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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The outcome of Martin County races had no surprises.
Congressman Mast, State Senator Gayle Harrell, and State Representative Toby Overdorf won by wide margins. John Snyder handily beat his opponent to succeed the departing and fantastic Mary Lynn Magar, who termed out for the 83rd District Florida House Seat. County Commissioner Doug Smith handily beat his write-in opponent with 91% of the vote.
What does that tell us about Martin County and the Treasure Coast? First and foremost, it is solidly Republican. Mast, Harrell, Overdorf and Snyder all beat their Democrat opponents by impressive amounts. All the winners are not only representing Martin County but also neighboring counties where they also won the vote. Our area has not turned blue.
In the case of Harrell, Overdorf, and Mast, they made the issue of our waterways their issue. It certainly paid off. Harrell and Overdorf also brought home monies from Tallahassee to do local projects which showed they had not forgotten their constituents.
What can we expect going forward? Congressman Mast belongs to the minority party in the House. As I write this, who will be the next president still hasn’t been settled. If it is a President Biden, Mast will have even less influence with the Corps of Engineers or obtaining funding.
Our state officials, including Snyder, will work diligently to bring home grants and funding for local projects especially water projects though I believe money will be tight because of the economy. COVID is far from defeated and in 2021 we may see state revenue fall substantially.
Smith was the only county commissioner that had any opposition in the primary or the general election. The only reason he had a general election opponent was because Smith, himself, put up a strawman write-in to prevent anyone but Republicans from voting in the primary. Jenkins and Ciampi had no one run against them.
Maybe we can take a breather for a week or two before we start thinking of the 2022 election cycle.
We live in a partisan state in a partisan country. I don’t think anyone could deny that.
Yet, certain races here are non-partisan. If you are running for a municipal seat, the political party of a candidate is not mentioned on the ballot. The same is true for school board candidates. It was decided years ago that governing our towns and villages was about practicality not politics.
Yet, a recent news article outlining who won and lost seats on the Treasure Coast mentioned the candidate’s party affiliation. Legally a candidate for these positions cannot even indicate what party they belong to on any campaign literature. The reasons why candidates won or lost these races had nothing to do with party.
Kaija Mayfield, who won reelection in Sewall’s Point, was portrayed as winning despite her nonparty affiliation status “in GOP-leaning Martin County.” In Port St Lucie, incumbent Jolien Caraballo won reelection against her 19-year-old Democratic opponent. In Mayfield’s case in tiny Sewall’s Point, she garnered 973 votes the most of any candidate. She won because she did a great job representing the newer families in town. Carballo, who is a staunch Republican, won because she did a good job representing her constituents…and her opponent was a neophyte with no experience in life or politics.
A candidate’s party or no party on this level has nothing to do with their ability to tackle such mundane issues as making sure the roads are paved and the cops show up. The Martin County Commission has five Republican commissioners. The county does have partisan races. Being a member of the Republican party is a pre-requisite to being elected. Anyone who studies the commission doesn’t believe for a moment that every commissioner bleeds red. It is a polite fiction that we adhere to.
Perhaps it would be better if more offices on the local level were non-partisan.
WATER, WATER, EVERYWHERE
We are having one wet year in the state of Florida.
Lake Okeechobee is discharging water into the St. Lucie. As I write this, we could have a tropical storm on Sunday and Monday that produces a foot of rain. Yet, I have never been more hopeful that we can solve some of our water problems. I have never seen a stronger willingness on the part of federal, state, and local officials to come together and work in unity.
Martin County has already done a fantastic job in dealing with our state and federal partners. Are we going to accomplish everything this year or next or even within a decade? Absolutely not. There is tremendous progress, however.
The Army Corps of Engineers no longer treats us as nuisances rather than partners. Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, our representative at SFWMD, is always available to answer questions and get us information. In other words, a new day has dawned, and it is one of cooperation and inclusion.
There are still some that would rather fight than talk. That was tried for years and things just deteriorated more. You are not going to bully Washington by threats or actual lawsuits. It could cost us millions while the feds print as much money as they need.
I wish Martin County would communicate their efforts better to the public. I wish the committee that the BOCC voted to form consisting of representatives of the municipalities and school board would begin its work. I wish that there would be outreach on this to all constituent groups.
Without that communication, I believe that counter productive measures could be taken especially by the City of Stuart. We are all in the same boat. Martin County through the general fund to which all taxpayers contribute regardless of where they live, has funded these excellent efforts. We all need to know about those efforts. Everyone is concerned about the discharges and all the things that have an impact on our environment.
To read more on my take go here
One of the most contentious local issues relates to impact fees. That contention is not only between developer and government but also between government and government. The most recent instance, though I am sure not the last, is between the Martin County School District and the City of Stuart.
Those two bodies have an interlocal agreement that requires the city to collect the district’s impact fees for projects within the city. Stuart gets to keep 3% of collections as an administrative charge. The city remits whatever is collected to the district the following month with an explanation that the district approves.
It looks straight forward, and it should be, except the city did not charge what the district now imposes. There is a disagreement as to whether Stuart was properly notified as to an increase several years ago. The district did not ever say anything to the city, and they did receive an accounting every month that they accepted.
This only came to light in the past few months. Ms. Gaylord made it known to the board at a meeting since she will be leaving in a few weeks.
Is the city liable for any of the fees? The 1995 interlocal agreement states:
“c) The school impact fee will be included in the City’s internal audit schedule, subject to review by the School Board. The School Board may audit the school impact fee collection at their discretion. The City will not be liable for errors in collections unless due to intentional wrongdoing or misconduct.”
There doesn’t appear to be any wrongdoing or misconduct. In fact, if I were Stuart, I would cancel the agreement and let the district collect their own impact fees. Here is the problem for the school district. It would be up to the developer or builder to pay the fees. The building permit is not contingent on any payment of impact fees to any other government.
The entire agreement can be found here
By Tom Pine
Florida continues to lead the nation in the rate of bicycle deaths. In 2010 the death rate per one million residents was 83, in 2012 the total had jumped to 120 and in 2018 it was 148 per million residents.
Over this past year the State of Florida added a bike lane on Jensen Beach Blvd. To accomplish this, they narrowed the driving lanes to obtain the three feet necessary for a bike lane. Occasionally, they widened the entire roadway to obtain the needed three feet.
The next phase was the use of paint and signage to emphasize the bike lane on both sides of the roadway. Crosswalks were also painted at all intersections including some commercial driveways with a high-quality paint designed especially for crosswalks.
Recently Martin County re-surfaced Savannah Road and added bike lanes to both sides of the roadway. Martin County also narrowed the driving lanes to get the three feet necessary. Unlike the state, the county never widened any of the roadway. When the county couldn’t get the required three feet, they diverted the bicycles back onto the sidewalk.
Unlike the state, the county made no attempt to emphasize the bike lanes. The only time there is any signage referring to the bike lane is a warning that the bike lane ends, and this happens in several places.
The next phase was the painting, unlike the state the county used no paint to delineate the bike lane except for the single white lane that runs parallel to the driving lanes. The crosswalks that were painted, were done with an exceptionally low grade of paint unlike the state which used a high-grade paint specifically for crosswalks. In a change from past procedures there are no commercial driveways on Savannah Road that had crosswalks painted, even though many of the commercial driveways have a fair amount of traffic.
There are two grade schools on Savannah Road, and it has been at least twenty years since there have been crosswalks on all the intersections. This recently completed project once again shows without a doubt the Martin County has NO interest in Safety.
Tom Pine’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.
By Michael Syrkus
I wear many hats.
In addition to authoring my opinions bi-monthly for you all to (hopefully) enjoy, I am also active in our community. I am a father and a husband. I attend grassroots political meetings locally. I am vice president of the Martin County Farm Bureau.
And I am an advocating member of the Washington D.C. based Cigar Rights of America group. A 501c4 advocacy group for growers, producers, distributors, retailers and consumers of premium cigar tobacco and cigars.
I have had the honor of citizen lobbying for cigar enthusiasts, in both Tallahassee and Washington. I never thought I would be presented with the need to do so here in Martin County. That all ended on October 27th. That was the day the BOCC took up a vote regarding a new local Tobacco license to operate in Martin County. The motion failed 3-2 but will be back soon enough.
I do want to be clear: my opposition to the ordinance was not against its goal of addressing the sale of restricted products to our youth. You will find no person more against this action than the honest tobacconists in our community. They are doing things according to both federal and state law. The bad apples give a black eye to the industry as a whole.
My opposition was against a redundant license requirement for those who already have a state license. The extra cost, and administrative work is punitive to those who are doing no wrong. Thankfully, it appears the next ordinance will address this issue, and have a solution.
Why do I pen all of this, today?
Because this can be a great lesson to all, that your involvement can make a difference. I don’t believe for one second that my public comment was a deciding factor for the 3-2 vote, but I do believe it helped. Far too often, our apathy and silence speak louder than our words. As such, votes are made that many may feel don’t represent their interests.
Stay involved, and do not be afraid to speak up. Be firm, but fair in your convictions, and you may be surprised with how effective it can be.
Michael Syrkus’ opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint
HERBIE’S HOBE SOUND
By Herbert Howard
I have told you in a couple of articles what I like so much about Hobe Sound. Now it is time to know what I really don’t like about my hometown.
I don’t like the Winn Dixie plaza. This has bothered me for years. It probably isn’t the official name of the plaza. I certainly do not want to imply that Winn Dixie is at fault.
Heck, if Winn Dixie weren’t there the plaza would probably be an empty eyesore. I cannot help but feel every time I go there; I’m walking back into the 1970s. I lived through the platform shoes, elephant bell bottoms, and the Bee Gees once. I do not need to do that again.
The plaza has seemed to struggle for some reason. Yes, there are some good shops and restaurants that have hung on somehow for years. There are always a few people running an errand here and there. Scooters’ (I call it the Cheers of Hobe Sound) is usually hopping. Yet, the plaza is missing something. Pizzazz maybe?
I cannot put my finger on it exactly. I do detest the color the place is painted. A brand-new coat of that flesh tone beigey pink looks immediately washed out. That is probably the official name for that color…” washed out pink”.
People have told me that a couple of folks who live in Hobe Sound have made offers to buy the plaza. The offers are never acknowledged by the owners. The owners seem to be the problem. They are a national company which is absentee. Out of sight, out of mind!
So, while we in Martin County are overwhelmingly (and I think Hobe Sounders are even more staunch) against development, in my opinion a complete tear down and rebuild of the plaza would be a good thing. It sits at the heart of Hobe Sound.
Wouldn’t bringing the restaurants close to the road make them more accessible? Perhaps a mixed-use plaza with apartments incorporated. No more than 2 stories I am thinking! Parking in the back. Think of Jensen Beach’s restaurant row for example.
After all, we are soon, soon, soon going to have a beautiful new Bridge Road! Isn’t the Winn Dixie plaza going to stick out like an incredibly old thumb?
Let the newsletter know what you think.
Herbert Howard’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.
The three charts this week are all from the Visual Capitalist. The first one is a list of the 100 smallest countries:
The next is how the pandemic is affecting American’s finances:
And lastly the chart outlines America’s debt and climbing:
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 one and only letter is from Susan Auld. And I am in complete agreement:
We are all concerned about climate change-let’ s start right here in Martin County. Visit a school at dismissal time. How many cars presumably parents’ waiting for students to give them a ride home, to sports events or after school activity. All the idling cars are polluting our environment right here in Martin. If your children and you believe that we need to address climate change, use the bus system, walk to the next event, shut the car off. Let us not point to others, let us start right here.
JOINT MEETING OCTOBER 21, 2020
A joint meeting of the four boards, Indiantown, Stuart, Martin County School Board, and Martin County Commission had not happened since the pandemic. It was not sorely missed.
Mayor Meier of Stuart was the chair this time. He did an admirable job for a meeting that didn’t seem to concern the city very much. Indiantown had even less relevance.
Part of the interlocal agreement has the county and cities briefing each other on approved projects. The briefing also includes the school district that must plan regarding new students. In some respects, it is déjà vu since most of what was presented is easily known by just looking at the minutes of the boards.
The county has been busy approving many new projects and 292 new single-family-home permits. They also approved Pulte at Christ Fellowship’s land for, perhaps, hundreds of new single-family homes and that does not count what happens at Newfield formerly known as Pineland Prairie. The city has approved 930 apartment units, nine townhomes and 2 single-family homes.
I would suspect that many of these projects will not be built in both jurisdictions. That is the nature of development. Developers rush to get approvals when markets are good and then as the economy begins to turn, nothing is built.
Interestingly, County Commissioner Smith never lets an opportunity go by to chastise Stuart for approving new developments. In a county that refuses to tackle anything but single-family sprawl which prices out many Martin residents, Stuart should not be Smith’s whipping boy for providing a variety of housing. What is especially galling is that he represents part of Stuart.
I wish Commissioner Hetherington had spoken up for Stuart since she represents most of the city about providing more affordable housing for her constituents. Stuart’s action takes the pressure off the BOCC for doing practically nothing in this regard. Only Commissioner Ciampi applauded the city’s efforts to do that. It is far better environmentally to have that type of residential housing than the sprawl that has occurred in much of the rest of the county.
Stuart’s development director mysteriously brought up Costco and 450 residential units being developed. At present, there is no approved site plan. There is no formal application. Nothing has gone to the LPA or to the Commission. It could never go further or at best it is months away. Unfortunately, that became the story with other news outlets. It made no sense and had nothing to do with the interlocal agreement that governs these meetings which is to report on approved projects.
If I were City Manager Dyess, I would want to know what will be presented at meetings like these and make sure it conforms to the standards.
WHEN CAN TAXPAYERS USE THE FACILITIES?
The Martin County School Board and the BOCC once again tried to tackle an interlocal agreement to use outdoor facilities. The parties have been trying to reach an agreement for over a decade. What gives?
It is quite apparent that both elected boards want this to occur. Ciampi brought up the fact that the county currently contributes $650,000 for the SRO program and pays for all the crossing guards. They are not averse to picking up more costs. School Board Chair Powers, who sits on the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas Committee, stated that it was never the intention of the committee or any legislation to deprive the community of using school facilities.
The boards have now removed two large obstacles to this occurring on the record. In my estimation, Martin County staff want this to happen. It is time that the school district staff stop feeling that it is “their” facilities and not the public’s. I hope the next superintendent will shake up this administrative quagmire and insist that they work for the taxpayers and residents of Martin County or hire people that will.
PLAYGROUNDS & PROGRESS
Once again, school district staff is tone deaf to the community they serve. You would think in planning for two new schools they would reach out to the people that live in the area, the parents, and other stakeholders before merrily proceeding with their plans. Apparently, making presentations to the chambers of commerce was one of their main ways of reaching out.
Both the school board and BOCC spoke at length about moving playgrounds that were built, in large part, by the community. The district has pledged that if moved, they would use as much of the equipment as possible and replace that which needs to be. People do not trust this to occur.
The school board was supposed to make a final decision as to a site plan so that construction drawings can be done. It appears now that the deadline of doing so in November will be extended which means the schools may not be opened until 2023. Another astonishing example of “Ready, Fire, Aim” on the Martin County School District’s part.
If this happened in the private sector, the people responsible would be gone. This is the public sector where the only money being wasted is our tax dollars…. which makes it even more egregious!
COMMISSION MEETING OCTOBER 27, 2020
I do not know of anyone who believes that kids smoking, vaping, chewing or sniffing nicotine products is a good idea. In fact, as a one-time smoker, I am going to go so far as to say no one should think using these things is a good idea at any age.
Commissioner Hetherington wants to ban merchants from selling those products to anyone under the age of 21. This mirrors a federal law that passed last year. Florida has not raised the age to 21. The federal standards are the ones that all must follow. Then why does Hetherington want to have a specific Martin County ordinance?
While Florida law prohibits local government from regulating smoking, it allows for them to regulate vaping. Confusing? You bet it is.
When I was a kid everyone smoked including the kids. At my high school, seniors could smoke in the senior part of the cafeteria. Teachers smoked in class. In college, students could smoke in class. Offices and workplaces always had a cloudy blue haze. Now times have changed.
With vaping, we are once again seeing kids develop a bad habit. It has become epidemic in our middle schools. There is a need to do something to stop it. Yet is this the way to go?
If it were just an ordinance, there would not be any opposition. The real opposition is because there would be a need for a new $300-a-year license for retailers selling tobacco products. For retailers, the federal government has rules, but no license is needed. Florida requires having a license and paying a fee of $50. The county requires all businesses to file an application and pay a fee of $180.
For a supposedly friendly place to do business, is this additional registration and fee an unnecessary burden? The sheriff now does checks (and from time to time undercover operations) to make sure that the laws are being followed. Is this just big brother trying to ineffectively stop a vice?
I personally do not believe that the age of 21 is reasonable for any prohibition including tobacco or alcohol. If you are old enough to vote, join the service and get married, you should be old enough to decide to have a beer and a smoke. But that is me, and if society wants to be a little hypocritical, so be it.
Like so many elected officials, especially Republican ones who forget the mantra of personal responsibility at times, Hetherington believes she knows best at least on this. I think it is misguided and places an undue burden on a large section of our businesses. Commissioner Heard came closest to my way of thinking when she said this is government overreach and wondered if law enforcement needs to be burdened with making more spot checks.
There was some mention of School Resource Officers being able to help in this regard. But this would simply be another thing that we are asking law enforcement to do in our schools instead of staff, making it another place for kids to have a confrontation with officers.
A motion was made by Hetherington to move ahead. It was seconded by Ciampi who then withdrew his second. Both Jenkins and Heard wanted staff to come back with a more reasoned approach. Smith then seconded the motion. It failed 3-2 with Jenkins, Heard and Ciampi voting no.
It will come back on November 17th or as soon thereafter as staff can do some more research. The ordinance and fines can be found here here
SCHOOLS AND PLAYGROUNDS
I believe school district staff has done a terrible job in outreach to the Jensen Beach and Palm City communities. They have been planning these new schools for years. Yet the only outreach they have done is a zoom meeting and a presentation to the chambers of commerce.
Is there any reason that parents and people who live in those areas are upset regarding the playgrounds? The most recent plans have them being moved to make way for the new school buildings. Smith stated that, over the past two decades, the County has invested $600,000 at the Jensen Beach Elementary location. Ciampi stated that he gave $75,000 in his district funds for the playground at Palm City Elementary.
If the playgrounds need to be moved and rebuilt to accommodate the best design for the school, then so be it. Yet it would seem to me that to do so without the community’s buy-in is foolish. This is causing problems and perhaps delays.
Right now, the school board needs to decide on a design for the schools to be ready by August of 2022. Smith is planning to bring in the Treasure Coast Planning Council to do a charrette in Jensen. This will occur whether the school district participates or not. That is nice but under what authority and to what purpose without the district’s participation?
In Palm City, Ciampi has also had citizens reach out to him. His is a much more measured approach and one that can have results without slowing down construction. He is proposing that the school district have a meeting with those that were instrumental in the building of the playground. He wants to use the same company that originally designed the playground to be involved in the relocation. In this way, the Palm City community has input, and a new playground is designed while construction goes on. That seems to be a more sensible plan.
A motion was made that they send a letter to the Martin County School Board requesting a delay in construction to sort this out. It passed 4-1 with Heard dissenting. Heard believes that the BOCC is overstepping when they ask for things like this. I tend to agree.
Martin County needs more business. I believe that in my heart and soul. Yet is what happened at a proposed development of Waterside the best way to accomplish this?
What at first looks like a swap of like property for what already is classified as commercial waterfront and industrial for the same amount of agricultural land doesn’t seem to affect anything. There is also the added benefit of removing any possible commercial traffic from 96th Street which is a residential roadway to Kanner Highway, a six-lane road with easy access to both I-95 and eventually the turnpike.
This change receiving commission approval is just the first in a series of votes that must be taken. Some feel that the ultimate goal is to be able to place a million square feet e-commerce site on the property. While that may be the plan of KL Waterside, the developer still has a long way to go.
Waterside has already withdrawn its request to raise the height limit to 47 feet which not doing was supposed to be a deal killer for any distribution center. It also has limited itself to 1,050,000 square feet of warehouse space from the original proposal of 1,600,000 feet. Further by changing the location of the use to Kanner Highway and by placing the same exact amount of land into agricultural use, it is saying that nothing has really changed but that is not really true.
Originally this was supposed to be a marine industry facility. That is why it was located on the St. Lucie Canal in its original location. Unfortunately, no one bothered to dig deep enough to discover that the Army Corps of Engineers has an easement that precludes any development on the land abutting the waterway.
Most jobs in the marine industries are good paying jobs for a myriad of trades. Working for Amazon is not at all in the same vein. This would also be the third free standing Urban Services Boundary exception in the county. Our comp plan which envisions Martin County’s development is not supposed to work that way. Once this is developed, how long do you think it will be before the switched agricultural land designation will be requesting another FLUM change.
Some of the commissioners may believe that this is a gem for economic development. I do not and think Heard has a point when she says we are throwing out the comp plan exception by exception. This ad hoc approach to economic development will get us nowhere. A distribution center with hundreds of trucks and vehicles will impact the quality of life of many Martin residents. The jobs it might create will not make up for the problems brought.
If we are going to do anything, we should be encouraging the marine and aero industries to locate here. Those jobs do pay well. Has there been an economic impact analysis done to show what placing a million square feet Amazon warehouse will produce? If there has, I haven’t seen it. Where is my old friend the Business Development Board in all of this? Apparently, they may not even be a bit player.
Ciampi made a motion to approve and Smith seconded. It passed 4-1 with Heard dissenting. You can see both the county’s and applicant’s presentation here
THE BUSINESS OF GOLF
Remember a couple of year ago when the rebirth of Martin County Golf Course into what is now known as Sailfish Sands began? There were estimates of many millions of dollars, but the commission allocated about $5 million at the time.
To do what was contemplated, such as a new clubhouse in the style preferred by Commissioner Smith, could not possibly be done for the estimated price. You cannot compete with Willoughby and Mariner Sands (which he mentioned several times) on the cheap. The other commissioners guffawed and said let’s keep it simple. Smith was the one telling the truth. Smith did not get all that he wanted, but he has come close.
Kevin Abate, the head of Parks & Recreation, is very good at his job. He delivers what is expected of him. He can count to three as well as any staff member. He knew he had three commissioner votes in this instance. The extravaganza continues.
I have already written extensively about the glamorization of what we do to simple things in Martin County. I am not going to write in detail more about the new driving range, “Top Golf” experience, glow in the dark balls and GPS golf carts. I am only going to make passing mention about what a great job that has been done on turning the Red & White 9-hole Courses to a single reversible 9-holes with about 80 acres being returned to nature. These and other things such as new rest rooms etc. have already been written about in previous newsletters.
Of course, all of this could not possibly be done with the approved amount. Abate and staff needed more money. In fact, another $3 million dollars is needed to finish all the above. The commissioners knew this was coming. This was not a secret to them. They applauded the bells and whistles that were added to a county golf course.
The commissioners were told that if all these bells and whistles were not included, who would go there? It would lose about a million dollars per year. Golf, as we know it, is a dead sport fit only for retirees. The Generations X, Y, and Z cohorts need a faster more exciting experience.
The only reason it would lose that much money is because the county only contemplated operating it with 36-holes in the same way as before. As tennis courts have now evolved into pickle ball courts, perhaps the government-owned golf course should evolve into an 18-hole course or even a 9-hole one. The excess property could have been sold to the airport for more industry or turned into a different recreational use.
When I was a kid, every park had handball courts. We would play on those courts for hours. Our fathers would play on those courts and, in some instances, our grandfathers. Handball is no longer played by so many and those courts are now devoted to other uses. Recreation changes.
It should be the responsibility of government not to create the only mobile driving range south of Jacksonville or a Top Golf style facility in Martin County. This is the type of thinking that has given us Sailfish Splash Water Park where Mr. Abate recently told the BOCC that the county must spend more money on improvements, so it doesn’t lose so much.
None of these additional funds touch the Blue & Gold courses, remove the evasive exotics or several other planned improvements. When all is said and done, in my estimation another $2 to $3 million will be needed. This is another example of spending more in order not to lose as much.
Commissioners Smith, Ciampi, Jenkins, and unfortunately Heard own this boondoggle. They are the ones in love with the idea of using tax money to chase a dream. They are using tax money to compete with the private sector. Make no mistake…if there is one thing, we have in Martin County, it is golf courses. If any of those “improvements” that are being installed could possibly make the money projected, then why haven’t those improvements been done at private businesses?
Commissioner Hetherington was the only one to raise fiscal concerns. She saw this for what it is…governmental overreach. Heard likes to say she is the most fiscally conservative commissioner. I am beginning to think that is no longer true. Hetherington has now voted no on this project and on the new trash contract which adds $45 million dollars over the lowest bidder.
Thank you, Commissioner Hetherington.
You can see the entire presentation here
CRA MEETING OCTOBER 26, 2020
I became an even bigger fan of City Clerk Mary Kindel during this meeting.
She did an excellent presentation about how a meeting should be conducted. For some time, the city’s meetings have come to resemble freewheeling college discussion groups rather than parliamentary governmental meetings. This has caused them to be much longer than necessary and more unproductive.
Public Comment had devolved into Socratic question and answer periods between the commission and the public speaker instead of its intended purpose. It was devised so that the public could let their elected officials know what is on their minds. During general comment, they can speak on any topic if they are civil. The commission is not supposed to respond or answer questions.
When it comes to public comment on a specific topic before a vote on a motion, again the purpose is for the commission to hear from them. Perhaps a member of the public will bring something up that may influence how a commissioner will vote. It is not to rehash or explain either the project or procedure.
The clerk did a great job, and it should be repeated often for the commission and the various volunteer boards.
The presentation can be found here
COMMISSION MEETING OCTOBER 26, 2020
Stuart is good at winning awards. It is especially good at awards that are predicated on receiving votes by the public…even when the same members of the public can vote repeatedly. Stuart won another award like this.
The “Great Places in Florida People’s Choice Award” is bestowed by the Florida chapter of the American Planning Association. And like the Coastal Living award received in 2016 for “Happiest Seaside Town,” Stuart will add the latest award to its marketing material. Let’s not lose sight that all the awards in the world are not a substitute for being attractive for business.
INFILL LOTS AND WATER RETENTION
A problem has occurred regarding building homes on vacant infill lots.
When a new home is being built, the builder sometimes decides to place fill on the lot. This could result in raising the new home where rainwater would runoff to the neighboring properties. Most older homes were built before current regulations requiring storm water management. Once the new home is built, then there is a problem for the neighbors.
Staff wants to have standards requiring the builders to hold the water on site. Using required gutters and French drains, this can be accomplished. There would be another requirement for an engineer create a stormwater lot grading plan.
How much money will an engineer charge for this purpose and add to the cost of development? Is it hundreds or thousands of dollars? By designing such a plan, would the engineer be liable if the neighbor’s property flooded? Would the engineer’s insurance cover that contingency? Will it be one more thing that makes building a house for a middle-class family an impossibility?
A motion was made to approve on 1st reading by McDonald and seconded by Matheson. It passed 5-0. Those questions are to be answered by 2nd reading. The presentation can be found here
Stuart has proposed to reduce setbacks and minimum lot sizes in R 2 and R 3 zoning areas.
It probably is a good idea because, in some cases with current setback requirements, you can’t build a house on a property. This could result in more affordable homes being built in the city. The discussion then went further afield.
Mayor Meier suggested allowing multi-families, but there are plenty of places to do that now without looking in these zones. Cottage lots could be encouraged. The best way to have more affordable housing is to allow small ancillary buildings on lots.
You can create apartments over garages or “Mother-daughter” units in rear yards. Those ancillary units could be limited to one story and 600 square feet. Live/work arrangements limited to certain occupations could be allowed in ancillary buildings. Development that allows for more affordable home ownership is what the city should strive to accomplish.
A few weeks ago, there was a proposal to have scooter rentals in the city. As I wrote at the time, I thought it was just one more bad idea for staff to administer instead of devoting the time needed for economic development.
The city asked Main Street to conduct a survey as to what Main Street stakeholders thought regarding this idea. It was not embraced by most. The survey is attached here
Everything is stated in the survey. It doesn’t look like there is enough consensus to move forward. We are not a place that requires that type of amenity for our visitors. Any resident who wants to use a scooter, whether motorized or not, can certainly do so. All they need to do is buy one and it is certainly a very affordable toy to own. I have never seen anyone using such a device in the city. It’s a cool sounding idea but nothing else.
SCHOOL BOARD MEETING OCTOBER 20, 2002
This was Laurie Gaylord’s last meeting as superintendent.
Her report was primarily one detailing what the district has accomplished since she became superintendent in 2012. She will be the last elected superintendent in Martin County. People fought hard to finally get the electorate to vote to do away with their collective ability to choose. Will it be better or worse?
In some cases, there should be a more cohesive carrying out of policy. The superintendent answering to the board will place the five school board members firmly in charge. They now own their decisions and their implementation. If something is not being done, then they are the ones accountable.
Ms. Gaylord served the district well if not always on the same track as the board. Eight years of being on the firing line is a long time. Martin County citizens, students and district employees owe her thanks for placing herself in the hot seat. Good luck!
Martin County School District has initiated its own COVID-19 website that tracks cases in the schools. This is a very handy tool, and this should be parents first stop to know what is going on. It may cut down on the misinformation that has been easily spreading when it comes to COVID. It tells how many confirmed cases there are in the district and breaks it down by school.
It is updated daily. You can access it from the school district’s website (https://www.martinschools.org/)
RESOLUTIONS PROCLAMATIONS & DIVERSITY
How do you start a controversy in Martin County Schools? This is a textbook example…so to speak.
In an earlier meeting, Board Member Defenthaler wanted to have a proclamation supporting LGBTQ+ History Month. She thought it was important that those students should feel that they were part of the school family. Mr. Anderson and Mr. DiTerlizzi expressed some hesitancy. It looked to me like she had everyone supporting the proclamation except DiTerlizzi at the end of that last meeting.
Ms. Roberts in fact did an impressive presentation even going further than the proclamation and explaining ways of having a diversity class on LGBTQ+ history. There was not a mention of that at this meeting by her or anyone else.
In the interim, Roberts worked on an extensive resolution speaking about diversity without mentioning LGBTQ + students. The resolution mentioned in some detail the steps the district has taken in furthering anti-bullying and promoting acceptance of all. It states how the district has implemented policies to conform with Florida and federal law.
The many public speakers were not in support. Most expressed that it was not the place of the public schools to speak to non-educational matters. There were several members of the clergy who spoke against the measure.
Stuart Mayor Mike Meier spoke in favor. He is a graduate of the Martin County system. Even though he came from a loving home, he had some of the same issues expressed in the proclamation. He was bullied, skipped school, and at times contemplated suicide. He would have liked to see a sign from local leaders of support. He urged the board to set aside the fear and rhetoric.
One speaker stated that he would run a candidate against any school board member who would vote in favor of the proclamation. He had already raised $12,500 and were looking to have $100,000. He went on to say that things were fine, and nothing needs to change. Our kids love everyone.
Martin County is conservative both politically and socially. It tells you that it is open and friendly. And to some extent it is…except when it is not.
From the last meeting, there was no mention of a resolution in support of diversity. It was strategically placed on the agenda to come before Defenthaler’s proclamation. The bulk of the discussion from the Board centered on the much less controversial resolution.
Early on, Defenthaler suggested about diversity training for the board. It was not addressed further.
DiTerlizzi wanted to know cost associated with moving forward. He said the resolution follows current law and there is already an anti-bullying policy in place. It does not single out any one group. He went on to say that sex education and other things should not be shoved down anyone’s throat.
Anderson said this has nothing to do with his personal views. It is about the public, his constituents. He addressed the person that threatened to spend money against any board member that voted in favor of the proclamation. Anderson expressed his outrage and that it was an insult that he or any of his colleagues would bow to pressure.
He is right there. And I am glad Tony Anderson said that. Besides the two board members that were up for re-election this year faced no challengers. I can’t think of a less potent threat.
Powers likes the resolution and the way it expresses things. She believes the proclamation is too narrowly focused. The resolution is inclusive of all. She will support the resolution. If it helps one student, it would have been good.
DiTerlizzi wants to see data specific to the district regarding the proclamation.
A motion was made by Anderson to issue the resolution. It was seconded by Roberts. It passed 4-1 with DiTerlizzi voting no.
It was then Defenthaler’s turn to speak to her proclamation about LGBTQ+ History Month. She had been taken by surprise regarding not only the resolution but that it had been used as an alternative to her proclamation. She now knew that she had been led down a path. The support she thought she had from other board members evaporated once oppositional emails began flooding in.
She then made a motion to issue the proclamation. It failed for a lack of a second. The silence was deafening.
This shows the limits of what can be done when it comes to more than the “3Rs” in not just Martin County but in most public-school settings. We live in a political world and the schools are not immured from its effects. We are not California or New York and attempting to be too open about differing views on sexuality are not going to fly here. And without support of the community, it never will.
SCHOOL BOARD WORKSHOP & SPEC MEETING NOV 3, 2020
There is something to be said for those who are elected being in charge. This meeting was a good example of when that occurs.
The education of the students was not to be discussed. Nor were the proposed new school buildings. There was some concern about car lines and parking. The real concern was the positioning of the two community playgrounds.
School Board Member DiTerlizzi appears to have reached out to his old colleagues on the BOCC to come to a solution on new school settings for Palm City and Jensen Beach. Commissioner Ciampi is generally able to finesse differences and come to resolutions. He did so here by making sure he had rounded up the PTA and other concerned citizens to speak out for Palm City.
Commissioner Smith was there on behalf of Jensen Beach and had rallied that school’s PTA. He spoke not only on the playground issue but a brief history of the hydrology of the site. At the BOCC last meeting, Smith talked about engaging the Treasure Coast Planning Council to do a charrette whether the district wanted to participate or not. Today he was looking for resolution and not to prolong the building of the schools.
The staff responsible for the project has done a remarkable job in ignoring and alienating the schools’ surrounding communities and the PTAs. Why wouldn’t you want to involve and get approval from the people? Maybe it is because staff does not run for office. They do not ask the people to hire them as do both school board and county commissioners.
I doubt if the staff would have done anything if it weren’t for those that are elected. How do you alienate the public? By doing just what staff did! These parents and the broader community are stakeholders. They are not being unreasonable in their concerns with playgrounds that they built and have contributed money to their maintenance. Those PTAs have agreements with the School Board regarding those existing playgrounds.
Once discussion was held, the workshop was adjourned, and a special meeting began.
DiTerlizzi moved that Plan B be approved in Jensen Beach with the paving of the rock roadway in the rear using as much stabilized turf as possible. It was seconded by Roberts. The motion passed 5-0
For Palm City, DiTerlizzi moved that Plan A be approved. It was seconded by Anderson. The motion passed 5-0.
In both passed plans, the playgrounds stay where they are. Was that the best design? Probably not in all ways except politically. Perhaps with better outreach, a better outcome could have been realized. John Millay, the incoming superintendent, has just seen another challenge. Education is not the only thing to be concerned with in Martin County.
COMMISSION MEETING OCTOBER 27, 2020
How much time and money should Sewall’s Point spend for FEMA reimbursement? This is the question being asked by staff to the Commission.
It appears when Hurricane Irma struck more than 2 years ago, the town was cleaning out outfalls but really had no proof which ones they were doing. That made it difficult to seek full re-imbursement. FEMA paid $17,000 for this and, overall, $350,000 to the town for Irma. This left what the town claims is $316,664 unreimbursed.
This is not like storm debris removal which can be proven. The Town has been denied 9 times. The next step is arbitration which involves attorneys. Mr. Capra, the town’s engineer, does not recommend going further. It is like throwing good money after bad.
Yet sometimes it is hard for Sewall’s Point’s commissioners to let go. They are so focused on saving money that they forget it may cost money to do so. Joe Capra will need to charge if he is told to go further as will the town’s attorneys. The recommendation of staff is to leave it be.
They must appeal the decision by November 10th. Commissioner Campo stated he has an expert who the manager should speak to immediately. I understand she did, and it was too late.
How much of the $316,000+ should have been paid by FEMA? I don’t know since some of it was regular maintenance. It probably would be foolish to spend another dime when the manager, engineer and attorney are not in favor of doing so.
You can read the denial and money spent here
COUNCIL MEETING OCTOBER 29, 2020
During a report that Council Member Stone made regarding his meeting at the Business Development Board, he mentioned he wanted to make sure they knew that Indiantown had a 50-foot height limit in their industrial areas.
I wanted to make sure I understood that correctly, so I asked the staff, and it was true. There is still a 4-story height limit. Which isn’t as important as that ultimate height of 50 feet. What others should know is that the building can be taller if approved administratively. I guess that means by staff and not the council.
How does one receive an administrative variance? Here is what it says in the new LDRs:
Structures taller than 50 feet or over 4-stories may be permitted administratively where the
applicant for the project can show the following:
(1) The proposed additional height of the building or structure will not increase the noise,
vibration, smoke or dust generated by the use;
(2) The building or structure will not create a danger to air traffic;
(3) The building or structure is set back an adequate distance from any property line to
ensure that collapse of the structure will not impact surrounding properties; and
(4) The proposed building or structure meets all other code requirements.
These are not hard criteria to manage. There is no cap as to the number of stories or overall height. Does that mean 100 feet and 7 stories are permissible for a manufacturing facility or a distribution center? It would appear so. If you are placing this on a large parcel then you would meet the setback and other requirements.
The vaunted Martin County difference may be coming to an end. Earlier in the week in unincorporated Martin County, the Waterside development capped its heigh limit at 40 feet.
Will this change spark development? I don’t know, but it does require further study. The development table can be found here
PLANNING, ZONING AND APPEALS BOARD BOARD…NEW LDRS…PERMIT FEES
The new LDRs were approved by the LPA and council. The regs are not quite as voluminous as the county’s LDRs. This is something that will continue to be tweaked over the years. That doesn’t mean they are bad…only things will come up and will need to be addressed. The consultant’s presentation can be found here
Some are saying that the new LDRs could result in an unjust taking of property rights. It could be true. If it is, then the village is opening itself up to potentially expensive lawsuits.
Mr. Vose, the village attorney, seems capable. I am sure he read the new regulations and signed off. I cannot believe that the consultant that crafted the regulations would allow that type of mistake to be made. However, I hope they make sure before second reading.
Since the inception of the LPA, which consisted of the council members, I have complained that the citizens need to be involved. The new LDRs do just that by instituting a Planning and Zoning Board consisting of 7 members with 5 having to be residents and 2 nonresidents if they own a business in Indiantown.
Finally, there will be citizen involvement. Though in other Martin County municipalities, each elected official has an appointment, it does not appear to be so here. I hope they end up adopting that practice so all different members of the community will have an opportunity.
The village is now looking to change the building fees from $89.50 per inspection to 9% of the construction total. Council Member Gibbs-Thomas caught the problem immediately. She stated that if you want to build a $200,000 house the permit fee would be $18,000. That is a lot of money.
It appeared the other council members were ready to proceed without seeing that a mistake was being approved. A motion was made by Dowling and seconded by Stone to move forward.
Staff’s explanation of the change was all over the map. They were trying to use the excuse that it was costing more to do the required inspections than they were collecting. That may be true, but it isn’t costing that amount. Imagine if you build a building that had a construction cost of $1 million. The building permit fee would be $90,000. That doesn’t consider the village impact fees which are coming and the county’s and school board’s impact fees that are already here. Nothing will ever be built in Indiantown.
Gibbs-Thomas asked whether they had looked at other cities. Staff said yes and mentioned Stuart. For a million in construction cost, in Stuart you pay $4300.00 in permit fees. Brown kept suggesting that the matter be tabled until the next meeting. The council finally agreed. It will come back next meeting.
The manager should take the time to look at what his staff is doing. It is his responsibility. The council, except for Gibbs-Thomas, needs to be less of a fan club for Brown and staff and more their bosses. This is the check that the system calls for. There is more to being an elected official than waving at the crowds.
The fee schedules for both Indiantown and Stuart can be found here
The Next Council Meeting will be November 9, 2020
The Next Commission Meeting will be November 16, 2020
Regardless of whether the next president is Trump or Biden, America has a problem.
By their very nature, democracies produce disagreement. Disagreement in and of itself is not bad. It is how we come to terms with that disagreement that matters. We have lost sight of how to resolve those disagreements through compromise. In the past couple of decades, the very thought of compromise has been taken as a sign of weakness.
Some now equate their political beliefs as religious dogma. If we go down that path, one begins to see governing as a war on our political opponents…the same way the Romans looked at Christians. Crusades and martyrs cannot be far behind.
The Orwellian concept of different truths is now ingrained in our politics. We deny what we do not want to have happen as if the denial will have made it not occur. We seldom engage people that hold different political beliefs, so is there any wonder why we cannot even think about compromise.
Americans do have the Constitution to guide us. It is our framework for living together. It wouldn’t be a bad thing if Americans read it occasionally and that includes our leaders. The Constitution spells out the roles of each branch of government, the individual states, and citizens. That document even gives us an opportunity to amend it when enough of us think it should be changed.
It is time we stop ignoring Madison’s secular bible to the American people. Since we have converted to political religiosity, then reading and understanding the Constitution is the same as reading scripture. We ignore the words, meaning, and reasons at our nation’s peril.
To read more go here
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.
ARTICLES OF INTEREST
Articles I wrote in the past few weeks:
Tallahassee’s version of the “Godfather”
“History Is Just The Facts”
“The U.S. Needs A Social Safety Net”
Our first one is from the Atlantic regarding those working in an office get bigger raises than those working from home:
The next is an article from David French in the Dispatch asking if Jews are being beaten in the streets can America be America:
From The Hill is it time to rethink zoning:
The New York Times asks Bill Bratton about police reform:
A press release from the Army Corps of Engineers regarding Lake Okeechobee:
The Miami Herald asks why Florida picked up the tab for lawsuits for doctors’ mistakes in child birth:
The Washington Post writes that Senators are the oldest in history:
Another from the Post explains why Florida was supposed to be more left but turned more right instead:
The Florida Phoenix writes it is time to get rid of the filibuster:
The Mew York Times has a test for us to take regarding the facts on the increase in crime:
Lastly from Pro Publica their story on America’s richest pay no tax:
Two charts this week from Visual Capitalist on debt:
The first is on household debt:
The second is on government debt:
Annual Medium Income (AMI)
Basin Action Management Plan (BMAP)
Board of County Commissioners (BOCC)
Business Development Board (BDB)
Capital Improvement Plan (CIP)
Career & Technical Education (CTE)
Center For Disease Control (CDC)
Centum Cubic Feet (CCF)
Children’s Services Council (CSS)
Community Development Block Grants (CDBG)
Community Development District (CDD)
Community Redevelopment Board (CRB)
Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA)
Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR)
Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP)
Department of Environmental Protection (DEP)
Emergency Operation Center (EOC)
Equivalent Residential Connection (ERC)
Equivalent Residential Unit (ERU)
Evaluation & Appraisal Report (EAR)
Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA)
Federal Rail Administration (FRA)
Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT)
Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC)
Full Time Equivalents (FTE)
Future Land Use Maps (FLUM)
Health Maintenance Organization (HMO)
High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP)
Hobe Sound Local (HSL)
Indian River Lagoon (IRL)
Land Development Code (LDR)
Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule (LORS)
Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual (LOSUM)
Local Agency Program Certification (LAP)
Local Planning Agency (LPA)
Martin County Fire/Rescue (MCFR)
Martin County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO)
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)
Request for Proposal (RFP)
Residential Planned Unit Development (RPUD)
Right of Way (ROW)
Secondary Urban Services District (SUSD)
South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD)
South Martin Regional Utility (SMRU)
State Housing Initiative Partnership (SHIP)
Storm Water Treatment Areas (STA)
Tax Increment Financing (TIF)
Urban Planned Unit Development (UPUD)
Urban Services Boundary (USB)
World Health Organization (WHO)