is already bonding available and $200,000 will pay quite a bit of interest for the purpose of buying a site. The reason that rent must be paid to the Airport Enterprise Fund is because the FAA requires market rent to be paid. It is a federal law so that the County has no choice. If they could show that there is a tie in with the airport or aviation the rent could be less. That is what happened with the new fire training facility being located at the airport due to the training of the department for an airport response in emergencies.

 

According to staff, the County needs 35 to 40 acres. This would meet the needs now and into the future. Last time staff presented proposed sites, the options that they gave were not attractive. I believe this time they were.

 

There were four possible sites. Here is the synopsis presented in the agenda item:

 

OPTION 1 – Pineland Prairie – Palm City 40 acres
The owners of the Pineland Prairie property have offered to sell approximately 40 acres of property within the development at a cost equal to fair market value (FMV).  Staff estimates the FMV was approximately $31,000 an acre ($1,240,000) but this is the value prior to the recent approval for the Pineland Prairie project.  An appraisal will be required to ascertain its current value. The property is along the northeast side of SW Boat Ramp Ave., north of SW Citrus Blvd.  Negotiations would focus on FMV less the cost for the County to improve SW Boat Ramp Ave. in accordance with the County’s development standards for Pineland Prairie.  SW Boat Ramp Ave. is currently a dirt road North of SW Citrus Blvd. to the C-23 canal.

OPTION 2 – SW Citrus Blvd. at 96th Street – Palm City, 174 total/Site B 127 acres
This property, currently owned by Regilo I, LLC, has a total of 174 acres for sale at $6,875,000 and can be divided into separate parcels.  The parcel of interest is Site B, which is 127 acres of cleared land for sale at $4M.  The property is directly outside of the urban service district and is zoned AG Ranchette.  The size of this parcel would provide additional space for future activities, departments and uses.

OPTION 3 – American Custom Yachts Parcel – Palm City, 35.89 total/21.2 acres usable
This parcel, currently owned by American Custom Yacht, has 21.2 acres of buildable space and is for sale at $4.95 million.  The property is located south of Martin Highway off SW High Meadow Ave. and situated between I95 and the Turnpike, across from American Custom Yachts.  The property is located within the Primary Urban Service Boundary and has available water service.  It is currently zoned General Commercial.

OPTION 4 – Airport Site Adjacent to FRD Training Facility, 30 acres
This parcel presents some of the same issues as the current airport site. The use of the property for a maintenance facility would not meet the FAA’s requirement of Aeronautical use and will require the County to pay a lease at fair market value.  It is estimate that building coverage lease fee could exceed $450,000.  Given this added cost and the other factors, it will be better not to locate County Public Works facility on Airport property.

 

Commissioner Heard once again brought up the Fair Grounds as a possible site. This has been discussed over and over. This is probably the most valuable piece of property that the County owns. To use it as a parking lot for heavy equipment would be a waste of taxpayer resources. Once the Fair moves, it should either be sold for development to the Airport Enterprise Fund for more aviation industry space or to a private developer. She said that Pineland would spur development, and once residents moved in, complaints would happen. While the Citrus Blvd. property was outside the Urban Service Boundary and therefore not available for such a use.

 

To Ciampi, the airport land in Option 4 makes no sense because of the estimated rent of $450,000 or more. At Pineland, there would be no neighborhood issues and since the property being proposed is in their industrial component to the plan, there would be no residential around it. Option 3 would be smaller than what is needed, price is high and there are residents around the property.

 

Hetherington stated that Option 1 would necessitate spending money on creating a road ($1.3 million.) Don Donaldson, the Deputy County Administrator, said that the road costs would be figured into the purchase price and that it would probably be cheaper since the road would only have to extend to the entrance of the property not the entire length. Hetherington also said that the Citrus property was too large and too expensive. She said the airport property, Option 4, is the way to go since the County already has the property. You could put shovels in the ground immediately.

 

That is not technically correct because the Airport Enterprise Fund owns the property. The rent would be set by a fair market appraisal which is estimated to be about $500,000 per year. I would imagine that in addition to the appraisal process, there would be other things that the federal government would want. I don’t think you could turn dirt the minute a lease was signed.

 

Smith believed that Option 1, though already zoned industrial, should be saved for a higher use such as biomedical or technical. Option 2 is too far from populations centers. Option 4 is not the right use. Option 3 which is owned by American Custom Yacht should be saved for marine use. He wants to go to the landfill.

 

I don’t quite understand Smith’s rationale. He may believe that this piece of property should have this use and that another, but the market decides not the County. Ciampi stated that the Custom Yacht property is being marketed and may already have a buyer that is not a marine use. Unless the County wants to buy these properties, take them off the market and then try to find their preferred user, the Commissioner shows how little practical business experience he has.

 

Jenkins was negative on Options 2 and 4. He also thought that Option 3 should be for maritime use but that was before Ciampi’s statement about the property being sold. He is in favor of Option 1.

 

The closer you are to water, sewer, roads, and population, the more expensive the property is. The County should not be thinking in terms of today or even what the needs could be in 10 years. What are the needs for the next 50 years? If I were buying this for my business, I would look first to the 127 acres. Politically, it may be a bit difficult since it is not in the USB but that could be overcome. Twenty years from now, some of that property may be sold. It would turn a profit even with the ROI and other costs associated with the purchase.

 

Though looking at it as a business plan is probably asking too much of a political organization. Therefore, the next best alternative is Option 1. When asked by Ciampi how long this move has been under consideration, the presenter stated that he has worked for the County since 2001 and it was being bantered about then. Ciampi also said you need to rely on staff’s expertise for projects like these.

 

A motion was made by Ciampi to proceed with Option 1 and seconded by Jenkins after passing the gavel. It failed 2-3 with Hetherington, Smith and Heard in opposition. Too bad.

 

2020 COMMISSIONER PRIORITIES

 

When you wish upon a star and do nothing else, it probably won’t happen. When you say your priority is affordable housing, what do you expect to happen? Will there be magical funding to make it all come true? Are you saying you expect the government to build that housing? Are you going to do away with your impact fees or subsidize rent?

 

This was one of Jenkins priorities as well as Ciampi. Jenkins mentioned that as one of the larger private Martin County employers, he sees firsthand the problem as do other business owners. I would suggest to Jenkins and those other employers that if they truly think the lack of housing is hurting their recruitment efforts, they build housing and subsidize it. That would truly be a way to show commitment.

 

In general, this type of exercise is only helpful if the goals are obtainable. Some of the Commissioners goals may be accomplished while most will not. There is always 2021.

 

Attached are 2019 goals and how they have been addressed by staff and then the 2020 goals:

 

The 2019 Priorities:

 

CLICK HERE

 

The 2020 Priorities:

 

CLICK HERE

 

City-of-Stuart

Friends-and-Neighbors-of-Martin-County-Stuart-City-Commission

COMMISSION WORKSHOP JAN 13, 2020

NEW URBAN COMMUNITIES

The Commission met at 3:30 to have presentations on housing within the City.

 

As an aside, having workshops and then regular Commission meetings is a large commitment of time and energy especially when both are jam packed. There is so much information to absorb that I don’t think you can give both meetings the concentration they deserve. I am glad they are having workshops which is something that past Commissions did not seem to do enough.

 

I would recommend one workshop per quarter to be held on a day when no regular Commission meeting is scheduled. The first workshop of the year should be a retreat to be held preferably on a Saturday. In December prior to the meeting, each Commissioner should send the City Manager three very concrete action items that the Commissioner wants to see accomplished for the year. No pie in the sky statements but rather things such as paving a street or sidewalk in a neighborhood or changing parking regulations downtown.

 

Those priorities can be discussed by staff and Commissioners at the retreat. By doing so, the City Manager has been given direction as to what should be accomplished for the rest of the year. If a Commissioner brings up another goal during the year, the City Manager can remind them that he has been given 15 action items that staff is working on and that new ones should be held until the following year.

 

The problem now is that the Commission does not allow the staff the time needed to institute their policies and projects. This direction gives the City Manager the ability to fully implement agreed upon policy. What Stuart has now can be schizophrenic.

 

PRESENTATIONS

 

The first presentation was made by Dana Little of the Treasure Coast Planning Council. It was generic and not specific to Stuart. What every planner is trying to convey today is that the mid-20th century housing model didn’t and doesn’t work.  That model isolates people by different socio-economic groups. It separates homes from stores from businesses. It encouraged a car culture and influenced how we see ourselves as a society.

 

Today we are returning to an older model of everyone living, working, and shopping within the same area. Creating real neighborhoods where people can interact. Communities where you can age in place longer and that are welcoming to all. This is one of Stuart’s core strengths. By using density, especially in our urban downtown and CRA, we can go back to a time when this was the way people lived.

 

The most interesting thing that Little said was that the “Coolest Places” were all built before there were too many regulations and zoning. In many places, including Stuart, much of what we think of as our best features could not be built today because of codes. As an example, Downtown’s look would not be possible under today’s codes and zoning. Osceola and Flagler have been built without setbacks. The look and feel would be entirely different if done today.

 

His presentation can be found at:

 

CLICK HERE

 

The second and third presentations were on what is affordable, and the housing being built currently. Kev Freeman, the director, was the main presenter. Because every Commissioner has raised the spectrum of affordability, the City put together these presentations. Under the SHIP (State Housing Initiative Partnership) Program, workforce housing is characterized as 140% of the AMI (Annual Medium Income.)

 

Housing fitting that criteria is currently available. But there is not enough affordable, (or every other type of housing) being built here. The problem with many people in Stuart and Martin County is that they want to have housing that they classify as affordable but without an increase in density within the urban boundary.

 

Freeman and the staff gave several suggestions such as allowing ancillary apartments with single family homes, stop counting one-bedroom units the same as three-bedroom units for density purposes, and within the Urban Core decrease the amount of required parking per unit. This will allow less expensive housing to be built.

 

Those presentations and one that the City Attorney gave on Florida law can be found at:

 

PRESENTATION 1 CLICK HERE

 

PRESENTATION 2 CLICK HERE

 

PRESENTATION 3 CLICK HERE

 

After discussion, the Commission decided not to change the City’s current direction. 60% of the existing units fall within the definitions of affordable. There are many units that have been approved in the past few years that have not yet been built. The Commission felt they may take another look after those units come online in a few years before changing the code for affordability.

 

I agree that trying to incentivize developers to build low income, moderate income or other housing will not work in a small city such as Stuart. Federal and state programs need to be the driving forces if subsidized housing is to exist. It is beyond Stuart’s and Martin County’s ability.

 

COMMISSION MEETING JANUARY 13, 2020

 

Commissioner Glass Leighton announced that she would be stepping down in May to run for the Property Appraiser’s position. Laurel Kelly is retiring after nearly 30 years in office. Kelly’s long-time number two, Jenny Fields, has also filed to run.  It will be an interesting race. Leighton has been an elected City Commissioner for 8 years. Fields has been with the Appraiser’s office for 31 years. Leighton has no experience in real estate or as an appraiser. Fields has the institutional knowledge and understands the complexities of the office but no elected experience. What will the voters think would be more important?

We are about to hear more regarding the Pelican lease. An item was on the consent calendar to authorize the City Manager to negotiate a rent for the possible assignment to Mike Matakaetis from Paul and Linda Daly. You remember the Daly’s from November when they swore to the Commission that they had no intention of selling the new 20-year lease that the Commission gave them with a sweetheart rent. I hope our Commissioners have learned something and won’t be giving the store away again.

 

A motion was made by Matheson and seconded by Leighton to authorize the Manager to begin negotiations. The vote was unanimous.

 

IS STUART REALLY THAT IMPORTANT

In school, we had music class a couple of times per week. They taught us different songs from different periods in history. One of the songs was titled “The Battle Flag of Freedom.” It was written in 1864 for the union troops. I always think about that song when I hear or see people rallying round a cause. The discussion that the Commission had to initiate a lawsuit against the Army Corp immediately brought the tune and lyrics to my head.

 

Martin County, including the City of Stuart, had a fantastic last summer. There were no releases from the Lake. The Corp considered what happens to the human safety of residents when toxic algae is released into the canals and ultimately the St. Lucie. This was possible because water was managed differently in the Lake by the Corp. After only one year, it appears the Corp is going back to standard practice of releasing water without thought to our communities. That could make the summer of 2020 like that of 2018.

 

I whole heartedly agree that this turn may not be in our best interest. No one in the County can believe otherwise, but should the City sue the Corp over this issue? I think that it would be a waste of Stuart’s tax dollars.

 

Commissioner Matheson brought this to the Commission citing the absolute need to force the Corp to consider our human health. It is ironic that the federal government has an entire list of things that they consider, but our health is not one of them. It is indefensible conduct on their behalf. However, does Stuart have even a chance of prevailing in any type of suit? I think not.

 

The County is not suing the Corp. The County that has paid staff devoted to this issue is not becoming involved. Every taxpayer in Stuart pays taxes in Martin County, yet no one is demanding the County sue the Corp. Why not?

 

Martin County has miles and miles of river front…. more than 20 miles before Stuart has any. Any green algae that is released will affect Martin County, yet they are silent. The BOCC is not jumping on any bandwagon to act. They realize that this is a loser. And, in this instance, they are being fiscally prudent.

 

Commissioner Matheson said the City could afford to spend thousands on a lawsuit that even he doesn’t believe is winnable. He mentioned that the City has a $27 million dollar budget and this action was affordable. Yes, the City will not go broke because of it. But the same thousands may be better spent paving streets or, better yet, converting people to sewer from septic. The City Commission and some in general believe that Stuart should solve all sorts of things including affordable housing.

 

What comes to my mind is the word hubris, and the Commission’s belief that Stuart is so much more important and influential than it really is. The Greeks considered hubris to be a dangerous character flaw. The City should think about that definition.

 

Most of those who spoke in favor of the suit do not live or pay taxes within the City. The same people urging Matheson and the Commission are eager to not spend their money. Why aren’t the various groups such as the Rivers Coalition backing this suit with more than just their mouths? How come they don’t pass the hat and have a legal fund. Then perhaps Stuart could be the named litigant, but the taxpayer wouldn’t be on the spot for the thousands necessary.

 

Sure, the environmentalists will rally round Matheson’s flag! What is it costing them? Not money or time. A beautiful picture will emerge. Lofty statements will be given. Those folks are not doing the hard lifting. They live in Sewall’s Point and Palm City. It is the guy who pays his City taxes that may not have his road paved that will suffer for this quixotic suit.

 

I am all for challenging the methodology of the Corp’s rationale, but it needs to be done in partnership with the County who should take the lead. We should not let them slink into the background.

 

A motion was made by Matheson and seconded by Meier to bring back a draft lawsuit for the next meeting. It passed 5-0. A second motion was made by Matheson and seconded by Clarke to spend up to the balance put aside from last year’s fund (it was believed to be $88,000) for the suit and the hiring of an employee or consultant to represent or advise the City in the suit, at various meetings, and to lobby people. It too passed 5-0.

 

I asked Matheson to send me his comments from the discussion. They are printed below:

 

The health of our river is the one overarching issue that affects nearly all aspect of our quality of life. For 9 out of the past 14 years our residents have received toxic discharges from Lake Okeechobee. 2019 was a taste of how operational management can be changed to put health and safety of our residents as a priority. The announcement by the ACOE (Army Corp of Engineers) to move away from this deserves a response from us.

 

I Motion to have an action Item brought backing for our Jan 27th meeting.  Drafting legal action against the ACOE regarding their position of 2020 Lake Okeechobee dry season management with a focus on water storage instead of the health and safety of our residents.  In creating this complaint, we should seek assistance from all willing parties, including MC commission, Sewall’s Point, other counties, and municipalities as well as nonprofits. With the same goals. 

 

Furthermore, I motion to direct staff to come up with a plan for the city of Stuart to actively have a louder voice in the LOSOM process an overall advocate against discharges from the St. Lucie Canal.  I would like to contemplate creating a new temporary position, or seeking lobbyists, consultants, or advisers to our current staff. I would like staff to factor in the remaining unused funds allocated for the Health of our r river in fiscal year 2019 to get this started. 

 

The 2 motions evolved slightly during discussion as you are aware. My intent with the second was to direct staff to seek the employment of a dedicated river advocate. I wanted to leave this with as much flexibility as possible during the drafting and consideration process. We are not sure who may apply and what their credentials might be. Perhaps we will not move forward with anyone. I do believe it is in the interest of City residents to “expect” attendance at meetings regarding discharges into our river though.  This was done with the financial cap of the remaining funds allocated for our river in fiscal 2019. 

 

I continue to believe that Merritt has been a thoughtful and insightful Commissioner. In every case except in this instance, he has been an advocate for fiscal restraint. I disagree with him, and the stance taken by the rest of the Commission, regarding a lawsuit and spending additional dollars on a new employee or consultant.

 

The Corp did a presentation at a meeting with Matheson and the City Manager after the Commission meeting which shows that keeping that additional foot in the Lake will be needed. We should not overlook the fact they may be right in their assertions. They are doing an unbelievable balancing act.

 

Congressman Mast should be taking the lead with a federal agency, the Army Corp of Engineers. Where are Rubio and Scott, our senators? Florida is supposedly a swing state. Where is the political pressure on the administration? Are we separating our votes from our supposed priority?

 

COLORADO COFFEE ROASTER, MOTEL CONVERSION

 

The CRB, of which I am a member, had already approved both these projects. The coffee roaster was approved rather easily, but the motel conversion needed to have a few issues ironed out before going to the Commission.

 

The beauty of advisory boards is that they can allow things to be aired in public and any neighborhood concerns be addressed prior to the Commission meeting. There were a few concerns raised by the Board and the neighbors to the rear of the motel which is located on U.S. 1 by Dune Dog. In the original application presented, there was no site plan, landscape plan nor architectural renderings. The proposed buyer was asking for approval for higher density than what would be allowed under the code.

 

Though it would be the same number of units as the motel, which is 19, only 15 units per acre would be allowed under the existing code. The neighbors were upset because they did not understand that the number of units would stay the same at first.

 

Since the Board and then the Commission under the original application without site plans and renderings would be giving permission for the change, the new owner could demolish the motel and put up 19 units. And, since it is a conditional use, there would not be setback requirements or other protections to make sure the new structure blends in with the neighborhood. There could have been a four-story building overlooking a one-story home.

 

The Board made sure that a site plan was attached which allowed for the existing units being rehabbed. There could be no other changes without coming back before the Board and Commission. The neighbors, who did come to both CRB hearings, didn’t even show up at the Commission because their fears had been alleviated.

 

No such luck with the roaster. They are buying the old florist shop on Colorado and will be moving the Roasted Record from further down the street. However, two neighbors complained because they were asking for a parking exemption of two spaces.

 

As I keep saying, the City and the County CRAs cannot let outdated parking regulations deter new businesses and residences from opening in our urban centers. Colorado Avenue should not be considered suburban. It is in an urban area that should be requiring buildings to be more than single story and built closer to sidewalks.

 

The owner of the property next door is concerned that the new business’s customers will park in his lot. The reason he is concerned is because his tenants’ businesses have a parking lot in front while the entrances are recessed. This type of design encourages the use of autos. So, customers drive from shop to shop instead of parking and then walking to multiple destinations.

 

The Commission was not persuaded by this argument. A motion was made by Clarke to approve. It was seconded by Bruner and passed 5-0.

 

MOVING TOWARD A REAL CITY CENTER

 

In keeping with the earlier housing workshop, staff has now brought forth a motion to allow for different density calculations and parking within the CRA.

 

For some time, I have been a proponent of not counting units per acre but rather allowing as many units as would fit within a building envelope after setback and preserve requirements were met. This would allow smaller units to be built. If, for example, you can build 20 units per acre on a parcel, then the developer would build those units that would give him the better return. That encourages large units which are more expensive to rent or buy.

 

If what the City needs are smaller units for our population, then it would make sense to allow more 1-bedroom units to be built on a project than 3-bedroom units. The number of people living at the property would be the same. The City did not go that far but rather used square foot per unit calculations to add to the density. 

 

At the same time, they recognized that if Stuart is going to be a walkable City, then the need to have 1.5 parking spaces for every unit should be changed. Smaller units need fewer spaces. This could be a game changer for developers to minimize their building costs. It is important for the City because more units will be built for our young people and empty nesters.

 

It can be found at:

 

CLICK HERE

 

A BAD IDEA

Another agenda item was to allow impact fee credits to be transferred from one parcel to another. For example, if a developer knocks down a building that had 50 units at one point and builds one with only 5 new units, the lot then has 45 additional credits for units where impact fees were once paid. This vote now allows the transfer of credits from one lot to another and from one owner to another.

 

The Commission needs to discuss impact fees in a universal way. I believe they can be lowered for everyone. What happened at this meeting was not beneficial to the City. A market was created for the “Good Ole Boys” to sell impact fee credits to each other. It encourages developers to build fewer units than previously were situated on a parcel and more expensive units. This results in fewer and more expensive units being built.

 

The ordinance does not consider what the dollar amount originally paid was for impact fees. For example, in 1975 a developer put up a four-family building and he paid “x” per unit. Last year a developer bought the property and tore down that building and built 2 units. He would not have to pay any new impact fees on the new units. That seems fair. However, he now gets to sell 2 units of impact fee credits to another owner for another lot in the City. Not only is he selling something to another owner that rightfully belongs to the City and therefore the taxpayer but today impact fees are not “x” per unit but 3”x”.

 

During discussion, Matheson suggested that this results in the opposite of everything that the Commission had discussed earlier. He said, justifiably so, that these credits should be used if the developer was going to build affordable housing. Meier agreed.

 

This is a sop to give some developers more profit when they build. It will not do any of the things that the City earlier was trying to encourage. The “Good Ole Boys” still have their snouts in the public’s trough.

 

A motion was made by Bruner and second by Clarke to approve the item. It passed 3-2 with Meier and Matheson dissenting.

 

The last impact fee study for the City can be found at:

 

https://documentcloud.adobe.com/link/track?uri=urn%3Aaaid%3Ascds%3AUS%3Af38d1be8-d04f-4e2b-b391-28cf28c0bc94

 

RIVERS COALITION MEETING JANUARY 23, 2020

This is not a meeting I normally would write about because it is not a governmental meeting. However, this meeting is pivotal to the City because of the possible suit against the Corp. The Rivers Coalition has an opinion regarding whether the City should proceed or not. Their concerns have sway over a few Commissioners.

 

When I arrived at the City Hall parking lot, I noticed many large and expensive SUVs, Mercedes, BMWs, and big trucks. Just the kind of vehicles that environmentalists should be driving. Some of the meeting participants had plastic water bottles, plastic straws, and even polystyrene cups. The crowd was excited that the City of Stuart had decided to file the suit against the Corp and spend money doing it.

 

Not money that was coming out of their pockets. The majority lived outside the City’s boundaries. No, this lawsuit would be underwritten by the homeowners of East Stuart, Sarita Heights and the rest of the neighborhoods of the City. Sure, everyone wants clean water including the City’s residents. They may be the people that can least afford to fund it. Those homeowners weren’t at the meeting at 11 am. They had jobs to be at.

 

Three of the City’s Commissioners were there. Mayor Meier, Commissioner Bruner, and Commissioner Matheson. Only Commissioner Matheson spoke. He was eloquent and sincere. Was there a political calculation to what he was doing…perhaps. What struck me though was he believed in what he was saying.

 

The real question is should the City of Stuart all by itself sue the Army Corp of Engineers? No one believes they will prevail. What is the point? There is much that Matheson and the rest were unknowing about including what Martin County has been doing.

 

I have written before that when it comes to the health of the estuary, Stuart is not in it alone. We are part of Martin County and pay taxes to the County just the same as everyone else. To date the County has allocated $145,000 towards this matter. The County has hired as a consultant someone who helped develop the last LORS (Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule)document, there is a hydrologist who worked for the Water District, a meteorologist, an environmental modeler, an estuarine ecologist, and a law firm specializing in this type of law. It is a County-wide issue and needs to be addressed as such.

 

Martin County has positions on these matters. They haven’t buried their heads in the sand. What has happened is that there is a lack of communication between the City and the County. Both governments and elected officials need to have more understanding of what each is doing and thinking of doing.

 

The suit being contemplated is not in the best interest of anyone. Martin County sued the Corp in the past and failed. Everyone should learn something from that. Once a suit begins communications between the Corp and Stuart will cease. We will not have that seat at the table.

 

Commissioner Matheson’s comments are reproduced below:

 

My fellow commissioners 5/0 vote of solidarity to go down this path shows that we all want to do everything possible to protect the health and safety of our residents.  The last thing any of us ever want to do is to direct staff to put up signs telling people to keep out of “toxic water”

 

I stressed this over and over again to Lt Cornell Polk in a meeting we had Tuesday with some of his staff and our City Manager and Attorney.

 

 

What was so bad about 2019 operations that it cannot be recreated for another year?  This year the focus is on water supply?  Why the abrupt turn around? Who was not supplied water last year?  Will you exercise your operational flexibility again this year and project a lower lake level? These were some of the questions I brought up.

 

The meeting was beneficial, and I hope the dialogue continues. Their experts started at the Kissimmee chain of lakes and we walked through the system on down to Florida bay.  We talked about the different segments and their individual constraints. As expected, they had answered for all the questions.  We’re they what we wanted to hear though.  Not exactly. There was a lot of talk of the projects in the pipeline. There was talk to system constraints as well as deviations.

 

A review of the system was beneficial but off the point.  We are asking for them to deviate from the system as they did in 2019 in order to bridge the time gap between now and LOSOM.

 

SAV  “The long-term restoration goals are to consistently have over 40,000 acres of submerged vegetation in order to provide abundant habitat for fish and wildlife that use the lake, and to help maintain good water quality in the shoreline area.”

 

 So, if the justification for the 2019 deviation was to increase SAV and the goal is consistently 40,000 acres as stated by the district. Why are we stopping with 28,000 acres on the Lake?

 

So where are we now. Regarding direction on the lawsuit I will continue to discuss this with City staff and look forward to discussing with my fellow commissioners at Monday’s meeting. We have a few options to be considered.  

 

I would just like to end. By saying that my Job is to ensure the City of Stuart is doing its best to look out for the health safety and welfare of our residents. Whether doing that is in terms of supporting our excellent police force, our Number 1 ranked fire department, or doing everything possible to work towards achieving Zero discharges. 

  

The Corp’s presentation which Matheson mentioned is composed with this week’s data and should be looked at:

 

CLICK HERE FOR CORP PRESENTATION

Martin-County-School-Board

Friends-and-Neighbors-of-Martin-County-School-Board

SPECIAL MEETING JANUARY 13, 2020

 

In my opinion, what government boards are bad at doing is hiring a CEO. Think about what these elected officials are entrusted to accomplish. They are picking a person who will be responsible for running a multi-million-dollar enterprise. That enterprise is complex and, unlike the private sector, is filled with competing interest groups.

 

In the private sector, boards are made up of sophisticated business executives. They have years of experience in finance and other acumen that would lead them to make the right choice. Who makes up the boards in government?

 

The School Board is now in the process of finding the next superintendent and narrowing down the criteria for the applicants. They are obtaining community input. In April, they will have a job description.

 

Well, that is great that they are having community input! Martin County always elected their superintendent until the voters spoke and said they didn’t want to have that input. They were leaving it to the School Board to decide. The second thing you can count on is the $130,000 taxpayers were paying the elected superintendent has now gone to between $145,000 and $190,000 for the new hire for our rather small district. 

 

SCHOOL BOARD MEETING JAN 21, 2020

 

Hiring Tyson Waters, who now represents the School Board in its negotiations with Pineland Prairie, has so far proven to be a good decision. After one month both sides are closer to resolving their differences than at any time since impact fees and land dedication became issues.

 

Mr. Waters is no pushover. He is a knowledgeable practitioner who specializes in the field of development. In the past, the School Board was solely represented by the staff and was destined to remain at impasse. The concept of “time is of the essence” is lacking in the public sector world.

 

Contrary to what many believe, negotiation is not a win/lose proposition. A good outcome is when both sides can claim a victory.  When negotiating both sides have some key points which cannot be compromised, but there is a wide middle where a meeting of the minds can be had. Pineland and the Board are now going back and forth, and a deal is more promising.

 

FINANCIAL REPORTS

 

There were three reports on the agenda of which the public should be aware. Below are links to the CAFR (Comprehensive Annual Financial Report) and the monthly updates for the millage and sales tax increases that were voted last year.

 

Residents and taxpayers should spend time looking at these monthly reports. They can tell you whether the District is carrying out what it promised when it asked for the two tax increases. A bigger question is what is the Board doing with the hundreds of millions of dollars that they collect and spend annually?  The CAFR can explain the entire budget. Are the funds going into the classroom or to the bureaucracy?

 

The CAFR can be found at:

 

CLICK HERE CAFR

 

Sales Tax collections and expenditures:

 

CLICK HERE SALES TAX

 

Real Estate Tax collections and expenditures:

 

CLICK HERE REAL ESTATE TAX

 

MARTIN COUNTY OPUS

Is there a problem with Martin County High School’s premier music program?

 

Apparently, something is up since students and parents took the unusual step of addressing the School Board directly with their concerns and complaints. Opus is a program that goes back to 1964 when the school opened. Through the years, it was considered the premier choir for high schools in Florida. It doesn’t seem so anymore.

 

According to the parents and students who spoke, the new director, Kylie Lowe, has decided to dumb down the program. They claimed that she spends more time in her office than with the kids. Another claim is that she can be dismissive and rude. One student said that the music is more reminiscent of middle school and not up to the collegiate level that they had performed in the past. A parent stated that the teacher’s qualifications were limited except that she was a Martin County graduate and Opus alumnae. Ms. Lowe is a graduate of Belmont College.

 

Anytime that parents and students complain directly to the Board at an open meeting, it means that their needs are not being addressed at the school or by staff. Perhaps there is nothing to these complaints. It could be sour grapes because a child was not picked for a solo. Probably not.

 

There apparently is an open investigation that school officials cannot comment upon. Both Powers and Defenthaler have asked for updates. Complaints such as this are squarely under the Superintendent’s purview.

 

TECH MELTDOWN

 

According to staff, there are too many “tickets” for technical help in the District and schools. The number of devices has grown and that requires more support help. Until recently there were unfilled positions within the technical department. Then was the technical quagmire a result of that or should there be additional staff hired?

 

It is true that as one moves to a digital platform for both students and staff, there would be more calls for technical support. Should the District hire 3 more techs at $120,000 plus benefits. That was the question being asked by school board members.

 

Earlier the Board had approved hiring other employees for new positions. This was in keeping with their stated reasons for the tax increases. The tech problem was something else. Besides when the budget was approved earlier why wasn’t the need for additional staff addressed then.

 

Board Member Anderson said he wanted to trust staff that they were doing the right thing. He said once trust is gone, it will never return. Defenthaler was not in favor of increasing positions during the year outside of the budget process but didn’t want to hurt the kids.

 

DiTerlizzi asked whether they could hire outside consultants to do away with the backlog, and then see whether new employees were needed. He was told that it would be more expensive than hiring employees. Powers piped in that once an employee is hired there are expenses for years until they leave. Anderson then said there are ways of getting rid of people without elaborating how that would be done.

 

Both Powers and Roberts were adamantly opposed to the hires. Doing so outside of the budget process is wrong. Unfortunately, they were both in the minority. A motion was made by DiTerlizzi and seconded by Defenthaler to immediately hire the 3 additional techs. It passed 3-2 with Roberts and Powers dissenting. 

 

 

Town of Sewall's Point

Friends-and-Neighbors-of-Martin-County-Sewalls-Point

It was a long night consisting of two meetings.

The first was a workshop which began promptly at 5:30 and ended nearly 3 hours later. The advertised time of the next meeting was 6:00 pm. What is wrong with that picture.

 

The Sewall’s Point Commission can always talk any subject to death. This is the way Sewall’s Point has conducted its meetings in the past. Be it workshop or regular meeting, everything blends together.

 

Frankly, I couldn’t see a difference between a workshop and a commission meeting. They were about the same. Road work or sewer conversion is reported on at both. I guess the difference has to do with voting but at some workshops they had a consensus vote to see whether an item had enough Commission support to move forward to a regular meeting.

 

This was a better workshop than in the past. The Commission with guidance from the Manager began the fleshing out of priorities. It would be great if the Commissioners could agree on a few things they would like the staff to work on for the year. Under Michele Berger’s guidance they may even accomplish their task.

 

This was a night of guest speakers. Berger believes this will be part of every workshop. However, instead of several there will be one. Next month she said that Stuart’s Fire/Rescue Chief would speak. It would be followed by the new financial person informing the Commission on the changes she has made.

 

Joe Capra, the Town Engineer, brought the Commission up to date on several projects. Joe is a real pro. The Commission just needs to approve the projects and stop talking about them. Not every project needs to be discussed and commented upon. The Commission needs to make sure that the project is needed and that the correct firm was chosen. Engineering should be left up to the engineers. At least a few projects were approved at the second meeting that night where voting was allowed.

 

Berger plans on moving the Commission into becoming a more effective body. She stated that if the workshop format does not produce shorter and more productive meetings, then it makes no sense to continue doing the same thing over and over. Perhaps they should just have two scheduled meetings per month with a presentation at each. Whatever it turns out to be with her at the helm it will be much more businesslike.

 

She sees the Commission as the policy body, which it is. She wants marching orders. That was the point about the strategic planning session. What are the Commission’s priorities, can they be accomplished and then if so, staff will execute those priorities. I like it.

 

Village-Of-Indiantown

Friends-and-Neighbors-of-Martin-County-Indiantown-Village

COUNCIL MEETING JANUARY 23, 2020

There has been a scathing article written about the Manager, Howard Brown. I saw it on the Facebook page entitled Indiantown Community. If the allegations are true, this should concern the Council and the people of the Village. Barbara Clowdus, the author, who publishes the Indiantown Currents is a journalist that has a wide following throughout Martin County. What she researches and writes should be taken seriously.

 

I am not going to comment here on whether her reporting is accurate or not. I do believe the allegations contained in the piece are serious enough to warrant Council action. The process by which the Village and most government boards follow to hire their managers is flawed.

 

Only cursory background checks are employed. This is unfathomable given the seriousness of the position. This person will be responsible for millions of dollars in taxpayer money. If the professionals that Boards employ to help them in the searches can’t even verify things like credentials and degrees, why are they being used.

 

There is an undercurrent out there between different factions that is becoming detrimental to the cohesiveness of Indiantown. Many believe, especially those living outside the boundaries of Indiantown, that they should have an opinion in how Indiantown should develop. And that is fine!

 

The ultimate deciders though are those that live within the Village boundaries. They elect the Council. Guyton Stone and Janet Hernandez are ending their terms this year. Both will run for re-election. Will anyone challenge them? If so, can they beat either Stone or Hernandez? If the electorate believe that the current Council Members who direct the Manager should remain then the people have spoken.

 

That in no way would mean that the Council should not take Clowdus’ reporting seriously. There is a solemn trust between those elected and the people. Mr. Brown is the CEO of a large and growing organization. The Council which is the Board of Directors owes the stakeholders good governance. The Council needs to act including hiring a reputable investigator to provide a complete report on Mr. Brown’s professional qualifications and work history. This would be a way of putting allegations regarding his past to rest.

 

We should debate whether the path Indiantown has embarked on is the right one. Both citizens and non-citizens can discuss policy. What needs to be eliminated from discussion is whether the Manager was hired because he provided an inaccurate work history.

 

The above reference article which is in the latest edition of Indiantown Currents can be found at:

 

CLICK HERE FOR BROWN ARTICLE

 

 

JOINING THE BIG BOYS

 

Indiantown will now be required to participate in the joint meetings with the County, School Board, and City of Stuart. Under Florida Statute 163.31 when there is a school located within a municipal boundary you become a member of the club. The Council will now participate in the biggest waste of time in Martin County. The joint meetings are held at the Blake Library with the next one scheduled on February 13th.

 

Imagine 21 elected officials sitting around the table listening to boring presentations. For these are official meetings of the different governing Boards. Usually no motions or decisions are made but because they are official meetings matters can be considered.

 

The governing structure is spelled out in an Interlocal Agreement between the parties. That is why Nikki van Vonno, the head of County Growth Management, was at the meeting making this presentation. Welcome Indiantown! 

 

The presentation can be found at:

 

CLICK HERE FOR PRESENTATION

 

CONCESSION STAND

 

The little things in Village bureaucracy can take the most time.

 

The concession stand at Big Mound Park is currently being operated through an inherited agreement from Martin County and the Tropical Soccer League.

 

After listening to the presentation, I am not sure who is taking their place. Is it one organization or will the different leagues that play at the park be the concessionaires? There will be improvements made to the concession stand, I think. The agreement has products that cannot be offered for sale such as vaping paraphernalia. Can anything that is not listed be sold?

 

At least to me the presentation was muddled with the Parks Supervisor, a Village employee, and the Parks outside consultant falling all over themselves to be incoherent. Wouldn’t it had been better and more logical to put out an RFQ for the running of the stand and have any income received dedicated to the Village for park recreation programming?

 

A motion was made to accept the agreement by Dowling and seconded by Hernandez. It passed 5-0.

 

The agreement can be found at:

 

CLICK HERE FOR PRESENTATION

 

Speaking of Parks, the Council voted to make the part time administrative person a full-time position. The Manager stated that person will now be available for other administrative options. Like almost all decisions the Council approved 5-0

 

SHELTER AND STORM WATER

 

Kimley-Horn made a study concerning having the Civic Center become a shelter during a hurricane. The building is currently not up to code to safely shelter people during a hurricane. The facility would need to be retrofitted and with the study that was performed not every defect was discovered.

 

What is known is that the roof is not adequate nor are the doors and windows. The roof alone would be $200,000 plus. While a new building would be between $350,000-$400,000. Martin County will provide a generator if the Center will sign an agreement for 15 years to act as a pet-friendly shelter. Indiantown is looking to be reimbursed for the $6,000 study from the state.

 

The Village does not own this building. The providing of shelters is the role of the County. I can’t think of a worse place to have any shelter than a single room structure without adequate facilities for hygiene or the preparation of meals. This is the current Civic Center. I am at a loss as to why the Village is involved in this process. Don’t they have enough on their plates?

 

That study can be found at:

 

CLICK HERE FOR PRESENTATION

 

Kimley Horn had a second study that was presented regarding storm water improvement projects. The Village assumed this responsibility from the County last year. They needed a complete assessment. Now they have one. A capital improvement project list can be developed.

 

The study can be found at:

 

CLICK HERE FOR REPORT

Town of Ocean Breeze

COUNCIL MEETING JANUARY 14, 2020

At the first meeting of the year, Former Council Member Ann Kagdis received an award from the Florida Municipal Trust. As an elected official she served on that board for many years. The Trust is the insurance arm of the Florida League of Cities. It was a good way for them to show their appreciation for Ann’s service.

 

Mayor Ostrand wanted the Council to approve going out to bid for a feasibility study regarding West End Avenue. The entire Council felt that the street was dangerous. Ostrand mentioned several times that this was only the beginning of the process. Council Member Gerold wants the study to be paid from the Town’s share of the gas receipts.

 

A motion was made by Docherty and seconded by Arnold to have the Town Consultant prepare the RFP.

 

SHORTCUTS NEVER ARE

 

Back in October the Council gave Sun Communities an agreement which, if signed, would have allowed the construction of docks to proceed without going through amending the PUD. That supposedly would have been quicker. The Town’s attorney and Sun’s attorney would easily come to an agreement.

 

As of this meeting there is no agreement. It seems that when government tries to circumvent their processes, it isn’t any faster. There are technical reasons why a meeting of the minds did not occur. This Council is composed of no experts on these matters.

 

Staff asked that this go through the PUD process. A motion was made by Wagner and seconded by Docherty to do just that. It passed 5-0.

 

THE BATTLE FOR FLC

For many years Ann Kagdis was the Council’s representative to the Treasure Coast Regional League of Cities, Florida League of Cities, and the different committees. Ostrand had been the alternate. She had been learning the ropes from Ann. When Ann was defeated in her reelection bid last year, Ostrand stood in as her alternate. She fully expected to become the representative of Ocean Breeze.

 

President De Angeles, though, believed it was his turn. He requested the appointment. A battle for FLC was joined. It was so hard for the Council to decide that Gerold motioned to put the item to the end of the meeting (which was 2 items hence). When they took it back up, Ann Kagdis spoke stating that Karen had forged relationships, walked the halls in Tallahassee, and made contacts throughout the region.

 

That turned the tide! Ostrand was appointed.

Jupiter Island

Jupiter Island Sky View

 

COMMISSION MEETING JANUARY 15, 2020

What does it mean to be listed on the National Register of historical properties, especially if you are a tree?

 

The Island has a magnificent stand of ficus trees. This acts as a gateway to a quiet town that is averse to notoriety. Unlike its splashier neighbor to the south, Palm Beach, Jupiter island exudes refinement. It is Greenwich, Connecticut without the cold.

 

Martin County is fortunate to have a place like Jupiter Island to enrich our tax base. Perhaps in the past, it was more integrated into County life but from this outsider’s perspective, they just want to be left alone. And there is not much on the island for a visitor to look at except perhaps those trees. There is concern about accepting any type of designation that may change the character of the Town.

 

That is why placing these trees on an official registry is such a discussion item. Technically, most of the “ficus allee” is on roads where either Martin County or the state have the rights of way. Yet, the Town maintains most of the road where those trees are located. By placing the allee as a part of the National Register, you do have some advantages.

 

If road work is contemplated, the state must consider that the trees are registered as historically important. There are also grants associated with the designation. But grants are the last thing that Islanders would contemplate because then the Town’s hands begin to be tied. If you do not take funds, then the Town can do what it will. That is important when you want to preserve your anonymity. One of the questions asked by Commissioner Townsend was about the publicity associated and the increased traffic of people trying to look at the allee.

 

It was decided that Mayor Pidot would work with the County and the Town Attorney to ascertain the next steps.

 

The presentation can be found at:

 

CLICK HERE FOR PRESENTATION

 

AVIATION

Jupiter Island is facing the same problem as Sewall’s Point regarding aviation, but it seems that Jupiter Island has sea plane issues rather than the landing of helicopters. Different flying machines but with the same problem. Neither should be allowed in a residential community.

 

If you want to be able to take flight from your backyard, then move to an airplane community. There are a couple such places in our area. Jupiter Island is not one of them. This is not a case about a community that is being unreasonable. Landing or taking off a seaplane poses a risk. Further, why should anyone believe that it is fine to subject a community to the noise and pollution that aircraft entails.

 

I have no problem with private aviation. Anyone who owns or uses his own plane for business or personally is welcomed as far as I am concerned. However, Witham Field is the proper place for private aviation not a back yard. It would be hypocritical to suggest otherwise.

 

The ordinance that was passed on first reading can be viewed below:

 

CLICK HERE FOR PRESENTATION

 

 

Final Thoughts

America does not have an affordable health care system. It is fragmented and, for many, continues to be economically unobtainable and not understandable. What is covered? What isn’t covered? Patients are being told to go to hospitals in their plan then getting bills from physicians that are not within their networks.

 

This needs to stop. America needs to look to other ways of providing universal care. Many nations do just that without spending anywhere as much as we do. In the United States, wait times to see a doctor and to have a procedure are growing. With more and more doctors becoming employees of consolidating hospital chains, Americans are more and more the customers of single provider systems without the benefit of single payer efficiencies.

 

Politicians keep saying that our current system of employer-based health care allows for us to choose our physicians. What they do not say is that every year because of changes to those networks, more and more of us still must pick new physicians based on those who remain in our plans or new physicians who join our plans.

 

To read more:

 

CLICK HERE FOR STORY

GET THE WORD OUT

 

Friends and Neighbors of Martin County is your eyes and ears so that you know what is going on in Martin County’s municipal and county governments. I attempt to be informative and timely so that you may understand how your tax money is being spent. Though I go to the meetings and report back, I am no substitute for your attending meetings. Your elected officials should know what is on your mind.

 

Tom Campenni

772-287-5781 (o)

772-341-7455 (c)

Email: Info@friendsandneighborsofmartincounty.comtthomasfcampenni@gmail.com

 

The Washington Post writes that our first president almost died of the flu:

 

here

 

NPR tells us that school enrollment is dropping nationwide:

 

here

 

Again from the Washington Post an article on Amy Coney Barrett that tells the story of her connection to Martin County:

 

here

 

From Florida Phoenix an article on how both political parties agree that Proposition 3 should be defeated:

 

here

GLOSSARY

Annual Medium Income (AMI)

Basin Action Management Plan (BMAP)

Board of County Commissioners (BOCC)

Business Development Board (BDB)

Capital Improvement Plan (CIP)

Center For Disease Control (CDC)

Centum Cubic Feet (CCF)

Children’s Services Council (CSS)

Community Development Block Grants (CDBG)

Community Development District (CDD)

Community Redevelopment Board (CRB)

Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA)

Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR)

Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) 

Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)

Emergency Operation Center (EOC)

Equivalent Residential Connection (ERC)

Evaluation & Appraisal Report (EAR)

Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA)

Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT)

Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC)

Full Time Equivalents (FTE)

Future Land Use Maps (FLUM)

Health Maintenance Organization (HMO)

High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP)

Hobe Sound Local (HSL)

Land Development Code (LDR)

Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule (LORS)

Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual (LOSUM)

Local Planning Agency (LPA)

Martin County Fire/Rescue (MCFR)

Martin County Taxpayers Association (MCTA)

Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU)

Municipal Service Taxing Unit (MSTU)

Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY)

Organization For Economic Co-operation & Development (OECD)

Planned Unit Development (PUD)

Preferred Provider Organization (PPO)

Preserve Action Management Plan (PAMP)

Project Delivery Team (PDT)

Request for Proposal (RFP)

Residential Planned Unit Development (RPUD)

Right of Way (ROW)

Secondary Urban Services District (SUSD)

South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD)

South Martin Regional Utility (SMRU)

State Housing Initiative Partnership (SHIP)

Storm Water Treatment Areas (STA)

Tax Increment Financing (TIF)

Urban Planned Unit Development (UPUD)

Urban Services Boundary (USB)

World Health Organization (WHO)