City of Stuart
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There are always moments of change. The coming showdown between Indiantown and Martin County is one of those moments. It didn’t have to be that way.
Many of us that have closely observed what has become this “death spiral” and knew the
day of reckoning was coming. It is almost like watching a disaster playing out in slow motion. Once certain actions were initiated, there was no going back. And for the residents of Indiantown, it is too bad. To a lesser extent, that holds true for unincorporated county residents as well.
There is still time for Indiantown to pull back from the precipice. That, in my opinion, is unlikely. With the village manager in the lead, the council has let too much animosity build up with the county. There does not seem the desire to mend fences.
Unlike others, I do not feel there are bad guys here. Some of this occurred because of sheer inexperience, hubris, and ignorance on the part of Indiantown’s council. Some because of the county’s allowing county assets like roads and parks that were built with county funds to be transferred free of charge to the village. If they had been charged for the assets, the village would have thought twice about fire/rescue and impact fees.
The county believed that Indiantown would adopt a “government lite” philosophy. Fire/rescue and parks would remain under county auspices. The incorporators, like the Powers family and other business owners, thought they could control the government without being part of the government. Their dream was to be free of the ying and yang of county development decisions where you never knew what the rules were.
Once the elected council took office, the plan was followed for the first several months. The council’s dream began to evolve from “government lite” that was being carried out under the initial part time employees to something else. Mr. Brown was hired, and he styled himself as the “turnaround manager” but there was nothing to turn around.
Instead, with the council’s blessing, he became the government bureaucracy builder. The hiring spree began shortly after his arrival and continues unabated. I do not take the view that Brown is some Svengali character that has the council members under his spell.
What he has done is shown them how their own interests align. A bigger government means a bigger role for them. The council members now have a level of self-importance they would never have under the “government lite” model. They also have more perks, salary, and benefits that were ever envisioned.
To have more municipal government means there is less for the county. Once the “government lite” model is abandoned, then everything that followed is inevitable. I can debate whether this consultant or that one should be hired, but the more government expands, the more people it needs. That also means more funding sources are necessary to pay those people.
The epic battle between the county and village is now approaching over fire/rescue. Of all the things that a local government does, fire/rescue is the hardest. The expense of starting up a department and then maintaining one is monumental. The old saying, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is very apropos in this situation.
For with all its expense and headache to the county, the current system works for Indiantown. What they will replace it with is not going to be as good. The numbers they are using in their studies are seriously flawed as I discussed in the last newsletter. Then there are the political ramifications.
The International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) is the most powerful union in the state. The county commissioners, except for Heard, have the overwhelming support of the union. The membership gives their time, talent, and treasure for a reason.
The commissioners have no choice but to fight in this instance. At some point, the union will go after the Indiantown council members and spend the money needed to find candidates to defeat them. By then, it will be too late to reverse course.
The county will lose roughly $5 to $5.5 million in the fire/rescue MSTU depending on the personal property that FPL has on their site. But the change will not result in less expense to the county because they still must provide service to western Martin County.
Perhaps the threat of leaving started out as a negotiating ploy, but it was a bad one. If the village thought that they could purchase fire service from the county at less and on different terms than what an unincorporated taxpayer pays, it was naïve on their part. There also is a 1997 ordinance that forbids just that.
The battle will be joined shortly. It will result in no winners only losers. It is a silly fight to have. Fights over impact fees and, at some point, trash will only exacerbate the war. As Indiantown supposedly fights for its independence from Martin County, it forgets two things. First it will always be part of the county and second the county will make sure that Indiantown knows it.
COSTCO OR WAWA?
That is an interesting question. It has been answered to some extent already.
In Palm City, where Costco had originally wanted to build and eventually gave up, a new Wawa with 6000 sq. foot convenience store/ restaurant will be going in. It will be accompanied by an Aldi Supermarket, a Tractor Supply Store, and possibly a car wash and hotel. Is that a better use than the Costco?
What makes Martin County so unusual is that some people believe that empty privately owned land in an urban or suburban setting will remain scrub land. It isn’t going to happen. So instead of an upscale box store with gas pumps, the Palm City site is going to have an array of retail with gas pumps and the possibility of a hotel. That is not better for the area or the county.
Costco has moved across the bridge to Stuart on a site bordered by Kanner and Willoughby. They think they are far enough from the Palm City folk politically, but they still can count on them economically to go to their store. For if you were to look at the Stuart demographic alone, Costco would never build there.
What the developer is proposing, in addition to the Costco, is an apartment complex and retail stores. Costco will have multiple entrances and the apartment complex is not on the street but tucked into the envelope. There is a planned traffic light on Kanner to allow for easier flow. All in all, a good design.
There are people that will fight and complain to their dying breath about Stuart and Martin County being ruined. That the pristine environment will be destroyed. It is true that the pristine environment (whatever that is) will be altered. Yet the city and the developer have worked very hard to use good planning principles to integrate the project into the urban environment.
Yet there is still a chance that some Stuart commissioners will fold and either outright decide to deny or place so many conditions on the development that Costco will walk away similar to what happened in Palm City. Then what happens to this parcel of property?
I can guarantee it will not remain empty. The owners will look to maximize their investment. So instead of Costco with its good jobs and upscale products, Stuart too can have another Wawa, Aldi, Tractor Supply and/or hotel and apartment complex. Do the foes of Costco want to count that as their success?
To read more go here
SALARIES & TERM LIMITS
In the April 7th edition of Florida Phoenix, there was an article about a bill in Tallahassee to stop paying school board members throughout the state. You can find the article here
Their take was that it was sexist because most school board members in Florida are women. I have an idea about how to stop that argument…end paying all local government officials.
Florida is the most unusual place. We want to limit the scope and size of government being true to our fiscally conservative roots. Then we turn around and pay citizens a salary. In an overwhelming number of places, it is a stipend at most.
Texas, Colorado, and Pennsylvania ban paying school board members. Michigan, Ohio, New Jersey, and Illinois pay their school board members as little as $100 to $200 monthly. I thought these were the states that were bastions of bureaucratic big government.
Besides Florida, New York and California also allow pay for school board members. California does it by the size of the school district and docks members pay when they do not attend the meetings. Over 90% of school board members in New York are volunteers with only the largest districts receiving some compensation. Florida now has its compensation set by the legislature for all school boards. What the legislature gives, it can also take away.
I asked the district’s CFO, Carter Morrison, for a breakdown of the entire expense of school board salaries. The salary for a Martin County school board member is $37,363. With benefits, it costs $65,916.89 per member. Morrison sent the numbers explaining that the legislature also sets the amount to be paid into the Florida Retirement System at 48.9%. Yet he cautions that “ONLY 10.07% of the employer contribution portion of this rate actually is credited to the Member’s retirement account. The rest of the rate is for FRS UAL costs, HIS administrative fees, etc.”
Here is the chart:
Isn’t it about time that being a school board member, municipal or county commissioner should be a public service and not to take money from taxpayers?
Whether you are a city commissioner, school board member or county commissioner, you shouldn’t be doing the job for the pay and benefits. Too many are and citizens are worse off for that. People sitting in these positions take on the mentality of protecting their jobs instead of looking at it as a public service limited in scope. I believe the caliber of those seeking office would be better without thought of making the job a career.
The legislature should limit these positions to a stipend of a few hundred dollar a month without health care and retirement benefits. That, along with term limits, would help to ensure that we truly have people serving for the right reasons.
By Carol Howaart-Diez
United Way of Martin County President-CEO
This month as we await the local allocation from the most recent coronavirus relief package, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, I would like to share an interesting story that I found truly inspirational.
Recently our United Way received a gift from a couple in Connecticut. While out-of-state contributions aren’t entirely abnormal, it certainly isn’t the norm. What made this gift even more unique is that it was part of a larger investment in United Way — this generous couple sent a check to every United Way across the country, equating to over $120,000.
Upon further research, we learned that the couple was inspired to donate after traveling across America during the pandemic and witnessing firsthand the impact nonprofits were making to help individuals and families through the pandemic.
This big picture view reinforced their belief that we are indeed interconnected and what happens in local communities across the country affects us all. This epiphany led them to a philanthropic goal – to give locally everywhere.
Living in Florida, this is even more relevant because many of our residents live elsewhere for part of the year. Many of our seasonal friends are already living their life this way, knowing that they need to support both their local community here and where their other residence might be. The nonprofit community in Martin County relies on these philanthropists to assist and invest in programming even though they aren’t full-time residents. Maybe they already understand what giving locally everywhere means.
I had the opportunity to speak to our new friends from Connecticut, and I was amazed by their compassion and commitment to help all Americans. Another observation from their travels was that while homelessness is a nationwide issue, it looks different in each community. In New York, you may see people on street corners or next to buildings, while here in Martin County, we may see tents in wooded areas. Same issue, different look.
As we continue to navigate the long-term effects of this pandemic both on financial resources, quality of life and mental health, I hope you will ponder, like I did, their observation that what happens in a local community affects everyone. It epitomizes United Way’s motto – LIVE UNITED.
By Tom Pine
Two county departments two different standards.
First, the Parks and Recreation Department which is presently moving ahead with a Ten Million Dollar upgrade to the Martin County golf course, with every bell and whistle known to mankind, related to golf. It seems the powers to be in Martin County government have decided it’s our mission to revitalize the sport of golf on the backs of we, the taxpayers. Golf has been in decline across the world for over a decade.
Second, the Public Works Department is responsible for the striping of our roads and crosswalks. The striping of crosswalks in the Jensen Beach/Rio area ended at the end of February 2021 according to an email I received from the county. I consider it a poor job at best.
Twenty to thirty years ago are the last time crosswalks were painted in the area and at the time some of the larger and busier commercial driveways were painted with crosswalks and stop lines at the stop sign, not anymore. Many of the commercial driveways don’t even have a stop sign today even though they are busier that many streets.
There are several streets on Dixie Highway and Indian River Drive that are still missing either a stop line or a crosswalk yet there are two side streets in my neighborhood with stop lines at the stop sign.
The crosswalks at the intersection Jensen Beach Blvd. and Skyline Dr. should have been upgraded as they are fairly worn and if history repeats it will be years before this issue is revisited and these aren’t the only intersections in poor condition.
The striping of crosswalks is to show a clear and safe path for pedestrians at intersections and long stretches where there is not a viable sidewalk such as the motel on Indian River Drive.
When I first brought this problem up at a commission meeting a couple of years ago, I also pointed out the service road between BJ’s Wholesale Club and Aldi’s Supermarket which is a three-lane road and has NO painted lines to designate the three lanes and it still doesn’t
It seems Martin County has decided to use the state minimum standard when it comes to crosswalks and safety in general as a way to save money, not for we the taxpayers but to create more money for their “dreams and wishes” projects.
Truth To Power
Tom Pine’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.
By Michael Syrkus
As Mike Rowe has famously quipped: “We are lending money we don’t have, to kids who can’t pay it back, to train for jobs that no longer exist.”
The context of the statement is about how we send our high school graduates into 4-year college educations, many times with little regard to what the student intends to pursue as a career. What a true statement this is.
I remember vividly the look on my guidance counselor’s face when I said I intended to enlist in the Marine Corps. As a student, I graduated in the top half of my class. I had respectable SAT scores, and a more respectable ASVAB score. Though I appreciate mentors who don’t wish to see people waste what is perceived as talent or opportunity, I also know that students (in more cases than not) know best as to what they are driven to do.
In a time where federal legislators are discussing “eliminating student debt”, I can’t help but wonder why we still put so much stock in a college degree. I ultimately went to college under a military training program, spending 4 years at one of the nation’s top rated historically black colleges/universities. Though I learned quite a bit, I also know that little of that formal education is applied in my daily life. Today, instead of utilizing my history-centric education, I am a hammer swinging, nail driving carpenter. Ironically, it was a trade’s job that helped me to pay off my “higher education”.
Because of this experience, I have developed a much broader appreciation to what was sold to me in high school as unskilled labor. Immediately after college I began a career in food service, which within 3 years resulted in a salary higher than the newly raised starting wage for public school teachers. Today, as a carpenter, I am still on that level.
So, what’s the takeaway? Teach your young that it’s ok to work hard and sweat. College is not the only route in life. There’s honor in trade work, and money as well!
Michael Syrkus’ opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.
HERBIE’S HOBE SOUND
By Herbert Howard
Hobe Sound may be a sleepy little town. That doesn’t mean we don’t have our characters.
One of my favorites is Jef Otten. That’s right, one “f”. Jef has been the emcee of the Hobe Sound Christmas parade four times where he delights the attendees with his quips and commentary. No doubt honed by his 15 years in Toastmasters.
I recently ran into him and started asking questions. Like was he born in Hobe Sound? He seems to know everyone, so I figured he was born and raised here.
Nope. And he took an interesting journey to get here. Born in Staten Island, his family moved to the Virgin Islands when he was 5 years old. Then he ricocheted to Vermont. At 9 “he moved his family to Key West” because he didn’t like the cold! He arrived in Hobe Sound in his late 30’s when he followed his folks here.
When the construction industry, where he was employed, waned in 2008, he was offered to host tours in Costa Rica. He resided there in a tent for 5 years. Yeah. That’s right.
He was a chef and a handyman which made him invaluable to the resort owner. In Costa Rica where he was hiking alone in the jungle, Jef had a near death experience dodging lightning strikes on a beach. He was facing being stranded against the rising tide and a cliff. He felt if he had to go “it might as well be in a sublime setting”.
As luck would have it the TV show Survivor was filming their European series in Costa Rica. Jef baked the director some cinnamon rolls and asked for a job. I, myself, have never contemplated the cinnamon roll strategy to obtain employment, but apparently it works.
One of Jef’s larger claims to fame is his appearance on Wheel of Fortune. On a dare he auditioned in Jupiter. It was a painfully slow selection process but Jef kept progressing. Finally, after an entire year went by, he got the call. Off to LA to tape the show and rub elbows with Pat and Vanna.
Truth be told at the end of the show it was Jef whose shoulders Pat and Vanna were rubbing! Not everyone can say that. He had a lot of fun and even got to the bonus round winning $6,000 and a trip to Aruba. (I’m glad it wasn’t Costa Rica).
Apparently Jef did not get bit by the Hollywood bug. He likes his “little corner of the world” in Hobe Sound. He is newly married and has a home inspection business called Hawksbill. Why Hawksbill? His friend owns a boat of that name on which they catch sea turtles for tagging! Pretty cool! And as Jef put it, “inside each of those adventurers are more adventures.”
I truly enjoyed my conversation with Jef. It’s fun to share in someone else’s memories. I’m glad he is an HSL.
Herbert Howard’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint
By Frank McChrystal
It looks like the City of Stuart has plans for the neighborhood legally defined as the Broadway Section of Saint Lucie Estates.
Location, location, location has this neighborhood, which includes S.E. Ocean Ave., S.E. Flamingo Ave., E. Dolphin Dr., and SE Parkway Dr. in high demand. This predominantly single-family home neighborhood is in walking distance from churches, medical offices, grocery and drug stores. This neighborhood in no way fits the definition of sprawl.
There are nine legally zoned duplex lots at the north end of Flamingo and Ocean. There are three “non-compliant” duplexes built on single family lots on Flamingo Ave. The City of Stuart, “in order to legalize (the three existing non-compliant) two family units” and “provide uniform zoning”, is requesting to re-zone 15 current single family home lots into duplex lots, turning a three-block area bordered by Flamingo, Ocean, 8th St. and 5th St. into duplex zoning. The nine existing legal duplex lots will expand in number to 24.
The existing nine legal duplexes stand out. Evidence of investors and rentals make this section of the Broadway Section of Saint Lucie Estates look much different from the majority of single-family homes in the neighborhood. Take 7th St. as far east as you can for a good look.
Welcome to 2021. After receiving my notice of proposed re-zoning from the city, I google searched “effect of duplex zoning in existing single family home neighborhoods.” I was expecting affirmation of my basic premise of “more duplexes equal more investors and more rentals which equals less single-family homeowners with a vested interest in home values.”
Instead, I found article after article describing the single-family lot zoning as the main source of our environmental and social problems. The overall premise is single-family zoning has to go.
Of course, the race card is played. Single family zoning excludes lower income minorities who could never afford a single-family home. No not true, the Broadway Section of St Lucie Estates is where people of all color live.
And then the environmental card is played. The zoning of large pieces of land to single-family homes only leads to sprawl with all residents driving long distances to everything. Again, not true, not in my neighborhood. When gas goes up to $7 a gallon I will survive. I can walk and or burn very little gas in my daily routines.
So why does the City of Stuart want to re-zone three city blocks to duplex zoning in an existing, thriving single family home neighborhood? “We need more affordable housing,” will be the cry. But it’s deeper than that. There are city leaders who view anything traditional as “neanderthal”. And the Neanderthals need to be re-educated.
Minneapolis’s 2040 plan, which passed in 2019, allows duplexes and triplexes on all single-family zoned land. Oregon’s House Bill 2001 which passed in 2019, legalizes duplexes on all single-family zoned land in cities with a population greater than 10,000. Surely Stuart should follow in the “woke” footsteps of Portland and Minneapolis.
In my early canvassing of the neighborhood for opinion, (so far 16 neighbors) there has been a unanimous “oh hell no” among young and old alike. In 2021 it’s nice to find some things we can all agree upon.
Frank McChrystal’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.
By Keith Fletcher CEO & President of
Boys & Girls Clubs of Martin County
“Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.”
I heard those words as a kid growing up and the potency of this profound truth thankfully still managed to get through—and stick—even in my thick teenaged head.
We were all younger once, so we know the power of peer pressure. But at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Martin County we work to channel the power of positive peer pressure, which is especially important as our kids contend not only with daily challenges, but the mental-wellness pressures associated with the pandemic.
Regularly trained, in many cases certified and always dedicated, our team of nearly 200 strives to provide the highest level of professional care in serving the more than 2,500 kids at our four clubs and 4,000-plus more we serve in outreach programs. Our mentorship—which emphasizes academics, healthy lifestyles, good character, and citizenship—gets the most milage when every child feels valued and a sense of belonging.
Tailored to every age group, our 12-week Culture of Care curriculum prioritizes inclusivity and diversity and seeks to ensure every member—regardless of what they look like, where they come from or what’s going on at home—feels safe and secure at the clubs. This extends to their families, too.
In past polls to members and their families as many as 98 percent of our families agree that their child is physically safe at the club and 95 percent say their child is emotionally supported there.
The same polls reveal strong numbers from the club members themselves, 89 percent of whom say they feel emotionally safe at the club and 89 percent reporting having a positive connection with an adult among the club staff. As many as 90 percent say they feel a sense of belonging when they’re at the club.
This environment enables our staff to address—when they arise—tough topical issues, from the impacts of the pandemic or other current events. Every discussion is handled in an age-appropriate fashion.
Most of all, the Culture of Care program always pursues solutions and positive response. We invite the kids to come up with various ways they can make a difference for the better no matter how difficult the circumstance. Examples include the kids drawing pictures and writing notes to thank local public-safety personnel on the anniversary of Sept. 11, or to encouraging communities reeling in the wake of sudden violence and trauma.
By involving the kids, themselves in the program, they help uphold the culture—lifting one another up and shaping their own character in the process.
That way they can grow to become, we believe, the kinds of friends that encourage each other in realizing the bright and meaningful future we know they’re all capable of creating.
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The first letter is from Bessie Mariner about where she lives in Port Salerno:
Tom, I live right across the street from the Port Salerno working waterfront.
We already have enough changes.
Zoning has been changed in 2020 from old mixed use to new mixed use. That means my home can be used for a small business or for a home.
We don’t need a zoning that will make people move away. That would be all about generating more residential tax revenue.
Everyday people walk up and down my street and look at our quaint homes–green yellow aqua blue pink. They tell me how special it is and how blessed I am to live here. I walked out onto my porch yesterday to see a car stopped and the passenger taking a picture of my home.
This neighborhood including my street has not changed much in the almost 30 years I have been coming down here. The wild parrots moved from a utility pole to two palm trees, and a nice front porch added to my little over 100 year old home.
it needs to stay like it is.
PS They already are planning to add a sidewalk and upgrade our street. Otherwise, too much development will destroy the unique character of this street, the fish docks, Port Salerno, and Martin County in general.
The next letter is from Brenda Lavoie:
I just read your Friends & Neighbors newsletter for the first time. I don’t remember signing up or maybe someone else signed up for me but whatever the case, I’m sure glad to have it. What a great way to pass on information about our wonderful county. Having lived here since 2009 (moved up from PB Co) I have been interested in the workings of the government and am grateful for the information and opinions you impart through this medium. Not only am I invested in this county as a citizen but as a Realtor®, must be on top of what’s happening around me so I can accurately inform potential customers coming from other areas. And believe me, since COVID, folks are flocking to FL and Martin Co in particular. It’s important we balance growth with quality of life, which is not always easy to do.
Kudos to you and contributors and many thanks for Friends & Neighbors.
The next letter is from Cara Baldwin regarding Cube Smart. She disagrees with me. It looks like she is a lover of James Joyce’s Ulysses:
Well Tom I have a few complaints about everything that happened with CubeSmart after they sold the project to a new construction company. The design that was agreed upon got changed. We right behind that god-awful building have been tortured for the last year and there is holes in the fence where people are cutting through and it does not look anything like the plans that were approved and I should know because I saw them all. Is it better than a racetrack yes it is but until you live on my street and have to fully deal with the consequences of a construction company who treated its neighbors like crap all the way down to cat calling the girls on my street and redirecting traffic and opening the gate not to mention the fact that none of us have any signal back here but yes since it’s going to be low volume of people I should just suck it up and shut up? The building does look like crap especially now that it’s got brown stains all over it and R Street from the nasty water they’re using to water their sod on the so-called bios well which is nothing of the sort and I guess that my neighbor Miss Judy who is in her late 70s early 80s should just shut up with the fact that they gave her an amazing gift of cracks in her foundation, water coming off of the construction site and coming up into her house which is one of the reasons she ended up in the hospital with bacterial pneumonia. There is not one part of that project that they did in agreement to everything that they agreed upon. Where is this art feature? Where is the fully functional 6-foot fence that all of my neighbors signed the petition for? How about the fact that they decided to tap into our water main on our street and not only did they do that they had to redo the water main three times which blocked people from getting to their homes. How about the fact that we have dealt with everything from concrete dust in our faces to sandstorms that could rival the Sahara Desert and we have had construction workers going through our trash I had a drunk construction worker who wandered up to my house following my child because he couldn’t find his wallet 3 days before and his backpack was wide open. Sometimes I feel like you can be extremely condescending and frankly I think the hot right should be destroyed you were not here when I grew up watching people get killed and watching people shoot down that street at 80 to 90 miles an hour not to mention the people who got confused and thought Bryant Avenue was Palm City Road. We did not agree on what we’re looking at. Did you know that after getting approved the project was sold to a completely different construction firm that didn’t give a crap about us to the point that after I had said we are having more water come down our street off the three foot concrete pad that they used to build those walls with the new construction company told the city inspector that that must be the girl with the purple and blue hair she’s a junkie from the junkie house that’s why she’s complaining. You sit back to streets behind me and not once have you asked me what I’ve had to deal with so before criticizing the City commissioners for being a little upset at the fact that absolutely everything was done differently than it was supposed to which caused all of us on my street detrimental harm since they started the project right when we all went into lockdown. Did you ask anybody on my street what are opinion was before making your newsletter? Did you see if maybe the show called few complaints which actually equal up to our whole street complaining as well as everybody going this is a god-awful building and this is not what they were supposed to be doing. The architecture is crap the colors are not even the colors that they had chosen before and why don’t you come drive down our street and check out how safe this this holy fence is. I bet if you lived where I live you would be mostly complaining about that too but because you have your cushy little home right there two streets over you haven’t had to deal with the bulk the torture that we have for the last year. The only good thing about that building is that it will make a great Zombie Apocalypse look out building. I bet you anything you’d be pissed off too if your wife got catcalled by construction workers on their lunch breaks and God forbid my kid decides to go through the 8 foot Gap in the fence on the corner right by my house or decides to play on the equipment that attaches their main line of water into our main water line or the Gap in the fence there. How about the fact that it was supposed to have a full bio swell that was specifically made to have the water Runner go through filters and then back to our water table but instead it’s a shallow ditch. What you’re thinking is a few complaints is actually the bulk of people who live on my street who feel that we were duped. Kind of like how we’ve all been duped on the two buildings that are now for sale with three separate living quarters in each one right behind me. Maybe you should start looking at people like Kevin from zoning and planning and stop bitching at the commissioners for trying to do what’s right for the actual people who live here. Maybe it’s time that you actually ask the people around a project what their thoughts are for your newsletter instead of just your opinion on what you think our government is doing because frankly my dear you have no clue about what me and my family or anybody else on this street has had to deal with and I bet you didn’t have to deal with days of repeated large construction equipment and dump trucks and cement mixers coming down your street because the construction company decided that it would be easier for them to remove the fence between a construction site and a neighborhood so they could all Park here and use my street for excavators and bobcats an in and out for their lunch breaks. Do you have any idea how many times my kid almost got hit by construction equipment? Do you have any idea how illegal it is that they had a hard hat construction area with no barrier between them and us? Have you even try to talk to anybody on my street to see if there is some Merit to the “few complaints”. I’m sure that you have access to all of the information on the whole project right? I’m sure that you have been keeping up to date with how much runoff water we had to deal with that went into our River or how sick everybody in the shadow of that construction has been right? Did you know that they had to redo the water main three times and all of us lost pressure and we actually had to get a water test done to make sure that our main was not compromised? Did you know that they were not watering down all of the dirt every day like they were supposed to so that it wouldn’t fly right into our faces and not just that how about the concrete dust that has landed in everybody’s lungs. I think that it’s best in the future that you actually ask the residents around a project what their actual thoughts are before you talk about the city council wanting to actually do what’s right for our community instead of big business. Just so that you remember my mother died from a lung disease that can be triggered by things like concrete dust going into the lungs. An 80 year old woman had to sleep on a pull out bed in her living room when she came back from the hospital after her bedroom had been flooded with construction water going up through the cracks in her foundation from them shaking the ground so hard I had things falling off the walls. Until you can actually walk a mile in our shoes instead of sitting in your million dollar mansion I don’t think that it’s fair that you’re criticizing our city council for trying to correct something that went horribly off the rails. I saw the original plans and I had talked to the original architectural firm but they sold the project to a whole different construction firm who did not do any of the things that they were supposed to do end who looked at us residence and homeowners kind of like you are right now they looked at us like we were nothing and that’s kind of how I feel you’re looking at us now. I am very upset at your lack of humanity when it comes to at least this subject because if your house was where mine is you would be 10 times more irate than I am right now. I think it’s time that I stopped reading your newsletter cuz I think it’s biased and I think frankly you do not really care about people in my position and it occurs to me that all the things you tried to do to help me we’re actually a power play for you and until you actually talked to the people around a project keep your opinion to yourself.
Dia Evans is another person that disagrees with me. This time about Costco:
You need to move to Palm Beach or Miami and then you can have your Costco.
And from Rick Harman regarding Michael Syrkus’ last column:
I was disappointed in this week’s edition of Syrkus’ Thoughts. I have come to expect a thoughtful, fair exposition on local issues from someone with a different perspective than me. Unfortunately, the March 28, 2021 edition did not live up to those expectations. It is important to note that the six books authored by Dr. Seuss were not “scrubbed” by the President of the United States or banned by an out of control left wing mob. No, instead, it was the Seuss estate that made a voluntary decision to stop selling these six books. There are thirty other Seuss-authored books that are still available for our children to explore. This was not “forced political correctness” or a government bearing down on its citizens (emphasis added by Mr. Syrkus in his original essay).
To Kill a Mockingbird and The Adventures of Huckleberry Fin were also used as examples of “purged literary classics” that have contributed to the erasure of our history. Both of these books are readily available at most public libraries, can be shipped straight to your house within 48 hours from many online retailers, or even immediately downloaded to your ebook reader. Hardly a totalitarian government burning books to keep the citizenry in line. Or is it communism? Both forms of government were offered as end results of our continued path down political correctness.
I agree with Mr. Syrkus that there is a threat to the nation from a malinformed society. Perhaps that threat isn’t from a perceived cancellation of our history via political correctness, but from a news media that would create that perception in the first place?
And my answer:
I agree with you.
We correct spelling and most grammar, we leave opinions to the writers. I was torn whether to allow those mis facts, I was hoping that a reader would point them out. Many people have the same “facts: as does Mr. Syrkus. It is an opinion column and a voice for another view perhaps other than my own.
Agreed. That was the source of my disappointment, he usually has well thought out opinions that may challenge my own but they are based in reason so I welcome them. I seek them out as a way to keep myself honest. It was a surprise to see him lazily parroting the lead story from Fox News last week. He usually goes deeper than that. He is my favorite of your opinion contributors as his work usually contains more insight than just complaining about the government that others never seem to get past.
Thanks for putting the newsletter together, it is really appreciated for those of us who are not able to attend local government meetings due to work obligations.
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Next from Sean S:
Ocean breeze but no Jensen Beach ?
And my answer:
This is a question that is asked all the time.
Ocean Breeze is a municipality with its own government. Jensen Beach is a name for an area in unincorporated Martin County. All decisions and services are provided by Martin County and Board of County Commissioners. Your district commissioner is Doug Smith.
Ocean Breeze has its own elected council and codes. It contracts with the county to provide fire/rescue, water and sewer. The sheriff’s office provides law enforcement to the entire county, even Jupiter Island, Sewall’s Point, and Stuart which have their own police forces.
If at some point in the future an area wishes to incorporate and form a municipality to have enhanced services they would ultimately have to petition the governor and legislature to do so. It is not an easy process. The last place to do so in the state was in Indiantown.
A little praise from Ellen Luz Ramil:
I look forward every week to your publication…… wonderful!
Lastly a little more praise from Mariann Watkins:
I am a widowed long time resident from Martin County in Martin Downs, Palm City and thoroughly enjoy the county, stores, conveniences, outdoor restaurants, boating, proximity to water sights/activities, etc.
Please continue to enhance your Neighborhood Magazine with all its articles/photos. Thank you – Mariann Watkins
I am a member of the CRB. We are an advisory board for the city commission on projects within the CRA. At the last meeting, I was incredibly sad to have had to vote against a project that was being presented.
Presenting a project is telling a story. The more convincing the storyteller is, the easier the project moves forward. But the story cannot be fictional. The chapters need to be woven together in a factual narrative. Logic is important and the plot must stand up to scrutiny. It did not in this case.
The project is known as the Sportfish Marina UPUD. There is to be a 37-room hotel of one- and two-bedroom suites. It will have 49 boat slips. There will also be a pool and restaurant with parking under the three-story hotel. There will be a boardwalk along the river.
The number of parking spaces did not fit the narrative they were presenting. Under the code, they need one parking space for every room and two for employees which is a total of 39. They will have 55 spaces. According to their business model as told, their guests will be boating here and mooring at one of the wet slips. Looks great so far.
When going into the meeting, I was under the impression that they would reserve 37 slips for the hotel and the remaining 12 slips could be leased out to the public. What they were selling and what they actually want to do began diverging at this point.
When I asked that a condition be placed on approval that only 15 slips could be leased to the public, the developer’s representative said no. He said the submerged land lease reads they must reserve half the spaces for the public. When I asked to see the lease, he did not have a copy nor did the Development Department…a large disconnect in the narrative being told.
The city has subsequently learned that there is no submerged land lease. The applicant is now saying that he has applied for one. As of this writing he has not supplied the application to the city. How do we know that the state will grant one and how many slips it will be? The parking calculation can be off even more than what I believe.
The only reason this project needs to come before the commission is because their parking is under the building. Under the code, they have enough spaces. In reality, I dispute that because the story is not coming together.
This project is next to Harborage. For nearly 15 years, that was the project from hell that cost the city massive legal fees having to do with parking, slips and live aboard boaters. Though this project is considerably smaller, the same problems can occur again.
When the meeting began, I was ready to vote yes, but the developer’s presentation made me vote no. The only reason that I can see for the developer not to agree to limit outside slip rentals is that his intention is to keep his options open to turn this into something other than the story being told.
Except for several months in the winter, it may be very hard to fill these rooms. At 37 units on less than an acre, it may work as a hotel but there is no way that it works for a rental or condo.
Every room has at least wall kitchens if not full kitchens. The city has no ordinance that limits hotel occupancy to a set number of days or weeks. Without ever coming back to the commission, this can be turned into permanent and semi-permanent hotel rental housing. If you add in the leasing of 49 slips to the public, 55 parking spaces are not enough.
This isn’t downtown where you can walk places. Cars are necessary whether it is a hotel with marina or apartments. Two bedrooms means at least two people will occupy the suite. The site will also have boat trailer parking. When questioned about the siting of that, the developer said that has not been worked out yet. This could easily become a chapter of the story to be looked at later that may further reduce the number of actual parking spaces to less than 55.
If the submerged land lease were produced and one of the conditions was that half the slips would have to be rented to the general public, I would have been satisfied and asked that the number of slips available to the general public to be that number.
How does the city even know there will be a lease? If someone is asking you for permission to do something with a key element predicated on that fact, wouldn’t you like to read it and make sure? The “not ready for prime-time players” are at work. The city deserves better.
I see the bait, and I know the switch is not far behind. I hope the commission sees the same thing and approves the project only after examining all the documents. I personally have little hope that the commission will do their due diligence and make sure they are not inviting a problem.
This could be an enviable project if it were just 37 apartments with each having a boat slip or even the original concept of a boating-centric hotel. Instead, it is too cute by half. The story has diverged from the opening chapter.
To see the presentation of the applicant, go here
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It seems that the district was the last one in the state to come into line with the state mandate regarding teacher’s pay. Last year, the legislature gave $600 million to the districts to bring starting salaries to $47,500 and to boost veteran teacher pay.
Even with their proportional share of the fund being $3.4 million, the district will have to kick in another $860,000 for increases. The state once again is leaving a large unfunded mandate to the Martin County District this year and in subsequent years.
No form of local government is micromanaged as much as school districts. This could be the pre-cursor of what will happen to counties and cities. The state already dictates to districts how much millage to charge and recaptures part of it to distribute to other districts. Martin County’s taxpayers subsidize other school districts throughout the state. We are known as a donor county.
In this session, we have already seen more and more bills in the legislature that infringe on the home rule concept. Expect to see even more in the years ahead. We supposedly have home rule in our constitution. But that is only when the legislature does not enact laws that take it away.
The voters of Florida need to pass a constitutional amendment to stop this grab for power. To read more go here
BUDGET MEETING MARCH 30, 2021
Carter Morrison, the district’s CFO, presented the proposed budget for next year.
The district still needs to fine tune it and there are more meetings scheduled. As the next few months progress, the district will know more and more about what mandates the state will dictate including how much to spend on categorical lines such as textbooks.
Many things were discussed, and you can find most of the numbers in the attachments. Two things that were not in the presentations but were touched upon in the discussion were the internal auditor and the board attorney. The internal auditor position has been vacant for a couple of years now. The board uses the auditor to gather information for the board and to serve as a supposed check on the district staff.
The board will have Morrison come back with a proposal for a part time person to augment his staff during peak times instead of a separate position that reports to the board. It seems to be a better use of resources now that the superintendent directly reports to the board instead of being an independent elected official. The same goes for the board attorney.
Is there a reason to have a separate attorney now that the board and superintendent are integrated? It may be time to have a legal department headed up by a chief attorney that reports to the board much as the county attorney reports to the BOCC. Any additional legal expertise needed would be under the chief attorney.
The board needs to decide whether the attorney and the legal department should be outsourced, in house, or a combination. There are savings to be had regardless since moving forward the superintendent and the board will be in concert and do not need separate attorneys.
To see the budget presentation and handouts please go here
SCHOOL BOARD WORKSHOP APRIL 6, 2021
The meeting was all about the new facility’s leasing agreement.
Most of the discussion was consumed with Covid cancellation clauses. A legal agreement must be comprehensive and take in all the problems, no matter how remote, that could occur. How I sometimes long for the old days.
Apparently so does Tony Anderson. If Anderson had his way, a handshake (or today a fist bump) would be good enough. He longs for a time that even government could be more trusting. Unfortunately, those days have passed, and Anderson’s more common-sense approach is not how the board can protect the taxpayer in today’s litigious world.
For more than an hour, the board discussed and planned for Covid cancellations. After the changes that will be made and then sent to the board’s attorney for approval, we will be way past the worst of the virus’ havoc.
If you are an organized sports team, then this agreement will be welcomed. If you are just a couple of kids that want to use an empty taxpayer-owned field on the weekend or after school, then you are out of luck. Strict rental protocols are in place. Agreements must be signed, insurance certificates exchanged, and most importantly money paid.
If these rules were in effect when I was a kid, I would have never played sports on a field. Like Mr. Anderson, I long for those simpler times. I guess they are long gone and aren’t coming back even for the taxpayers who fund everything.
To see the draft agreement with pricing list, go here
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COUNCIL MEETING MARCH 25, 2021
The executive director of the Indiantown Chamber spoke trying to clear the air between that organization and the council. Every time the chamber’s name is mentioned by Council Member Gibbs-Thomas, the current Indiantown representative, there is nothing but negativity from the other four members. The question is why?
This came up because of the approval to hire an economic specialist by the village at the last meeting. Gibbs-Thomas was the only one to vote against hiring for that position and mentioned the chamber as a substitute. And while I do not believe the village needs an economic specialist position, if Indiantown government feels it does, then that person should be a government employee or contractor.
This leads me to two observations about Martin County and not just Indiantown. All the chambers have ex officio elected officials on their boards. Why is there a mixing of government and chambers? While it is certainly important to have a dialogue between the two, there should not be an automatic seat on the chambers’ boards.
Last year, Guyton Stone was on the Indiantown Chamber board. He was their advocate at the council. This year he advocates just as fiercely for the BDB where he is the village’s representative. He has grown remarkably colder to the chamber. Gibbs-Thomas has taken up the mantle for the chamber this year.
I believe if government is going to use taxpayer dollars for a purpose, then the entity trying to court business, or any other function should ultimately work or be an exclusive agent for the people. We can debate whether any of these positions should even exist but to delegate is something taxpayers should not be comfortable doing.
Mr. Brown announced that he is hiring a grant writer and, at the direction of the council, will pursue setting up the Indiantown Fire/Rescue Department.
ADAMS AVENUE OR E THELMA WATERS AVENUE
Ms. Waters, recently inducted into Florida Women’s Hall of Fame and a staunch advocate for Indiantown, passed away. She was one of the incorporators of Indiantown and was a fixture at village meetings until Covid struck.
In most people’s minds, it would be a no brainer to name a street in her name. It seems it is not that simple in Indiantown.
The development director who oversees this project spoke to the post office and they stated that the current addresses on Adams Avenue would need to change over to E Thelma Waters Avenue. They couldn’t have both names. It makes sense in that bureaucratic fashion of government.
Three residents spoke against the new name because of the inconvenience they would endure in having to change their official addresses with bills and government documents. Althea Johnson, the director, would work with the 20 or so affected parties to ensure a smooth transition.
Then came the back pedaling by the council and staff alike. It appeared that all along the name change was ceremonial and it was always contemplated to have both Adams and Waters on the street sign. Manager Brown opined that he had seen many “two named streets” in Florida and elsewhere. Council Member Dowling agreed that having streets bearing two names was not uncommon.
Dowling made a motion to co-designate Adams Avenue and E Thelma Waters Avenue as the name. It was seconded by Stone and passed 5-0. In the interim, staff will work with Post Office staff to complete the name change.
I have moved both my home and office many times. One of the things you do when you move is change your address on your bills, documents, and publications. It is even easier today than in the past since so much can be done online. And unlike when you physically move, in this instance you are remaining in place. You are going to have the same letter carrier and post office deliver your stuff for some time even after expiration of the “forwarding” time. This doesn’t seem to be that big a deal.
The people who spoke against the change did so in Spanish. That is not a problem. Every resident should be able to address the council with their concerns at a public meeting. Many of Indiantown’s residents speak Spanish and not English. There should be a mechanism for them to do so without relying on Mayor Hernandez to be the translator for the public, staff, and other council members.
While this was not a contentious item, if it had been, Hernandez would have been placed in an awkward position. I believe she would try to be fair even if the speakers were advocating for a position with which Hernandez didn’t agree. It still is not a good idea. If a proposed development were being voted upon her translation could become pivotal to the vote. Any disputes could blow back on her and the village.
FEES & CONSULTANTS
During this meeting, the village authorized $676,577.00 in consultant fees.
The majority of that money, $483,252.00, is devoted to the “water works.” Probably some of those funds may ultimately be reimbursed by grants. When you buy a run-down utility, there is some catching up to do. This is part of the process.
You can find the proposal here
The other two proposals, which are part of the village’s quest to be “free” of Martin County services, have several components.
The Fire Fee proposal, which includes parks, details how the village will be able to grow their fledgling department and encompass new development. This very nature of this proposal definitively states going forward, Indiantown’s fire/rescue will be separate from the county. You cannot collect an impact fee unless the new construction will increase the need for service, a service you are now providing rather than the county.
You can read the proposal here
The mobility fee study is the village’s attempt to stop Martin County from collecting road impact fees within the village for new construction. Is it possible that it will eventually be successful at doing so? Yes, it may be possible but not likely for several reasons.
When charging impact fees, there must be a rational nexus between the projects paying them and how/where the money collected will be used. For example, if you took the impact fees for an Indiantown project and then the county used them for a road in Jensen, it would be hard to justify. However, if you used those fees to pave a county road within the village or even work on Kanner Highway, then a rational nexus would exist.
The village has the problem of believing their own posturing and taking it too far. For example, when I was a Stuart commissioner I did get into a written war of words with Anne Scott and Administrator Kryzda over the allocation of services to the county general fund that I believed should be allocated to the MSTUs. It became heated but never personal. Indiantown needs to be careful that disagreements over policy do not jeopardize needed relationships.
The village can charge impact fees. There is no dispute on that point. The dispute and probable litigation will be when they assume the stance that no county impact fees are due from new construction.
Further the village does not have to collect the county’s impact fees unless there is an agreement. That does not mean that county impact fees will not be due. It will be up to the developer or landowner to go to the county building and write a check.
The City of Port St. Lucie is claiming the same strategy as Indiantown. There are two large differences. Port St. Lucie is about 65% of the area of St. Lucie County with Fort Pierce as another large municipality. Most roads within those cities are roads built by the cities. That is not so in Indiantown.
If I were the village, I would seek to strike the same deal as the City of Stuart has with the county which is to collect the county’s impact fees but at a lesser rate than would be due outside the boundaries. It would be a win for the developer, the county, and the village.
Will common sense prevail? I would not count on the council to be reasonable. Statements like those of Mayor Hernandez at the last meeting equating the payment of impact fees in Indiantown to the quality of Stuart Beach is ludicrous. Brown has the capacity and the knowledge to strike a deal and avoid what will not be a good outcome for the village. Does Brown have the willingness to be more the professional than the instigator is the question.
The mobility study can be found here
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Washington has moved onto the topic of infrastructure.
How can any Republican or Democrat, whether conservative or liberal, not be in favor of doing something about our crumbling country? It seems there could be much in dispute and it has nothing to do with the subject only the party proposing it…another example of our failed governing structure.
For four years, I waited for Trump to move forward on his infrastructure plan. I would have supported it. We need it. Alas, I am still waiting for it.
Biden’s plan is audacious. It is big and encompasses things not thought of as infrastructure in the past. Regardless, we still need it. The plan pays for itself. Not in the way I would have devised, but it is a way, and thus does not add to the deficit.
What is in the plan will not matter. Since it was proposed by Democrats, Republicans in the Senate will oppose it even though a majority of Republicans in the country are in favor. This is not a winning strategy.
The Republicans have an opportunity to get on board and propose changes more to their liking. They have an ally in Senator Manchin and without him the Democrats cannot pass a plan even through reconciliation. McConnell has a bit of leverage he can use and should.
But just saying no is no longer an option. Obama was a much easier target for using that strategy than Biden is. Biden knows his way around a Senate rule or two. The real reason just saying no is no longer an option is that citizens are tired of the gridlock too.
To read more please go here
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GET THE WORD OUT Friends and Neighbors of Martin County are 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.
ARTICLES OF INTEREST
From The New York Times an interesting article on whether you can tell which of these neighborhoods voted for Trump of Biden by looking at them:
Another from The New York Times regarding DeSantis being Trump’s heir or is he just trying:
From the Atlantic stating that luxury housing is good for every type of housing:
Treasure Coast Newspapers asks is exclusionary zoning liberal or conservative:
And Pacific Legal writes why do so many dislike accessory units:
Route-Fifty has an article on the newest congressional caucus made up of former local elected officials:
All from the Visual Capitalist
The first one compares the size of the Titanic to a modern day cruise ship:
The next shows us Biden’s Budget proposal:
And last the ten cities that have the most billionaires:
Annual Medium Income (AMI)
Basin Action Management Plan (BMAP)
Board of County Commissioners (BOCC)
Business Development Board (BDB)
Capital Improvement Plan (CIP)
Career & Technical Education (CTE)
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)
Indian River Lagoon (IRL)
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)