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!
This has been a remarkable past two weeks. Martin County today is a different place than it was then.
I begin writing the next newsletter the day after this one goes into your mailbox. Reporting, writing, and editing takes a great deal of time.
I am not a substitute for a daily newspaper or online news service. At times, especially during these troubling times, information which was very relevant when I write it can may be less so by publication. I try to give you in depth information which is not available anywhere else.
The word journal is derived from French meaning a recount of daily activities. But the word journal has evolved to mean more than that. It can mean a place to go for activities that have transpired since the last entry. This is how to describe the newsletter as a place to record events, news, and opinions that have transpired from our last entry. That is why we have the feature on our website where you can see entire back issues and by sections.
For the latest as of March 21, 2020 with how Covid 19 is affecting Martin County read the last entry in News & Views this week. It has the Governor’s latest orders in full.
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As of March 19th, we have our first confirmed case of Covid19 in Martin County. I would think this will be the first of many more. Perhaps there has been so few because there has been no testing of any significance here.
There are probably millions of people with the virus throughout the nation at this point. Many won’t even know they have had it. Others will stay home (I hope) and think it is a cold or allergies or maybe the flu. The federal government is not providing anywhere near the leadership it should. The state is a bit better. Ultimately, it will be up to local governments to keep us safe.
I know some of us believe we should hoard supplies of toilet paper, paper towels and food. Humans need to be in control of something and keeping a century’s supply of paper goods fills that void. However, after you have a case of toilet paper and another of hand sanitizer, do you think you will have enough to see you through the next couple of weeks? From meat to frozen foods, everything you buy that you don’t need is something you are taking from someone who does. There are plenty of paper products, chicken, and frozen corn in the supply chains, so please consider your friends and neighbors when you are making purchases.
Martin County and the municipalities is where we should look for guidance. The spread of Covid19 will continue. We may need to hunker down for a while, but we will emerge on the other side. Listen, gather information, and follow instructions. This will likely get worse before it gets better.
THE SLOW DEATH OF AN ERA
Many things have changed in my lifetime.
I still remember listening to Gunsmoke on the radio with William Conrad as Marshall Dillon. As a kid, I could go and sit in the movies all day for a quarter, and we were kept in line by a woman dressed in a white uniform known as the matron. Kids could play ball in the street or an alley with a broom handle and a spaldeen rubber ball. That was as organized as we were.
I also remember having several newspapers in our home every day. The Daily News, New York Mirror and, in the afternoon, the New York Post. If my father was going to the racetrack, there would be the Telegraph to study the horses. My grandfather read Il Progresso, a paper in Italian. The New York Herald Tribune and The New York Times made appearances occasionally, but not very often since they were for the bosses and not the working man.
There were other newspapers such as the Journal American and Long Island Press that were on the stands. When I was in school studying languages, I would read El Diario for Spanish and L’Amerique (I think) for French, but in school we read the Paris newspaper, Le Monde.
As I said life has changed. Few people receive their news from print today. There are hours upon hours of mind-numbing cable news watched. Younger people rely on the internet without any way to know how truthful and honest the news is.
Back then, if you were looking for a job, a car, or to find out where a meeting was going to be held, you went to the classifieds. Who does that today? Yet by law, local government must pay to run ads in newspapers that few people read. Every year bills are introduced in the legislature that try to eliminate this wasteful taxpayer expense.
If you want to buy a car, you do research online. Looking for a job, you pull up the website Indeed. No one checks out the ads to find out if there is a special meeting at City Hall or not. Continuing to force local government by law to publish notices in print newspapers is not about transparency. It is about a taxpayer subsidy to a dying business.
To read more:
The markets continue to fall but irrespective of whether they go up or not, the U.S. is in a recession, and with the country now shutting down, it could be worse than 2008.
The market has been climbing for more than a decade, and it was due for a correction. Covid19 is the precipitator but not the sole cause of what will transpire in the next few weeks and months. This is more than a correction. Since the Great Recession, Wall Street has had a major disconnect from our everyday life. Many Americans never saw the benefits of the past decade economically.
While we are manufacturing more now than ever, factories are doing so with fewer and fewer people. The same can be said for how offices operate. Many things that once required people are now done through automation. That isn’t going to change.
Perhaps this time, America won’t try to hold on to an economy and jobs that aren’t returning. Many Americans believe that factory, mining, or other good jobs will come back if we only close our borders or reinstate antiquated work rules. Those jobs on assembly lines or in coal mines are gone. Our politicians need to tell the people that truth and stop promising a return of something that isn’t going to happen.
The coming recession may be brutal. Let’s not make the same mistake we did in the past and promise to recreate that past. It cannot be done, and it should not be done. We should take the hardship of a downturn as the opportunity to move the nation’s economy to the future.
UPDATE ON CORONA VIRUS AS OF SATURDAY MARCH 21ST
If you were planning on going to the dentist for a routine cleaning, then it has been postponed. Governor DeSantis has issued an emergency order regarding which medical procedures can continue and which cannot. To read the entire order:
The Governor signed another executive order banning all house in house dining in food establishments. Takeout is still available. Restaurants are also permitted to sell wine, beer, and drinks in sealed containers upon proof of age with meals only. As part of this order most gyms have been ordered to close. The entire order can be found at:
The last order is one that suspends the need to have local government boards have quorum in a physical setting in order to have a meeting. You still must have the ability to have public comment. To read the entire order:
I urge those who are reading this newsletter to send an email expressing their opinions on subjects. When a reader sends one, it will be included if I find it relevant and I have adequate space. I may edit the letter because of length and clarity. You don’t have to agree with me to have your letter in Friends & Neighbors. All you must do is send it to
Info@friendsandneighborsofmartincounty.com or fill out the form on the website.
Our first letter is from Scott Wells:
Hello Mr. Campenni,
I am a long time resident of Stuart and I have enjoyed your newsletters over the years although I have never taken the time to write. Today is the day I guess…
My wife, daughter and I live in the harbor front condominiums that are sandwiched between sailors return and shepherds park on the St. Lucie River. My wife and I have literally traveled the world and have found no better place than our little slice of paradise here in Stuart. We love it here.
That said there are two things I would like to bring to your attention in hopes that you can point me in the right direction or speak to the right people on our behalf:
The first is the crosswalk of the Stuart “Healthy Trail” that crosses Flagler Avenue and connects Sailors Return, Sunset Bay Marina and Shepard’s Park to the rest of the boardwalk and downtown Stuart. My wife and I walk the trail nearly every day and we see near misses between speeding cars and unaware pedestrians at that crosswalk multiple times per week (especially with out of town visitors and children who don’t realize how dangerous that crosswalk is). Who is the best contact to request additional safety measures at that crosswalk so something can be done before a tragedy occurs?
Secondly, today while on our walk out on the path, we noticed that an unusual number of boats were waiting for the bridge to let them pass and didn’t think too much about it. 30-40 minutes later on our way back through, the same boats and more were still waiting to pass. It was then that we realized that all the boats were waiting on the train bridge. We saw an FEC worker and asked when the bridge would go up since there is a large number of boats waiting. His answer was, “testing”. I replied, can you raise the bridge to let the boats who have been waiting pass through? He replied tersely, “we have to do our tests!” I said, “when will the bridge be raised?” He snapped back at me “10 minutes!” I tried to explain to him that this a prime example of why residents are so wary of FEC and the high speed rail. I said “can’t you do the testing at night?” His reply…”15 minutes!” I was furious with his reply and yelled, “raise the bridge!” His reply? “30 minutes!” Just wanted to share my own experience today (the best boating day we’ve had in two weeks here in Stuart) for what it’s worth. Profits always seem to be important than people in today’s world and it’s tiresome.
Thanks for entertaining my email and appreciate any help / insight you can provide. Appreciate all you do for the treasure coast!
All the best,
My answer to Scott:
Thanks for the compliment!
As to the crosswalk, I would start with the City Manager, David Dyess. I too have noticed people speeding. It is always a problem when you use cars within a City.
FEC is a different matter. That is why it is so important that we get a new cantilevered bridge that could be as high as the Roosevelt Bridge. Ill manners are ill manners, so I am not surprised with his response to you.
The next is from Michael Syrkus:
I remember (not so long ago) when Sarah heard had said we must identify our “needs and wants”, when it comes to tax spending.
Our previous tax increase initiatives have failed because the people of Martin County are tired of spending on wants, while their needs are neglected.
We still have no cohesive plan to replace the overly abused and ages sewer system in our county (outside of borrowing heavily to finance this). We still have no financial plan to address the Hutchinson Island fire station that needs replacing (outside of borrowing heavily). We have no plan to address the growth road development and overhaul that is related to the rapid growth of our population over the next decade…outside of hopes and wishes to a sufficiently increased tax base. Yet again, by that point, we will have plenty of out standing debt to catch up on.
So now we are pondering a tax increase to purchase more land. Do we not own enough land publicly, now? Do we not have other more important, or legally mandated issues to address? Can we not sell existing land to finance the purchase of new land?
Our county has a long and storied heavily on pretty objects and feel good projects, while neglecting the necessities that are supposedly the purpose of local government. This is not solely of the current administration, but for several decades as well.
I, unfortunately, am not worried about my self and my quality of life in Martin county, but instead worried for my 2 daughters. this spending policy is in no way sustainable, and it is our children who will pay the real price.
The next is from Nick Sacco regarding Costco:
Is Costco coming to Stuart on Kanner Highway ?
And my answer:
It is still out there.
The project’s developer will be doing more than just a Costco. There is also a residential element that he is trying to put together.
Believe it or not in this case it isn’t government holding things up.
Jeffrey Brown wrote on the Seafood Festival:
Port Salerno Commercial Dock Authority
Message: I read your article on the County Commission meeting regarding the seafood festival. I think you were right on with your comments. One thing that is alarming with the dock Authority is that Butch Olsen was voted out of the dock Authority last year. The fisherman on the dock Authority membership decided to remove Butch Olson because he was getting paid over $20,000 per year and they felt he was doing nothing in return.
Unfortunately, they voted in his cousin as president who hired back Butch Olson as some kind of advisor at the same pay he was making as president. Three other members on the board are also related to them. He also was the former director of the seafood festival. The dock Doc Authority decided not to put on the festival any longer after the Thirteenth Year which rained out. John Hennessy then decided to put on the festival himself and paid the dock Authority to say they were the sponsors. On the seafood festival website, Butch Olsen claims that the seafood festival is put on by the dock Authority when in fact John Hennessy paid them $15,000 to make it seem that way. John Hennessy had complete control over the 2020 Seafood Festival. Butch Olson spoke at the County Commission meeting as a big proponent of the seafood festival because that is how he gets paid a salary. In fact, it is not even enough to pay his salary. Seems like a huge conflict of interest. His position on the dock Authority now was made especially for him. Basically the Festival does not help the fisherman monetarily at all. They lose money not being able to fish and the fish companies also lose money by not being able to collect the fish. I think you are totally right having someone manage the docks for the fisherman. Thank you.
From John J Donnelly
Thank you for the news letter. Very informative.
I don’t know how I ended up on your email list, but my opinion is that everyone in the county should receive a copy of this. It provides a very informative platform of information I would have never known and the issues presented were all issues that every resident in Martin County should made be aware of.
I hope this news letter is something permanent and the future of it is being planned as you write it, for it should be a staple in every Martin County residents email.
Again, thank you for the very informative information you provided and keep up the good work!
John J Donnelly
And my answer to John:
Thank you. The newsletter grew out of my way of keeping constituents informed when I was a Stuart Commissioner.
Please feel free to share and then have your friends & neighbors subscribe. It is free to all.
Lastly from John Blackard:
Dear Mr Campenni,
Interesting to read about roof leaks and also some students falling I’ll presumably from mold inside Jensen Beach High School! In 2004 I was stationed at Jensen Beach High School during Hurricane Francis! I was a local government employee at that time, and we used the building as a “shelter”. The school was still under construction at that time, with the roof on and the majority of the interior completed including carpet, ceilings and walls. Nightmare is an understatement!! There were more leaks than I could count! There was not enough buckets or garbage cans to catch all the water!! Unbelievable! I spent most of my time in the front of the school and in the auditorium. Ceiling tiles falling, hallways were flooded, many of my co-workers went out and sheltered in work trucks or personal vehicles in the parking lot! Jensen Beach High School has been leaking since day one guaranteed!! I wouldn’t be caught dead using that school as a storm shelter!! Obviously, there are issues that should be addressed and folks that should be held accountable!! Just my .02 cents!
John M Blackard
PALM CITY FARMS
A couple of weeks ago, I noticed an article in Stuart News regarding the ongoing struggle between the Trail Association and some Palm City Farms landowners that startled me. It seems that the dispute over rights of way has escalated to people brandishing guns. That scares me.
This dispute reminds me of an old John Wayne movie…two sides arguing over open range and the preservation of their way of life. The character Wayne usually portrayed came to the rescue, and after he shoots the bad guy, everyone lives in peace and harmony.
I hope no one believes that they are the Duke incarnate and proceeds to think of shooting the bad guy for I don’t believe there are any bad guys. It is just a situation that has been allowed to go on for way too long.
I am a big believer of people being able to speak for themselves in this newsletter. In keeping with that, I asked both sides to write something expressing their viewpoints. The Palm City Farms Trail Association sent me the following:
Appropriate Solutions to Palm City Farms’ “Contentious Issue”
PALM CITY – With many rights of way obstructions in Palm City Farms having been restored to public use already, the Palm City Farms Trail Association (PCFTA) is eager for resolution to be reached with the few remaining hold outs. Escalated tensions have resulted from years of misinformation and misunderstanding about what the PCFTA considers to be a clear-cut matter of public rights.
In other parts of the country, folks might own to the center of the road, fear private liabilities, and even claim squatter’s rights but in this case, none of those factors legally exist. The chain of title of deeds in Palm City Farms list(s)”less road right of ways of record”, a fact further proven by no taxes having ever been paid on these right of ways.
The solutions available are not complicated. For those unwilling to remove obstructions from the land they are currently occluding, there are legal methods to employ, roadway abandonment and partial re-plat. An abandonment is used to remove the public right to use the right of ways abutting the property in question. Public hearings offer negotiation of equitable passage to be created that may be more agreeable to the applicant, the public, any relevant private parties, and the County. Another solution used in the case of
Canopy Creek, is a re-platting of the parcel where right of ways can be traded for alternative public use elsewhere, such as a perimeter trail.
Simpler still, the County has methods “on the books” to control the use of the right of ways. One ordinance already prescribes that the County indict right of way takers who refuse to remove obstructions. Currently this method, while lawful, has not been employed by the County. It is worth noting that a private lawsuit is underway with Ron and Patricia Shewmaker (not the PCFTA itself) challenging a group of right of way takers and Martin County. Several of the defendants have stated that if the County instructs them to return the public’s use of the right of ways- that they will. To date, the County has done no such thing.
Members of the Palm City Farms Trail Association invite inquiries and offer tours of the of the 13 1/2 square mile plat area in question with the goal of creating better understanding about the public’s historical asset out in the farms. To schedule, contact Tara Jacobs, Board Secretary, at (772) 260-5814.
Here is a link to their Facebook page they asked to be included:
The other side did not wish to comment because of their pending lawsuit:
Good evening Tom,
We are not going to be able to provide information for an article this month. We need to clarify and confirm some information and run it past our attorneys, as we are still involved in a lawsuit with this group. Sorry for the last minute notice. We would love to tell our side of the story.
I also asked District Commissioner Ed Ciampi on his thoughts:
My goal with the trail issue is to be as much an impartial moderator as possible. I would prefer not to give my position or opinion on how it should be resolved. Instead, I would like to get the two sides together per individual trail segment to reach an agreement. That strategy has worked well in the past. But the remaining few links that need to be addressed are the most challenging, which is why they are still disputed.
Thank you for shedding light on the issues, I think that will help move the conversation forward.
What should be done?
I don’t believe that trying to settle the issue in court is going to work in the long run. Courts pick winners and make losers. This is one of those instances where both sides will not be happy. It will take the County to move this issue forward and solve a few other problems that the area has.
There is not only an issue about trails but also a bigger issue regarding flooding and run off into waterways. Both need to be solved. We need to tie this in with creating a trail system in Palm City Farms.
Grants will be needed to create Stormwater Treatment Areas (STA). Many areas flood when it rains. To build trails involves more than just clearing brush and removing debris. Trails need to lay drainage pipes and have a foundation before building the surface trails. Why should the County spend all that money and end up with only half the job? If we want to be good stewards of our environment, we need to do everything possible to alleviate flooding and runoff ultimately into our waterways.
Not every right of way needs to be opened to create a trail. The important thing is that a trail is opened with the inclusion of biking and hiking. There will need to be land swaps and perhaps purchase of land so that the trail is contiguous. I understand people rightly or wrongly have built their homes and businesses predicated on the exclusive use of those rights of way. After so many years, their interests can’t be ignored.
Besides grants, a permanent funding source must be found. The best way would be a special taxing district to accomplish this. I have heard how unique Palm City Farms is. Now its time for the people of the area to show that they are willing to pay for their uniqueness. Most of the money collected will end up going for flooding and stormwater relief. So, it is not just to have a trail.
Commissioner Ciampi, you can do this. By using your charm and having the muscle of the county, there could be a settlement. Didn’t you want to be a hero like the Duke (except for shooting the bad guy) when you were growing up? Now is your chance to bring the two sides together and then ride off into the sunset…but stick around for another term.
EMERGENCY COMMISSION MEETING:
There was not much of substance. I believe the Commission felt that the meeting was to let everyone know that the County had a functioning government with elected officials that were not going to panic.
They will continue to have their meetings at the Blake which will be televised and open to the public. Much like Stuart’s meeting held the day before, seating was spread out in conformity with the CDC guidelines. While I felt that Stuart was a bit frantic in their decision making, I think Smith was right on target when he said that County meetings should proceed as regular as possible.
Ciampi outlined possible liaison assignments for each Commissioner during this unprecedented period. I don’t know why it is necessary if the County government is still functioning. While you can’t go to offices, you can make phone calls and go online.
Commissioner Ciampi was trying to be responsible. I just didn’t think the “class assignments” for the Commissioners were necessary. And my advice to Ed is let Commissioner Jenkins as Chair be the spokesperson. While Jenkins may be a bit taciturn, he certainly is capable of speaking to the County and reassuring our residents in that Gary Cooper “aw shucks” kind of way. As you can see the old movie western thing is a theme today!
COMMISSION MEETING MARCH 9, 2020
During Commissioner comments, Glass-Leighton stated that she had a joint Town Hall Meeting with County Commissioner Stacey Hetherington. It was regarding the Springtree development and was held for County residents outside the City boundaries.
I checked with Commissioner Hetherington, and she did not consider it a joint meeting. That meeting was noticed by the County as Commissioner Hetherington’s meeting, and there was no billing for “special guest star Kelli Leighton.” Hetherington said that Leighton called her and told her she was attending. Hetherington said to Leighton that would be fine since what else could she possibly say. Hetherington did speak to Commissioner Matheson about the meeting, but he wisely declined to attend.
There is nothing wrong with a Commissioner speaking to people even if those people are not her constituents. It is good to listen to as many points of view as possible, though a City Commissioner is not a County Commissioner. A City Commissioner is elected to represent the interests of City residents by City residents. When a decision is made, it should be in the best interest of the citizens who elected you which could be different than those outside the municipal boundaries.
Speaking of municipal boundaries, it is my understanding that all official meetings must be held within the municipal boundaries of the City. If Leighton is calling this an official Town Hall Meeting, it should have taken place within Stuart. Further Stuart made no public notice, and no Stuart official preserved any public record. According to the Florida League of Cities Officials Manual, “…requires that a city council “meet” solely within the territorial jurisdiction of the city; council members may gather at other locations but should not have a “meeting” there, i.e., should not conduct business or have discussions of subjects which might be acted on by the council at a later date.”
I am willing to believe that Leighton misspoke, and it was, in fact, Hetherington’s Town Hall. She only was there to listen to non-city residents speak about their opposition of the proposed Stuart project.
Perception is very important. If someone occupies one office while at the same time runs for a different office, his/her actions may be construed as political. As an elected official, you can only serve one “master.” Even when a Commissioner is running for re-election, motives for voting are questioned. In this instance, it is even harder to tell since Leighton is running for a different office, Property Appraiser.
This happened a few years ago when Troy McDonald, a City Commissioner, was running for the County seat that currently is held by Hetherington. His votes were sometimes questioned as to whether they were best for his constituents.
If you want to run for another office, then you should resign from the one you are holding. There are several hundred votes in the unincorporated neighborhoods surrounding the proposed City project. No matter how Glass-Leighton votes, it may look as if she is pandering to people even if it is for the best of intentions.
WHO DOES A CITY COMMISSIONER REPRESENT?
When I was a Commissioner, I made no secret of the fact that my only responsibility was to the residents of Stuart. I took no campaign contributions so no one could ever say I was bought. Businesses were important to me as an elected official but only how their operation and tax money would be beneficial to my constituents. People who lived outside the City were not the people I represented.
Stuart is a small place. As a Stuart Commissioner, how a road, project or policy affects non-residents is one of minor concern. With a population of fewer than 17,000 people, a Commissioner needs to make sure there is enough revenue to make the government run. Those that reside outside our City limits are nowhere near as important as the people who live inside the limits.
Several Commissioners then and now apparently have a different opinion. They are believers of the umbrella theory. Every squeaky wheel is important. If you wear a protest tee shirt you need to be taken seriously regardless of whether you reside in the City or not.
The Springtree project has several things that I think need to have done before approval. One is the retention pond needs to look more like a natural body of water with an irregular shape. Two, the buffer needs to be as required by code and not less. Three, while I am not against the density, it does need to be scaled to 3-stories at least in the one building that is closest to the line.
However, the most important factor for the entire neighborhood whether in the City or not is ingress and egress to the project. There are ways to reduce speeding and other issues. That is going to require the developer, and more importantly, the County to use the impact fees that will be collected. Everything from a road diet (narrowing the lanes at points), to a roundabout, to speed tables and crosswalks should be employed.
In some respects, this project will be a good one. Stuart Commissioners should look at it through the prism of what is best for the City. You can do that and at the same time be neighborly to the unincorporated Martin County residents. The City and the developer should be respectful and minimize the disruptions to their property.
The City has many, many rights of way and alleyways that are not used or maintained. Every so often, the adjacent owner wants to incorporate one of these as part of his property. In many instances, this has unofficially occurred. Things become even more complicated because utilities may have the right to use those areas for poles and staging areas.
The City came up with a way of formally abandoning those properties years ago. One of those instances of abandonment is a 50-foot public right of way along Osceola and Monterey. On one side of the right of way is Richard Baron’s home, and on the other is Snug Harbor which is in unincorporated Martin County.
Snug Harbor has rejected taking its half. Baron is agreeing to take the entire piece and pay the privilege fee that is part of the City’s code. The Public Works Department has no desire to keep the property. So then what is the problem?
Another property owner objects to it. The only reason I can discern is because he uses the right of way to walk to his son’s home on the Snug Harbor side. Why have we made abandonment so complicated that we are stuck spending expensive and valuable staff time on something like this?
It seems ludicrous that unproductive property that the City does not want, or need is kept. The City does not maintain it, and there is liability in owning it. In this instance, there may be perceived complications because the adjoining property owner, Snug Harbor, is a homeowners’ association and in unincorporated Martin County. I don’t think there is any problem in disposing of the property.
The more unused land the government can sell the better for the taxpayers. What is happening now with the method the City currently uses has many pitfalls that can be avoided. Instead of the Commission having to decide each of these abandonments separately, the City should survey every right of way and alleyway that is not being used. They can produce a map of those that are deemed surplus, the Commission can vote on it, and then those properties can be offered to the abutting landowners.
These properties are eyesores. Let’s get them into the private sector and on the tax rolls. They can give another 10 feet of property for a bigger yard. It can allow the homeowner to expand his home because he now has adequate setbacks. It is a win-win. The amount of tax dollars that would be added is not much in most instances, if any. But vacant and abandoned property can become important to those residents who abut.
Barron’s request will come back for further discussion. The Commission should see it as a property rights issue. When those properties were platted, these rights of way were dedicated to the government. It was to be used as alleyways or access to the rear of properties abutting it. That clearly is no longer the intention. The City needs to dispose of the property. The abutting property owners should be able to be the owners of complete lots.
Staff presentation can be found at:
Baron’s Presentation can be found at:
New Urban Communities, the builders of Azul in downtown Stuart, is now proposing a project in Avonlea consisting of 47 townhouses and 22 single family cottages. There will be a clubhouse and pool. The decision has not yet been made whether they will be rentals or for sale. They are being hyped as affordable but sales prices and/or rental prices were not given.
They are starter homes since they are 1000 to 1400 square feet. They look great and it is a nice small development for north Stuart. It abuts the preserve area. The Commission voted 5-0 in favor.
You can see the presentation at:
STUART SPECIAL COMMISSION MEETING MARCH 17, 2020
The first order of business was for the Commission to recognize the Declaration of Emergency that was signed by the Mayor yesterday. Matheson moved to recognize the declaration and extend the emergency date until April 13, 2020 which is the date of their next meeting. It was seconded by Leighton. The vote was 5-0.
Manager Dyess suggested that all meetings be held using “Zoom” during the pandemic. That system has the capability of having everything done virtually. It appears that Commissioners can have a meeting from their homes without having to come to City Hall. The public can also participate electronically.
Businesses use these electronic platforms all the time. Government is not a business. There is something known as “Sunshine.” According to Florida statute for meetings, to be lawful they must be done in public. There is even argument regarding public participation electronically and whether these virtual meetings conform to the law.
Florida law does allow for a board member to call into a meeting and participate electronically. Other Martin County Boards have taken the position that the meeting must be held in a public place with a quorum of the Board present. It appears to these other boards that a meeting held virtually may not stand up to scrutiny.
I am not an attorney and no expert on any type of law including governmental affairs. I could not find any Attorney General’s position on whether a municipal board can meet in the manner being proposed. I did find one having to do with a School Board and one with a local airport authority that would seem to suggest that certain conditions must be met in order to comply with the statute.
As to local boards, this office has noted that the authorization in section 120.54(5)(b)2., to conduct meetings entirely through the use of communications media technology applies only to state agencies. Op. Att’y Gen. Fla. 98-28 (1998). Thus, since section 230.17, Florida Statutes, requires a district school board to hold its meetings at a “public place in the county,” a quorum of the board must be physically present at the -6- meeting of the school board. However, as long as a quorum of the board is physically present at the meeting site, the board may use electronic media technology to allow a physically absent member of the board to attend the meeting. Id. Compliance with the requirements of section 286.011, Florida Statutes, “would involve providing notice and access to the public at such meetings through the use of such devices as a speaker telephone that would allow the absent member to participate in discussions, to be heard by the other board members and the public and to hear discussions taking place during the meeting.” Op. Att’y Gen. Fla. 94-55 (1994). c.
Airport authority members may conduct informal discussions and workshops over the Internet, provided proper notice is given, and interactive access by members of the public is provided. Op. Att’y Gen. Fla. 01-66 (2001). Such interactive access must include not only public access via the Internet but also designated places within the authority boundaries where the airport authority makes computers with Internet access available to members of the public who may not otherwise have Internet access. Id. For meetings, however, where a quorum is necessary for action to be taken, physical presence of the members making up the quorum would be required in the absence of a statute providing otherwise. Id. Internet access to such meetings, however, may still be offered to provide greater public access.
The City is relying on an article written for the Florida Bar. It appears the attorney that wrote it believes that the Attorney General opinions are wrong when it comes to quorum. He cites many opinions which state that in order to have quorum, a majority of the Commission must be present in a meeting chamber within the jurisdiction. Perhaps he is right, but no judge has ruled in this matter yet.
Before voting on anything, the Commission should be very sure of its position. Even during these unusual circumstances, the law still is the law. Government must continue and votes must be taken. If they take a vote that someone disagrees with that may ultimately be considered illegal, the City could find itself in an unenviable position.
There was something panicky in the way this meeting was held. Instead of being reassuring, it was a bit unsettling. When you can postpone all the meetings that are scheduled for the next three weeks and give as your reason the protection of people, it comes across as the Commissioners Protection policy. The School Board and the County are taking precautions, but they are still carrying out their responsibilities.
A motion was made to have the next Commission meeting on April 13th electronically using Zoom. Further, all meetings of advisory boards are cancelled. The motion was made by Leighton and seconded by Bruner. It passed 5-0
If you are interested the Zoom website can be found at:
UPDATE: THE GOVERNOR HAS SUSPENDED THE NEED TO HAVE A PHYSICAL QUORUM. YOU CAN READ THE EXECUTIVE ORDER HERE:
SPECIAL SCHOOL BOARD MEETING MARCH 16, 2020
I arrived early in order to make sure I could get in with the new rules in the Age of Covid. TV and print reporters also were there.
We were alone except for the hordes of School Board personnel that attend every meeting. I am still trying to figure out why, but I’ll save that rant for another day.
The Superintendent wanted a motion to be able to use the emergency policy that is already in place. I was perplexed, as was the Board. If the policy is already approved and there is a declared emergency, then the policy can go into effect. So, what was the reason for wanting a motion? Though Roberts had already made the motion and it was seconded by Defenthaler, upon reflection it was withdrawn.
Then came a motion by DiTerlizzi that was seconded by Defenthaler to declare the emergency. That passed 5-0.
The staff then tried to speak about how if teachers came into school next week to receive instruction on how to teach remotely, they would have to be paid. Roberts pointed out that teachers were scheduled to return from spring break next week and go into the classrooms. The money was already in the budget. When hourly workers were mentioned, it was also pointed out by the Board that they too were already in the budget. How any employee was to be deployed (even sitting at home) was up to the Superintendent. No Board involvement necessary.
That was the end of the surreal portion of the meeting.
Staff gave a report that three schools will have breakfast and lunches available for pick up anyone under 18. Staff would push individual carts out to each car as they advanced to the appropriate place in line. They would have the requisite number of meals for each car on each cart. There would also be walkup and bicycle lines. The three schools are Warfield in Indiantown, Port Salerno Elementary and Parker in Stuart.
IT HAS SUBSEQUENTLY BEEN CHANGED TO INCLUDE A FOURTH, HOBE SOUND ELEMENTARY
The District has 6700 laptops to lend kids that do not have one of their own for remote learning. Initially, it was only for one week. The time has since been extended to April 15th by the Governor. I suspect that the physical school year has already ended.
WORKSHOP MEETING MARCH 12, 2020
Stuart Fire Chief Felicione gave a presentation to the Commission. Sewall’s Point currently purchases its Fire/Rescue from the City.
The first thing he spoke about was Stuart’s Public Protection ISO Rating which is awarded to Fire Districts. Sewall’s Point receives the same rating as Stuart. The Chief’s Department has been awarded Class 1 status. Of the more than 36,000 Fire Departments in the U.S., only 373 have that rating.
Why is it important to the property owners? Because your insurance rates are calculated using that rating. In other words, they go down if the Department providing your service is highly rated. That is a Sewall’s Point benefit for contracting with Stuart. When you click on the link to the ISO presentation below, there are links embedded that really do a great job explaining the program.
Felicione also provided statistics for the calls answered by the Department in Sewall’s Point and combined with Stuart.
The statistics can be found at:
The ISO presentation can be found at:
WHEN IS A TRUCK A CAR?
For many years, there has been a prohibition on pickup trucks over a certain weight with other restrictions. You could have a truck. It just had to be under 5000 lbs. and be able to fit in your garage. According to Vice-Mayor Barile, the current ordinance goes back to 2005 or 2006 when Coral Gables had an ordinance that didn’t allow pickups at all. They were sued so the then Town Commission decided to have an ordinance that allowed them, but they had to be under 5000 lbs. which was keeping with state definitions.
Mayfield wants to do away with the weight restrictions completely. All the other regulations regarding 7-foot heights, no commercial uses, and keeping them hidden from public view would remain. Mayfield stated that trucks are the new family cars. Several residents spoke in favor and none were opposed. Campo said he bought a new pickup that exceeds the weight limit.
Barile thought that it was a slippery slope. He could see that 5000 lbs. may no longer be relevant. In the material that Mayfield presented there were 9000 and 10,000 lbs. trucks. Included amazingly were a few SUVs also at those weights. There are no restrictions on SUVs. After going back and forth, it was decided that 9000 lbs. should be the maximum. The staff was charged with bringing an ordinance back at that weight and keeping all the other rules.
It is true that times have changed. Pickup trucks and big SUVs are the old family station wagons. The Town needs to change its standards to match the times. It was mentioned several times that Sprinter vans are not allowed because they are over 7 feet in height. Perhaps it is time to loosen up on that restriction.
Mayfield’s presentation can be found at:
Chief Ciechanowski gave a report regarding what the police do with special details and community events. It is interesting reading.
To take a look:
SPECIAL COMMISSION MEETING MARCH 16, 2020
A motion was made to institute a Declaration of Emergency by Vice-Mayor Barile and seconded by Commissioner Kurzman. It passed 4-0 with Commissioner Campo not present.
The second resolution was to suspend paying time and half to employees during this emergency. Manager Berger explained that during Dorian last year the cost was $17,000 in overtime. She did not want to incur that expense this year. The motion was made by Barile and seconded by Kurzman to suspend the rule during this emergency. It passed 4-0. Taxpayers should be happy.
COUNCIL MEETING MARCH 12, 2020
Perspective is everything!
A very rational discussion occurred regarding whether to keep the Solid Waste contract with the County or not. If the Village was going to go on its own, it would have to tell the County by May 1st or remain for another year. If it did decide to leave, it would have to make the decision by March 27th in order to have enough time to pass the required resolution to terminate the Agreement.
The County has been working on a new contract for the past 18 months. They are in the final stages but there probably won’t be a contract done by March 27th. The Village Attorney explained that next year they could deal directly with the County’s hauler and cut their own deal so they could charge the franchise fee.
It appears to me that the Village is going its own way whether now or next year. I doubt whether the Village could get it cheaper than what they currently pay to the County. The County just has so much more buying power. For argument sake, let’s agree the Village buys the service for the same price and that the level of service remains the same. It could then charge the franchise fee to the residents and that would be some extra money to the Village.
The Village would still need the County Transfer Station which does charge for its service. Stuart pays the County tipping fees. I believe state law mandates that the County should be in sole charge of the “dump” for the entire County.
What Indiantown does not seem to be considering is what happens if the County cuts the Village loose on May 1st. I spoke with the County, and I was told they could tell them to pick up their own trash ready or not. Being independent is a two-way street. It doesn’t always happen on a timetable you want.
Perspective is everything!
The Council is putting together a committee to look at the bidders on an RFP to replace Martin County as the Fire/Rescue provider. According to the resolution, there should be one Council Member, one resident, one business owner, one financial person and two subject matter experts. It may be really happening that the Village will go its own way for this service.
I was a strong proponent of Stuart keeping its own Fire/Rescue before I became a Commissioner, while I was a Commissioner and after I left. Stuart’s Fire Department is over a century old. It has the highest ISO rating given which only 373 other departments have in the country. It has been built up over time, and it gives great value to the City.
If Stuart was forming its own today, the City could not afford it. It is as simple as that. Fire/Rescue is the most complex and expensive of municipal service to provide. Why would Indiantown want to tackle something so hard when they have a highly regarded operation presently?
Of the three citizens who spoke (Myrtle Green, Bob Anthony, and Craig Bauzenberger), each thought the service was already good, although Bauzenberger said everything can be improved and the County should realize they are not the only game in town.
Dowling said that MCFR (Martin County Fire Rescue) would still be in town and available to answer calls. Thomas believes they could get a better deal. Hernandez stated that if the County doesn’t want to deal with us then… I assume she meant too bad for the County. Stone relayed that negotiations with the County were ongoing and they would get a better price.
The following were appointed to the RFP Committee: Anthony Dowling, Scott Watson, Craig Bauzenberger and Myrtle Green. The subject matter experts and finance person to be named later. It appeared that they changed the composition that was in the draft resolution.
Hernandez made a motion to go forward with the committee that was seconded by Gibbs-Thomas. It passed 5-0.
The RFP can be found at:
I spoke with Taryn Krzda, the County Administrator, and she has a different view on any negotiations. Her email to me is reproduced below:
Currently – our station is within the Village boundary – but we are assessing options to move to an area that would be more conducive to respond to the unincorporated areas. The only way Martin County would respond within the Village limits would be if the County and the Village had an automatic aide agreement – as of this moment they do not have that. If the County was to enter into such an agreement – there would have to be a determination of the monetary impact for the Village to pay for that service to cover the County’s Fire Rescue costs so that the unincorporated area MSTU is not subsidizing the Village operations.
We do have an interlocal agreement currently for dispatch and dispatch is provided with Countywide general funds. Would depend on what the interlocal says – they would need to amend the current interlocal agreement for the fire services, and I think my folks would then want to change all the other aspects. If they want to operate on their own – then they need to do that. I do not believe the County would want to assume the liability of directing a private company with our dispatch folks.
Howard and I met a few weeks ago. Howard sent me an e-mail today insisting that I meet with him this week so we can continue to negotiate. His offer on the table as you can see is $4.4M – The Village currently contributes $5.3M to the Fire MSTU. The $5.1M was based upon the actual personnel assigned to that station but I told him it did not include about another $380K for some of the overhead costs and another $142K for equipment – so you are actually at a number closer to $5.6M. He argued that overhead and equipment should not be added. He also told me he wanted the County to continue to pay the FP&L TPP portion as we do now – which is $529,000 so the actual number they are looking for as a discount to the Village is closer to $1.5M.
At the moment – my calendar is pretty full and I do not have any plans to meet with him this week – and possibly next…
Taryn G. Kryzda, MPA, CPM
The emails she cited between she and Brown are reproduced below:
On Mar 16, 2020, at 7:17 PM, Howard Brown <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote
Thank you for agreeing to meet with me last Wednesday. I thought we made some progress on our continuing discussions about Fire/EMS services within the Village. I am writing to reiterate and clarify a couple points we discussed.
During our meeting, you indicated that it costs the County approximately $5.1 million per year to operate Station 24. As we discussed, the Village has completed a study of the matter, and our findings indicate that approximately 30% of the calls for service with respect to Station 24 are for services being provided outside of the Village boundary. 70% of the County’s $5.1 million annual operating cost comes to approximately $3.6 million. I mention this because I think one of the things you could provide to the board is the actual data report that spells this out in detail.
I may have been less than clear in exactly the way forward I was suggesting. As you know, the County currently provides Fire/EMS services within the Village by virtue of the Village having opted into the Fire Rescue MSTU. I did not mean to suggest that the Village could remain opted into the Fire Rescue MSTU, and then the County could pay or rebate over to the Village some portion of the tax revenues collected, whether related to TPP grant payments or otherwise.
Rather, I would propose that Fire/EMS services be provided to the Village on a contractual basis pursuant to an interlocal agreement, at the current level of service, and that the Village would pay the County $4.4 million per fiscal year for the provision of the services. The term of the agreement would be for three (3) years, terminating on September 30, 2023, unless extended by both parties.
I hope this clarifies some portions of our discussion, and I look forward to discussing this matter further with you.
On Mar 16, 2020, at 8:05 PM, Taryn Kryzda <email@example.com> wrote:
Understood – thanks. As I told you I would discuss with my Board your proposal.
Taryn Kryzda, County Administrator
Howard W. Brown, Jr., ICMA-CM
Tue, Mar 17, 8:46 AM
In reviewing this again, the piece you do not include – if 30% of the calls are outside of the boundary for the Village – during those times, we have other stations stage up to ensure coverage. So you can not just remove 30% of the cost – since coverage is provided 100% of the time – regardless of which apparatus is responding. This is a system, and the resources are distributed accordingly.
Taryn G. Kryzda, MPA, CPM
Tue, Mar 17, 10:59 AM Howard Brown
Morning Taryn and thank you for such a prompt response. As you know, I have time constraints that require me to terminate the agreement by April 9, 2020. It’s imperative we meet to negotiate a settlement price for these services. I am available to meet this week at your convenience. Thank you again and look forward to hearing from you as soon as possible.
It was decided to wait until Clarke returned at the following meeting.
REFERENDUM MARCH 17, 2020
There were two ballot questions to change the charter.
The first was to elect Council Members from specific seats instead of allowing the highest vote getters to win the seats up for election. The seats will still be at-large and be voted on by everyone in the Village. That passed overwhelmingly by almost 80% of the votes cast. The Council will have to come up with a way to differentiate the seats.
The second charter change was to transfer personnel policies from the Council to the Manager. That was defeated 260 to 193.
In August Stone & Hernandez will be up for election. Whoever is elected to those seats will then have a four-year term. It will be interesting to see if anyone runs against them.
SPECIAL COUNCIL MEETING MARCH 19, 2020
Like many other municipalities, Indiantown held a special meeting to pass a declaration of emergency. Their declaration gave sweeping powers to Manager Brown. It appears they are much more than either the County Administrator or other municipal managers possess.
The March 26th meeting has been cancelled. The next regularly scheduled meeting is April 9th.
The Village Manager has the authority to impose curfews, restrict vehicles, prohibit the sale of alcohol, close places of public assembly, cancel Village meetings, spend funds, limit hours of private business operation and many more powers enumerated and implied.
The resolution can be found at:
In conjunction with those emergency dictatorial powers, Brown has forbidden Indiantown Church of God from having a religious service Saturday at 6:00 pm. The church is located on Warfield Blvd & Tyler Street. The fine is $500 per hour or portion thereof.
Covid 19 is serious! Most religious organizations have suspended services for the duration. That would be in keeping with directives of the state and federal authorities. I know that I wouldn’t attend. And I think God would understand.
However, do we want government issuing edicts to our religious institutions telling them not to gather to pray? When this pandemic is finished, do we still want to have an America that abided by our Constitution even when times were difficult? The actions of this congregation are dangerous. It could have the unintended consequences of spreading the virus.
My question is should the state limit our religious freedom in the name of safety? Should Manger Brown or any local official have the authority that the Council has given him. Does the Council have the authority to do what it has done?
Brown’s edict can be found at:
COUNCIL MEETING MARCH 9, 2020
The Town did not receive very much input from Sun Communities at the long-awaited hurricane meeting.
And herein is the problem with the fundamental nature of Ocean Breeze. It became a municipality so that the Hoke family, which owned it all, could better control their trailer park. It wasn’t about home rule or local decision making. It was about control by one family. There is no way that the state would allow for incorporation today.
Sun Communities, the owner of the original Hoke trailer park, has really made a vast change to that area. No one could argue it isn’t better. Ocean Breeze remains a company town. Sun owns the land and, while they must conform to the PUD Agreement they have with the Town, they still hold the upper hand. It is a shame that when the residents had an opportunity to buy the park and then own the ground, they couldn’t pull it off.
The Town consists of three distinct areas. There is the Publix Center that is controlled by the owner of the center, there are the new homes in the rear of the Town that will be governed by their homeowners’ association and then the Sun portion. Once the homeowners begin paying Town taxes, the squawking by them will begin in earnest. The tax rate is way too high for the level of service.
Ocean Breeze has the highest combined millage rate in the County at 21.6038. It is higher than Stuart and Jupiter Island which have their own Public Safety Departments. Sewall’s Point has a Police Department and buys Fire/Rescue from Stuart. Ocean Breeze has a part time clerk, finance person, and Terry O’Neil, the Town Consultant, is part time as is the Attorney. There is very little infrastructure.
Sun Communities can ignore the Town because Sun Communities, along with Publix and the new home association, are the Town. There must be some value for the taxes paid. The government must be able to have ordinances that can be enforced. Ocean Breeze must serve all the people in Town including the new ones moving there.
Sun will continue to do the minimum. And at some point, the new folks will begin to revolt because of the high taxes, besides paying association dues for internal infrastructure. This Council and staff better get out in front before the revolution begins
Longtime Manager Gene Rauth has been to his last meeting as Town Manager. He is retiring from what must be a rewarding yet very challenging position. He is a CEO of a place in which many residents have worn that hat. The Town likes to keep a low profile yet make sure that Martin County knows who they are.
He is being succeeded by his 2nd in command, Michael Ventura. The hand off is to occur at close of business on April 3rd. Gene always treated me well. I am sure he may be retired from this job but not gone from Martin County. I look forward to having the same working relationship with Mr. Ventura.
There is nothing wrong with the Town’s fiscal situation.
For a place this small, it has a huge impact on the entire County. Mayor Pidot stated that 13% of Martin County’s taxable value is on the Island. The water utility has 10,000 customers. This is big business for little Martin.
The 2019 financial audit can be found at:
EVEN IN PARADISE
Former Jupiter Island and County Commissioner Anne Scott is looking for records.
The Mayor hosts a coffee for residents a day before the monthly meeting. At the coffee, people would put their names on a piece of paper so that Pidot would know who they were. According to the Town Attorney, it was not a formal sign in sheet nor is the coffee clutch an official meeting.
Virginia Sherlock, a Martin County attorney, made a public records request for a sign-up sheet for a meeting that was not required to have any. Will it go any further? Only time will tell.
Former Commissioner Scott addressed the Council regarding weekend parking at Town Hall for beach goers. The beach is a public beach open to all not just Jupiter Island residents. Pidot and Scott are attorneys, so legal jargon was used extensively during their exchange.
The gist is that this accommodation was reached with the County over a decade ago. According to Rauth, it has caused no trouble. The County is not pressing for more. The Town is not having any difficulties. So, what is the problem? Scott believes that the rest of the County is not appreciative enough of this gesture.
Scott proposed that a sign be erected that this parking was allowed by the benevolence of the people of Jupiter Island. That seems similar to when Leona Helmsley said to her maid that only little people pay taxes. I do think the days when you erect signs like that are past. Thankfully, the Council thinks so too.
Before the entire impact of the Covid19 pandemic was upon us, I felt that our free market capitalistic economy was being subverted. For some time, government has not been acting in the interest of the people but rather for big companies. Those companies strangle entrepreneurship with the assistance of their friends in government. Innovation is stifled.
Some of you may remember when they referred to a city in California as “The People’s Republic of Santa Monica.” I began my career in the other American socialist state known as New York. Until about 20 years ago, business was looked on as a cash cow to be bled but never slaughtered. Taxes for those of us who opened businesses or invested in commercial real estate were punitive but would never kill you.
The hard-working little guy was the bad guy while those that broke the law were ignored. It was easier to fine a store owner than lock up a drug dealer or mugger. For a brief little while, things changed in the Big Apple. Though during the past several years, the punitive business atmosphere has returned. I expect it especially now to be followed by the other government actions that made New York in 1970s and 1980s such a hell hole.
To read more:
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.
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)
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)
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)