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!
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WHAT IS OPEN AND CLOSED AS PER THE GOVERNOR’S ORDER MAY 18:
Anyone who has attended a meeting in the last couple of months has probably done so virtually. Many Treasure Coast governments are doing nothing but virtual meetings. My question is whether it gives the public proper access?
I am going to say that it has worked fairly well. It has allowed government to make decisions and at the same time allowed the public to stay engaged during the pandemic. Is it the same as being there in person? No! For someone like me who reports on governmental bodies, attending allows me to see body language, appearances, and how the public perceives what is being said.
Once we return to having meetings in person, we will hopefully still maintain the ability for the public to watch and participate from home. Then, government will have a major accomplishment with transparency and sunshine. There are probably technical problems I have not imagined. Though if it can be done during a pandemic when the entire governing body is remote, how much easier it should be when only a few souls will be participating in that forum.
Then, there is the County Commission. Yes, they are meeting in person and they are socially distancing. They also televise on Martin County TV, Facebook, and YouTube. People can watch, but they cannot participate. No matter how well Assistant County Administrator Stokus does in his dramatic reading of email comment…it is not the same.
Commissioners Heard, Ciampi and Hetherington put certain items from April over to the May 5th meeting because they wanted to be transparent. Nothing in the meeting that was just held and reported on below changed from the meeting in April. There was not any means to virtually attend and comment. Yet the items went ahead without objection from the three Commissioners. What happened? Staff instituted the call in, where staff would call you when it was your turn to speak. No citizen took advantage. Do you wonder why?
If municipalities like Indiantown and Sewall’s Point, which had 89 participants, can give the public access virtually, so too can Martin County. The principles of transparency have not changed from the end of April to the beginning of May.
WHAT GOOD ARE RULES?
In Stuart, downtown has a rule that no more than 30% of the total space be occupied by businesses that sell alcohol. It was adopted to have not only bars and restaurants on Osceola Street but other types of merchants as well. Years ago, the City Commission thought it was a good thing. I understand that now staff has gone ahead and has allowed that rule to be expanded by inaction.
There was no discussion and no debate…only at some point an oops! And the Commission will have no choices but to go ahead and allow it to happen. Businesses have spent considerable funds without staff informing them of the rule. Perhaps that rule is arcane and should be looked at and changed. The Commissioners, merchants, and the public should debate the merits of any change.
According to Stuart’s Comp Plan, Colorado Avenue is classified as Urban General or Urban Center. As such, there are different architectural features that are required. Buildings are supposed to be no more than 3 stories but at least 2 stories. Stuart has yet to approve anything but single-story buildings on the street and have disregarded the architectural standards.
Last week, as a member of the CRB, I voted to approve a one-story building. I did so with the comment that this is not what is supposed to go here. Obviously, the market is telling Stuart something different than what the rules say. So, does Stuart continue to ignore the Comp Plan or do we have a workshop to update it?
Several months ago, at another CRB meeting, a project was approved that again was a one off. I asked staff for a workshop so that we can discuss what should go on the U.S. 1 corridor. The other board members and I are still waiting. Ultimately, any changes go before the Commission but the CRB can do some of the legwork and reflect the community.
Last year after several workshops within East Stuart, a plan was squashed after neighborhood input to have an Urban PUD instead of the existing East Stuart district. There are rumors that a developer is considering building between 30 and 60 units an acre on the Taylor Property located on East 10th Street. While this will be affordable housing, it will change the character of that neighborhood. There will be many more apartments than what could be absorbed with just people from East Stuart, Stuart, or even Martin County. That low-rise neighborhood will be forever different.
There is a reason why planning is important. Planning is more than just the development department waiting for individual projects to come in on individual parcels. While the PUD process allows give and take, the overall character of an area needs to be considered. New projects do not need to be comparable but compatible. The difference is called proper planning.
To read about downtown and LIQUOR
Vicki Davis, the Supervisor of Elections, is getting ready for the 2020 election. Because of Covid-19, this may be a very unusual election season. The Supervisor wants to promote Vote by Mail. I personally believe we should all receive ballots by mail.
For every election, I receive a ballot in the mail. Many times, I end up bringing it with me to the Supervisor’s office, giving it the staff unfilled, and then voting in person. Having a ballot mailed to your address does not preclude voting in person. You still only vote once whether it is by mail or in person.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
This week, the Stuart City Commission voted to change the charter concerning the length of Commissioners terms and adding term limits. These changes will be made by referendum.
The Charter Review Board recommended extending Commissioner terms to four years for no more than two consecutive terms. There were several reasons to make the term four years. The two-year terms no longer serve a purpose. The old “vote the rascal out if he doesn’t do what I want,” is sort of meaningless. Except for Nick Blount, who was appointed to the seat a few months before the election, no Stuart City Commissioner who has run has not been elected to a second two-year term.
Having two-year terms has resulted in two Commissioners, currently Leighton and Bruner, running in off years. How many of you even realized that there was an election last August? Being in those two seats guarantees being there for as long as you want. This, of course, brings us to the second part of the referendum– term limits. By having 4-year terms, every Commission election would be held either in a presidential year or gubernatorial one resulting in higher turnout.
The Charter Review Board wanted to extend Commissioners terms but tie it to appropriate term limits. In effect, the Commissioners would not have to think constantly about re-election and the voters would know that they would only be in office for eight years at most. It was a win-win. Unfortunately, as is too often the case, the Commissioners are willing to take an added benefit (4-year terms over 2-year terms) but not the 8-year limitation. They instead opted to give themselves 12 years.
I need to apologize to Commissioner Leighton. In the last newsletter, I wrote that she opposed term limits. She brought this up at the May 11th meeting. I went back and listened to the tape and she clearly stated that she was in favor of term limits. She and the other Commissioners were in favor of term limits…just not for only 8 years which three vehemently expressed. Instead the Commission voted to have limits of 12 years beginning in January if the referendum passes. The current Commissioners would start fresh, and none of their current years served would count toward the 12 years.
I have concluded that elected officials overseeing their pay (another Charter Board recommendation that was eliminated by the Commission from going to the people), qualifications and length of terms is an impossibility. I have heard that they can be voted out of office. It is a fact that not only in Martin County, but the entire country, incumbents are nearly bullet proof. In the elections this year for all of Martin County, there are so far two contested races, Property Appraiser and one of the School District seats.
I never thought I would say this, but the state needs to impose term limits on local offices including the Constitutional ones. They need to set pay for municipalities as they do for County officials. Currently, County Commissioners are paid depending on population. The legislature needs to do the same for municipals. If there are term limits, then there is no need to either have medical coverage or retirement benefits. This is a drain on municipal finances and leads to individuals looking for an easy job.
If we have imposed term limits on the president, governor, and state legislators, it should be good enough for the County Commission and City of Stuart. Let us return all government to being public service in more than just name only.
There are some interesting ones this week:
From the Visual Capitalist showing how land is used. Only 2% is URBANIZED
What is the future of warehouse AUTOMATION?
And finally, America’s energy consumption broken down in one Chart
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 Shirley Branstom re Hobe Sound Beach:
Just a question. Why is Hobe Sound beaches and the Refuge closed when other beaches are open along with other Animal Refuges in the state have opened?
And my reply:
The County Commission felt that the Hobe Sound Beach located on Jupiter Island would be inundated with out of county residents. As to the Refuge that is a federally managed area. Perhaps Congressman Mast’s office can answer that question. You can email him at:
The next letter points out an error I made last week concerning a Stuart Commission race:
Caryn Hall Yost-Rudge
Subject: Seat IV Stuart City Commission
Message: I’m also running…..all paperwork in except bank account.
From Deborah Wilson regarding the quote on the cover of the newsletter:
Of all Plato’s quotes this one not appreciated. I am a American my Constitutional rights are still in place.
My answer to her:
You are going to have to explain what the quote has to do with any constitutional rights.
From Heather Hackett of Hobe Sound:
Hi Tom, this is what is concerning me and the email I sent to all the Martin County Commissioners and the Sheriff. Would appreciate you calling attention to this matter. Thank you.
At the Martin County Commissioners’ Special COVID-19 board meeting on Friday, May 1, 2020, the Board voted to open all Martin County beaches…..except Hobe Sound beach.
The justification for this is, it is too close to Blowing Rock, Coral Cove – closed beaches – so Palm Beach County residents will come; evidenced after only one weekend, weeks ago when this happened. But per Taryn Kryzda, County Administrator, the Sheriff reported almost half of those from that weekend were from St. Lucie County! But now that their beaches are open this will not be the case again. At this meeting the Sheriff assured the Board he has all the assets he needs to keep Martin County beaches safe and orderly and if he needs anything, Commissioner Doug Smith assured him the Board will provide it, apparently for all the other beaches ……except Hobe Sound beach.
With all the numerous votes there was discussion; how kids need the playgrounds, the pavilions are the same risk as sitting at a restaurant, opening beaches without the limitations like St. Lucie County i.e. allow chairs, etc.; but not one sentence of discussion how the Commissioners could be creative to open Hobe Sound beach for its residents. There are so many ways to mitigate the concerns about crowding: limit open hours and days – mornings only, just weekdays – as the Sheriff said these days are no problem, just weekends; close the auxiliary parking at Jupiter Island City Hall; enforce parking lot limits, etc. Plenty of police assets are currently being used to keep Hobe Sound residents off the beach, perhaps they could be used to orderly let residents on the beach. As Commissioner Smith pointed out, other Counties in our State have taken the time for their residents to find ways around the limitations from the state and federal grants restrictions that forbid the County from limiting access to only local residents. Perhaps our County attorney could make this a high priority. There are so many solutions the Board could have come up with to not discriminate against Hobe Sound residents and yet there was not even an attempt to do so, so all beaches are open…..except Hobe Sound beach.
But then Chairman Jenkins betrayed the truth…..Jupiter Island residents do not want the beach open. Why would they, they haven’t been denied any recreation throughout this closure – their golf course has stayed opened, their boat docks have stayed open, they can go on the beach whenever they want, only residents living on the other side of the bridge are denied recreation on our beach. Mr. Jenkins, you represent the interests and well-being of all your Hobe Sound constituents as we too vote. But the Board, without reasonable discussion to find a solution, chose to open all Martin County beaches…..except Hobe Sound beach.
The Board’s actions in denying only Hobe Sound residents west of the bridge access to their beach, at the very least is discriminatory and most likely illegal. What legal standing is there for singling out Hobe Sound residents west of the bridge, the only ones in this County who have had their rights removed to access their beach – there is no Federal or State government mandate – just this Commission so obviously kowtowing to the monied residents east of the bridge. My request to the Board, by your next meeting on Friday, May 8th, to please collectively come up with a working solution for the prejudiced Hobe Sound residents to use their beach, so that all Martin County beaches are open…..including Hobe Sound beach.
Hobe Sound resident
And from Judy Chisolm:
Just wanted to thank you for this newsletter – always informative and interesting and to the point!
Steve Silliker writes:
Message: please explain to me,why,the board feels compelled to hire a consultant for almost everyday issue that all county gov. has too deal with.Makes me wonder what the standing staff does to earn their pay!As a 35 yr. resident I have to wonder if the staff is so incompetent that the board needs cover if any issue goes wrong! This pattern never ends,good money,after bad. Your thoughts!
For the most part I agree with you.
For very technical matters you will need to have consultants. Though often it is awa
COMMISSION MEETING MAY 5, 2020
There was not a dry eye in the house as Martin County government said goodbye to Nicki van Vonno, Growth Management Director. After 32 years with the County (20 years of which she was the Director), she is retiring from her job. It is an amazing accomplishment.
Amazing because she had to have had the toughest job in the County. Nicki was beat up by developers, builders, Commissioners, no growth enthusiasts, and all that thought they should receive favors or for any other reason imaginable. Martin County policies could change with different Commissioners being elected. She would have to swing from pro to anti and then back again depending on the direction of the Board.
She will be missed.
SFWMD & CORPS PRESENTATIONS
At least when they speak, representatives of South Florida Water Management District and the Army Corps of Engineers sound as if there is harmony between the two agencies and everyone else. Which goes to prove that if you have money, you can get things done. The President’s budget has $250 million in it this year after a record setting $200 million last. Much of the credit goes to the governor and Congressman Mast for making sure we did not fall by the wayside.
Both Commissioners Heard and Smith have an amazing amount of knowledge about our water projects. That is one good thing about being there forever…a great recollection of what has been done previously and how the different pieces come together.
There were a couple of tidbits that I thought interesting. Every foot less in the lake translates into 430,000-acre feet of water or 140,116,115,712 gallons of water. So, keeping the level at about 11.5 feet going into the wet season instead of 12.5 feet where at that level there would be releases saves that amount of water flowing down the St. Lucie and into the Indian River Lagoon.
There is still much to be done. It is not only about us that are on the St. Lucie. The Lake provides irrigation and drinking water for the EAA and Palm Beach County. There are many constituencies that need to be satisfied. Just as we did not want to be ignored neither do the people and interests north and south of the lake.
There was some good momentum started when the Commission wanted to have a working group so that the School Board and the municipalities can know what Martin County is doing. It may have gotten sidetracked with the pandemic, but we cannot forget it. I urge the Commission to follow through and not forget.
The Army Corps and the SFWMD presentations that do complement each other can be found Here
A new Publix is being built at Kanner and Pratt Whitney Road.
These are two commercial roadways. The proposed Publix site is one parcel but has two designations both agriculture and commercial. Logically, it should only have one. There is already enough residential development that will support a supermarket being built there. The USB will be extended 599 feet to cover the entire property.
Anytime that a piece of property is developed, we need to ask ourselves whether the public is being served. In this case, they are. The area already has several developments. If you want to stop sprawl, stop having endless suburban homes being developed without planned commercial development. Now the people living there must drive miles to buy groceries, and that is not exactly good planning.
A motion was made by Smith that was seconded by Hetherington. It passed 4-1 with Heard dissenting.
To see the Presentation
For some time, the City of Stuart has allowed registered golf carts to be driven on City streets. It was an idea that seemed like a no-brainer at the time it was enacted. I would have thought more people would have taken advantage of the ability to do so. Unfortunately, not too many have done so.
I think one of the reasons I have not bought a cart is because it is unclear whether I could drive my cart across Federal Highway to go downtown from my home. Perhaps that worry may be a thing of the past soon.
The County is looking into designating “golf cart communities” in the unincorporated areas so that it would be possible to use golf carts throughout Martin and then to cross County roads to go shopping, etc.
You still would not be able to drive on roads that have speed limits of more than 35 MPH. If you lived in Palm City, you could cross Martin Highway and get to the other side. I would assume that the County ordinance will be like Stuart’s and require insurance, brake lights and other safety features.
Many of us confuse Golf Carts with what are known as Low Speed Vehicles. Think of a tricked-out golf cart that has things like windshields, lights, and seat belts. They can go no more than 25 miles per hour. The vehicles are registered and insured just like a car. They can cross any road but cannot be driven on roads with speed limits of greater than 35 miles per hour.
This was discussed at the meeting. There seemed to be clear direction to bring back an ordinance to allow for golf cart communities throughout the County. It would seem to me both type of vehicles would be great options for residents to have. In some instances, it may negate the need for that second car for families. I hope the County can seriously move forward with this and not get bogged down as sometimes happens.
The County’s presentation can be found Here
Stuart’s current rules, state statute on slow moving vehicles and golf carts can be found Here
The Board is looking for re authorization to grant tax relief to certain businesses to locate in Martin County. It is being pushed by the Business Development Board as an arrow in the quiver or a tool in the toolbox (and any other tired metaphor) to take tax dollars from one taxpayer and give it to another. A tired gimmick that has not been used very effectively or very frequently in the past. So why should it continue?
Study after study have proven that these gimmicks just are corporate welfare. If government spent that money on schools, roads, parks…all the things that make communities attractive… companies are more likely to locate. The business of government is not business. It is to provide good government. When you conflate the two, you get no business and bad government.
I do not want my tax dollars going to subsidize a rival company. I do not want my tax dollars being spent on anything but the functions of government. When will our elected officials stop playing make believe games and do what we put them in office to do? It was not to pick economic winners and losers. I urge you to vote no on this referendum question.
The draft resolution can be found Here
SPECIAL COMMISSION MEETING MAY 8, 2020
The Sheriff reported on compliance. He said restaurants had not been a big challenge. The beaches were extremely busy with 60% of the users being from out of the County. Boat ramps and sand bars were used very heavily. It is impossible to enforce social distancing at the sand bars. Snyder said it was just not practical.
A motion was made to use outdoor parking areas for dining. Restaurants can put up tents. Hetherington wanted to make sure that fees were waived. Smith says that the businesses will figure it all out. It passed 5-0
The owner of the Jensen Beach bowling alley again made a pitch to be reopened. The decision about which businesses can be reopened are up to the governor. The Commission can only make regulations more stringent. Ciampi made a motion to send a letter to the governor and state representatives regarding reopening. Smith seconded it passed 5-0
Ciampi made a motion to open the batting cages in the parks. It was seconded by Hetherington. It passed 5-0. Ciampi made a motion to open playgrounds that was seconded by Hetherington. The motion passed 4-1 with Smith dissenting. A motion was made by Smith and seconded by Ciampi to open the splash pads. It passed 4-1 with Heard dissenting. All the motions are based on the social distancing guidelines being used.
BEACHES OPEN FOR MARTIN
For a couple of months now, every time a Commissioner wanted to restrict beach access to Martin County residents, the County Attorney said because the County takes federal and state dollars for re-nourishment and other beach programs, the beaches must remain open to all.
Change of plans! Ms. Woods reached out to the state and feds and received no formal replies. To our south is Florida’s Corona hot spot. Nothing has changed in the past few days except that the Commissioners want the beaches only for Martin County residents. The staff legal rationale is that because of the state of emergency, they could do something this week that they could not do last week.
Administrator Kryzda spoke to her counterparts in both Palm Beach and St. Lucie Counties. While they may have concerns, St Lucie’s beaches are already open. Sheriff Snyder said he would set up checkpoints to verify IDs. It was decided that Jupiter Island would remain closed.
Smith wanted to make sure that guests could still use the beaches in front of their hotels. He was assured they could. Snyder said there could be a lawsuit. The Commissioners did not seem overly concerned. That is what tax dollars are for, I guess. A motion was made by Hetherington and seconded by Smith. It passed 5-0.
SPECIAL MEETING MAY 15, 2020
Rob Lord of Cleveland Clinic gave a presentation to the Commission.
The hospital is now allowing one visitor per patient per stay. It seems that people, who are ill, are not coming to the hospital. They are allowing emergency situations to become worse for fear of the virus. At present COVID patients are on one ward. People should not ignore symptoms until it is too late.
Lord went on to say that the supposed herd immunity theory is not the best policy. It is estimated for COVID-19 that 70% of the population would need to have had the virus to have enough protection for the entire population. Cleveland Clinic estimates that 2% have been exposed. By the time 70% would contract the disease at present rates it would take years. That is not to mention the death rate and medical facilities being overrun. We still do not know how much immunity is conferred on the individual once you have had the virus.
WHAT ELSE CAN THEY DO?
Commissioner Heard has seen fewer and fewer people wearing masks and social distancing. She states that according to the statistics we are going in the wrong direction. I agree with Heard. The daily numbers are not re-assuring. She seemed to want mandatory face covering but there was no other Commissioner that was interested.
Taryn Kryzda did not think that anything mandatory could be enforced. Hetherington made the comment to educate and not legislate. I am not so sure that the limited regulations we currently have are any longer going to be tolerated by most of the public. The final determinant will be how much sickness and death can we accept as a society to have a beer at a bar.
BASEBALL & BEACHES
Commissioner Ciampi wanted to open the athletic fields to organized play. He had Mark Rogers from Martin County North Little League there to answer questions. He made a motion to open the fields, but the governor’s order still forbids that from happening. A motion was made by Ciampi to open the fields to all sports as soon as the governor allows. It was seconded by Smith and passed 5-0.
I was surprised Heard did not vote no, considering what she stated earlier. I reached out to her but had not heard back in time to include her answer here.
People do need to take some personal responsibility for their actions. Government can only pass restrictions that the overwhelming majority believe is necessary to keep everyone safe. If more people than not do not want to abide by a law or regulation you cannot enforce it.
It seems to me that we closed the schools for two months to keep kids apart. They were deprived of learning for their physical wellbeing. Here we are ready to allow sports just in time for what would have been the end of the school year. No one can say Martin County does not have their priorities straight.
Since Palm Beach had not decided whether their beaches would be opened, the Commission will wait to see what to do regarding Hobe Sound Beach. They meet again next Tuesday.
SPECIAL COMMISSION MEETING MAY 4, 2020
The Commission convened a special meeting to discuss the easing of restrictions considering the governor’s order that was taking effect that day.
First, they had several presentations from their own staff and the Business Development Board. Suffice it to say, there was nothing that I need to spend time writing about. If you do wish to see the BDB, a presentation named Stuart Strong, or the Development Directors concentric circles regarding restaurant tables and social distancing, they are Attached
Of greater importance was when the summer program at the Stuart Recreation Center was going to open. It was decided to start the program on May 18th for those children whose parents will be back to work. There will be 9 children per group, and once capacity is reached, program registrations will no longer be accepted.
The Commission wanted to close Osceola Street to allow for adequate social distancing and restaurants to be allowed to have outside dining. Unfortunately, the next day after the City Manager and staff polled the store owners, they overwhelmingly did not want the closure. Instead the City will temporarily close parking spaces in front of restaurants that do not currently have outdoor dining. The Commission decided to allow outdoor dining in all areas of the City if the property owner gives permission.
The Commission also debated face masks. Indiantown had passed an ordinance requiring face coverings in public. There was no enforcement mechanism. Stuart will have an ordinance come back to the Commission next meeting.
If they pass the wearing of masks as mandatory, then I cannot believe Stuart PD will spend much time wanting to confront citizens and never mind issuing citations. If it is just an ordinance recommending the use of masks, then it will be an empty gesture. In any case much ado about nothing.
COMMISSION MEETING MAY 11, 2020
During Commissioner comments Commissioner Matheson asked that the City have all Commissioners sign a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers mirroring the County’s comments regarding LOSUM. There was back and forth for a while, but a motion was finally made by Matheson and seconded by Vice-Mayor Clarke. It passed 5-0. Who is ever against water?
The letters are Here
Apparently, there was an international news story regarding downtown not following social distancing at restaurants. Mayor Meier brought it up and was worried about how Stuart appeared. Stuart PD will have an officer assigned downtown to make sure that the law is being followed. The strategy is to report to the Department of Business & Professional Regulation any violators.
I and others have noticed that not all businesses are following those guidelines. Will it spark another rise in the number of cases? If it does will people, then retreat behind closed doors whether the government has another lock down or not? We are closing in on 90,000 deaths. Will a spike mean the end of how many businesses and jobs?
Dyess stated that he had re-opened the playgrounds. This mirrors the County’s action at their last special meeting.
Which brings us to Stuart’s version of face coverings. Do not worry the resolution that was passed in Stuart is completely voluntary. It says you should wear one whenever outdoors but if you do not…no penalty. The Commission had discussed this at their special meeting. Staff brought back a resolution as directed.
While Meier and Matheson would probably want to make it mandatory, they understood they did not have the three votes necessary. The final resolution has no impact at all except to say wear face coverings…pretty please. The motion was made by Clarke and seconded by Matheson. It passed 3-2 with Commissioners Bruner and Leighton voting no. The ordinance can be found Here
Matheson attempted to roll back the proposed Commission term limits to 2 terms. Unfortunately, while Meier said he would go along, the other three career pols decided they and their far in the future successors needed longer to feed at the trough. Bruner made a motion for terms to be extended to 4 years and have a three-term limit of 12 years. It was seconded by Leighton and passed 5-0. Who wants to give up $18,000 a year, medical insurance, and a pension?
The second charter revision provides that once you open a campaign account to run for a different office, you must resign your seat on the City Commission. This was proposed to curb any perceived or actual influence regarding how a Commissioner running for another office would vote on different matters coming before the Commission during the campaign season. Candidates need money to run and votes to be elected. And as we have seen, sometimes it is hard to tell why a vote is cast in a certain way. Clarke moved to send it on to the voters and it was seconded by Matheson. It passed 5-0.
Since the last go-round, the developer has lopped off a floor in the rear north building closest to the perimeter, made the lake more irregular as per the code, and changed the traffic pattern for ingress and egress. That still leaves 6 4-story buildings and the other amenities in the original proposal. The 13.9-acre parcel will have a density of 20 units per acre.
This development fronts Federal Highway by Commerce Street. It is not being dropped down into the middle of a single-family neighborhood though it borders one. And I guess that is what people do not like. The neighbors seem to confuse the terms comparable with compatible. In the modern planning world, what you want is the latter.
Under the old commercial zoning, many different things could have gone there. By having residential zoning, it is compatible with the residential developments to the rear. While the homeowners want to see as little density as possible, it is not financially practical. The rents that would have to be charged to build 200 units would be at least 50% more. That is not anywhere near the market.
The developer, who has over 10,000 units, has conducted market studies that show a need for this housing. At present, other similar complexes are full and have a waiting list. There are ample setbacks from the single-family homes…hundreds of feet in some instances.
At any time, the homeowners could have bought the parcel that they had to know would be developed someday. Would they have been happier with a couple of fast food restaurants and a Wawa? The homeowners hired David Earle’s law firm to intervene, and there were rumblings of court actions by some of the speakers. The courts, unless it is spot zoning and this is not spot zoning, give a wide amount of latitude to elected bodies to make these decisions.
After many speakers both in person and virtually, it was time for the Commission to deliberate. Bruner moved to approve, and Clarke seconded for discussion. Leighton stated that Stuart has grown by 3300 people in 30 years which is not exactly a huge growth spurt. She went on to say there is a need for development. However, she believed it was too dense and would not support it. It is election season and the Property Appraiser’s office calls.
Clarke, which she did throughout the meeting, rambled on without making any sense. It is election season. Bruner is consistent. She is for the river, the economy, and the survivability of the City.
Matheson had stated at the last meeting that he would support the project if the north building was reduced to three floors, the lake was an irregular shape and the U.S. 1 traffic situation was addressed. They were. Matheson as well as Meier are environmentalist not “no growth” fanatics. Meier especially believes that density belongs in cities. The alternative is sprawl.
The vote was 4-1 with Leighton dissenting.
Take a look at all the Presentation
Laurie Gaylord will be leaving at the end of her term in November.
I had been told by some that she may apply for the appointed superintendent’s position. With this email to the Board she has taken herself out of contention. In my opinion by making her intentions known now she has shown how much she wants the District to succeed going forward.
Dear Board Members:
I wanted you all to hear directly from me the announcement that I made to staff today. I officially announced my retirement date from the Martin County School District at the end of my elected term in November 2020. I have been blessed to have been provided the opportunity to work alongside of some amazing people in and out of the school district and have proudly served the Board, the students, families, staff, and community of Martin County. In full transparency I wanted to be honest with staff and all of you because I will not be seeking an appointment to the Superintendent position. I know the application process opens tomorrow and this provides an opportunity for you to receive an abundance of applications and choose from the best of candidates. I wish you the best in your selection and the years to come.
I am proud of the work that we have accomplished in the past 8 years and leave the District with an “A” grade, a new District Office, financial stability, and a focus on academic achievement and education for ALL students.
Best regards and have a good night,
Laurie J. Gaylord
Superintendent of Schools
Martin County School District
500 East Ocean Blvd.
Stuart, FL 34994
(772) 219-1200 Ext. 30222
SCHOOL BOARD WORKSHOP & SPECIAL MEETING MAY 5, 2020
During the Workshop, the Board interviewed Audra K. Curts-Whann for the position of Internal Auditor. She currently is the CFO. It is curious that she is making a move from working for the Superintendent to working for the Board.
Being the Auditor is a more focused position and she will not have as many reports if any. I suspect that it has more to do with a change in Superintendents. The CFO works hand in hand with the Superintendent. The Auditor position is open, the Board likes her, and it may give her more job security.
Curts-Whann interviewed well. She seems capable. The Board voted to see whether a deal could be made with her.
At the special meeting, the Board concentrated on the Superintendent search. The brochure was approved. The consultants were on board. It seems a go.
The Citizens Advisory Committee will be composed of 27 members with each School Board Member appointing 5 people and 2 will come from the Districts unions. It is hoped that it will be a good cross section of the community. They will meet on July 23rd, July 30th, and possibly August 6th if needed.
COMMISSION MEETING MAY 12, 2020
It was the night of the pickup!
Would the Commission finally approve pickup trucks of more than 5000 pounds was the question. And you cannot say there was not lively debate.
This was a Zoom meeting that was extremely well attended. I counted 82 attendees, but Mayor Fender said that there were 89 at one point. Some of the attendees had more than just one person on the screen, so more people were involved than any Commission meeting.
Most comments were favorable. As Commissioner Mayfield, who was the lead, kept saying, “These trucks are like family station wagons were 40 years ago.” This was borne out by speaker after speaker stating that fact although some speakers thought they did not belong and should not be allowed.
The new ordinance being proposed had a weight limit of no more than 9000 lbs. Mayfield felt that would take care of those pickups being used as family cars. That was the point of the ordinance. Everything else that is prohibited now (from tool chests to dual wheels) would still not be allowed.
Vice-Mayor Barile offered a motion that it be a maximum of 7500 lbs. It died for a lack of a second. Commissioner Campo then made a motion for 8000 lbs. He said that it was in the spirit of compromise. He wanted a unified 5-0 vote. Mayfield was perplexed since she thought it was agreed previously that the weight limit should be 9000 lbs. When Mayfield asked why 8000 instead of 9000, it was not because the weight was tied to any models, it was for compromise. Commissioner Kurzman seconded Campo’s motion.
The vote was 4-1 in favor of a maximum of 8000 lbs. with Mayfield dissenting. You can find the agenda item Here
I reached out to Kaija on her reason for voting no on a project that was so close to her and she gave me this response:
Hi Tom –
First of all, thank you for asking me and giving me the chance to clarify why I voted the way I did.
In my perspective, before we got to last night’s vote, there was already a series of compromises. The initial proposal back in March was to remove the weight limit restriction altogether, and I am still of the opinion that that is the best option. However, given the balance of the commission and the fact that there are residents who do not share the same opinion I do, the commission compromised at the March workshop and settled on 9,000 lbs. I was comfortable with that number as I believed it would encompass all of the family pickup trucks that a resident might desire. At the meeting last night, there was an immediate motion for, in my eyes at least, a much lower weight (7,500 lbs), then public comment on the topic occurred, and then another motion for a slightly higher weight (8,000 lbs) was made and was seconded. I was not comfortable that that weight (8,000 lbs) would completely achieve the desired goal. We discussed the second motion at 8,000 lbs where I was able to speak and provide backup and reasoning for my thoughts, and I said I was open to compromising at 8,500 lbs. The vote was called for 8,000 lbs, I was first to vote, and I felt 8,500 lbs was the better option.
A neighbor wrote to me and said, “The fact that we are using weight, something we cannot see with our eyes, to regulate something’s visual appearance, is fundamentally flawed.” I concur with that statement. In addition, an 8,000 lb limit, though a vast improvement over 5,000 lbs, will still require our code enforcement officers to spend their time quantifying minute details about someone’s personal vehicle, something that I believe could have been avoided if a slightly higher weight limit had been agreed upon.
That being said, I am pleased that we have moved forward with raising the weight limit on passenger pickup trucks, and we can hopefully help with alleviating the inequity that our pickup-truck owning neighbors have had to deal with. I am also pleased with the way the commission has been working together lately, and as was mentioned by another commissioner last night, I recognize the value of a united commission on a contentious issue. I respect all my fellow commissioners, and realize we are all different people, with different perspectives and ideas. I believe it is in the best interests of the town and its residents to have a commission that works together for the common good of Sewall’s Point.
While she did not get what she requested, Barile made a comment that because she had done so much work and research, it forced him to do the same. He thanked her for that. Those two are class acts.
RENTING OUT THE PARK
Since 2011, the park has been used by one entity or another as an exercise venue mostly for young mothers. The current business owner is Marion Kavovit, a local resident, and her company is Kavoland LLC d/b/a Fit4Mom. The company pays $100 per month to the Town, and they have provided a liability policy. Staff is looking for direction.
It seemed the matter became one of personalities instead of policy. Who can be against moms and babies exercising? It seems that Ms. Kavovit is a well-liked person. She was instrumental in the new park equipment coming this far. However, a government should not craft policy based on individuals but rather on what is good for the Town.
Even with insurance being provided by the user, the Town may still be the one with the deep pockets if a problem occurs. I would have thought that Campo would have been all over the insurance angle, but he did not bring it up. Kurzman kept trying to have the Manager come back to the Board with a policy. It did not seem that any other Commissioner was buying it. Barile thought that it was opening a door for others to want to use Town property as a base of operations.
I was surprised the Town Attorney was not asked for his opinion on either the agreement that Kavovit presented or what liability the Town has. Most speakers spoke in favor. A motion was made by Mayfield to allow the use to continue. It was seconded by Campo. It passed 3-2 with Barile and Kurzman dissenting.
COUNCIL MEETING MAY 15, 2020
The good news is that Mayor Stone was able to have 4000 masks donated for the residents. And more good news is he just said thank-you to the donor. He did not go on and on and on. Stone is a man of few words. Most times less is more. I think the same about Council Member Clarke’s brevity. She too does not need to go on and on about, well…nothing.
Unfortunately, that may not be the same for the rest of the Council. Besides this newsletter and Currents there is no media paying Council meetings much attention. I see no cameras or TV reporters anxious for that 30 second Indiantown story to broadcast on their 11 pm news or as I call it the big weather show.
Then I would ask which audience are you playing too? The approximately 25 (as per the Village) viewers on Zoom. Many of whom are not voters. When Council Member Dowling during his comments said, “and now for number 9.” He was no longer giving information to the masses but rather speaking to hear himself. There is no CNN. There is not even C-Span.
It was not until 8:15 did the Council begin their work as per the agenda. Almost 2 hours after the meeting being started the verbose five got down to voting. Sure, there was a way to long and boring MPO presentation and a rather general Health Department update, but the business of government seems to be secondary to the endless palaver.
Indiantown has a major health crisis. The Village has an inordinate amount of cases as compared to its population size. Many residents are poor, immigrant and live in small cramped houses.
Until very recently their plight was ignored. It was only with the intervention of Harold Jenkins, Brian Mast and MaryLynn Magar that the Health Department and Cleveland Clinic began testing.
The Village has passed a mask ordinance and have signs throughout regarding what to do to contain the virus. You cannot expect the Council to do more. It has done everything it could with its limited authority.
There is no effective contact tracing. A positive result does not mean isolation or containment so the disease will continue to spread. The Sheriff’s campaign of education should not mean his deputies do not enforce social distancing. The Council is correct in thinking Indiantown has been neglected by the wider outside world.
That dynamic will not change by Facebook posts or the Council speaking to each other. They need to have real political power. That can only be accomplished by increasing their population numbers and making sure that people are registered to vote. Instead of talk, the Council should pick up census and voter registration forms and walk door to door and get people to register.
TIME TO GO TO WORK
As I said above at 8:15 the Council got down to business. The first thing they did was extend the state of emergency. It passed 5-0.
Next on the agenda was implementing a communications policy. That would be rather straight forward you would think. Not when it comes to politicians. Manager Brown introduced the item by simply stating it could be as simple or as complicated as the Council desired. What Brown did not do is give them a plan to discuss and tweak.
Gibbs-Thomas kept trying to have the Council instruct staff to create a plan. The rest of the Council would not support her. They did not even have a common understanding of what a communications policy really is. Dowling wanted to make sure that his social media accounts would not be affected. Others were just looking for consistency on business cards, when to use the seal, and more practical matters.
It seemed that only Gibbs-Thomas wanted to have a policy. Dowling made a motion to table the matter until discussion of a strategic plan. It was seconded by Hernandez. The vote was 4-1 with Gibbs-Thomas dissenting. This was a time that Brown should have had something for them to discuss.
In a matter of a few minutes, the Commission voted unanimously on 2nd reading to de-annex 11 parcels in the Little Ranch neighborhood. Those parcels should have never been included within the Village boundaries. The vote was 5-0.
Then the Council tackled something important…fireworks! Should July 4th go forward or not? Staff was tasked to see whether and at what costs fireworks could be done from Timer Powers which is the County’s park. They wanted to be able for people to see them supposedly from anywhere in the Village.
The additional cost would be $10,000 for the larger shells on top of the $15,000 already budgeted. Gibbs-Thomas who is the lead is trying to raise the money from sponsors. There just is not enough time at this point. They asked staff what other governments were doing. Most like Stuart have cancelled for this year.
After much discussion, Dowling made a motion to table. Clarke seconded and the vote was 3-2 with Gibbs-Thomas and Hernandez voting no. You would think they could decide yes or no and then move forward. Does anyone have a can to kick?
At present there are no meetings scheduled.
The next meeting will be May 18, 2020. Please check the website for instructions on attending virtually.
Every once in a while, the left and the right will spar over what the national minimum wage should be.
It is interesting because some nations in the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) do not even have minimum wages. In 2014, a $25 per hour minimum was defeated in a referendum in Switzerland as an intrusion on the free market. Denmark, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden are other countries that have no government set minimum. Yet the guy flipping burgers in those countries averages $20 per hour.
In most advanced nations (contrary to what you may have heard), there are very few government subsidies to business. Markets are free of much government interference. In nations that I mentioned above, they are all ranked higher by the Heritage Foundation in economic freedom than the United States. As we have been more and more consumed by tariffs, the rest of the world has continued to do away with them.
The United States, the home of capitalism, is moving toward cronyism and stasis. Regulation has been used to keep markets closed from competition instead of opening them to new entrants. If we continue this path, we will become more and more noncompetitive.
Our future should be patterned after our past. Open markets, little government interference, and true capitalism were our hallmarks. Our worst enemy is not the Chinese but a fear of the Chinese, Mexicans, Europeans, or anyone else. We need to make sure our citizens are provided for rather than favored business. Business should not look to the government for survival, and the government should have nothing to do with business except to keep the playing field level for all.
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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.
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