City of Stuart
Friends & Neighbors is designed to give you the information that is happening within our County. My goal is to inspire you to get involved and make a change to make Martin County the best it can be.
There is lot’s to do!
THE FUTURE OF THE NEWSLETTER
This will be the last edition of Friends & Neighbors for 2019. The newsletter will resume publication on January 12, 2020 with the first one of the new year.
I will continue to inform you on what Martin County governments are doing in your name. It is important that you have information so that you can make knowledgeable and well-informed decisions when electing the people who are spending your tax dollars.
What won’t change in the coming year is the fact that there is no charge for subscribing. Friends & Neighbors will remain free to all readers. I write this as a public service to the people of Martin County. Our new format and website will continue to evolve and improve throughout the coming year.
Keep those emails and opinions coming. Knowing what is important to you is very important to me. There is real value in citizen input. It enhances our community when citizens can speak to one another.
With this edition, I have begun covering Jupiter Island. Not only is it a municipality but the Town of Jupiter Island owns the water utility that does now or will service in the future much of southern Martin County. That fact is terribly important to Hobe Sound residents and the rest of South Martin Regional Utility’s service area. The Town’s residents pay ad valorem taxes to Martin County government and deserves to have the sunshine on its Town Hall as do the other municipalities.
STUART’S NEW COMPREHENSIVE PLAN
At the public meeting for Stuart’s new comprehensive plan, the chamber was packed with empty chairs. Of the 19 attendees that were not staff, a large majority of those were not residents of the City either. If you do not count Commissioner Bruner, Ted Astolfi (a resident and CEO of the Economic Council), and me, there were two other Stuartians in attendance.
The staff did a great job with everything. Most people from unincorporated Martin County
complained about the manner in which Stuart does things such as annexation. This was not the purpose of the meeting. It wasn’t to be a gripe session.
The City of Stuart is the heart of the County. Everyone wants to claim complimentary citizenship. That has been one of Stuart’s problems. Too many unincorporated Martin County residents think they should have a say in how the City is governed. If this is their belief, then those people should petition to be annexed into the City or move within its confines and pay taxes to Stuart.
That fact is a constant irritant but not the main problem. Where were the residents of Stuart? The meeting was advertised. Is it that they don’t care? Will they come to the Commission during its meeting and complain after the new plan has been adopted?
Residents need to do more than just pay their taxes. It is a civic responsibility to see that government is acting in the best interest of the community. We need to be held responsible for how our government functions and not complain after the fact. There will be more meetings in the future. If you are a resident, how about attending and giving your suggestions for a better City.
To see the presentation:
At our home, we decorated for Christmas the weekend after Thanksgiving. To be truthful, my wife did much of the work. I was along for the ride as usual.
I love the Christmas season. It has taken me a while to adapt to being in shorts when I was more accustomed to wearing a topcoat. The season, though, is not measured in Fahrenheit or Celsius but rather in the joy that it represents.
We will be up north with our kids, friends, and grandchild on Christmas Day. At dinner, I will read Clement Clarke Moore’s “Twas The Night Before Christmas” as I have for decades. My grown children and hopefully grandchild will make accompanying sound effects to the words. And another tradition will be honored.
Every family has holiday traditions from the food they serve to the ornaments on the trees. It is important that they be handed down and new ones started as our children and grandchildren celebrate the holidays in their homes. Let’s light our trees and menorahs not only physically but have the light shine in our hearts as well.
I want to wish you a Merry and Happy Holiday whether you are religious or not.
I will see you in the New Year!
No Letters This Week
The next meeting of the BOCC will be December 17
There should be nothing more routine than the selection of the new Stuart Mayor in December at the annual re-organization meeting. The job has been rotated in the past with the Vice-Mayor becoming Mayor and then the next Commissioner in line would become Vice-Mayor. It has been something you could count on almost as regularly as the rotation of the sun.
Eula Clarke was Vice-Mayor and it was her turn to be Mayor. When she was nominated by Meier, she declined explaining that she had personal issues which precluded her from taking the position. There was some gentle prodding from the Commissioners, but she was adamant. Meier who was in line to be Vice-Mayor would now become Mayor if the earth was still revolving around the sun.
Then, out of the celestial blue, Leighton stated she could not support Meier or Matheson as Mayor since either wasn’t ready for the position. This is the same person that elevated Bruner to be Vice-Mayor, a few months after she was sworn in to be a Commissioner. And last year at the beginning of her second year in office Bruner, became Mayor. Meier is in his second year.
Since Bruner had just served her term, it appeared to me that Leighton was angling to once again become Mayor after her year off. If so, the other Commissioners were not buying it. In fact, the other Commissioners were in shock. Matheson went so far as to admit it.
Being Mayor is not exactly taxing. It’s a nice title, but beside presiding over the meetings and signing documents, it’s a figurehead position. As an aside, Meier is the youngest Stuart Mayor in over 60 years. But he is hardly without accomplishments.
Meier attended NYU, graduating with honors. He was making six figures in his early 20s in New York City as the director of analytics for a tech advertising company. He came back to his hometown to pursue his passion for urban farming. For several years, he was one of the owners of Ground Floor Farm in Stuart. When the partners sold the place to Co-Lab last year, he went to work for that organization.
As a City Commissioner he has proven himself, along with Matheson, to be moving the City forward. When elected, many felt they both would be anti-business or development. That hasn’t proven to be the case. But Matheson or Meier are not shills for the “Good Old Boys.” I can’t say the same for every Stuart Commissioner.
Vice-Mayor Clarke acted with real class. I applaud her for putting the City’s welfare first. This was the Eula that I knew and admired, and I am glad she is back.
Meier will make a good Mayor. Matheson made a motion for Meier as Mayor seconded by Clarke. It passed 4-1 with Leighton dissenting. Leighton made a motion for Clarke as Vice-Mayor with Matheson seconding. It passed 5-0.
The rotation continues if a little out of kilter.
NEW PUBLIC WORKS COMPLEX
The City has been planning on relocating the public works complex from next to Stuart Middle School on Martin Luther King Blvd. At first, the City was looking at the old landfill on Monterey. That site didn’t pan out because of soil and compaction issues.
It was decided to move to a site by the water plant on Palm Beach Road and 10th Street. This is where the City’s maintenance division is now and, along with other land that the City owns, a new complex will be constructed. An administration building for the entire department will be built on the site that will be able to withstand a Cat 5 storm. Public Works is the largest department in the City and the consolidation means that, except for the water and treatment plants, the entire department will be housed there. The Director and Deputy will remain at City Hall.
The plan calls for a concrete perimeter wall with heavy plantings. This should provide a barrier for neighboring properties. It is currently zoned for commercial use. The City will be going out for bids to have drawings made, and then in 2021, go out for construction bids with a completion date of 2022. The expenditures are already in the City’s budget.
To see the presentation:
During Commissioner comments, Bruner read a prepared statement regarding the high cost of land. It clearly was not written by her. Here is what she read as I received it from City records:
“1. There has been a lot of discussion about the cost of housing in Stuart and Martin County.
- Main reason housing is so expensive is the cost of land.
- The reason land is so expensive is supply and demand. Because Stuart and Martin County limit density and have setbacks and preserve requirements, there simply isn’t very much land available and therefore it is very valuable.
- AS A COMMISSIONER I WANT TO EXPLORE EVERY OPPORTUNITY TO PROVIDE HOUSING IN OUR COMMUNITY.
- We already have incentives to increase density above 15 units an acre in certain circumstances.
- The other thing we can address is the cost of impact fees. If we can decrease the impact fees, we can potentially decrease the cost of housing.”
Bruner made a motion for staff to come back with something for the next Commission meeting. It was seconded by Leighton.
So, what does it mean? When asked to explain she couldn’t. Sounds like the “Good Old Boys” are back at the trough. But why? And what is the rush that it must be ready for the next meeting?
A proposal like this should be workshopped and thought about in every possible way. There were two or three workshops on straws. This is more important.
I am not against reducing impact fees, but it must be done after careful consideration. What is the City trying to accomplish by doing so? If it is just to reduce fees, then the benefits will go disproportionately to more expensive condos, single-family homes, and townhouses.
It is a stated goal that the Commission wants to encourage density within the CRA including East Stuart and especially the Urban Center. The other goal that the Commission wants is to have more “affordable and workforce” housing. If you are going to cut impact fees, which are small when compared to the County, then it should go toward those initiatives to encourage them. Otherwise, the City is just increasing developer profits.
There is some talk about the transfer of credits from one lot to the other. A concept like this must be approached with caution. There is much to be considered from the mechanism for transfer and for what purpose those credits should be used. The mechanisms to do so can be complicated. If credits are to be transferred, they should go to reinforce the objectives of the City not to line someone’s pocket.
The motion passed 4-1 with Meier dissenting. I spoke to him afterwards about his vote. He voted no not because he is opposed to lessening impact fees. He wants to look at it holistically in conjunction with other policies. There is a workshop in January to look at housing and he thought it should be incorporated there.
Meier is right. These are only two of many things that Stuart needs to look at to have better housing plans. The Commission should not rush into something that should be done in conjunction with an entire approach to the situation. Don’t let the hogs drink all the water.
SPECIAL MEETING DECEMBER 9
The purpose of the meeting was to finalize the search timeline for the first appointed Superintendent. The Board took the recommendations of the Florida School Boards Association Search Services Committee.
Board Members said just what you would expect them to say. The candidates should have a masters and have executive experience. They should connect with the community, speak for the disadvantaged and know how to build partnerships. All the correct jargon was used.
The salary range is from $145,000 to $190,000 which is much more than the current elected Superintendent makes of $130,000. When Gaylord’s term ends in November, she will have been there for 8 years. In that time, the surrounding counties had 3 superintendents each.
As appointed superintendents go sailing off into the sunset with some regularity, they take flight with severance pay. When hiring, they land with signing bonuses and moving allowances besides other perks. Don’t worry Board Members…it is the taxpayers that will absorb those increased costs. At least when the voters picked superintendents, the person hired reported directly to their bosses.
One of Frank Fender’s goals when he became mayor was to have a strategic ranking of the Town’s goals. The important thing on this agenda was beginning that process. Fender is a data-driven person. He wants to have the metrics to measure results. I believe it is better than flying by the seat of your pants.
The agenda item can be found below:
I’ve asked Mayor Stone to let us know where he sees Indiantown heading. Here is his statement:
People often ask me: Where is Indiantown heading?
Some claim the council is moving too fast, others claim we’re moving too slow. I believe neither of these are true because, while development is complicated, Indiantown has a plan. Back in February 2019, the Village Council held meetings to establish a strategic action plan throughout the community. These meetings were complex and varied including the creation of Land development regulations, broadcast messaging, the composition of a village budget, retention of a utility engineering consultant, and the development of a comprehensive plan.
Since then the village has accomplished much, and will accomplish more, but I feel it is important to take a moment and explore work done to better understand the future.
Public Planning, Utility, and Business Developments
Out of all the areas Indiantown is developing, growth and planning is particularly important. As such, there are several projects ongoing I would like to highlight here. To start, we are currently researching if the village taking over the fire department, water, and sewer utilities is possible.
Additionally, construction of the Casa Bella apartment complex has been approved. The building will take up a half acre and contain 10 units. 3 of these units are planned as mixed use live-work spaces to better attract business and grow a healthy community.
Finally, a developer has proposed the construction of an industrial biomedical park located on SW Market Street. The company plans to manufacture eye drops, after relocating to Indiantown, and is expected to bring high-tech jobs to the area.
Public Works and Engineering
The Village has also made substantial progress on infrastructure. To begin with, repair to the Village’s Drainage & Swale systems are ongoing to increase public safety. And, for those interested, I am pleased to announce pavement resurfacing has been ongoing, despite decades of deferred maintenance, with more work tentatively scheduled to begin January 2020 for other areas in the community. With any luck, this change will improve travel on our roads and sidewalks.
We don’t stop there, however. Many of you may have noticed work around the Village’s various parks. I am pleased to say park clean-up has begun and, with any luck, their beautifying processes will substantially improve community returns. Additionally, reviews are ongoing for everything from estimates for chain link fence to electrical repairs with further information coming very soon.
These quality of life improvements are the reason we incorporated in the first place. And I know, both from speaking with all of you and from my personal experience, these critical changes are what residents and stakeholders alike want the council to be doing. I know the Village of Indiantown will continue to improve and I look forward to continuing this journey with all of you together because we are a place where great things grow.
Mayor Guyton Stone
ELECT A MAYOR
When the Council was contemplating charter revisions a few months ago, Dowling made a motion for the direct election of Mayor by the voters. It died for a lack of a second.
Council Member Dowling is now circulating a petition to have the Charter changed to allow for that to occur. I reached out to Dowling in an email, but he did not respond.
Why is he doing this? I don’t know. This early in the process, I don’t think any charter revisions should be made. The Charter was just voted on by the Village residents a little over a year ago. This document is the Village’s constitution and changes should be made only after serious discussion not to bolster one’s ego or political career.
When I arrived at Ocean Breeze the gate was down to the meeting place. I didn’t see any cars parked so I assumed the meeting was cancelled. It was not.
I was supposed to have received the minutes but haven’t as of my deadline. When I do, I will look and if there is something to report I will do so in the next newsletter.
This was my initial meeting for the Town of Jupiter Island. And there is a difference in its meeting from others in the County and municipalities. If I were going to chose one word that summarizes the meeting it would be well-ordered.
In most government meetings I attend, theatrics and politics are at center stage. Not here…at least for this meeting. For all those that believe that government should be run like a business, you need to visit.
For example, there was a financial discussion regarding its utility. The question at hand was whether it should refinance the bonds or procure a bank loan? Michael Ventura, the Finance Director and Deputy Town Manager, led the discussion. A staff member that leads a discussion is not unusual. What was unusual was that the Commissioners understood what he was presenting. There was no political grandstanding nor were there looks of boredom and blankness on their faces as the numbers were discussed. Only questions and comments were made that were knowledgeable and relevant by the Commissioners.
The Commission decided to go out for an RFP to solicit bank loans. They will then see if it is more prudent to borrow the money or refinance the bonds. There was a motion by Hall seconded by Collins to have the information for the January meeting. It passed 5-0
SEA LEVEL RISE
Dr. David Kriebel gave a presentation on sea level rise and how it will affect the Island. There is no getting around the fact that the sea level is rising because of global climate change and will continue do so throughout this century.
The presentation explained that Jupiter Island does not need to worry about ground subsidence because of Florida’s geological underpinning. The rate of sea rise, Kriebel explained was quite manageable. Many other sea side places will see both these factors occurring.
Since there is currently no hard data for the Island’s past levels, the rate of rise was probably 8 to 9 inches in the past century. There is now a gauge that was installed in March that will be able to give hard data going forward.
While it is serious, there is no reason for panic. It was Kriebel’s opinion that they should plan for a meter rise by 2100. The Town’s property is relatively high, and with good planning, this situation can be adequately managed.
The entire presentation can be found at:
What is more important…a political party or picking the right person to be elected? In the recent past, the answer was obvious. It isn’t so today. Americans stick to their party label as if to deviate is a mortal sin. Parties are the modern-day equivalent of tribes.
We once joined a political party because we believed that the policies espoused were the same as our own. This is not as true today. The platforms are not consistent. It seems policies are made up as they go along.
Nowhere in the U.S. Constitution are political parties mentioned. Both Washington and Adams thought that they could destroy our nation. Adams wrote:
“There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other.”
As we can see with impeachment, debate is based not on whether Trump has done something egregious that deserves removal, but rather, debate that has broken down along the predictable lines of partisan politics. This is not what our government was supposed to be about.
Over time, the Democratic and Republican elites have become entrenched in the mechanisms of government crowding out new parties from gaining a foothold in our political discourse. The two major parties have rigged the electoral system to favor continuation of party over everything else. Instead of thinking of ways to keep the other guy from voting, we should allow all registered voters to vote in “top two” primaries.
In those elections, which are currently only held in California and Washington, the top two vote getters face off in the general election. Party affiliation is irrelevant since you can have two people from the same party running against each other in the general election.
In a perverse fashion Trump has all but eliminated government sponsored Republican primaries next year. By doing, so he has accomplished what I want which is the elimination of government run and tax dollar paid subsidies to pick party nominees.
To read more on this:
GET THE WORD OUT
Friends and Neighbors of Martin County is your eyes and ears so that you know what is going on in Martin County’s municipal and county governments. I attempt to be informative and timely so that you may understand how your tax money is being spent. Though I go to the meetings and report back, I am no substitute for your attending meetings. Your elected officials should know what is on your mind.
The Washington Post writes that our first president almost died of the flu:
NPR tells us that school enrollment is dropping nationwide:
Again from the Washington Post an article on Amy Coney Barrett that tells the story of her connection to Martin County:
From Florida Phoenix an article on how both political parties agree that Proposition 3 should be defeated:
Annual Medium Income (AMI)
Basin Action Management Plan (BMAP)
Board of County Commissioners (BOCC)
Business Development Board (BDB)
Capital Improvement Plan (CIP)
Center For Disease Control (CDC)
Centum Cubic Feet (CCF)
Children’s Services Council (CSS)
Community Development Block Grants (CDBG)
Community Development District (CDD)
Community Redevelopment Board (CRB)
Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA)
Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR)
Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP)
Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)
Emergency Operation Center (EOC)
Equivalent Residential Connection (ERC)
Evaluation & Appraisal Report (EAR)
Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA)
Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT)
Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC)
Full Time Equivalents (FTE)
Future Land Use Maps (FLUM)
Health Maintenance Organization (HMO)
High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP)
Hobe Sound Local (HSL)
Land Development Code (LDR)
Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule (LORS)
Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual (LOSUM)
Local Planning Agency (LPA)
Martin County Fire/Rescue (MCFR)
Martin County Taxpayers Association (MCTA)
Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU)
Municipal Service Taxing Unit (MSTU)
Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY)
Organization For Economic Co-operation & Development (OECD)
Planned Unit Development (PUD)
Preferred Provider Organization (PPO)
Preserve Action Management Plan (PAMP)
Project Delivery Team (PDT)
Request for Proposal (RFP)
Residential Planned Unit Development (RPUD)
Right of Way (ROW)
Secondary Urban Services District (SUSD)
South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD)
South Martin Regional Utility (SMRU)
State Housing Initiative Partnership (SHIP)
Storm Water Treatment Areas (STA)
Tax Increment Financing (TIF)
Urban Planned Unit Development (UPUD)
Urban Services Boundary (USB)
World Health Organization (WHO)