City of Stuart
FOR THOSE OF YOU WITH A GMAIL ACCOUNT, YOUR NEWSLETTER MAY BE GOING INTO YOUR PROMOTIONS FOLDER. PLEASE TAKE NOTE!!!!
DID YOU RECEIVE FRIENDS & NEIGHBORS FROM SOMEONE ELSE? YOU CAN GET YOUR OWN FREE SUBSCRIPTION BY SENDING YOUR E-MAIL ADDRESS TO THOMASFCAMPENNI@gmail.com OR BY GOING TO OUR WEBSITE
AS WE MOVE FORWARD
The newsletter in the past several months has added more contributors to this section.
We have done this to provide a variety of viewpoints from members of our community. It is not easy to write a piece bi-monthly or monthly. That is the reason I want to thank all our contributors for taking the time to put into words their ideas and thoughts. I also want to thank those that write guest opinions and articles that periodically appear in the newsletter.
Our local newspapers are fading fast. I often wonder what will happen when they are gone. Without an informed electorate, how can we be expected to know what our government is doing in our names. Who is going to shine a light on elected officials and keep them honest?
Yet as a society we need to find more alternatives that will give the public the facts. As we travel this quixotic trail together, I will continue to search out community voices to give our readers different viewpoints.
In this week’s edition, I want to introduce two new monthly columns. The first is from Joan Goodrich, the CEO of the Business Development Board. I have asked Joan to give you her take on what the BDB is accomplishing in the county.
I have often written with skepticism about the organization’s efforts, and I thought you needed to hear something from the BDB viewpoint.
Our second new entrant is Kallie Jurgens. She lives on Hutchinson Island and is a transplant from the Northeast. Kallie looks at Martin County through the eye of someone who understands our unique character but also has the experience of living in other places to keep things in perspective.
Merritt Matheson has contributed a piece on Lake Okeechobee and how the Army Corps of Engineers is seeking citizen input on determining whether releases will continue in the future.
And lastly, a guest editorial from Cheryl Lambert, the President of the Florida Realtors, on affordable housing. The Martin County Board of Realtors has asked me to run the piece in the newsletter. What is happening in Florida and throughout the country regarding sheltering all Americans is tragic and must be addressed.
ZONING, LDRs, COMP PLAN
Unless you are a planning professional, it is easy for the rest of us to misconstrue what and how zoning, LDRs, and comp plans all fit together. And sometimes even among planners the interpretation of what is meant by different sections can be in debate.
That is why when I see members of the public at government meetings attempting to interpret what the comp plan states or how a property’s zoning should be construed, I sometimes cringe. In our governments’ departments handling development, the staff have degrees in planning and sometimes advanced degrees in writing and interpreting the code.
The legal departments of these same entities spend their careers looking at zoning or comp plans. They speak with their counterparts in other counties and cities and the agencies in Tallahassee. Local attorneys that specialize in land use are the ones hired by developers to bring their projects forward. It is a complex and, at times, confused part of local government.
For a layman, I probably have more understanding than most. In my professional life, I was a commercial real estate owner, broker, and property manager. As a member of the Stuart LPA, CRB, and a commissioner, I have become familiar with the intricacies of the code to some extent…enough to know that there is much I do not know.
So, when I see a member of the public trying to interpret the codes, zoning, or comp plans, I cringe. These are some of the most complicated areas that local governments deal with. And it is awfully hard to make these things simpler. When you are dealing with land development, there are many different facets to consider including the landowner’s property rights. Those property rights are sometimes forgotten by the public trying to stop a project because they forget the state is not all powerful.
I have been reading all manner of disinformation regarding the boat ramp renovation at this park in Stuart.
The city is increasing parking at the only ramp that Stuart has. Since the park and the ramp receive grants and other funding from the state and federal governments, it must remain open to everyone even if they live in St Lucie County. The ramps are used by many people.
In doing the renovation, trees have been taken down. Instead of trying to find answers as to why, people decide to speculate and believe the worst. However, a devoted reader and neighbor went and found out for himself what was going on.
Here is Marcus Rothstein’s email to me and the true version of what is happening:
Tom – I had inquired about the trees marked for & being removed during the construction of the new boat ramp parking in Shepard Park.
I luckily met up with the Stuart staff in the park last week and they explained their approach which made sense to me. Further they provided this email to me yesterday. For your information. Perhaps a portion of this response from Tim would be interesting to some of your readers of your newsletter?
Best regards, Marcus
It was nice meeting you on Friday. Per our conversation, attached is the recommendation by the certified arborist to remove the existing trees within the proposed construction area rather than saving them due to co-dominant trunks, circulating roots, and severe trunk damage. See attached letter. As part of the project, the City is replanting with younger trees that can be properly pruned from the beginning to create strongly structured, healthy trees. The City is investing $53,000 in new landscaping and an additional $15,000 for irrigation. For your reference, attached is the proposed landscape plan.
Let me know if you have any questions or need any additional information.
Tim Voelker, P.E. | Utilities & Engineering Director | City of Stuart
Utilities & Engineering Department
Phone: 772-288-5332 | Fax: 772-288-5381
Cell: 772-215-9602 | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Mr. Leggett, (He is the Director of Public Works)
This letter in is reference to our visit concerning the condition of the trees in Shepard’s Park. From my experience and expertise, none of the trees located within the proposed construction area are in good enough condition to warrant saving except for the Sabal palmettos (cabbage palms), but those can be easily replaced. The trees in that area have poor structure, including co-dominant trunks, circulating roots, and severe trunk damage, which all lead to weak and hazardous trees.
I recommend removing the trees that are within the proposed construction area rather than saving the trees. The best option is to remove these hazardous trees and replant with young trees that can be properly pruned from the beginning to create strongly structured, healthy trees. As a Certified Arborist, I will offer my assistance in selecting the right trees for the area and training your staff on how to properly prune these young trees for good structure.
If you choose to save some of the trees, please remember to successfully save a tree during construction, no construction shall be conducted within the drip-line (perimeter of the canopy) of the tree to protect the roots and truck. Depending on the size of the tree, this could be a significant area. I included a publication on protecting trees during construction for more information.
Please let me know how else I can be of assistance.
Jennifer L. Pelham
County Extension Director & Urban Horticulture Agent IV ISA Certified Arborist #1320-A
Marcus, thanks for getting the entire story for our readers.
BDB BRINGS BUSINESS WITH 140 JOBS
By Joan Goodrich
It appears we’re over (hopefully, gulp) the great toilet paper shortage of 2020.
But craftsmen and consumers everywhere can attest to the COVID-induced backlog of lumber, doors, windows, furniture, and major appliances. At the Business Development Board of Martin County (BDBMC), we recently learned about an even more concerning shortage.
“We’ve got municipalities, police departments, multiple branches of the military that are not getting their contracted ammo,” says Austin Weiss of Grind Hard Ammo. “People understand that this is a national security risk.”
BDBMC has been working with Grind Hard Ammo, which is tackling the national ammunition shortage by seeking to join the few U.S. companies that manufacture stateside all three key aspects of ammunition—casings, projectiles, and primers.
For more than three decades BDBMC has worked to strengthen the local economy by helping business owners, corporate executives, and entrepreneurs with such services as confidential project management assistance; complimentary site-selection services; assistance with development services; licensing and permitting, talent recruitment, workforce training and more.
Upon learning the company was looking to relocate from St. Lucie County, we made introductions and helped them find a location in Stuart where they could grow and create new jobs.
Austin shared with us some insights about his operation and experience with the BDBMC.
Tell us how this ammunitions backlog unfolded.
Covid hit, all contracts got canceled. Law enforcement, Department of Homeland Security, other agencies had to pivot and source overseas. Before, everything was made in the U.S. Now, nothing is, and we’re just assembling here. The demand is high—and production can’t keep up. The people who normally produce ammunition don’t have primers. Right now, I believe the industry is too reliant on overseas suppliers.
How did you get involved in this industry?
I’ve built cars and motorcycles, and even have mechanical patents—but realized it wasn’t scalable. I’ve always had a love of shooting, training, and hunting. I’ve been a gun-rights advocate and have a large social media following so I’ve been attuned to shortages on ammunition and used to say, ‘One day, I’ll own an ammo company.’
This crisis really brought things to the fore, but it started with me getting in touch with people who were smarter and brighter than me and asked, ‘How can we do this better, faster and slimmer?’ I found a partner and we’ve been in business for four years.
Please tell us about the operation.
We’ll manufacture the casings and projectiles in Stuart, where no gunpower or explosive components are involved. We’re looking at rural locations in the county to manufacture the primers. We’re heavily inspected and regulated by state and federal agencies to ensure the highest safety standards. All told, we’re making a capital investment of $30 million, and should employ about 140 people when both locations are in place.
Who are Grind Hard Ammo’s customers?
Primarily, municipal police departments around the country and branches of the U.S. military. We have a direct-to-consumer online that requires age verification and other safeguards. We sell to local retailers, such as Stuart Shooting Center. But there is no storefront and never will be.
How was the Business Development Board able to assist you in this process?
The BDBMC team helped find a building that suited my needs—and it is better than I could have expected. I now live 4 miles from work. The board reached out to Stuart who was involved at the start and in initial facility planning.
You helped connect us with local vendors and contractors for plumbing, electrical and fencing. You helped us clarify our safety features with the public and the press. You introduced me to the right people. Throughout this process, the BDB was there every step of the way.
By Tom Pine
This week I have a few random observations:
A few months ago, it was mentioned in this newsletter that some people were hopeful that the Winn Dixie shopping center in Hobe Sound would someday soon get a face lift. Well, here we go in Jensen Beach, the Winn Dixie shopping center on Jensen Beach Boulevard is in the mist of such a face lift. It’s been ongoing for several weeks now and it should add a cleaner and brighter look when complete.
There was an interesting article in the Palm Beach Post recently in which Boynton Beach will start enforcing year-round restrictions on irrigation of lawns joining a growing list of cities in Palm Beach County. The new law goes into effect on July 6, 2021 and fines will start at $50.00 a day. Properties with odd numbered addresses will be allowed to water their lawns Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday. Homes with even numbered addresses can irrigate on Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday.
The reason it caught my eye is that on US 1 just north of the Roosevelt Bridge the state of FloriDa has just installed more irrigation in the median for of course more plantings, and the use of more water for nonessential services.
As the population in Martin County and across the entire state explodes, water is going to become a very very important commodity. Martin County has shown no interest in cutting back on massive planting throughout the county, just look at the newer circles around town that have massive planting.
The City of Stuart has signs around town that read that their irrigation uses reclaimed water. I believe that it won’t be long before reclaimed water will be supplementing our drinking water as the population grows throughout the state.
About the storage units on US 1 that were the topic of a long, long, long rant. I had not heard a word about the construction problems on the project but as far a fitting in, I look right across the street and there are three buildings about the same height so as far as fitting in I think they look great.
Truth to power.
Tom Pine’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.
By Michael Syrkus
As of writing this, several legislators from the local, state, and federal government have asked the Army Corps of Engineers to permanently halt all discharges from Lake Okeechobee to the Saint Lucie River.
Though this is an admirable goal, enshrining this mandate into law is a dangerous and reckless action. Water quality is most definitely an important aspect for decision makers when it comes to excess water in the lake, but we must also remember the chief reasons for the Lake Okeechobee release schedules: flood prevention.
Just one week ago, the governor issued a “State of Emergency” for Manatee County in relation to the earthen dam failure at Piney Point. Uncontrolled releases of water and a mass evacuation of more than 300 households were required to relieve stress of the failing earth works. Ultimately, the efforts have worked (so far), and it appears the crisis has been adverted. But what have we really learned from this situation?
Lake Okeechobee is an earthen dam nearly 20 feet in height and 734 sq. miles. This makes it the 2nd largest freshwater lake on the mainland of the United States and 8th largest in the nation. (editor’s note: there are some big caveats with this ranking) For comparison, the Piney Point facilities have 3 retention ponds on 634 acres, or .99 square miles.
By enshrining in law that discharges cease to the east, elevates the real possibility that water levels increase dangerously in the wet season. After all, that is reason water is discharged to the east. With a water retention system 700 times larger than Piney Point, and twice as old, I can’t fathom why politicos would believe this to be a proper course of action…. especially following the events that unfolded earlier this month.
I don’t argue one bit that we shouldn’t account for the health and safety of those along the river. Not that many years ago, I was one of them. BUT, I do believe we must also address the real threat of a flood for those in the west. Our lives and livelihood are just as important.
Michael Syrkus’ opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.
HERBIE’S HOBE SOUND
By Herbert Howard
Joyce Herb had just opened her Flooring and Design store in March of 2020 when Covid hit.
She had sold flooring supplies and been in some aspect of the business for 30 plus years when she decided it was time to open her own store.
Joyce had come to Hobe Sound in 1963 in the 5th grade. The school had one floor and one classroom per grade! There were only 1500 residents in Hobe Sound.
Her penchant for design became obvious when in 4H she won many talent contests for her clothing designs. As a girl she also loved to reupholster furniture and make lamp shades.
As a teen she babysat. Joyce always seemed grounded. Her Jupiter Island assistant Chief of Police stepdad would send the police car over to pick her up to sit for some of the residents’ children. (Back when taxpayer dollars went to good use!) Many years later some of those kids would become her clients.
Relationships have always been important to Joyce. One of her most important ended in tragedy 3 years ago when her “productive, handsome and charming” son of 36 died from a fentanyl overdose. He left behind two daughters ages five- and six-year-old. What has now become an American story of heartbreak went through the typical stages of addiction, until it was too late.
Joyce’s faith carried her through, and her next challenge was looming. The business relationships she had cultivated over many years in the flooring industry resulted in special deals on products and any favors they could offer. Yet, product was hard to come by because of Covid mandated factory shutdowns.
It took forever for her to get the permit to finally open. Bridge Road was under construction. It was supposed to have wrapped up by the time her store opened but it went on and on. Clients couldn’t get in because of it. She lived on credit cards.
None the less, Joyce is certain her store will be a success. Lacking money to market, word of mouth has sustained her. Business is beginning to trickle in. She says, “God always drops money on me in the 11th hour.”
When not concentrating on her new business, Joyce takes time out to sing karaoke. Her favorite is a gospel song “You Say”. So, on any given night you may find Joyce at one of her favorite karaoke hangouts singing:
“You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing
You say I am strong when I think I am weak
And you say I am held when I am falling short
When I don’t belong, oh You say I am Yours
And I believe.”
Somehow, I too, think Joyce’s Flooring and Design will be a success.
Herbert Howard’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint
IF YOU ARE NOT A SUBSCRIBER DO SO FOR FREE HERE
By Frank McChrystal
The suits that represent the developers at commission meetings give me a wry grin when I chide them about “shooting fish in a barrel.”
At county and city commission meetings alike, the same scene replays over and over. Existing residents plead for some representation in their effort to keep Martin County similar to the Martin County they love. And lately their cries fall on deaf ears as the developers get the density increases, they ask for, over and over; like shooting fish in a barrel.
There are some new “projects” in town. These 4 story apartment buildings are supposedly the answer for our work force “attainable” housing shortage. Is this Lauderdale lifestyle really the best we can do for the workers who keep our county running?
We built “projects” in the sixties. We tore them down in the nineties. We learned what happens when you pack humans into large apartment buildings.
These new projects are presented with a happy face. This is the “new urbanism”. It’s time to embrace public green space, “walkability,” and “making traffic behave”.
The City of Stuart Commission approved another “project”. The Central Park Lofts will consist of 4 individual 4 story buildings. 172 units will be built on 6.65 acres with an overall project density of 25.86 units per acre. 11.62 units per acre was the allowed density under the city comprehensive plan without city commission approval. This “new urbanism” does at least ditch the gated community and provides for 32% of the site to remain “open space”.
Mike Meier, City of Stuart Commissioner, is leading the charge into “The Great New Urbanism”. His comments on the Central Park Lofts embraced the compromise of taller buildings, more green space, and less concrete footprint as opposed to shorter buildings, more concrete footprint, and less green space.
One amenity at Central Park Lofts is a “splash pad”. This will replace the opened fire hydrant used on summer days back in the original “projects.” And pickle ball courts will replace basketball courts.
Another benefit touted is “walkability”. Huh? Nine months a year only the homeless people walk, and there are no goods or services nearby to walk to. And the plan is to “make traffic behave” on the future Willoughby extension with the typical traffic calming and parallel parking.
I’m listening Mike. I really am. The problem is that the “new urbanism” with 4 story apartment buildings and 25 units per acre seems more like “New Lauderdale”. And, in a relative sense, these new “projects” in Martin County truly do mimic the original “projects” from the sixties.
Frank McChrystal’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.
By Kallie Jurgens
I grew up in the Northeast so my perspective may be different than native Floridians.
I didn’t plan to live here. When my husband retired, he casually mentioned he wanted to live in Florida. I surely wasn’t thinking to move South. My only remembrance of Florida was when my dad and mom, who owned a small business, took one week off a year, and drove here. It was not a pleasant trip in a small station wagon next to my brother who harassed me the entire way.
However, I absolutely love living here. The past 13 years reinforces why I find life here so pleasant. Paramount is the sunny disposition of residents. My friends, neighbors, and service providers are nice! They like where they live, and it shows. My northern friends continually complain about the weather, the cost of basic living, their rising taxes, and an unwelcoming political atmosphere.
Another pleasantry is the work Martin County puts into maintenance, beautification, and healthy pursuits. In the Northeast, we paid way more in property taxes and saw scant improvements in roads, parks, beaches, etc. Our roads were neglected versus constant projects are underway here to improve streets, walkways, and landscaping, including a new bridge some years ago on Indian Street.
We had little maintenance of northern parks — here we see new bathrooms at downtown Stuart park, renovated restaurants and bathrooms at Jensen and Stuart beaches, a new park for kayakers and fisherman on MacArthur Blvd, renovated skate park in Rio, and the list goes on and on.
Up north, we had to pay to go to the beach where here it’s free. Beach improvements along with an emphasis on water quality is important here. I thank both Governor Ron DeSantis and our local congressman, Brian Mast, for their constant efforts on water quality.
When we bought our first condo here in 2008, we looked at the listing sheet and the taxes were $2100 with a line through them indicating they were now $1700. We were in disbelief. We called the tax assessor and she confirmed it. Values had gone down but when that happens in the Northeast, your taxes stay the same!
I realize for longtime residents the continual upgrades may be disconcerting given that taxes surely have gone up. But when you compare the price, you pay here to other areas, I think we might agree you get a heck of a lot more bang for your buck. I feel lucky to live in a county and state where quality of life issues is enhanced daily in a very visible way.
Kallie Jurgens opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.
BLOOMS ONCE MORE
By Merritt Matheson
Now, as more and more Americans are vaccinated and the pandemic’s end is in sight, residents along the St. Lucie River look to face another devastating toxic “green” summer.
Yes, I am talking about another hit from the manmade Lake Okeechobee’s water management system. A system created by a misguided philosophy of “progress” to drain and alter the natural landscape, which has since been complicated by overpopulation, and prolonged for decades by state and federal government inaction. A system that only harms us so a few othebenefit.
Today, there is a toxic algae bloom in Lake Okeechobee. The Harmful Algae Bloom (HAB) is concentrated around the Port Mayaca lock and dam, which connects Lake O. to the C44 canal and then to the St. Lucie River. The sample results tested by the DEP reported a total microcystic toxin level of 22 parts per billion (ppb).
The EPA deems a microcystic level over 8 ppb to be hazardous to touch or inhale. Sadly, this was expected. Anyone following this issue now realizes HAB events, like hurricanes, are not a matter of IF, but WHEN. Since the current HAB in Lake O. has been reported, the Army Corps of Engineers has kept the gates at Port Mayaca closed.
The most ominous part of our current state is the height of Lake Okeechobee. Sitting at 14.17 feet, the lake is higher than it was in our most recent toxic summer of 2018. Currently the lake is higher than at any time in the past decade except the toxic year 2016.
Last year at this time the lake height was 11.41 feet. During the entire wet season, it rose to just over 16 feet. Last summer, there were HAB’s in Lake Okeechobee, but the lower lake level allowed the Corps the flexibility to not transfer the toxic water east. To be clear, all discharges from Lake Okeechobee are destructive to the St. Lucie River and our local economy.
With the wet season fast approaching, lake levels may rise to where the stability of the Herbert Hoover Dike is of concern. This will force the Corps to choose between dike safety and a toxic algae bloom once again.
Why are we poised to enter the rainy season in such a damaging position? Simply put, the entire system of Lake Okeechobee management is stacked against us. We are the fallback with “regulatory discharges.” We started the 2021 dry season with a lake height of roughly 16 feet and no water moving south.
According to the South Florida Water Management District, during the current water year, only 9% of water conveyed into the STA’s has come from Lake Okeechobee. If this number were more equitable—say 50%—our outlook on the summer wet season would be entirely different.
While I am alarmed by the prospect of what lies ahead this summer, I am optimistic for the more distant future. Currently, one of the main bottlenecks preventing water from being conveyed south into the Everglades is being dismantled. The SFWMD has begun removing a 5.5-mile section of the old Tamiami trail allowing water to flow into the Everglades once again.
Locally, the C44 Reservoir and STA will come online this summer. Together the C44 Reservoir and STA can store and treat roughly 60,000-acre feet of water.
For two years now the Corps has been designing a new management plan for the Lake Okeechobee system called LOSOM. The Corps has shown with their modeling that the system can be managed in a way that nearly eliminates regulatory discharges to the St. Lucie Estuary, all while maintaining the status quo or benefiting other stakeholders.
The goal is to have the new management system adopted in 2022. For residents along the St Lucie River the new rules should end destructive discharges. We should settle for nothing less.
It is imperative that residents and concerned citizens provide public comment to the Army Corps for the LOSOM process on its website at: www.saj.usace.army.mil/LOSOM/ or by email at: LakeOComments@usace.army.mil.
I always welcome feedback and suggestions on this issue or others. Email email@example.com or call direct (772) 233-8406
JENSEN BEACH TECH CENTER
Christine Taub wrote the following:
Thank you for your always informative newsletter – appreciate your time and effort! My comment is regarding access to the public fishing pier just behind the new Jensen Beach Tech Center which has been blocked unless you are very agile and able to climb over the concrete retaining wall near the sidewalk. I understand that the Tech Center probably experienced all kinds of noise/trash/parking issues due to their location but the measures they have put in place to solve their problems have restricted the use of a public amenity. It’s virtually impossible to get to that fishing pier now. I know that many years ago there was much discussion regarding that corner piece of real estate and the usage for the same. Remember the Pitchford’s Landing battle? One of the arguments concerned that fishing pier, I think. As of now, the only people who can easily access and enjoy that pier are the owners/residents of Jensen Beach Tech Center. This smells a little fishy to me. (Pun intended!)
I wrote to County Administrator Kryzda regarding whether the pier was a public amenity or not. As usual she was right on top of it, and we had several back-and-forth conversations.
It is not nor ever was a public pier.
It is permitted and built by the Tech Center. While it may have not had any barrier for the public using the pier, it is certainly private. The owner of the Tech Center, Ben Sharfi, can close access at any time. He apparently has done so now. I do not blame him because of the liability leaving it open would entail.
I am sorry that Christine and her neighbors will not be able to use the pier any longer but understand the reasons completely.
If there is something the newsletter can help you with let me know.
AFFORDABLE HOUSING IS UNDER ATTACK IN FLORIDA
By Cheryl Lambert
President Florida Realtors
This is your wake-up call, Florida, and we need your help to save affordable housing. Last week, Senate President Wilton Simpson and Speaker of the House Chris Sprowls unveiled legislation, HB 5401 and SPB 2512, to permanently redirect two-thirds of the housing trust funds each year to sea level rise and wastewater infrastructure projects.
That’s some serious money that won’t be available to teachers, firefighters, nurses, and other first responders for housing assistance. If this legislation passes, 66% of the $423 million available in the housing trust funds will go toward priorities other than housing.
This is unacceptable.
For nearly 30 years, the State Housing Initiative Program has received $2.6 billion from the housing trust funds that has helped 217,000 households with down payment and closing cost assistance, among other housing programs. A $423 million investment into housing programs next year would create 33,000 jobs and more than $4.9 billion in positive economic impact. That’s sound policy as we seek to restore our economy to a pre-pandemic state.
Monies for the housing trust funds come from a portion of the documentary stamp taxes charged on every real estate transaction. In 1992, Realtors advocated for this tax — 10 cents per $100 of value — on the condition that all monies collected went to housing programs.
But for years, that hasn’t happened.
During years of budget shortfalls, legislators swept more than $2.3 billion collected for the housing trust funds into general revenue. And now, when the people of Florida are experiencing pandemic-related challenges that include a critical shortage of affordable, attainable housing, there’s a plan to permanently reduce these vital “trust” funds to the lowest level of all.
The idea of permanently redirecting two-thirds of the housing trust funds is concerning during a pandemic. Housing has been our refuge, office, childcare and more. Essential workers, our first and last line of defense, would be left with one less option to secure housing, be it down payment or rental assistance.
Florida REALTORS® is the voice for millions of property owners who have paid into the housing trust funds. On their behalf, know that we appreciate the need to fund other priorities. But affordable housing IS a priority now more than ever in this post-pandemic economy. Affordability housing IS a priority for the elderly on fixed incomes and low-income families. Affordable housing IS a priority for teachers, firefighters, first responders and others who serve our communities. Our essential workers have guided us through the pandemic, and housing trust funds should be available to help them achieve the American dream of homeownership.
In 1992, lawmakers created a dedicated trust fund for housing purposes. HB 5401 and SPB 2512 would permanently change this dedicated funding source.
Visit https://affordablehousingfl.org/ TODAY to tell your elected leaders to honor the intended purpose of the trust funds and support affordable housing by voting NO on HB 5401 and SPB 2512!
(You can read my take on this issue HERE )
IF YOU ARE NOT A SUBSCRIBER DO SO FOR FREE HERE
IF YOU ARE NOT A SUBSCRIBER DO SO FOR FREE HERE
The first letter is from Carol Davis regarding Costco:
As much as I love Costco I find it Totally irresponsible to put a big complex like that with that much traffic that close to a high school with all those children totally irresponsible. Also Tom where do you live how about we put it in your neighborhood since it’s so wonderful as you describe it in your letter. Or better yet why don’t we put it in some of the town commissioners neighborhoods I’m sure you’re not gonna find one there. You are all turning a small community into Fort Lauderdale Miami West Palm Beach how well is it going for those neighborhoods oh increase in crime, taxes, decrease in services. All you well-meaning people to make it convenient to go shopping turn every city into a disaster. You all won’t be happy until there’s no trees and no grass left in this entire county.
The next is from Bill Cole:
Always well done and really appreciated. Thank you for all you do for us! Bill Cole, Stuart
Ps… the Hobe Sound should be a town group should pay close attention to the train wreck in Indiantown now appearing before our eyes!
The next one from Jeff Gregory:
not sure how I got signed up, but love your work and feel it is greatly needed. will forward to my friends.
And from Meade Rankin:
Just read your newsletter. It presents the most informative facts I’ve yet to read. Particularly enjoyed your angle and opinion on the proposed Costco.
Thank you very much!
A rather long one from Michael Mortell but well-reasoned:
I read your publication this morning. I read Friends a Neighbors for several reasons. Primarily entertainment – that is, I enjoy being updated and reading the opinions and trends that are raised by the publisher and contributors. I also read the opinions submitted for the same reason.
Today, after reading the articles I had to go to Google because I couldn’t remember a government program. It was easy to find. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). Most people can describe it and make reference as the Obama Bail Out. As I am sure your recall, at the time it was very controversial. The amount of money was considered to be so large that it was really an unfathomable number that (at the time) was considered so high that it was beyond measurement. It was roughly 850 billion dollars. At the time I agreed with the pundits that creating the enormous debt associated with ARRA was a bad fiscal policy. However, I also stated publicly that if my next door neighbor was going to use a credit card that was creating debt I would have to pay – to buy a flat screen TV – then I would rather have the TV hanging on my wall. My point is that during the last President, it was clear that there was significant need and support for new infrastructure as well as significant deferred maintenance. For a litany of reasons, the support and opposition for the infrastructure has flipped. Now the current administration is pushing for a major program and those that supported the last administration are objecting. What appears certain is that a program will be approved. However, instead of $850 billion, the current proposed is 1.9 trillion.
The point of this endless email is that back in 2009, even though Martin County was historically known as a Republican County, it received about 130 million dollars for the Indian Street Bridge ( http://www.cnn.com/2009/US/05/04/florida.bridge.stimulus/index.html) .
At the time many residents felt the bridge wasn’t even needed. Imagine the traffic at the intersection of Monterey and Kanner at 5:30 pm on a weekday if there wasn’t an alternative route. The reason the Indian Street Bridge was funded was because it was “shovel ready”. Instead of debating the politics and fiscal policy of the new program, we should be preparing our community to benefit from it. We could apply for funding for a better rail road crossing over the river which would benefit the marine industry association as well as local traffic. Maybe our community leaders want to address the Willoughby extension? I no longer attend the MPO meetings but I am hopeful that we will reach a consensus and make a list of projects in our community that we make sure are “shovel ready” or design ready or what ever the new requirement will be under the “Build Back Better” 1.9 trillion dollars that will be spent. If I am going to be responsible for paying the bill on this debt, then I would request that some of the infrastructure improvements take place in my community.
Now I am just torturing you by making my email too long for you to even read.
Today I also read an opinion about the Cube Smart. I don’t know the developer and have no idea who will be operating the business but I am hopeful that the operator will be a member of our community and a good neighbor. My point for even mentioning it is that all of the objections raised and inconveniences described were related to the construction project next door and not the actual business or operation of the business. A few years ago the two vacant lots next door to my home were developed and homes were built. They were built at different times and each took about 18 months. As a result, I had construction dust, speckles of paint, trucks parking and noise for at least 36 months. That was not a reflection of my neighbors. In fact, my direct neighbors keep their home and property in impeccable condition. It is always perfect. They are quiet, pleasant and generous. I am actually happy they are my next door neighbors. I just hope that instead of condemning the business because of the inconvenience of the construction process, we can all wait to see what happens when the construction is complete. I understand Ms. Baldwin’s concerns and I am sure it wasn’t pleasant during the construction process but I know Steve Nicolosi will make sure all of the fencing is complete and the project meets the plans approved by the Commission. I also believe the use will have very little traffic and will serve as a great buffer between the neighborhood and the U.S. One traffic. I would also comment on the hot right but I don’t want you to press delete.
IF YOU ARE NOT A SUBSCRIBER DO SO FOR FREE HERE
And another regarding Costco from George Tully:
Thanks for the usual great info. I just want to say that you’re 100% correct regarding Costco. It’s desirable and we don’t need yet another Wawa, especially only a few miles from the one on Federal Highway in Stuart. Regarding “the demographics”, Stuart and Hobe Sound folks will FLOCK to Costco, not just Palm City folks. We and many, many friends make the trek to Palm Beach Gardens Costco on a monthly basis. A Costco in Stuart has been highly desirable for many years.
I have friends on zoning boards in our former NY suburbs and like you said, if Costco loses out again, something else will be built there. Just because most folks like trees, scrub, natural lands etc. (as I do too!) that doesn’t mean the property owner can be prevented from building or bringing in a developer to build something that the land is properly zoned for.
Stuart will benefit greatly from a nicely built Costco and I’m sure they can surround it with trees like they did Lowe’s on Federal Highway so it’s not very visible from the road.
Joan Stewart gives up:
I feel that the commissioners here in Stuart pay NO attention to what the residents want. Just look at the blow up construction going on. Too Too many “units” being constructed but of course it does NOT matter what the public wants. Just look at the “TRAIN” . I give up.
Costco once again from Bitten Meitzen:
Any chance we will FINALLY see Costco in Stuart ? As I drive around, having resided since 1996, I am totally amazed by all the construction being built, never mind approved ! Costco would pay their share of property taxes and employ people paying top wages !
Roger Bernot believes that Stuart is bonkers:
Thanks Tom, Let’s see what happens when all of the new multifamily units fill up.The city of Stuart has gone NUTS!!!!!
Thank you, Rosalind Neilen:
I really enjoy your newsletter.
Thanks for being there.
Eileen Kloppenborg has had enough Wawas:
Enough with the WAWA lets get some good restaurant here instead of all these fast food why not get Costco it will bring in more employment and
help the people here
John Dixson writes on Indiantown and the school district:
Your assessment of the Indiantown situation may have been a bit gentler than Barbara C’s but it was also more practical in assessing the realities it presents.
As to the School Board salary question ( I had read the Ms Brown reference article ) I have had a few thoughts which also apply to the County Commissioners.
If the Martin Co. School Board did not have to deal with the Governor’s order, the schools would not have opened. Watching the School Board meetings from June forward, three of the members, including the Chair, were clearly against opening, in spite of the evidence. If you watch the Board meetings, only one comes prepared and gives evidence of having done her homework.
Perhaps the underlying reason is a factor in US schools being in the current academic state of confusion.
The Board is commissioned to set policy and exercise leadership authority, not to mention vision. I think that the school system is a business and needs to be managed and led by consummate professionals, not part timers.
I asked for and was granted, an interview meeting with Dr Millay, Garret Grabowski (Operations), Dr Miller ( Academics ), Carter Morrison ( Finance ) and Jennifer DeShazo ( Communications ) re their planning and performance in getting the schools opened and run safely. The quality of this staff is extraordinary and their performance this past year was reflective of that. (Yes, Dr Millay was not yet in play). They get paid accordingly. One thinks and wonders, while talking with this group of professionals: why is a Board necessary?
If we expect leadership and vision from the Board, we had best be prepared to expect full time employees and pay them accordingly.
Just my two cents, Tom. Given the nationwide situation re School Boards, it is a fantasy to expect change any time soon.
And lastly from Joanne Swann on both Wawa and Costco:
Tom, thank you for your article.
1) There was little publicity about the WAWA coming to
Palm City corner? at least there will be less traffic
with that type of store and parking.
2) Yes, everyone wants a COSTCO but do we have to
have more retail stores and apartments on same
property? Do our planners every think of traffic
IF YOU ARE NOT A SUBSCRIBER DO SO FOR FREE HERE www.friendsandneighborsofmartincounty.com
COMMISSION MEETING APRIL 13, 2021:
County Administrator Taryn Kryzda presented the Indiantown item to the commission.
The item in question was Indiantown’s creation of a fire/rescue department. This came about because Indiantown Mayor Hernandez sent a letter to the commission chair asking whether there will be any negotiation over the price of fire service. The letter is attached HERE
Kryzda went on to explain what a MSTU is and what it pays for. Currently 88% of county residents have Martin County Fire/Rescue as their provider which includes Ocean Breeze and Indiantown. It is paid for through the MSTU with some services such as the 911 call center and the lifeguards through the general fund.
There are 11 stations plus administration that go into the department. The MSTU is the same throughout the county and is based on taxable value. Wherever you live within the fire district, you will pay an amount based on the assessed value of your property. Therefore FPL pays so much more than anyone else.
95% of Indiantown’s MSTU is paid by the industrial sector with only 5% being paid by the residents. This starkly illustrates what the county has been saying all along that the cost of the department is not per capita but as explained above. It is impossible to calculate based on per parcel cost without making the payment excessive for those least able to afford to pay for the service.
Station 24 in Indiantown always has a complement of 7 staff with two ambulances instead of the other stations which have 5 and one ambulance. According to industry standards, response to a structure fire should be 15 personnel, 2 engines and a ladder truck. There is no way Indiantown, on its own, could muster that response. That would affect Indiantown’s ISO rating which is used to calculate insurance premium rates.
There is a 1997 Ordinance which prohibits shifting the expense to the detriment of others in the MSTU. The service must be charged equally across the board. Therefore, to make a deal with Indiantown is prohibited by the ordinance. You can see the ordinance HERE
It was also mentioned by the village that Indiantown is a rural setting. It is in Martin County’s rural part, but the village itself is urban in nature. There are few fires in a year, (Brown mentioned one house fire and three brush fires in 2019), and the rest of the calls are medical. There is at least one call per day on average in Indianwood.
The village claims they did not receive the information they requested from the county regarding calls. However, Kryzda stated those statistics do not exist because currently they do not break down costs or calls per station. She also stated that Indiantown’s numbers of collectable taxes and the rebate to FPL were wrong. The numbers she is citing, which I believe to be correct since they are verifiable through public records, prove that Option 4 of the Village’s choices is not cheaper than remaining with the county. In fact, none of the options are.
Hernandez said they have the right to sever ties with the county which is correct. She also made it seem that they pay the county for fire services which is not true. Each individual parcel owner currently does the same as they would if they were still unincorporated. She also made it seem as if there was a racial element to the quality of service which there is not and has never been.
There was some mention about Booker Park station, but it was always the intention of the county to only have it be used for recreational purposes and as a community center. Most of these arguments are covered in earlier newsletters which the reader can view on this website and in the Indiantown section below.
Ciampi spoke and said he was a supporter of incorporation. He has not made any statements about this until now because it was Indiantown’s business. But when it comes to public safety, he will do so. He knows for a fact that Indianwood wants to keep things as they are. He was the one that originally spent his district funds to have Booker Park Station be a community center even before incorporation.
He is against privatization equating it to replacing the sheriff with security guards. How do you protect the industrial base out there? What about auto accidents? It is not a good idea.
Hetherington agrees 100%. She, as an Indiantown native, has had many conversations with people and not one has expressed a desire to leave Martin County. She said in the past, Indiantown perhaps did not have the county’s full attention, but no resident was ever given unequal treatment.
Jenkins tried to do everything that could be done. He has had Zoom meetings with council members with Kryzda to explain the facts. There is no way that he could possibly explain to a resident in Hobe Sound that they should pay more than an Indiantown resident.
Smith said he spent 18 months on the incorporation in Tallahassee. There was zero support in the legislature. Martin County has the best service now why mess with that. He is disappointed. He believes that Martin County will pick up the pieces in a few years when this fails. I agree with Doug 100%. It will be left to the county to do that.
You can see the entire presentation here HERE
TWO PROJECTS AND THE CIP
Going against Christ Fellowship’s development of their property sometimes feels as if you are going against the will of a higher power. I must remind myself that this project is anything but heavenly. It is sprawl and nothing more.
Even though it was sure to pass, this is a great example of failed mid-20th century planning. There are no services, stores or community associated with any of it. Just a bunch of rooftops connected by roads.
It is a way to develop that property that was zoned especially for the church for a religious purpose. They now want to disregard the original reasons for allowing Christ Fellowship to build and have a home there and now make as much money as possible.
There was originally to be a campus created, an integrated community with the church as its center. It does not matter that the church is trying to assuage the county by giving a dozen acres of the 321 acres to a charity for veterans.
Their subsequent request to reduce the lot size from one-acre to ½ acre (or less) makes the project even more objectionable. If that action were for clustering to preserve open space, I could understand and maybe even endorse. In this case, it is to allow more rooftops not a better community.
However, the motion was made by Smith for both approval of the project and then the text amendment and seconded by Ciampi. It passed 4-1 with Heard dissenting. You can see the entire presentation HERE
The Palm City Costco fiasco is over.
I wrote extensively about it last week. A small section of Palm City residents showed “them” what for. Now without a voice of dissension in the chamber, the project known as Palm Heights Crossing was approved.
Phase 1 will be a Wawa with six-thousand-foot convenience store/fast food restaurant with 8 pumps/16 slots and a Tractor Supply. Phase 2 later will be a car wash. Phase 3 an Aldi supermarket and Phase 4 a possible hotel.
That was sure a hard-fought victory for the anti-Costco folks so that they would not have a box store. They have all the same things only broken up into different businesses. Congratulations.
You can see the presentation HERE
At the end of the meeting, the 2022 CIP plans were presented. Each department presented their plans. I was in many of these presentations at a staff level as a member of the Martin County Taxpayers Association, so I was familiar with the details and there were no changes.
The commission asked their questions and except for Commissioner Heard who voted against some of the departmental plans, they passed without opposition. An overview can be found HERE
IF YOU ARE NOT A SUBSCRIBER DO SO FOR FREE HERE
COMMISSION MEETING APRIL 12, 2021:
There was a presentation from the financial director on Stuart’s midyear budget and actual numbers.
According to the city, the budget is currently where it should be for both expenditures and receipts. Given everything with Covid, that is a remarkable accomplishment. You can see the presentation HERE
Commissioner McDonald has stated his intention to meet with the city manager and department heads to go through the departments next year’s requests. Commissioners should understand the budget and sitting down with the finance director and city manager is important.
However, if more than one commissioner wants to be a part of staff and go through budget lines, then there should be a budget workshop with staff presenting their preliminary budgets to the entire commission as the county does. Individual commissioners sitting in on meetings with the city manager and department heads is time consuming.
And do not think that staff isn’t putting on a kabuki dance for the commissioner during those private meetings. In the preliminary stages of budgeting, staff should be free to have candid conversations with the manager without politics involved. Once the early stages are completed, then having commissioners ask questions and voice their concerns is a good idea. This should happen at a meeting before the meeting when they must vote.
ODDS & ENDS
During comments, Commissioner McDonald brought up the subject of creating a park on a closed street on Bryant.
The street was closed around 2010 “temporarily” for six months. This is a residential neighborhood off Federal Highway and Palm City Road. (It is my neighborhood.) At one time, there was a used car dealer there, and his customers would test drive the cars at excessive speeds in a residential neighborhood. The commission placed the gate there to stop that from happening. A couple of years later, the dealership closed.
The gate, which is just a pole with a lock on it, was installed to allow emergency vehicles to have access. I would be surprised if anyone even knew where the key was. It is time that the closure become permanent.
They have just completed the Cube Smart project which backs up to the street. A little park with curbs and trees instead of the gate would be an enhancement. Add a bench, some planters to be cared for by the neighbors and perhaps a basketball hoop, and the kids would love it.
A motion was made by McDonald for an item to be placed on the agenda and seconded by Matheson. It passed 5-0.
Matheson made a comment about the state of the water. There is an algae bloom by the locks. See Commissioner Matheson’s article in the News & Views Section above.
The city’s leasehold to Mulligan’s on Flagler is being assigned. It seems George Hart, Mulligan’s founder, has decided to franchise this site to two partners from down south. The sweetheart lease with the city runs to 2038. Only government operates on these timelines, and they believe the nonsense that their tenants spew about how they need the time to amortize their expense.
Meier made a motion to see a CV from the new operators and for them to demonstrate their financial ability by Monday before the assignment can go in effect. It was seconded by Matheson. The lease has no personal guarantees. Hart or these new guys could default without liability. They bought a franchise and Mr. Hart he knows business, so he has thoroughly vetted the franchisees.
Nice gesture but it doesn’t really matter since the assignment cannot unreasonably be denied according to the lease. What would happen if the commission said no? There would be a lawsuit. The motion passed 5-0.
When first presented, I did not think the lofts were a very good project. And as I said when it was first reading, I do not know whether I would have voted for it or not. I am still not so sure whether it is a good project, but I would have voted for it on second reading.
The developer knocked off an entire building which brings the number of units to 172. They increased parking to 303 spaces which is still short by 13 spaces. However, it is more spaces than what similar projects that have been approved have had.
There also is more green space around, but it has included amenities such as a pickle ball court and splash pad. With that, there is now enough open space to meet that requirement. They still need a waiver for setbacks.
Here are the good parts of the plan. It is set on a commercial roadway. The road is only now at 13% of capacity during peak hours. During public comment, one member of the public kept saying that the roadway will be an “F”. Under the DOT Quality/Level of Service Handbook an “F” or an “A” are not letter grades. They are a way of explaining the impact that traffic is having. Here is a quote from the manual:
“Misconception 3: LOS (Level of Service) letter A-F grades are comparable to American school letter grades. Truth: Unlike school grades, LOS A is not necessarily a desirable goal and the meaning of A-F is not entirely consistent across modes.”
For instance, you would not want to spend $50 million on a road that had less than 6 cars per hour during peak times. That would certainly make someone driving on it happy, but the public who was taxed for that roadway could have spent those dollars on a better use.
The project puts parallel parking on Central Parkway. This will slow traffic down which is a concern because presently there is not enough traffic to keep speeds within the limit. They are also putting in a left-hand turn lane which will alleviate the need to make “U” turns.
Though they really do not go anywhere, the streets within the development will not be gated, like Seagate and Villa Bella. There is no place for a gated community with walls within a city. They should not have been approved that way.
17 apartments or 10% will be rented at 80% of the AMI in perpetuity. The city will monitor the reduced rents by the project sending a list of tenants plus the rents every year to the city. The city will have the authority to monitor the leases. That will be the mechanism the city uses to make sure the owner is adhering to the agreement. Let’s see if it is followed.
The intervenor made a pitch from the heart that the project was against the comp plan. While I was delighted that he had been a Stuart Fire/Rescue employee that had moved from crowded Broward, I know it could not influence the commission in whether to approve a project or not. For after all, it is what is permissible under the code that matters…not any individual’s feelings.
He also showed photos of vistas that now will have buildings of 45 feet plus another 6 or 7 feet for parapet walls. Those structures can be built there as of right. The applicant is applying under an expired PUD. The zoning does not revert to what it had been initially.
He cited the comp plan section: Policy 1.A5.2 : Development on all vacant, un-platted areas
designated as residential should be compatible with any surrounding existing homes. And: Policy 1.A5.3: Whenever possible, medium density residential and recreation/open space areas shoulder serve as buffers between higher and lower intensity residential uses to achieve orderly land use transition.
Compatible does not mean the “same.” There are apartment and town houses already surrounding this project. As to transitional, Meier stated that Seagate was the transitional project from low density to medium.
Planning documents and codes are created to be flexible to accommodate changing economics and societal needs. Beautiful photos and bucolic settings are nice, but Stuart and the county CRAs are urban. This is an infill project. If we are going to try to limit sprawl in Martin County, and 5-acre ranchettes or single-family homes on acre lots even within the urban services boundary are sprawl, then projects of this size must be developed.
Subjectively, I do not find this project appealing. However, the commissioners, the intervenor, or those that are against the project do not own the property. The owner has property rights, and if enough boxes are checked, the project should go forward.
On second reading, I would have voted in favor. Bruner made a motion to approve that was altered several times. McDonald seconded and it passed with the same 3-2 vote as last time with Clarke and Matheson dissenting.
You can see the staff, applicant, and intervenor’s presentation by going HERE
IF YOU ARE NOT A SUBSCRIBER DO SO FOR FREE HERE
BOARD MEETING APRIL 20, 2021:
In some respects, this was a quiet meeting. The board and staff were doing business without muss or fuss.
Eduardo Diaz, the senior who organized the alternate prom, spoke. Because of COVID, the district endorsed senior celebrations at the three high schools that were anything but traditional. Diaz took it upon himself to put on a non-sanctioned traditional prom for the seniors from the three Martin County high schools. And from everything I heard it was a success.
Diaz spoke at the meeting about a South Fork teacher that was on video saying that Diaz had diverted $30,000 in funds for his college tuition. Diaz is not happy with the accusation and he has had to explain the misconception to a summer employer. He wants to know what the district is going to do about the teacher.
He will be attending the naval academy in the fall, so he does not need any tuition. Eddie Diaz seems quite intense, and I can understand some people not liking him for that. Should he have organized an event for students that was not school sanctioned? Well, no one had to attend and those who did seemed to have a good time. Diaz claimed that none of the participants came down with COVID.
He gave the financial records of the event to the board. Eduardo Diaz should be the kind of student that is a role model not an outcast. He cannot be a slacker and have been accepted to one of the service academies.
Diaz is probably one of those students that some teachers wish were not in their class. You know the kind…bright and opinionated; tenacious and relentless. Annapolis will hone his good attributes and curb the less admired ones. He is a Martin County success story rather than someone who should be maligned.
The board will not decide on whether masks will be a requirement next year. It is too early, and this should be decided closer to the start of school.
Regardless, classes will be in person. There are virtual options through Florida Virtual and St Lucie’s district program. That program was open to Martin County residents because the St. Lucie district was far from capacity. Mrs. Defenthaler tasked staff to try to come up with a way for Martin’s students to be able to attend virtually when they need to be out for an extended period.
Roberts made a motion to open in-person school on August 11th that was seconded by Anderson. It passed 5-0
IF YOU ARE NOT A SUBSCRIBER DO SO FOR FREE HERE
WORKSHOP MEETING APRIL 13, 2021:
This was a workshop that contained several items, but I want to concentrate on two.
The first goes into some detail on what a budget amendment is and why it is needed. It uses the amendment that will be presented at the next meeting.
At a past meeting, a few of the commissioners were upset regarding the booking of revenue not yet received. The Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB) Statement 33 provides guidelines on how to do just that. It is for Imposed Nonexchange Revenue (property taxes and fines) in the period when use of the resource is required. For revenue to occur on the modified accrual basis, the criteria should be met, and revenue should be available. “Available” in this context means that the government has collected the revenue during the current period or expects to collect it soon after the end of the period.
When you budget, you are using expected revenue and expenses. The 2022 budget will be created using GASB standards. Obviously, what will be voted upon by the commission will be in anticipation of the future based on past results. A budget is a future projection of the town’s spending plan.
Throughout the year, adjustments need to be made to the plan. These are called budget amendments. It is not some sleight of hand but an attempt to “true up” the numbers. Budget amendments, as far as government is concerned, must balance. There needs to be a funding source for the expense. That funding source may be a transfer from the reserves, a grant, or other sources. In all cases, the amendment must conform to the requirements of GASB.
The money that is being spent has usually been approved by the commission already. What is being done in the budget amendment is the authorization to pay for those things already approved. In the current amendment, there are such items as road construction, playground, and septic to sewer. The town has already said yes to spending the money. Now they are striking the checks.
You can see the budget amendment HERE
BLUEPRINT FOR CIP
On the last go round when Kim Delaney from the Treasure Coast Planning Council gave her presentation, it was not very impressive. This was a vast improvement.
She went through all the things such as resiliency and septic to sewer that Joe Capra, the town engineer, has been saying for some time. There was a list of projects categorized by time frame that should be done. There were those that were underway or should be done short term (2-10 years), mid term (11-15 years), and long term (16-20 years). The project list is HERE
Delaney then discussed how to pay for those projects. Once again both she and the town manager explained that Sewall’s Point cannot expect to have grants and the county pay for all the infrastructure. There needs to be some money from Sewall’s Point residents in the game. There also is the ongoing maintenance that must be funded once the project is completed.
Funding can include a MSBU (Municipal Services Benefit Unit) for the town’s portion of the septic to sewer conversion. That would raise $7.8 million of the $17,300,000 needed. The cost would be $78.00 per residential property owner. That $17.3 million divided by the number of ERC (Equivalent Residential Connection) is $26,534 per household. After grants the cost will be $14,500 per connection. $12,000 will be paid by the MSBU. The homeowner when he connects will pay $2500.00. You can find the slide HERE
Commissioner Kurzman stated that some people cannot afford that. While we should have compassion, there is no constitutional right to own a house. One of the reasons that Florida has such a screwed up real estate tax system is because of things like “Save Our Homes.” Laws like that pervert the market resulting in some people with the same exact home values paying different taxes by thousands of dollars.
Sewall’s Point has the lowest millage rate in the county. Even if they raised the millage by 2 points, they still would have the lowest. Many of these road and water projects must be done. The Sewall’s Point “house” is metaphorically falling around the town’s ears. What good is having a low millage rate if roads are under water? Septic systems are flooding the street and property with fecal product. Infrastructure is in disrepair and trees cannot be maintained.
This is all going on because the commission and, to some degree, the residents were more concerned with pickup truck weights than water quality or what times contractors can work rather than the resiliency of the community. It is all window dressing and no substance. When you pay a cheap price for a house sometimes it means you made a good deal. Other times it just means you bought a substandard house.
You can find the entire presentation HERE
IF YOU ARE NOT A SUBSCRIBER DO SO FOR FREE HERE
COUNCIL MEETING APRIL 8, 2021:
The news this week was not what the council passed but what was said.
I guess we are now officially in the politics of persecution. Forget the mantra “fake news,” it is now all about purported grievances. If someone disagrees with a decision it is not because there is a disagreement over policy but rather personal or racial or being a nay-sayer. There is plenty of the latter…not only in Indiantown and Martin County.
During public comment, the captain for Station 24 spoke about removing the county as the provider. Someone else spoke that the village had not considered the cost of procuring and setting up an air channel for the new department. Perhaps he didn’t mean it the way it sounded, but Dowling told both that he heard their concerns, but the attitude he conveyed was “now go away.”
The Indiantown Chamber director once again addressed the council suggesting they have a conversation about why there was discord between the two entities. Dowling said she was disrespecting the council by coming in there and telling them what to do. I guess he was referring to the economic specialist the village is hiring.
Clarke piped up and said something about the “real history.” Hernandez said perhaps further down the line there could be a better relationship. She said someone on the chamber staff is bashing the council and the chamber cannot demand things.
Chamber Director Tyndall said the chamber is not a building but people. She hoped they could work together and let what happened in the past stay in the past.
The council does not see it that way. There is apparently much deep-down hurt on the council’s part. The chamber disagrees with the course the village is taking on issues and is vocally exercising their right to disagree with their government’s actions and policies. The government is not supposed to then put them on an enemies list. It looks to me that the enemies list is growing.
MORE GRIEVANCE OR PITY PARTY
During her remarks, Gibbs-Thomas thanked the protesters outside who were expressing their views and indicated that the council should be listening to all people even the ones they disagree with. Apparently, the protesters outside were there because they disagreed with the council on fire/rescue and the budget.
Stone answered that he is ready to get moving on the new fire/rescue department.
During her comments, Hernandez said people who attacked the village manager were attacking the council. Ms. Hernandez went on to note that Indiantown has a large minority population and maybe that is the reason Martin County ignored Indiantown. She has seen some “stuff” done under the county’s auspices and control. Decisions were made by the county because of the color of residents.
Hernandez went on to state that the village manager is directed by the council. She gets answers from the staff and that their jobs are not easy. That the community is being taken advantage of. Before she didn’t see color. Now being Black or Hispanic does matter. They have lived in the shadows for years now they have a voice.
She continued that the village has the best staff and contractors. The metaphors were flying all over the place. Hernandez said the fire consultant, Mr. Iacona, was a fire chief and is the best around. And now there is pushback from residents and those living outside the village.
Martin County is not easy to work with, Hernandez went on. Residents need to speak with the council. There is a lot of misinformation.
She then said that they never took away property rights. They developed a comp plan and land development regulations. The property rights are better or at the same level.
County Attorney Vose said that since writing a comp plan and codes were such a vast undertaking, things could fall between the cracks, but they were corrected. The reason that Indiantown wanted independence was because of the need for development. It was anticipated and any gaffs or holes were and would continue to be fixed as brought to light.
In this respect, Hernandez and Vose are correct. There is no way that existing property rights would go away. If a property owner is hurt by the village disregarding the rights that existed before Indiantown wrote its codes and comp plan, then the property owner can bring suit under the Bert Harris Act if those rights are not restored. So far, I have not heard of anyone doing this nor do I expect too.
THE MAIN EVENT
Gibbs-Thomas led of the fire/rescue discussion by saying the savings of millions was just not there. She had two numbers in mind…the $788,000 that was credited to FPL for the TPP and that village residents actually paid $5.3 million to the Fire MSTU last year. She said the county was willing to see about a deal.
Dowling stated that the county was operating in bad faith beginning with the changing of the deed for the old Booker Park station. He further stated that Martin County is trying to stop what they are doing, and the council needs to move forward. He believes that the numbers the village is using for fire/rescue were put together by qualified people, and they have proven that the village will have the same level of service. Dowling believes that the county is looking to get rid of Brown and if that is the case, the council is doing something right. The county is not providing an alternative (the alternative is to remain with Martin County.)
Clarke took the position that the county is wrong and doesn’t have all the facts.
Dowling then said that you do not need to be a property owner to be elected to the council. That is correct. And I agree with Dowling that you do not need to own a house to be a good council member.
Hernandez said the county is trying to change her mind. Jenkins is only one of five and so what he says is not binding (that is true.) Iacona gave them very conservative expense numbers for their department. She has family here and only wants to do what is best. Iacona has been a fire chief. Placentia, California started their own fire department and it’s worked out well.
Wade Vose then spoke about Booker Park Station. When the parks, including Booker Park, were given to the village, there was an interlocal agreement that stated the village could not use any of the transferred property for anything but recreational purposes. They were also forbidden to sell any of the property. The deeds reflected the interlocal except the deed for Booker Park Station.
At the time, both the village and county were clear about the intent. The county went back and corrected the deed for Booker Park to reflect what had been discussed by both entities and agreed to in the interlocal. Vose said that it was only after the village began discussing their own department that the county amended the deed. He admitted they had every right to do so.
He went on to say that didn’t mean that the county could not allow it to be used for a fire house. The old station in Booker Park had not been used as a fire/rescue station in some time. Vose said there is a difference between legality and politically. I agree that there is. As far as Martin County is concerned, they are going to stick to the letter of the agreement.
PLACENTIA INSTEAD OF OKEECHOBEE
It is interesting that Brown chose Placentia as an example of jettisoning a county fire department for a municipality to create its own.
A few facts about Placentia…it has 6.6 square miles. It has a population of 50,623 people. The average household income per year is $114,000. 71% of the population is white with 17% Asian. 2% of the population is Black. Of the 71% of the white population, about half identify as Hispanic. Half the population has a college degree with 14% having a graduate degree. 8% of the population would be considered impoverished.
75% of the population is native born. There is little industry. It is, for all intents and purposes, a middle-class bedroom community located in Northern Orange County, California in a densely populated area.
I can immediately see the resemblance to Indiantown that Placentia has. Which in truth is extraordinarily little.
Why did no one speak to the City of Okeechobee which is about 20 miles away and has similar demographics to Indiantown. The city department is a hybrid model like what is being proposed for Indiantown of both volunteers and paid staff. They are disbanding the department and asking Okeechobee County to take over.
It is better to pick the numbers and situations that support perceived conclusions. In this case Indiantown’s failure to look at all the facts may make its decision doomed to failure. This is like a child doing something stupid to show the parent that the kid is all grown up.
WORKSHOP MEETING APRIL 10, 2021
Once again, Jim Karis was the facilitator of an Indiantown workshop. The vision stuff came first. He gave the day’s timeline with the topics that were to be discussed.
The first presenter up and in person was Lynn Tipton from FLC University in Orlando. She gave a brief but succinct presentation on the role of the council. She first touched on ethics. And wanted the council to know that they were stewards of the village’s resources.
Tipton spoke on the sunshine, open meetings, and public records law in Florida. She then went into the strong manager-weak council form of government. The council sets policy. The manager is responsible for the implementation of the policy and the day-to-day operations.
A couple of observations that I thought of while I was listening that had nothing to do with the meeting. The first is a compliment that the village’s website is incredibly good and easy to maneuver. There is a plethora of information for the public to read. Anthony Dowling tends to say, “bring the public along” as if they are not as wise as he is. Hernandez keeps stating that people don’t know how government works. Does she believe that the council are the only people with any knowledge?
Then came the discussion on fire/rescue.
I do not have a doubt that the village will be pursuing an independent department. Mr. Iacona, their consultant, presented and answered the council’s questions via Zoom. He laid out the next steps for them. The four things that he suggests being done are:
1) the hiring of an emergency services manager,
2) develop an implementation plan,
3) adopt a capital program,
4) have public outreach and community awareness.
Iacona believes the position of manager is transitory. That person will devise and implement the plan. He/she should be knowledgeable especially about hybrid volunteer/paid departments. The plan being created will decide on the station’s location, deployment protocols, dispatch, equipment, handling the RFP for medical response, inspections, training, and benefits. Iacona fits that job description.
The capital needs in 2022 will be $1.2 to $1.8 million according to the consultant. The village will need to inform the county of its decision no later than May 2022 and be ready to go in October 2022. The leaving will be the easy part.
Hernandez stated that this will be attacked by citizens, by MCFR, and county officials. The attacks are based on money and politics. And to some extent, they are.
Brown said that he had done a public records request for information pertaining to response times and the county did not respond. Stone also made a request over three weeks ago, and no one responded. A citizen spoke and said she wanted professionals responding not volunteers.
Stone stated that FPL is not going anywhere. Brown agreed saying they only care about taxes. Brown said that the county must provide mutual aid. Clarke dittoed that she had requested the information and had not received it either. Iacona said that Martin County must provide dispatch service because it is paid for by the general fund.
There are a couple of misstatements by Brown, council members, and Iacona. First there is no requirement that there be mutual aid agreements. The only time that one department will cover another without an ILA is when there is a declared emergency or disaster. An auto accident or not having enough ambulances is not such an occurrence.
I would doubt that MCFR personnel would agree to work with people that were not paid professionals. Even if such an agreement could be worked out between the two entities, the union would stop it cold. The equipment must also be comparable.
Answering 911 calls and dispatch are two different things. Indiantown will have 911 service handled by the sheriff’s operators. They will then send the calls for fire/ems to Indiantown, but Indiantown needs someone to dispatch the units. One person on duty as a dispatcher 7 days per week 24 hours a day is the equivalent of 5 people at minimum. The sheriff’s office is not going to be tracking Indiantown’s units and dispatching which go to what incident. That is real liability.
Right now, FPL has no plans to leave Indiantown. The implementation of a volunteer department could cause FPL to reconsider their Indiantown location. I would also venture to guess that if the same exact tax break is not continued, they would leave.
Let us assume that all Iacona’s numbers for cost of a department are correct. What I know that is not correct are the numbers that they claim the county MSTU is, and the FPL rebate are which would put a question in my mind as to the accuracy of all the other numbers being used.
Lastly, I saw a news report that stated Indiantown was paying the county for fire/rescue service. That is not accurate. The village does not pay anything. The taxpayer is charged through an MSTU rate that all unincorporated Martin County, Ocean Breeze, and Indiantown residents pay. The money is remitted to the county through the tax collector. Indiantown as a municipality does not send anything to the county for this service.
When the village has its own department, the amount that a taxpayer remits to the village will increase. Using the village’s own projections, the average homeowner will save about $20 per year.
The village cannot be doing it for $20. If no one is unhappy with the current service, then what is the reason? What is the motive behind this move? I do not know since it obviously isn’t for better service or more qualified responders. That old saying “a riddle in an enigma, wrapped in a mystery” applies to this.
You can have the entire presentation HERE
IF YOU ARE NOT A SUBSCRIBER DO SO FOR FREE HERE
COUNCIL MEETING APRIL 12, 2021
This was the proclamation meeting. It began with Habitat for Humanity receiving one. Then came the LifeLink Foundation. That was followed by The Inner Truth Project for “Sexual Awareness Month.”
After the proclamations came a resolution urging the legislature to stop usurping home rule authority. After about a decade of seeing these type proclamations at Ocean Breeze and elsewhere, I can write that unequivocally the Florida legislators (including our own) pay no attention to them.
The council extended the Federal Families First Corona Response Act regarding paid COVID sick leave policy.
Finally, during council comments, the RV problem was discussed. The RVs were supposed to be relegated to a small area by January of 2022. The catch is that because of the continued states of emergency that date is now a thing of the past. Every time there is one enacted by the governor, it stops any development timeline until after the emergency plus six months.
When the legislature enacted that law, it created havoc in local government’s enforcement of development orders (see how much legislators care above.) There is no court ruling as to whether two states of emergencies at the same time makes the six months run consecutively or concurrently. It sounds like a prison sentence.
At this point, no one knows once the Covid emergency declaration is lifted what will happen because there was another declaration enacted during a hurricane. This effects not only the RV placement but also other provisions of the development order with Sun Communities. As soon as someone figures it out, I will let you know.
IF YOU ARE NOT A SUBSCRIBER DO SO FOR FREE HERE
COMMISSION MEETING APRIL 14, 2021:
Mayor Pidot began the meeting by recounting his Coffee with the Mayor. He mentioned the entire home rule issue and how local government is deprived more and more of exercising this supposed constitutional right. He specifically mentioned House Bill 1053 which would give the Attorney General the right to take over any case that she found had a state impact.
With the erosion of home rule, I would not be surprised that in the future our descendants would be driving to Tallahassee to apply for a building permit. It seems that even our own representative thinks that the legislature is better able to write architectural codes that our local governments.
ZONINGS IN PROGRESS
There are currently two Zonings in Progress regarding dock lights and waterfront setbacks both of which were extensively discussed at the last meeting. The town has employed several consultants to advise the commission on what to do.
This has to do with resiliency. The Town of Jupiter Island is an exclusive enclave that prides itself on having homes in a beautiful setting. And undoubtably a piece of property that looks upon the ocean or the river or both is beautiful. But there are challenges to living in that environment.
I applaud the commission for trying to preserve that beauty. Not much of the public knows about the Island even within Martin County. The residents there like it that way as compared to the glitz of Palm Beach. I think they have it correct.
I also believe that they are willing to trade off what can be done architecturally for the preservation and natural beauty that is there.
Commissioner Heck has undertaken a project to find out what those residents who serve on town boards want to see. It is quite illuminating.
You can see the comments plus presentations HERE
When building on Bridge Road even on the mainland west of Federal Highway, it is a good idea to make sure Jupiter Island is on board. That was what this presentation was all about. It is true that the development will need SMRU to provide water and sewar for this to proceed, but there was more than that.
Becker Farms owns the 1757-acre site that was an orange grove. Currently, it is zoned for 20-acre ranchettes and it contains the Hobe Sound Polo Club. Michael Jordan’s Golf Club backs up against it and contains 257 acres of the property already. The remaining 1500 acres will be known as Atlantic Fields.
The 800-acre Becker Tree Farm, which borders I-95, will be placed in an agricultural easement. They will keep the open area that borders Bridge Road. The Polo Club will remain and will be open to the public. Some of the land will be returned to a flow way from Atlantic Ridge State Park south which had been cut off when it was agricultural land.
There will be a donation of a pathway into the park for hikers, bikers, and equestrian riders. Becker Farms will also build and donate an equestrian center in the park. The old Hobe Sound train station that is now used as an office will be returned to downtown Hobe Sound.
The Discovery Land Company will be the developer-operator in this joint venture with Becker. They are an luxury resort home land developer with properties in Portugal, Barbuda, Dominican Republic, Montana, and many more places.
There will be 317 home sites from a 1/3rd of an acre to 4 acres. The starting price of a lot is $3 million and then you build the house. They will have a clubhouse and golf course. There will also be a beach club with clubhouse somewhere in the area that will have limited parking and be accessed by member shuttle. It will not be in the Town of Jupiter Island.
According to the presentation, most residents of communities such as these have several other comparable homes throughout the world, so this is not for full time living. They estimate that occupancy at any one time will be only 20 to 25%. They are supposedly placing a deed restriction limiting residents from attending Martin County schools. Discovery through their HOA document will limit the number of days of occupancy for homeowners in the year.
There are no helicopter sites. Most will use Witham Field or Palm Beach. This is ultra-luxury living for those that can afford the price.
What are the upsides to a community like this in the county? Well, the county’s ad-valorem will grow by more than $30 million, and there will be no homesteads if the number of days is adhered to in the documents. This also stops the likelihood of a mass type home developer coming in and building hundreds of rooftops with the sprawl and congestion that will be associated with that type of development.
It will also make the likelihood of the Loxa/Lucie project happening much stronger. There will be a vested interest in having more property and especially wetlands and upland preserve area stay out of development. If we are going to preserve our western and southern environment this is a good way of doing it.
What is the downside? Martin County, at least in the southern half of the county, will become even more exclusive than it is now. Carpenters, plumbers, and painters will not be living anywhere near their work. Never mind having affordable, workforce, or attainable housing.
Yet weighing everything in perspective, it probably will keep Martin County greener than any of the surrounding counties. That also means there must be a commitment to develop more housing within the CRAs and municipalities. You need housing for working people, middle class people, and even professional people a place to live that is affordable.
More very wealthy people moving here may stop county sprawl. That only works if governments recognize its responsibility to approve denser projects elsewhere in the county so people can afford to live here. It is a balance. One that is doable if the county commission has the fortitude to demand it.
You can see the presentation HERE
IF YOU ARE NOT A SUBSCRIBER DO SO FOR FREE HERE
I do not believe our politics have been so fractured since the 1850s.
I came of age in the counterculture and anti-war movement of the 1960s. I began my business career and family in the dystopic New York City of the 1970s. Twice during that same decade, I could not find gasoline for my car during one oil embargo and almost went out of business during the second one when my trucks couldn’t find enough fuel during the Iran hostage crises.
I began to flourish, as did most of America, with Reagan in the White House. His sunny disposition and his policies left inflation in the dust and taxes much lower. While he did not agree with Democratic Speaker Tip O’Neill, they had no problem having a drink together and hashing out policy compromises.
That is the way government is supposed to work. It is not war between political partisans but policy disagreements that need to be worked out. That is no longer the case. Just like America of the 1850s.
That decade was followed by the Civil War. Is that what we are in store for? I do not think so, but I am not sure. And I guess that is the problem.
I want to see Reagan’s America rather than the America we have seen for the past 15 years. I am tired of the silliness that we call political discourse. AOC and Matt Gaetz are not my idea of great American legislators. They remind me of kids playing at adulthood…and too many of our state and federal officials are also doing the same. I want Tip and Ron back.
To read my take on both the Congress go HERE
IF YOU ARE NOT A SUBSCRIBER DO SO FOR FREE HERE
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)