Cell tower plan delayed, biofuel moratorium on BOCC agenda Tuesday


Renowned local attorney and civic activist Ginny Sherlock details the upcoming Board of County Commissioners agenda for May 19: A proposal to erect a controversial cell phone tower at Sailfish Marina on the Manatee Pocket is being continued from Tuesday’s BOCC agenda until June 23 to accommodate the schedule of an attorney hired by Martin County staff to review the application.


In the meantime, the Commission on Tuesday will consider approving an ordinance amending the Capital Improvements Element of the Comprehensive Plan to incorporate the projects in the 2016 Capital Improvements Plan.


Commissioners will also consider a moratorium on biofuel facilities in Martin County for 18 months to allow time to develop regulations governing sites like the one where a serious fire erupted last month.


Agenda Items 6A and 6B, the proposed cell phone tower site plan and re-zoning of a tiny area within the Sailfish Marina property on SE St. Lucie Boulevard, were continued from the April 7, 2015, BOCC meeting. Residents of Stuart Yacht and Country Club and Mariner Cay have objected to the proposed 120-foot-tall cell tower near their homes. Staff has recommended that the commission re-zone a 640-square-foot area for commercial use within a parcel now zoned multifamily residential. Staff has come up with the catchy phrase “postage-stamp zoning” to describe a terrible (and legally questionable) zoning-within-zoning concept, allowing different and inconsistent zoning categories on a single parcel. Staff asked that the items be continued to June 23, 2015, when outside counsel will be available and many of the neighbors will be away for the summer.


At 9:30 a.m., the Commission will consider Agenda Item 6D, the biofuel facilities moratorium. Staff is offering three options: (1) suspend all site plan applications, building permits, and other development proposals for any biofuel facility, whether existing or new; (2) suspend proposals only for new facilities, exempting the two facilities already established in the County; or (3) allow issuance of building permits to repair or renovate existing facilities so long as new site plans are not required. The Commission directed staff to prepare a proposed moratorium in response to the fire at the Viesel Fuel facility in Stuart last month which required evacuation of surrounding businesses and residences. Although no one was hurt, the fire was difficult to contain and has had a lasting impact on the area.


Item 6C is an ordinance to amend the Capital Improvements Element of the Comp Plan by incorporating projects previously approved by the Commission in adopting the 2016 FY Capital Improvements Plan. The CIP includes a few projects that may be unpopular with taxpayers who are looking for spending cuts to reduce a huge backlog of infrastructure repairs and replacements – $2.1 million to realign utilities for the widening of Kanner Highway to six lanes from I-95 to Monterey Road, $1.275 million for the Willoughby Boulevard “road to nowhere” Extension, and $600,000 for leases, crossing maintenance, and rehabilitation required by FEC and CSX rail operators. But the FY16 Capital Improvements Plan is a huge improvement (no pun intended) over previous plans as Commissioners worked hard this year to revise the CIP and to keep “wish list” demands for new projects under control during several intensive workshops.


Absent from the new CIP are questionable projects that were included in prior plans without regard to cost and feasibility, like the multi-million-dollar Jensen Beach mooring field and the Witham Field customs facility as well as some proposed projects of limited county-wide value. The commission majority seems willing to make tough decisions and put in the necessary effort to adopt a more realistic CIP than in years past.


Residents may still have some questions and concerns (how about eliminating “meters” from the Parks and Recreation CIP sheet titled “Parks/Stuart Public Beach/Parking Spaces/Meters), but should be generally optimistic that things are moving in the right direction.


Other items of interest on Tuesday’s Agenda include a 10:30 a.m. preset item by the Fire Rescue Department to discuss the County’s vulnerability to an emergency involving the release of hazardous materials in a rail accident. Item 8F1 should be a timely and informative presentation.


Item 8D2 seeks approval of changes in Harmony Ranch property development orders to finalize the purchase of critically important conservation land from Harmony by South Florida Water Management District and the County.


Item 8A3 is a request for approval of criteria for a Certified Visitor Information Center Program to encourage tourism activities throughout the County. The project is recommended by the Tourist Development Council, which has presided over significant improvements in Martin County tourism promotion efforts implemented by the County’s in-house tourism and marketing manager, Nerissa Okiye.


Finally, the County Library System has a power point presentation (Item 8E1) seeking acceptance of a state grant that will allow an additional full-time library specialist to be added to the staff . The Library System has consistently improved over the last year or so with the addition of impressive technology and creative public services despite shrinking revenues. Director Jennifer Salas and the Library Board of Trustees deserve kudos for their excellent efforts.


Please attend Tuesday’s meeting beginning at 9:00 a.m. or let your commissioners know how you feel about various matters by e-mailing 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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