BCC: ‘It’s a pine tree, no it’s a cell tower, no it’s a pine tree…’




Closeup of cell tower pine tree showing antennas and fake branches. (Source: History Sidebar)


From Ginny Sherlock, renowned local attorney, civic activist, and former Associated Press editor: The Martin County Board of County Commissioners may spend more than three hours at Tuesday’s meeting trying to determine whether a proposed telecommunications tower meets the County Code’s requirements for a “stealth” tower, that is, a 120-foot-tall structure that appears to be something other than a cell tower. Commissioners will also consider on Tuesday whether to dispose of some County-owned properties, including the old Jensen Beach post office-cum-library, and will hear budget requests from the Tax Collector, Clerk, Property Appraiser, and Supervisor of Elections.


Agenda Item 6A is a request for final site plan approval for a tower on a .92-acre parcel near the Little Club Condos in South County. Another tower is proposed nearby, which could lead to more cell towers than are needed in the area, about a mile north of the Martin County line. The County Code allows new cell towers to be constructed only if there is not enough room on existing towers to “co-locate” additional communications equipment. Another requirement is that cell towers on or adjacent to residential property be “stealth” towers disguised to conceal their function. Towers that look like flag poles, pine trees, and sign stanchions are commonly designed to meet “stealth” requirements. The BCC will conduct a quasi-judicial hearing to take evidence and hear arguments in a testament to local government decision-making influenced by citizen participation. The association representing Little Club condo owners has intervened in the process and played a major role in persuading the LPA to vote 4-0 to deny the proposal. Tuesday’s hearing, which is pre-set for 1:40 p.m., may be lengthy but should be interesting.


The Commission also will consider disposition of County-owned properties as recommended in the CBRE report that evaluated real property owned or leased by the County. Agenda Item 8A4 is an anticipated hour-long discussion of 26 County-owned properties that may be suitable for sale, putting them back on the tax roll and adding sale proceeds to County coffers. Among the properties staff recommends for sale is the old Jensen Beach Library building on Ricou Terrace, which was once a US Post Office. Two former fire stations are on the recommended for sale list, along with a number of vacant lots that were acquired by the County over the years. The aggregate value of the properties is in excess of $4.25 million.


Constitutional Officers will present proposals for consideration by the BCC in budget discussions for the 2017 fiscal year that starts October 1. Presentations will be made by the County Clerk, the Tax Collector, the Supervisor of Elections and the Property Appraiser. The County Sheriff’s budget is not included in Agenda Item 8A2, which is pre-set for 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday.


The ever-present issue of the County’s unreliable and decidedly unfriendly new website is not on Tuesday’s Agenda but continues to impede residents’ ability to review and evaluate proposals that will be going before the Commission. It was difficult to download some of Tuesday’s agenda items. Sadly, a growing number of residents have simply given up trying to access information on the County website, which remains frustrating and annoyingly user hostile and difficult to navigate.


Other items on Tuesday’s agenda include:


– Agenda Item 8A3 seeking approval of a resolution renewing Martin County’s participation in a five-county cultural and arts consortium with Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, and Monroe. The Arts Council of Martin County will act as Martin County’s representative. The BCC should confirm that while serving in this capacity, the Sunshine-shy Arts Council will adhere to the requirements of the Florida Open Meetings Law and Public Records Acts.


– Agenda Item 8A5 is a request for approval of three projects presented by the Tourist Development Council to promote tourism in Martin County, including consideration of an application by the City of Stuart to become a Certified Visitor Information Center.


– Agenda Item 8B1 is a resolution supporting the goals of the Coastal Ocean Task Force, including implementation of the proposed coral reef management plan.


– Agenda Item 8B2 is a request to allow the new owner of the Port Mayaca Plantation Phase 1 project to complete infrastructure improvements for the recorded plat that were abandoned when the former owner lost the property to foreclosure. The County was once on the hook for the multimillion-dollar cost of infrastructure improvements; but the new owner wants to pick up the tab and to post a bond with the County to ensure that the work will be completed.


Please let Commissioners know how you feel about these and other issues by attending the meeting beginning at 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday or by e-mailing them at sheard@martin.fl.us , efieldin@martin.fl.us , ascott@martin.fl.us , jhaddox@martin.fl.us , and dsmith@martin.fl.us , with copies to the County Administrator and County Attorney at tkryzda@martin.fl.us and mdurham@martin.fl.us .

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