From Ginny Sherlock, renowned local attorney, civic activist, and former Associated Press editor: The US Army Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District will make presentations at Tuesday’s Board of County Commissioners meeting this week about local water issues, including the Lake Okeechobee discharge schedule that affects the level of pollution in our rivers. Also on Tuesday’s agenda is what may be another contentious discussion about a cell tower in South County, a new tower to be built in the Little Club Condominium community.
The SFWMD will make its presentation beginning at 2:00 p.m., followed by the Corps presentation at 2:30 p.m. At 3:00 p.m., Martin County staff will present its regular River Conditions Update. The state agencies are appearing at the request of the BCC, and Commissioners will likely have some questions about how the Water Management District and the Corps are handling the blue-green algae crisis that is plaguing our area.
The bulk of Tuesday’s agenda will be filled with requests for final adoption of Comprehensive Plan Amendments that were previously approved to change land use designations on 13 properties, including half-a-dozen properties owned by the County. Concurrent zoning changes also will be considered for most of the properties, which include several parcels in Palm City near Berry Avenue not far from the proposed Costco project. Some of the proposals were altered during the transmittal hearings to lessen density or impact. All were eventually approved and sent to the Department of Economic Opportunity for review and all will likely be adopted on Tuesday.
The final item on Tuesday’s agenda is request for approval of a 120-foot tall cell tower to be built by Dynamic Towers, Inc., in Little Club, just half a mile from the Kenai tower that was approved on May 31, 2016, over strenuous objections from residents of Little Club and other residential communities in the area. The Kenai tower was reduced from 120 to 80 feet and was approved after lengthy and vigorous discussion on a 3-2 vote, with Commissioners Scott and Heard dissenting.
The Little Club Condo Association intervened in opposition to the Kenai tower request. Now, Kenai Properties, LLC, and RG Towers, LLC, have filed a request to intervene to oppose the tower their competitor, Dynamic Towers, wants to build in Little Club. As with the Kenai tower proposal, staff is all over the place in its report and recommendation. Despite a 607-page agenda packet, it’s almost impossible to tell what staff’s conclusion is. The staff recommendation is for approval if the BCC determines that the Little Club tower is a “stealth” tower as defined in the County’s wireless communications tower ordinance. Since the proposal is almost identical to the Kenai proposal for a tower designed to appear to be a ginormous pine tree, it will be difficult, indeed, for the BCC to conclude otherwise. At the end of the packet, however, is a memorandum from the County Attorney’s Office which appears to suggest that the BCC can’t approve the Little Club tower because it’s too close to the approved Kenai tower proposal and, therefore, offers “co-location” of equipment on a single cell tower. The ordinance prohibits construction of new towers if equipment can be located on existing towers in the same area.
The Kenai tower should not have been approved. It is clearly not a “stealth” tower (it is to be constructed in an area which lacks surrounding vegetation that would allow an 80-foot-high “pine tree” to appear to be a natural part of the landscape). But having approved the Kenai tower, how can the BCC turn down the Little Club tower that is far more likely to meet the definition of “stealth”? And how can the Little Club tower be approved in a location that is so close to the previously approved Kenai tower?
The problem, of course, is that the Kenai tower has been approved but has not been built. How can the Commission reject the Little Club tower due to the availability of an existing tower where equipment can be co-located when there is not, in fact, an existing tower? What if the Little Club tower is rejected but the Kenai tower is never built?
In other matters on Tuesday’s agenda:
– Commissioners are being asked to approve on the Consent Agenda a $1.2 million contract for construction of the Salerno Road sewer project in the Port Salreno CRA. It’s not clear where the funds are coming from. County policies specifically require BCC approval for any contracts in excess of $1 million. But what’s the point of seeking BCC approval if the item is buried on the Consent Agenda and will not be heard by the public?
– Flower Power & Light is requesting approval of a major development final site plan for an electrical distribution substation (the Hummingbird Substation) on SW Citrus Boulevard in Indiantown.
– Staff seeks approval of a Community Development Block Grant application to be submitted to the Department of Economic Opporunity for $750,000 in Housing Rehabilitation Grant funding from the state (with a $50,000 match from local SHIP funds).
– Staff is asking for a 5-year extension of a $125,400-a-year lease of private office space in the Island Crossings complex for Clerk of Court, Tax Collector, and Property Appraiser’s Hobe Sound satellite offices. The staff report contains no discussion of whether there are any available County-owned properties that might be used to house these services.
As always, let your commissioners know how you feel about these and other issues by attending the BCC meeting beginning at 9:00 a.m. Tuesday in Commission Chambers or by e-mailing commissioners at email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, and email@example.com, with copies to the County Administrator and County Attorney at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.