City of Stuart
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Correction: On the November 8th Edition the cover had a spelling error. It had American spelled as Anerican. There was no hidden political message. There is no spell check in the graphic design program. Thanks for all who pointed it out.
More than three years ago to much fanfare, Knight Kiplinger and his consultants began work on Pineland Prairie in Martin County. This is a 3400-acre site that will not only be a “town” but will have conservation land and an industrial component. The town portion will be known as Newfield. A site plan was submitted to the county. The next time it will go before the BOCC will be on December 15th regarding becoming a special taxing district.
The St. Lucie County Commission voted to approve an 834-acre site at Indrio Road and I-95 for a new planned town development. It will take approximately 15 years to build out. I have a sneaking suspicion that St. Lucie’s new city will be developed before Martin County’s.
As far as development is concerned, both are models for how to avoid sprawl. Their footprints encompass open space. Open space is lacking in much of South Florida now. Yet Martin County is not known for being serious about development. Because of that lack of seriousness, things don’t always go as they should.
For an example, look no further than Christ Fellowship and the sprawl of single-family homes that will be built on their property. It was originally approved as a church campus much as one would for a school. A few years later that concept is morphing into something else.
This will add several hundred homes without the needed infrastructure necessary to be called a community. Since stores, businesses, offices, and schools aren’t being planned in conjunction with the homes, they will evolve wherever they can fit outside of the housing development at some future time. The definition of sprawl.
The very thing we do not want is what we will have. All because we don’t adequately plan. Many say that any development is bad. That is not true. It is up to the county to direct the type of development it wants to see. If it does not direct development into compact “townships,” it will have accomplished what we fear the most…the loss of open land to endless sprawl.
As you will hear under the Stuart section, there are some who want to sue the federal government to stop the discharges from Lake O into the St. Lucie. But a different lawsuit has begun that may affect the ecosystem of South Florida to a much greater magnitude than anything we could do.
An order was entered by a federal judge in Palm Beach to do an ecological study to determine the effects of the releases not only on the St. Lucie but also on the Caloosahatchee and its estuary, the IRL estuary, Hutchinson Island and other areas. The Army Corps and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service needs to study the impact of LORS not only on algae but also the impact on a number of species within the next year.
This is an agreed order between the parties. It is not going to be appealed. Is it perfect? The answer of course is no, but the government is trying to find a way to preserve the waterways of South Florida.
This has always been bigger that Stuart or Martin County. And to think that some picture-perfect ending was going to occur in the “Erin Brockovich” mode was and is sheer fantasy. This is one more step in the right direction, and it is a collaborative step that will lead us to a better result.
To read the order go here here
Opposition to Costco is not about Costco. It is about development and where it occurs.
The Kanner Highway corridor is a major artery in Martin County. It is now 6 lanes. The road was redesigned to accommodate traffic volume between Federal Highway and downtown Stuart and the development occurring at I-95 and west.
Costco is a symbol. The multi-family housing at that location and within Stuart’s portion of the corridor is happening where it is supposed to occur. Supposedly as part of the Costco development, there will be 450 rental units. The question is will it be too dense?
If you look at the area, there is retail, a hospital, schools, and jobs. Most infrastructure has already been built. The development along Kanner Highway, at least the Stuart portion, is not sprawl. However, the unincorporated Martin County majority is heading in that direction.
The Popeye and Taco Bell sites, which are located a couple of miles west of Indian Street, are exactly what is not needed. They waste a valuable resource (land) and bring very little revenue in return. As development eats up our vacant land, we should treat it as a precious resource using that land for a good public purpose. What Martin County so often does is waste it.
The flower farms of Stuart are gone. They are not coming back. To use those sold farms for sprawl is a sin. If you want to save the farms and ranches that are still viable, then do not make them compete with single family expensive homes. The farms will always lose.
It is not about Costco but our future. To read more go here
WHAT HAPPENED TO THANKSGIVING
By Polly Campenni
When did Thanksgiving become a non-holiday sandwiched in between two other holidays that consume the vast majority of annual consumer holiday spending?
Years ago, the fall season was filled with many holidays…. Labor Day, Columbus Day, Halloween, Veterans Day, and finally Thanksgiving. Each had its own celebration with picnics or parades or costumes, but they were all eclipsed by the most American of holidays, Thanksgiving. It was a day filled with family, food, and an appreciation of what the Pilgrims endured as they bravely sought to make America their home.
But, somewhere along the way, Thanksgiving has taken a back seat to, of all things, Halloween. This was painfully clear to me when I went to look for a small Thanksgiving-themed gift. In the several stores I went to in early November, I was confronted with a table filled with Halloween clearance items. Every other table had Christmas and Hannukah décor. In one store, I did find a few packages of cocktail napkins with a turkey on them.
I was finally successful when I happened upon a set of pilgrim salt and pepper shakers at Publix. They are cute enough, but I would never have considered them except they were the ONLY thing I could find. Just weeks before, the stores had been teeming with elaborate Halloween costumes for children, adults, and pets; yard decorations; cards; and loads of candy.
What happened to a holiday that was originally intended for kids under 10 to go to a few neighborhood houses wearing a costume that a parent had crafted from items readily available in the home and yell “Trick ‘r Treat?”
The Thanksgiving of my childhood and the one I created for my family was free from commercialism, gifts, and stress. It was a lovely time to gather family and friends to share a bountiful meal. It was a safe haven before the craziness of the December holidays. Now it is all but wiped off the calendar other than providing a 4-day weekend for most people during which they can get doorbuster bargains as they begin their December holiday shopping.
Part of America’s soul is gone, and it makes me sad, because I believe it is a part of America that helped fuel our exceptionalism. Maybe each of us can find a way to spend a few moments on Thanksgiving this year to remember what the holiday is really all about and to create new simple traditions that can be carried forward to Thanksgivings in the years to come.
Happy Thanksgiving to each of you!
By Tom Pine
Once again, it’s that time of the year when we the taxpayers of Martin County are forced to pay to battle against Mother Nature at Bathtub Beach.
We will add another million dollars or so to the millions and millions of our tax dollars already spent on that little sliver of land. More money for more sand that within months will flow into the ocean.
I have bad news for our county government, we are not going to beat Mother Nature no matter how many millions and millions of our tax dollars you dump in the Atlantic Ocean.
I moved to Martin County in the early 70’s and I don’t believe there was any beach restoration at Bathtub Beach for at least those first twenty years. Now it’s become a yearly practice if not more often. How many more dollars will be dumped in the Atlantic Ocean over the next five or ten years. This is not sustainable.
As Albert Einstein famously once said, doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result was insanity. Welcome to Martin County.
Prior to 2014 Sail Fish Point erected a sea wall along the Atlantic Ocean to protect them from the rising seas caused by climate change. Once that sea wall was erected that changed the flow of the ocean forever. From that point on Bathtub Beach was doomed. We will never beat Mother Nature. I implore you stop dumping tax dollars in the Atlantic Ocean.
This is one more example of our wasted tax dollars that could have been spent for useful things such as quality crosswalks at all intersections on major roadways throughout the county. Those crosswalks are required by state law.
If there are any people who believe this policy is wrong, then please call the county administrator at 772-221-2300.
STOP DUMPING OUR TAX DOLLARS IN THE OCEAN!
Tom Pine’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.
By Michael Syrkus
Martin County stands as a gem along the east coast of Florida. Sandwiched in between two densely populated statistical districts, Martin County offers a relaxed lifestyle that is hard to find in sunny South Florida.
Beaches, downtown shopping and theatre, and a thriving urban restaurant area all greet those who are looking for a relaxing getaway. But what about those looking for a more rural experience?
Palm City Farms offers a taste of what Martin County once was. Whether you are within the eastern farms (about 100 Ag properties between the Turnpike and the river), or out west (between the Turnpike and 95), Palm City Farms offers a throwback to a rural life long forgotten by most in our rapidly growing county.
This week my neighbor stopped by to drop off some honey from the multiple colonies he keeps on property. It’s a fun exchange we have. He brings honey, and I have some farm fresh eggs waiting.
The comradery of a neighborhood party for Thanksgiving with a farm fresh turkey raised just down the road. The joy of seeing my daughters come home, fingers stained from the juice of an hour picking fresh mulberries across the street. The excitement of helping your longtime family friend and neighbor corral a loose horse from the road after it had found a gate left open. These are feelings that can only be found in the “farms.”
Those of us who live in the “farms” are proud to do so. We see that there is a quality of life and luxury of seclusion that can’t be found in many places anymore. The ability to have a life of privacy and yet still be only minutes from Publix, is a blessing for sure.
Of course, like all people, we do have our challenges. Like many areas, development is always encroaching. Modern conveniences like a strong internet connection can be sporadic, and we are not too high on the totem pole for county maintenance, but that’s ok because things are as we like them out here. We know our neighbors, and we watch out for each other. That’s just the way it ought to be.
Michael Syrkus’ opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint
HERBIE’S HOBE SOUND
By Herbert Howard
What’s up with the Martin County Fair?
My articles are supposed to be about Hobe Sound. In my opinion a county fair or lack thereof affects the whole county. ERGO…I am concerned. I have grandkids that should know what a fair is like.
Where I grew up, we all looked forward to the fair every year. To be fair …get it?… we basically forgot about the fair until the signs started going up all over town announcing fair time was approaching. Rides, carnies, cotton candy, pigs, and goats …the smell!
It was a place for a teenager to take a date. I think we all look back fondly on our memories of the fair. So, why is Martin County’s fair struggling? Not enough parking, not enough land, no place for vendors to park. That was supposedly going to be settled by moving it out to Citrus Blvd in Western Martin County.
But the plan seems to be stalled. So, I made some phone calls, and it seems that the fair board is having a hard time raising the money for the infrastructure. Are there no takers? Does no one want to back kids and animals!
First time I’ve experienced that. Didn’t the county just approve a boat load of money to upgrade our golf course? And, we have Sailfish Splash Waterpark which is a county owned facility. A quick google search revealed that Martin County has 28 schools with 18,624 students. And that’s not including those that are preschool age. That’s a lot of kids.
I am retired now, and my kids are grown. I’d look forward to taking my grandkids to the fair. I certainly would rather them go to events at a fairground in Martin County than head to West Palm Beach or St. Lucie!
The fairground is not just for kids. Currently adults have things to do at the fairground all the time such as gun shows, swap meets and garden clubs. There’s something for everyone, a reason for everyone’s support.
As long as the county is shelling out money for entertainment, let’s stop treating the fair like a red-headed stepchild (my apologies to red-headed step children everywhere) and help out the fair which actually has the capability to reach every citizen in the county rather than just a select few.
Herbert Howard’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.
The only chart is from Technicity naming each country’s most valuable export:
Next is George Tully
Who are the boobs that approved a Taco Bell and Burger King on US 1 in Hobe Sound toward Bridge Road on the east side? People can’t drive a few miles northward to Stuart to buy that stuff? Everyone I’ve spoken with say that fast food places like that deteriorate the small town’s feel and look. I agree.
I’m also an active basketball referee at the h.s. and recreational levels and although h.s. play begins this week, it is my understanding that the Treasure Coast Basketball League that uses Hidden Oaks and Stuart Middle Schools can’t get approval to resume in these school gyms. I think it’s time to let the kids play.
And lastly I agree on the business side… bring in marine and aero and disallow distribution centers like Amazon etc.
I also would like a lot less sprawl like you. I’d rather keep a wild palmetto grove or make a trail park for walking, jogging or birding LOL.
Tx for your info and be well,
Joe Flanagan writes about a proposal that was mentioned in the last newsletter:
First, thanks for taking the time to condense so many public events and meetings. It allows me and many other to catch up on details.
I noted that in your review of Water Side (below), in the LPA meeting last month (?), Jim Moir specifically brought up about the river easement being controlled by ACOE and any development would be restricted. 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.
Morris Crady’s presentation had a number of concerns brought before the LPA in this proposal. He said that doing this plan would prevent traffic from going down 96th but I expressed concerns that their traffic could go down Bridge Road to I-95 to avoid turning left on Kanner across traffic or other options so not to assume all traffic would turn left on Kanner to access I-95. I know I contacted Stacey the next day to express concerns. I will be very curious to see where that plan goes.
And two from Karen Kerwin:
Let the people who benefit from BathTub Beach, Sailfish Point, pay for the constant upkeep of same.
I love your newsletter! You are an excellent writer. However, I think it would be more appealing if you wrote every week. I just spent an hour reading the latest chock full of IMPORTANT info, but I am exhausted. TMI at one time. Hope you can consider this option.
And my answer on why:
If you are tired from reading it just think how tired I am from writing the newsletter. In all seriousness, it takes about 80 hours to put together a newsletter. Most government meetings take place in the same week. I have to attend or listen online to these meetings. Some county meetings are 7 or 8 hours long. After taking notes I have to then pick a few items and then write about them. That doesn’t count the time for looking at agenda packets and digging up information.
I have to meet with people to understand motivations and to have relationships. I try to keep an open mind toward why our elected officials and their staff are going in certain directions.
Frankly I need two weeks to put it all together. I send it on a Sunday so that you can read it leisurely as you would the Sunday paper or a news magazine. You can read it in one setting or over several days.
So thanks for the compliment but I don’t see it becoming a weekly.
Mary Kindle, Stuart Clerk, wrote after the last newsletter where I complimented her:
Good morning Tom,
I just want to say thank you again for the kind words on your Friends & Neighbors of Martin County website, I am glad you enjoyed the presentation. I felt a bit rusty as I had not done a presentation in about 5 years, plus that was my first day back from vacation – but yes, the content was what was important. J I plan to give the presentation to our LPA and BOA at upcoming board meetings and I will add it to our website.
Thanks for your input and support.
And from Daniel Sisk:
I read with interest your summation of the School Board’s failing to pass the proclamation for gay students. A shame that bigotry and ignorance always has to win in Martin County. The conservative bent comes from a community of people, most of whom have never known a gay person or least think they don’t. The fact is they are all around us but in a place like Martin County are usually hiding and I don’t know if you can imagine what it must be like to have to hide and pretend over something as deep and personal and unchangeable as one’s sexuality/sexual attraction. It’s not fun.
Actually it is probably one of the most damaging things that can happen inside the mind of a human being, not to mention the terror that it causes many youth in our county every day. Education IS needed, awareness has to happen if simply to explain to people with all of the scientific and psychological widely agreed-upon evidence that as necessary the fact that being gay is absolutely NOT a choice. Did you choose which sex you “wanted” to be attracted to? None of us have that choice. Further, is the idea of sexual intimacy with the sex you are not attracted cause to make your stomach turn?
Yes, it does with all people.
So, once these simple truths are be made known, the cruelty will then be realized. We are talking about something that a person cannot help – regardless of what the religious folks say. It would be like speaking against somebody born with one arm!
The main point of this is, Martin County, whether they want it or not, needs some educating about the human condition. They don’t get to “choose” anything. It’s all already amongst us. The only thing they get to choose is how ignorant and bigoted they want to continue to be.
Thanks for listening.
A letter from Nancy Stroppy on Palm City roads:
I noticed your newsletters do not address any of the county’s road challenges, specifically traffic and congestion in and out of Palm City.
Our roads in Palm City have become increasingly overrun with traffic and my concern is how and when will anything be done? I read in this news letter that more permits have been given in the county for more housing. Is it the concern or duty of the county commissioners to address roads, traffic, and construction that will all be affected by these permits? 4 of 6 north/south access roads to PSL run through Palm City which is a huge problem and I wonder if any commissioners actually ever drive out to Palm City, 714 west over the turnpike to Citrus Blvd and see the traffic problems?
These roads are congested daily and more building should not be permitted until the roads can accommodate more people.
And my answer:
Palm City’s District Commissioner is Ed Ciampi. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Palm City is more congested than in the past. Commissioner Ciampi has had meetings with PSL and the state to try and address some of your concerns. The BOCC has no jurisdiction to halt any development outside of the county.
As to development within unincorporated Martin County the BOCC is the one that approves new projects. Ciampi has always been extremely constituent oriented.
The newsletter does write about road projects when the government does have a discussion. I wrote a few articles on both Murphy Road and Palm City Farms. I agree that because of the development in Port St Lucie that traffic in Palm City will be worse. That is something that should be addressed but it must be addressed on a regional level.
Thanks so much for the info and for Ed Ciampi’s email address.
I find your letters very informative.
COMMISSION MEETING NOVEMBER 10, 2020
Is it the job of the Parks Department to facilitate the economic wellbeing of private businesses?
I don’t believe that Sailfish Splash Water Park should enjoy a taxpayer subsidy to have the state’s high school swim teams hold their annual meets there. This year’s meet had 400 participants and 1000 attendees. Some portion of these must have eaten in restaurants and some stayed in hotel rooms in the county.
Commissioner Smith stated that there wasn’t a room to be had. But that is anecdotal not definitive. Did the Tourism Council do a study or look for an increase in bed tax revenue? Not to my knowledge. Let us agree that there was an economic impact.
Should taxpayer dollars go to fund the hospitality industries’ windfall? This commission has never met a project it will not fund and then paint it as some big economic victory.
When the commissioners use tax dollars to fund economic incentives for certain businesses, the BOCC is picking winners and losers. They can put wrapping paper on their decisions, but it still is taking from most taxpayers to give to a few friends.
COMMISSIONER COMMENTS AND A GOOD PROJECT
Commissioner Heard brought up that our wet season appears to be extending into November. No doubt she came to that conclusion because rain combined with “King Tides” have resulted in flooding and discharges. I agree with her that this is a result of climate change.
This is the second year in a row that the Air Show was affected by inclement weather. Bathtub Beach will be getting more sand…a million dollars’ worth. And Hobe Sound, which was never the best for drainage, is getting worse. My mother’s dad, who was a native Floridian, would often say that Florida was not for people. And that was when there were only 5 million residents.
It was a short meeting. Harold Jenkins presided over his last one as chair. He was immensely proud that it came in at 55 minutes long. Jenkins does not have the back-slapping character of Commissioner Ciampi, but he was a good chair.
The only project of note was the request by Gaza Marine (located on Jack James up against the turnpike) to have a 40-foot building height limit instead of the 30-foot allowed within that zoning district. The 10-foot increase will allow for boats to be built that would not be able to happen there otherwise.
If you are going to help business, this is the way to do so. Not by subsidy but by removing obstacles to businesses opening. The marine industry is one that brings high paying jobs. This is what government is supposed to be doing not building empires with the people’s money.
AND A BAD PROJECT
The golf course received its $3 million in funding to finish up on the 9-hole course and clubhouse plus $1,214,000 additional for the parking lot.
You heard that right…to date there will have been close to $10 million allocated with more to go. This is a perfect example of government overreach. This is a commission boondoggle that they all wanted.
You think you need your road paved or to bring sewers to your street or an existing park is missing lights…too bad. This is not where the money goes. It is tragic but true. Commissioners would much rather have shiny new objects than take care of existing infrastructure.
They will have their pictures taken with shovels or cutting a ribbon and you will re-elect them for spending your taxes on it. Some of us may complain but we will mark our ballots for the same commissioners. Commissioners know that it is not easy to defeat incumbents. Martin County residents are mostly all talk and little action. The elected officials have little fear that you will turn them out. History has proven this to be true.
Commissioner Heatherington voted with the other four this week to approve the $3 million appropriation. At the last meeting, she voted against spending that money. Yet when it came time for appropriations, she gave her seal of approval. She abstained from the parking lot because her outside employer had bid on the project.
Heard is consistent. When she is against a project, she votes against allowing it to proceed and then if there is any appropriation necessary, she again votes no. This is what Hetherington should have done here. You can’t say no and then vote yes.
During public comment, Frank McCrystal warned Tom Pine and me to stop speaking against the golf course improvements and we should “watch out.” Does that mean that Frank is giving us a warning? McCrystal who is a Stuart resident is an ardent foe of airport expansion and is a dedicated recreation proponent.
Just as he can speak for or against anything he wants (and I respect his right to do so), I will continue to do the same and I hope that Pine will speak his mind also. That is the kind of attitude that is dividing us on a national level. We don’t need it in Martin County.
I am not impugning anyone’s motives as to why he is for or against a project. I would imagine that McCrystal fears airport expansion and I have said that the airport should buy the surplus golf course property. But I do not want them to expand the runway. In a perfect world, the entire airport would be allowed to move out west where it isn’t over a populated community.
I think the surplus golf course property could become part of the airport enterprise fund and be used for light industrial as so much of the non-flight space is now. Those factories within that zone have good paying jobs and provide a profit to that enterprise fund. The land could be used as an STA and be a buffer to the runways.
Frank, you keep on advocating for what you believe should be there, and Pine and I will do the same. I suspect you have a distinct edge because several commissioners think it is better to build that boondoggle of a golf course. But I will just keep plodding along and fight not to create the Taj Mahal of golf courses with taxpayer dollars.
COMMISSION MEETING NOVEMBER 17, 2020
This was the reorganizational meeting. After Commissioners Smith, Jenkins, and Ciampi were sworn in for another term, there were speeches and well wishing.
When the meeting re-convened a motion was made by Ciampi to elect Commissioner Hetherington as chair. It was seconded by Smith. That was followed by another motion by Ciampi to elect Smith as vice-chair. It was seconded by Jenkins. Both motions passed unanimously.
Congratulations Chair Hetherington and Vice-Chair Smith. The position of chair and vice-chair are largely ceremonial.
It is a Martin County tradition that the positions be rotated. By all rights, Commissioner Heard should be included in this rotation. She has not been in the rotation since the old majority was voted out and replaced by Jenkins and Ciampi four years ago and then Hetherington two years later.
When Heard, Ed Fielding and Anne Scott were in the majority, they froze out Smith. So, in some respects it is payback. How long does payback last? Is it time to call it quits and go back to the Martin County way? Heard was elected like everyone else. She deserves her turn.
The age to purchase tobacco products was raised on the federal level last year to 21. Florida’s legislature followed suit, but it was vetoed by Governor DeSantis. Even though the federal law takes precedence, there is a quirk when it comes to vaping. The state has pre-empted local government from regulating tobacco but not vaping.
Hetherington, the mother of two teenagers, knows the epidemic going on with these products. She has made it a mission to make sure that no one under 21 can purchase them. In her last attempt several weeks ago, other commissioners were hesitant about overreach. Staff has come up with an acceptable compromise.
The first objection was to add on another fee for selling these products. The state already charges a fee of $50. This is in addition to the business registration fee charged by the county. The ordinance now will read that the Martin County fee is $50 but if you pay the state a fee (which you must to legally sell the products), then the fee is waived except for the processing fee at the Tax Collector of $2-$4.
Another objection was to make sure the Sheriff’s Department would enforce the ordinance. They have said they would, so that is another problem solved.
Lastly, some thought the penalties for noncompliance were too harsh. After discussion, the following are the penalties within a 24-month period:
- The first offense is a 7-day suspension plus $500 fine
- The second offense is a 30-day suspension plus $500 fine
- The third offense is a 90-day suspension plus $500 fine
- The fourth offense is a revocation of the license
It was a good compromise by the public and commissioners to give Hetherington her win.
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COMMISSION MEETING NOVEMBER 9, 2020
Starting the meeting at 4 pm once a month has been a great idea. The proclamations, awards, and arts moment being done earlier is best for making sure that the commission is not voting on issues of importance at 10 pm. For instance, after all the above was done, several presentations were made, and the public and commissioners made their comments. It took over 2 hours. If that meeting had begun at 5:30, then the “business” portion where the commission votes on items wouldn’t have started until after 7:30. This is much better.
THE BUSINESS OF WATER AND ITS QUALITY
Dr. Beth Falls from ORCA conducted a study at Shepards Park regarding shoreline quality. The study showed that there was nitrogen and phosphorus going into the water from both the drains and shore. This contributes to the high muck content on the bottom of the river. The muck is responsible for much of the turbidity, and it prevents both plant and animal life from inhabiting the river.
Having shoreline plantings will reduce the levels of nitrogen and phosphorus flowing into the river. There will be a demonstration project at the park to see how much of those elements are reduced. Much of the shoreline in the City of Stuart and Martin County have bulkheads.
If planting certain grasses and bushes along the shoreline can curb the pollutants, then more property owners may get on the band wagon.
You can find the entire presentation here
Next up was Mac Stuckey’s presentation on why the city should have an environmental department with a lawyer to monitor and stop the discharges from the Corps. This is an idea he has been advocating for a number of years. While he is sincere in what he believes, I do not think that this is the right action for the City of Stuart.
Mr. Stuckey has said that you can’t trust Martin County to do anything because the agriculture industry contributes too much to the BOCC election campaigns. But Martin County is doing something, and quite a bit. They have several scientists on staff and 40+ consultants to help in the LORS process and to deal with the Army Corps of Engineers and SFWMD. Their efforts are being paid for by the county’s General Fund which all Martin County taxpayers (including those within the city) pay into.
Stuckey also expressed dissatisfaction with the state and SFWMD. Yet on November 12th SFWMD unanimously approved full funding ($64 million) for the EAA Reservoir Project’s STA which will send more water south when completed. Further the Corps has been much more amenable to listening to the concerns of Martin County in recent years.
Stuart has about 2 miles of shoreline. The St. Lucie flows for miles and miles before Stuart, and it goes on a bit more after leaving the city before reaching the lagoon. Mac mentioned how clean the water was in1956 when he first came here. Stuart then had a population of a little over 3000 people and Martin County had 10,000 overall. It was the county seat of a farming area. Stuart may still be the county seat, but it is only about 10% of Martin County’s population today.
It is still a farming area. Many of our problems are caused by runoff but not just agricultural runoff. There are now thousands of homes with septic systems contributing to the problem. During the recent flooding, Sewall’s Point had the Health Department do a study of the standing water and it found fecal coliform material. This is just not a problem caused by the discharges.
The days of thinking that Stuart can solve the problems of our water are over. The city needs to work with Martin County, our state representatives, the SFWMD and the Corps to solve the extremely complicated problems we face. Mr. Stuckey’s idea that by starting lawsuits, money will flow from others to pay for the legal action is not realistic.
The 16,500 residents of Stuart will never have the financial or technical ability to match the Corps in court. Collaboration is the only way to solve this problem. Commissioners who think spending a couple of hundred thousand dollars on an attorney would be fruitful are wrong. The next steps should be working with our partners rather than turning them into enemies.
Stuckey’s handout to the commission can be found here
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SCHOOL BOARD MEETING NOVEMBER 17, 2020
Marsha Powers and Mike DiTerlizzi were sworn in for their new four-year terms after running unopposed in the recent election. This was also an historic moment for Martin County education. Laurie Gaylord has now finished her 2nd term. She will be the last elected superintendent in Martin County. As of November 17th, Dr. John Millay has become the first appointed superintendent in the county. He will report directly to the board. The fundamental relationship between superintendent and board has changed.
Millay does not report to the people. He doesn’t have to stand for election. Unlike Gaylord, his bosses are now the school board members.
The board can no longer blame the superintendent if something goes wrong. There was a separation of authority that is no longer there. The buck stops with them. That does not mean the board becomes involved in day-to-day operations. If those operations go wrong, they are now accountable for it.
It was also time to pick the chair and vice chair for another year. Tony Anderson nominated and made the motion for Powers. It was seconded by DiTerlizzi and passed 5-0. Li Roberts nominated Anderson and made the motion that was seconded by Powers. It passed 5-0. Once again, congratulations to this chair and vice chair.
ACCEPT THE OUTCOME
A few weeks ago, there was a proclamation that was championed by Victoria Defenthaler regarding LGBTQ+ month in October. It was contentious and had many public speakers against it. In fact, it died for a lack of a 2nd. As far as the board is concerned, it is history.
Then why did most of the public speakers who were against the proclamation need to denounce it again at this meeting. Neither the proclamation nor any suggestion of it being discussed was on the agenda. Sometimes, you must know when you won and accept victory. There were a few who spoke in favor of the proclamation who were mostly students.
The board’s resolution that passed regarding all students being accepted for whom they are is hard to disagree with regardless of your beliefs. I wouldn’t call it a courageous gesture by any means. Yet it hit the right note for most of Martin County’s parents and residents. The board recognizes this and none of them are anxious to do anything more.
For those who didn’t want to see the proclamation passed, you need to accept that the board agrees with you. This is a contentious issue with strong proponents on both sides of the question. It is time to let the matter rest.
If Defenthaler or any other school board member tries to resurrect this contentious issue, it will be time to once again come out and speak. Until then, let’s put down our rhetorical weapons and return to our ploughs.
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WORKSHOP NOVEMBER 10, 2020
The Commission learned that there are 35 homeowner associations in the town. According to their PUD agreements, those associations are responsible for maintaining various storm water and resiliency projects within their boundaries.
Many of these associations have neglected to do so. This is part of what is causing the flooding. Others think they are performing the necessary maintenance but are not. Joe Capra, the Town Engineer, and Manager Berger are going to begin the process of educating the associations.
What do you do about the neighborhoods where there are no active association, but there is still an obligation to perform this work? One commissioner suggested that the town do so. Berger rightfully stated that could be thousands of dollars of additional maintenance.
There was general agreement that the town institute a storm water fee. Most other places have one but not Sewall’s Point. How much would that bring in? Someone suggested $12 per month charged to the roughly 900 parcels which would add monthly revenue of $10,800 or a little less than $130,000 per year. That isn’t enough to maintain the current infrastructure never mind any improvements that will need maintenance.
That doesn’t mean it should not be studied. Commissioner Campo rightfully stated the fee levied needs to reflect the total amount needed to address the problem rather than something that must be regularly amended.
The town should perform a complete study of what needs to be done to resolve the problem including buying of land for STAs. Then it needs to price out the capital needs and the deferred maintenance. Once there is a dollar figure, the staff can look to either bond all these projects or borrow depending on what would be more advantageous.
There are several ways to finance and pay. They should all be explored. None of the borrowing should be added to the ad valorem town rate. Once the debt has been retired, the repayment mechanism then goes away. Levying real estate taxes in Florida is complicated. No two parcels of equal value pay the same. All other mechanisms should be considered first.
According to predictions as illustrated on the above map, much of Sewall’s Point may be gone in the next century. That may not alarm most of us who will ourselves be gone in 80 years. However, Sewall’s Point is experiencing unacceptable flooding today. Aren’t residents tired of having their lots, if not their homes, submerged. Even more residents must detour because of flooded roadways.
The time has come for the commission to be leaders. The work needs to be done now. More and more residents will be affected. Waiting for the availability of grants is no longer a responsible way of governing.
You can see Capra’s presentation here
Mayor Fender gave me a presentation that Jupiter Island did regarding seal level rise. It was reported on in this newsletter earlier.
You can find it here
COMMISSION MEETING NOVEMBER 17, 2020
This was the town’s reorganization meeting. The first order of business was to swear in the two re-elected commissioners, Frank Fender and Kaija Mayfield, along with new commissioner, John Tompeck.
Later in the meeting, it was time to choose the next mayor. Fender stated that he does not believe in rotating the position as has been customary. While he didn’t say he wanted to remain in that position, it was obvious. Mayfield stated that she did think everyone should have a turn, which is the same position she had last year when Barile wanted to remain as mayor.
Mayfield asked if Commissioner Kurzman wanted to be mayor since he would have been next in line. He couldn’t because of business concerns. Mayfield then put herself out there for the position. She was nominated by Kurzman and she seconded the nomination. It passed 5-0.
Tompeck nominated Commissioner Campo for vice mayor and it was seconded by Fender. That passed 5-0.
In years past, there was jostling for the various outside committee appointments. There was none this year. The following were appointed:
- Airport Noise Committee: Kurzman
- League of Treasure Coast Cities: Mayfield with Tompeck as the alternate
- MPO: Campo
- Treasure Coast Planning Council Alternate: Campo
- Martin County Tourism Council: Fender
- Council of Local Governments: Tompeck with Kurzman as the alternate
Congratulations to all.
A MASK RESOLUTION
Before Mayor Fender gave up the gavel, he wanted to push through a mask resolution.
It has no enforcement mechanism. It is one that encourages and strongly recommends masks, social distancing and washing hands. The police will not be telling people to mask up or keep their distance. In effect meaningless…but is it?
Other commissioners asked and made sure that it was a statement and nothing more. It was a present to Fender as his last official act. The motion to approve was made by Kurzman and seconded by Mayfield. It passed 5-0
Sometimes statements made are important. It can reinforce an idea. Maybe this will. I know there are many who will read this and say the wearing of masks does not matter. I think that is wrong. Martin County’s BOCC thinks it is wrong since they have a similar resolution. And now Sewall’s Point believes that masks matter.
The resolution can be found here
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COUNCIL MEETING NOVEMBER 12, 2020
Does the rest of the council have it in for Susan Gibbs-Thomas? I do not have an answer, but three times during this meeting she was rebuffed by her fellow council members. The first was when Manager Brown informed the council that the Florida Municipal Insurance Trust was looking for nominees to be on their board. Both Vice Mayor Clarke and Gibbs-Thomas expressed interest, Clarke was chosen to be the nominee.
The next time occurred when an appointment was needed for the Martin County EMS Advisory Committee. Once again, the council chose Clarke over Gibbs-Thomas. It was a committee in which both had expressed interest.
The third time she was rebuffed that evening was when she nominated Scott Watson to be one of the business members of the recently created Planning, Zoning & Appeals Board. Watson, who is controversial in his own right, did not receive a second. Just before that, Councilmember Stone nominated Daniel Sehayik as a business representative, and he was approved unanimously. With the Gibbs-Thomas appointment, Anthony Dowling said that he needed more time before deciding on filling the business role, though he had just done so with Sehayik.
At an earlier meeting, Gibbs-Thomas was removed from her position as the village’s board member to the League of Treasure Coast City. She had been the 2nd VP which put her in line to become 1st VP and then president. In that case, Mayor Hernandez was appointed by the council to the seat, but she is not the vice president on her way to being president of that league.
It appears that Gibbs-Thomas is not well-liked by her colleagues. I don’t think that she ever was, and I think you could trace it to her time as mayor. Then something happened when Stone and Hernandez ran for re-election this summer. Though Gibbs-Thomas was not on the ballot, she did not endorse either of them. But as a sitting member, you do not usually endorse candidates for your own board.
I hope the Indiantown Council can put politics aside when it comes to governing.
Without much fanfare, the LDRs were adopted on 2nd reading.
This is a big accomplishment for the Village of Indiantown. After a cursory look, there is nothing radical or inconsistent with these regulations. As I pointed out in the last newsletter, there is a provision for the height limit to be increased in industrial zoning by administrative action. While I do not agree with either allowing the possible exception or doing it administratively, that is a policy decision.
As was said by council members and the public, this is a “living document.” That means it can be changed and will be changed. And that is fine.
During comment, the owner of 800 acres near Indianwood expressed enthusiasm for beginning development of the project. If that project is built out, it will absolutely change Indiantown. There will be several thousand new residents who would have a dramatic impact on the economic life of the village. It would contribute more prosperous and diverse residents to village life.
Good work by staff and council.
The presentation can be found here
As mentioned above, the LDRs allow for what was known as the Local Planning Agency to become the Planning, Zoning & Appeals Board (PZAB). Now instead of the council members approving projects three times, there will be a board consisting of citizen volunteers in the process. That is a great improvement.
Each council member had an appointment (who must be a resident): Dowling appointed Christa Miley who will have a two-year term Clarke appointed Vernestine Palmer who will have a three-year term Stone appointed Marjorie Beary who will have a three-year term Gibbs-Thomas appointed Anthony Zwiener who will have a three-year term Hernandez appointed Renita Presler who will have a three-year term
Stone nominated and the council approved Daniel Sehayik to be one of the business representatives for a two-year term. There is still a business vacancy on the board.
THIS AND THAT
The council approved Brown negotiating a short-term lease with a carnival operator for the property where the future village complex will be built. The carnival lease will be from November 25th through December 13th. The amount mentioned was $5,000.
The council approved a new personnel policy. According to the charter, all changes of personnel must be approved by the council. This was reinforced by the voters in the last election when they refused to change that requirement. This gives the manager more discretion while being technically faithful to the charter provision.
You can read it here
Finally, there was a discussion about impact fees. The consultant that the village hires will examine the county’s fees in addition to recommending impact fees for the village. The village may question the rational nexus for what the county charges developers in Indiantown and where those impact fees are spent. This has been a bone of contention between the City of Stuart and Martin County for years. This is especially true for road impact fees. Because Stuart is a built-out municipality, the likelihood that the county is going to build a new road is very slim. In Indiantown, new infrastructure is needed. Another squabble may be in the offing.
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COUNCIL MEETING NOVEMBER 9, 2020
There was an uncontested election in Ocean Breeze. Three council members, Gerold, Locatis, and Wagner were sworn in for a new two-year term. Karen Ostrand was unopposed for Mayor.
Congratulations to all!
Yet it is a little sad that no residents from the new homes chose to run. Maybe at the next election they will. Once they settle in a bit, they may start to wonder what is the purpose of the Town of Ocean Breeze?
While the residents of Sun Community (all current elected officials live within the park) have their real estate taxes as part of their land rent, that is not true of these new homeowners. Each of them receives an individual tax bill outlining exactly what they pay to be a citizen of the town.
Council Member Docherty mentioned that one of the boards that he is a member of on behalf of the town meets at the same time as the monthly council meeting. That introduced the larger matter of whether the time for the council meeting should be changed. Docherty stated that he and most of the new home residents work full time which makes it harder to attend daytime meetings.
Docherty was not in favor of changing the meeting time now but would like it considered after the first quarter of next year. A couple of the council members said that the newer town residents could read about the meeting on the town’s website since they could not attend.
Locatis and Arnold were not in favor of changing the time. Gerold wants to study the matter more. The Town Clerk said that staff was hired with the understanding that meetings were held during the day.
Docherty made a motion that staff bring back what I believe would be a draft ordinance. Staff is to ascertain the pros and the cons of changing the meeting time. It was seconded by Gerold. Interestingly, President De Angeles did not have the clerk do a roll call vote. It appeared to me that the motion failed on the voice vote, but he said it passed.
At some point, there needs to be a serious discussion concerning the merits of Ocean Breeze’s designation as a town. What does it supply its residents…all the residents? There really is little infrastructure. Most roads are private. There is zoning but really it has only PUD agreements to enforce. Code enforcement is done by the same person that is responsible in the county.
Moving the time of the meeting is the least of the worries. An incorporated municipality is different from a homeowner’s association. Taxes are not association dues. If the town is going to survive having new residents, it needs to offer them something more than a name.
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COMMISSION MEETING NOVEMBER 17, 2020
The first order of business was the nicest part of the meeting. Several months ago, during a lightning storm, the Johnsons (both father and son) were struck by lightening while they were on the beach. Public Safety Officer Frank Lasaga and Corporal Matthew Potsko of Jupiter Island’s Public Safety Department rushed to their aid and saved their lives. With the Johnsons there, the two employees were recognized.
I know Mr. Lasaga from his time as a Stuart Fire Rescue employee. You couldn’t find a nicer person. Often in public discourse, we speak about heroes. I think we throw that term around very loosely. In this instance, both these guys are just that. And it was nice that they were recognized for their feat of saving two people from death.
The Jupiter Island Arts Council is making its final request for support from the town government. They were looking for the exact amount of $19,111.70. After that, they will be a self-funding independent nonprofit. They may look to partner with the town, or the town may contract with the council to put on events.
Mayor Pidot stated that it would probably be better to award a grant than allocate funds for the council’s tax purposes. To that end Pidot, suggested the amount of the grant be $20,000. A motion was passed 4-0 with Commissioner Collins abstaining because of a conflict since she is on the Arts Council Board.
The presentation and financials can be found here
Town Manager Ventura presented the end of the 20/21 fiscal year. It is not been finalized. It shows the town came in underbudget. You can find the report here
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I wonder how many Americans have ever read the Constitution.
A better question would be how many elected politicians have. At a press conference, the recently elected senator from Alabama couldn’t name the three branches of government correctly. I have heard other pols say some outrageous things about our history and the Constitution including how the confirmation process works.
Congress, both the House and the Senate, is so full of partisanship that even the confirmation of judges has become fraught with rancor. Appointments are confirmed in the Senate. By keeping many federal nominees for judgeships unfilled during the Obama years, Leader McConnell did a great disservice to his constitutional duty.
At the same time, Democrats railing against most of Trump’s appointees simply because they disagreed with their judicial philosophy was also wrong. Trump’s three appointees to the Supreme Court were eminently qualified to be confirmed. Because the Democrat senators do not believe in their judicial philosophies is no reason not to confirm them. The same applied to McConnell’s refusal to allow a vote on Garland in 2016. The Framers would be dismayed by this behavior.
Being an American means more than being a Democrat or a Republican. The Constitution is our shared secular scripture. We ignore it at our own peril. We cannot survive as a nation if we don’t change our behavior now.
To read my article on Medium “Americans Are Ignoring The Constitution” go here here
GET THE WORD OUT Friends and Neighbors of Martin County are your eyes and ears so that you know what is going on in Martin County’s municipal and county governments. I attempt to be informative and timely so that you may understand how your tax money is being spent. Though I go to the meetings and report back, I am no substitute for your attending meetings. Your elected officials should know what is on your mind.
ARTICLES OF INTEREST
Our first article is from Route 50 regarding Puerto Rico’s affirmative vote to become a state:
From The Startup Milton Freedman still knows more about markets than The NY Times:
The History of Yesterday has an article regarding Adam Smith’s two revolutionary ideas:
From The New York Times a piece remembering the time that Martin Luther King was stabbed in Harlem and saved by the NYPD:
Another from Route 50 regarding New York City sending EMTs with cops to answer some calls:
And finally another from The History of Yesterday regarding a scientist that gave the world cheap fertilizer and a gas used to kill millions of people:
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