Urban boundary threatened by new proposal



From Ginny Sherlock, renowned local attorney, civic activist, and former Associated Press editor: The Local Planning Agency meets at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, May 18, 2017, for further discussion of Comprehensive Plan Amendment 17-10, which would allow extension of water and sewer lines to certain properties outside the urban services boundary and would more than double the size of on-site sewage systems on rural lands.  The LPA previously voted to delay any action on the proposed amendment until more information is available to answer questions and concerns raised by the public.


Extending utilities outside the urban district to certain properties without a finding of public health or safety issues could allow owners of any other properties outside the urban boundaries to demand extension of water and sewer lines to allow for more intense development. This threatens the integrity of our urban boundaries.


Additionally, there is no evidence of any need to expand the capacity of rural septic systems from the existing 2,000 gallons-per-day to the proposed 5,000 gallons-per-day.  Larger systems are more expensive to install and maintain and are more likely to fail. 


At last week’s meeting, County Commissioners voted to accept the LPA’s recommendation to take no action on the proposed amendment until further hearings are conducted.  The proposal will be presented in revised form to the LPA on Thursday evening and will go back to the Commission for a vote on May 23.  The revised proposal eliminates language that would have allowed extension of utility lines to any parcel determined to be a “potential contributor” to water pollution or habitat degradation.  But while a 10,000 gallons-per-day capacity allowance for permanent farmworker housing was eliminated, the proposed 5,000 gallons-per-day allowance is being extended to all non-residential uses outside the urban district, including agri-tourism.


Commissioners Doug Smith, Ed Ciampi and Harold Jenkins voted to add six areas — Seven J’s industrial subdivision, a prospective fairgrounds location in Indiantown, additional lots in the Tuscawilla (Canopy Creek) subdivision, the Martin County landfill, Martingale Commons subdivision, and the sheriff’s shooting range — to a list of properties that will be exempt from the prohibition against water and sewer lines outside the urban district.  Commissioners Sarah Heard and Ed Fielding opposed adding parcels to the urban boundary-busting list and argued that water and sewer lines should not be extended to properties outside the urban boundaries so long as so many properties inside the urban boundaries do not have utility service (Golden Gate, Old Palm City, Jensen Beach, Rio, Port Salerno).


Here is an analysis from Maggy Hurchalla:


The county commission directed staff to fast-track an amendment that would weaken rules for septic systems. 


It came as a surprise with no workshops or public discussion. 


Concerned citizens and the LPA all had unanswered questions about the impact of the amendment.  The LPA asked for more time before voting on the amendment.  Staff provided a revised amendment the night before the county commission meeting without providing the revised proposal to the public for review. 


Four commissioners (Fielding, Heard, Ciampi and Jenkins) voted to delay the hearing and give the LPA a chance for further discussion. Commissioner Doug Smith supported the proposed amendment without further review or information.


It turns out that the new version – which was supposed to answer public concerns – has deleted language restricting rural land use. That language and the concept of an urban service district are the foundation of our comp plan.


Simply put, our plan requires that high-intensity uses that need urban services must be inside the urban boundary where urban services already exist. That means the taxpayer doesn’t end up paying for fire and police and emergency services and roads and sewer and water for someone who buys cheap land outside the urban boundary and wants a use with urban intensity.


Staff simply took out the wording that says rural uses are limited to low-density small scale uses.


That effectively kills our urban service district. That urban boundary has protected residents and taxpayers and businesses that chose to locate inside the urban boundary. It’s won awards, survived court battles, and made Martin County a better place to live.  




You can e-mail LPA members at:


Jim Moir – benchcat@aol.com

Joe Banfi – citiesbydesign@gmail.com,

Scott Watson – watsoneffort@yahoo.com

Don Foley – DonMade33455@gmail.com

Cindy Hall – Chall.mclpa@gmail.com


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