Decisions, decisions, decisions: Contact BOCC re Tuesday’s critical Consent Agenda items

Thanks to local attorney and civic activist Virginia Sherlock for her summary of upcoming  critical items on Tuesday’s County Commission Consent Agenda; Sherlock  urges residents to contact commissioners as soon as possible:

    As usual, there are several Consent Agenda requests from the Legal Department for waivers of code enforcement fines and collection costs against property owners who violated the County Code. Consent Agenda Items 4C1 and 4C2 ask the BOCC to approve waivers of more than $17,350.00 in fines and collection costs this week, bringing the total amount of fines waived to well over $100,000.00 since we requested a waiver of about $10,000.00 in fees that may be imposed as sanctions in the 1000 Friends/Martin County Conservation Alliance appeal of an administrative law judge’s decision upholding the Valliere amendment.  Hopefully, the County Attorney and Commission will be as willing to waive fees against these dedicated, citizen advocacy organizations as they are willing to forgive far greater amounts in code enforcement fines.
  • Agenda Item 6A is a public hearing on an ordinance amending Chapter 39 to re-establish Neighborhood Advisory Committees to advise the Community Redevelopment Agency with respect to redevelopment efforts in Hobe Sound, Golden Gate, Palm City, Indiantown, Port Salerno, Jensen Beach and Rio.  The amendments supplement the return of CRA functions and powers to the Board of County Commissioners and expands membership eligibility on the NACs to residents who live near (within a half-mile) but not within a community redevelopment area.  Staff has worked diligently to draft an amended ordinance that is worthy of support.
  • Agenda Item 8A3 proposes renaming and re-aligning Commission Municipal Service Taxing Unit (MSTU) boundaries.  There are five Commission Districts but six MSTUs (Northern, Central,  Southern, South Central, Western 1 and Western 2).  Staff proposes  combining the two Western MSTUs into a single MSTU aligned with District 5 and renaming them to the District 1 MSTU, District 2 MSTU, District 3 MSTU, District 4 MSTU and District 5 MSTU.  The proposal makes sense and should be approved.  What doesn’t make sense is the manner in which MSTU District funds are  spent.  Some commissioners simply order payment from District funds for  whatever a particular commissioner chooses, without consultation with or approval from fellow commissioners.  The most egregious example is  Commissioner Doug Smith’s expenditure of hundreds of thousands of  dollars in District funds — tax dollars collected from residents of  District 1 — for projects such as $30,000 on “visioning” for the Jensen Beach concession stand, $400,000 on the Jensen Beach mooring field,  $135,000 on renovations to Indian Riverside Park for the maritime and  yachting museum (which later moved to the Elliot Museum).  Former  Commissioner Ed Ciampi handed out thousands of taxpayer dollars to the  Palm City Chamber of Commerce and other groups with which he was associated.  Commissioners should consider adopting guidelines and procedures for District fund expenditures.
  • Agenda Item 8C1 is a public hearing on the Pitchford’s Landing final site plan.  The controversial project proposed by Bill and Nancy Reily, who filed a SLAPP suit (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) against residents of Jensen Beach who spoke out against the project, is clearly not ready to move forward and is not eligible for a statutory extension of approval deadlines because it is not in compliance with County regulations.  A Notice of Violation was issued back in February citing violations of shoreline protection regulations along the Indian River Lagoon and inconsistencies in development of the property with the approved master plan.  The Reilys are requesting another two-year extension of the development timetable – over and above the five years in extensions that were previously given.  In addition to shoreline protection and wetlands issues, the owners have not demonstrated approval by the Florida East Coast Railway for crossing improvements to the FEC tracks that bisect the project. There are so many problems, so many inconsistencies, so many uncertainties that this project should finally be put down without further ado.  Staff has recommended denial.
  • Finally, Agenda Item 8D1 is an update on the proposed Customs Facility at Witham Field – preset for 2:00 p.m.  After years of unfilled promises and faulty projections, it is clearly economically unwise to move forward with the Customs Facility.  Despite assurances that the facility could be constructed for $800,000.00 (including about $200,000 already spent on design and pre-construction work), the lowest of the low bids came in at over $1.1 million for the bare bones version of the facility after the BOCC voted unanimously to put the project out to bid.  The cost of the Customs project is simply prohibitive.  Even if construction were affordable, annual operating costs will almost surely be beyond our means, especially at a time when there is a possibility that local funds will be needed to pay for the operation of the Witham control tower.  The Customs Facility is a project whose time has passed. Staff recommends that the Commission reject all bids and direct all grant applications to be withdrawn or closed out.
Please let your commissioners hear from you at sheard@martin.fl.us, efieldin@martin.fl.us, jhaddox@martin.fl.us, ascott@martin.fl.us.

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