Board of County Commissioners: Battle of the cell towers continues

Cell tower location at Little Club Condominium property in Tequesta (Source: martin.fl.us)

From Ginny Sherlock, renowned local attorney, civic activist, and former Associated Press editor: The Martin County Board of County Commissioners will decide whether to approve an application to construct a cell tower on the Little Club Condominium property on Tuesday, despite objections from a competing cell tower operator who earlier received approval for another cell tower in the same area. Commissioners also will finally confirm appointments to the Domestic Animal Control Task Force that was established following a Martin County Sheriff’s investigation of complaints about inadequate treatment and unnecessary euthanasia of animals at the Palm City shelter operated by the Humane Society of the Treasure Coast.
 
On the good news front, Commissioners will hear an update on the County’s legal fight against All Aboard Florida. Martin and Indian River Counties scored a victory in federal court last week when a U.S. District Judge denied motions to dismiss lawsuits aimed at reversing government approvals of tax-exempt private activity bonds (PABs) to finance the high-speed rail project.  A 39-page memorandum opinion issued by the court included, among other findings, a conclusion that Phase II of the AAF project (West Palm Beach to Orlando) may not be built if PABs are not available to provide funding.  Staff will offer an update on the battle against AAF as Agenda Item 8C1, a 30-minute presentation that has, unfortunately, not been given a pre-set time.
 
Commissioners will focus on another battle beginning at 9:30 a.m., when Agenda Item 8B2 will be heard.  This item is an application by Dynamic Towers to erect a 120-foot cell tower in the Little Club Condominium community.  Tuesday’s hearing is a continuation of a public hearing that began during the July 26 meeting.  The Little Club Condo Association previously intervened to oppose another cell tower, the Kenai tower, that was approved in the same area.  Kenai Properties, LLC, returned the favor by intervening in opposition to the Dynamic Towers application that is now being heard.  After several hours of testimony and presentations by staff, Dynamic Towers, Little Club, and Kenai, the July 26 hearing was continued until Tuesday. 
 
Kenai won the race to Commission chambers, scoring approval of its application over objections from neighboring residents when its proposal was set for hearing weeks before the Little Club’s competing application was placed on the Agenda.  Opponents claim the Kenai tower does not meet County requirements as a “stealth” tower, but it was approved by Commissioners Smith, Haddox and Fielding (with Commissioners Heard and Scott opposed) after a last-minute change to reduce the height to 80 feet.  Staff is now advising Commissioners they cannot approve the Little Club tower unless they find that it complies with a rule that prohibits construction of new towers when an existing or approved tower is already located in the same area where equipment can be “co-located” on a single structure.
 
The only other pre-set item on Tuesday’s agenda is Item 7A, the Rivers Conditions Update, which will be presented at 2:30 p.m.
 
Despite significant public interest and attendance at meetings regarding animal care services for which County taxpayers pay HSTC $560,000-a-year, Agenda Item 5C has not been given a pre-set time.  The Commission voted on June 21 to establish a Domestic Animal Control Task Force to review County policies, contracts and ordinances related to treatment and disposition of stray and feral animals.  Now, two months later, the Commission is being asked to finally confirm appointments to the Task Force, which has lost many weeks of critically short time to begin its work.  The HSTC contract expires September 30.  The MCSO investigation found probable cause to charge at least seven individuals at the Palm City shelter with criminal animal cruelty, but the State Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute.  The Task Force is charged with determining the best way to manage taxpayer-funded animal care services.  Due to the delay in getting the Task Force up and running, meaningful recommendations will not be made to the Commission in time to save many healthy, treatable or adoptable animals that are denied veterinary treatment or are put to death at the HSTC shelter.  
 
The Task Force is to be comprised of one appointee named by each of the five commissioners, one veterinarian, and a designated representative of the Martin County Sheriff’s Animal Control Division.  Each of  the commissioners has named an appointee. Only one veterinarian, Dr. Sara Mathews, submitted an application by the July 22 deadline.  Dr. Mathews is an experienced shelter veterinarian and shelter medicine consultant who is an ideal candidate for appointment to the Task Force.  Staff ignored the deadline to add Dr. Rex Sentell on the ballot for selection as the veterinarian member of the Task Force.  Dr. Sentell submitted his application less than a week ago, on August 16, and listed an HSTC Board member as a reference. He lists no shelter medicine experience on his resume.
 
Agenda Item 6B is one of the more absurd matters to come before the BCC.  The Martin County Environmental Control Board, consisting of all five members of the BCC and established by the Martin County Environmental Control Act of 1974, must meet at least once every 12 months.  Meetings are held in August of each year, and the BCC is being asked on Tuesday to convene as the Environmental Control Board for the sole purpose of scheduling the next meeting in August 2017.  The County does not appear to be implementing the ordinance, which should either be updated or tossed out.
 
In other matters on Tuesday’s agenda:
 
– Item 8B1 seeks approval of the Loggerhead Subdivision Plat for a 12-lot single-family home development on SW 34th Street in Palm City. This item has been twice continued from earlier meetings .
 
– Item 8B3 is a request to vacate a previously approved plat for a 13-lot industrial subdivision at the intersection of SW Farm Road and SW Silver Fox Lane in Indiantown.  The Prism Business Park was never developed, and the land remains vacant.  The plat needs to be vacated to allow the property to be sold or developed under a new proposal.
 
– Item 8B4 is an application for plat approval for a 38-lot single-family residential subdivision between SW Lost River Road and SW Kantner Road called Tidewater Point.  Staff has done an excellent job of reviewing this project to ensure compliance with County codes and regulations.  
 
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  sheard@martin.fl.usefieldin@martin.fl.usascott@martin.fl.usjhaddox@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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