‘Everything but the kitchen sink’ on Tuesday’s Board of County Commissioners’ agenda

Martin County Commissioners: Ed Fielding (District 2); John Haddox (District 5); Sarah Heard (District 4); Anne Scott (District 3); Doug Smith (District 1). [Source: martin.fl.us]

Civic activist and noted local attorney Virginia Sherlock details Tuesday’s BOCC agenda that has a number of items of public interest, including County acquisition of an important conservation parcel, a controversial cell phone tower on the Manatee Pocket, final approval of the new truck stop zoning ordinance, annual performance reviews for the County Attorney and County Administrator, an expensive LED changing message sign for the Rio Civic Center, and a new policy for naming publicly owned conservation lands.
There are just two presets – Item 8D5 regarding acquisition of a portion of the Harmony Ranch property at 10:00 a.m. and Item 6A regarding adoption of an LDR restricting location of truck stops at 1:30 p.m. 
Although public comment is listed as preset at 9:05 a.m., the Commission appears to have abandoned earlier promises to allow the public to address elected representatives at the outset of each meeting, making it harder for working residents to put their three minutes in as more and more time is devoted to proclamations in advance of the “preset” public comment period.
A large number of neighboring property owners filed petitions to intervene in opposition to a 120-foot-high cell tower at Sailfish Marina – Items 6B and 6C – which seeks re-zoning for a tiny portion of an existing parcel.  Staff recommends the re-zoning, despite the fact that the area doesn’t meet the minimum lot size for the requested WGC zoning.  The project doesn’t meet requirements of the Wireless Telecommunications Facilities regulation (aptly known as the WTF ordinance). The staff report nonsensically refers to the proposed project as a “stealth monopole” tower (the terms “stealth” and “monopole” are mutually exclusive . . . the tower is either a stealth tower disguised to look like something else or a monopole which is obviously a communications tower) and adopts the applicant’s absurd suggestion that the purpose of the project is to provide the surrounding community with better cell service.  The applicant’s lawyer is Fred van Vonno, husband of Martin County Growth Management Director Nicki van Vonno.  City of Stuart Utilities Director Sam Amerson certified compliance with Martin County development regulations. The property is owned by a company run by Butch Bayley, whose words are endorsed and circulated by the cowardly anonymous toxic e-mailer DBell.  Enough said.
(On Friday, the applicant requested that the cell tower item be postponed until the May 19, 2015, meeting in order to address neighbors’ concerns, so it’s likely this item will not be heard on Tuesday.  Residents who are planning to head north for the summer may want to use the public comment period to express their views if the agenda item is withdrawn.)
Item 8C2 is a proposed stipulation in foreclosure proceedings against property that was the site of the Rio Mobile Village. The County spent more than $30,000 cleaning up the property and thousands more in legal expenses after the property owner failed to comply with an agreement to satisfy code enforcement liens. The proposed settlement provides payment of $7,500 to the County, with the mortgage lender to take title to the property free of liens or any other obligations to the County.  It’s not a bad deal.  At least taxpayers didn’t end up spending hundreds of thousands of dollars for a piece of property that has proved difficult to sell.
The final public hearing on proposed revisions to the Land Development Regulations governing development of truck stops in Martin County is Agenda Item 6A (preset for 1:30 p.m.).  Staff has done an excellent and exhaustive study of issues related to the construction and location of truck stops in revising the LDR. 
Item 8D5 is a welcome proposal for acquisition by Martin County of 288 acres of Harmony Ranch land with partial funding from the South Florida Water Management District.  The parcel between Pratt Whitney Road and Bridge Road adjoins 1,552 acres to be acquired by the District.  This item (preset for 10:00 a.m.) represents an important conservation land acquisition.
And speaking of conservation lands, Item 8D3 is a proposed conservation lands naming policy, using the policy adopted last year for naming County parks to establish guidelines for naming publicly owned conservation lands.   
Annual performance reviews are scheduled as Items 8A3 and 8C1 for the County Attorney and County Administrator, respectively.  County Attorney Mike Durham has certainly had more than his share of controversial and complex legal matters to deal with and has handled them skillfully and professionally with the County’s best interests always paramount.
Brief but worth noting: The Pitchford’s Landing update on the Consent Agenda includes a memo describing communications between staff and the developer’s agents that occurred last month.  Items 8B1 and 8B2 seek approval of a $30,000 LED message changing sign on County property by the Rio Civic Center to flash “public service announcements” at passersby.  Item 8E1, requesting a waiver of the $320 fee for the Jensen Beach Chamber of Commerce to use the County’s Showmobile stage, has been withdrawn.  Parks and Recreation has a no fee waiver policy.  If the Jensen Beach Chamber is financially destitute, perhaps the District One commissioner could contribute $320 from his discretionary account.
Finally, Commissioners are being asked in Item 8D2 to forget everything they told the public in urging approval of the failed sales tax referendum.  Back then, the public was warned that the County has no money for road maintenance and repairs.  Now, the Commission is being asked to spend $116,000 to purchase the first of a number of properties to be acquired for a new road – the Willoughby Boulevard Extension – that is poised to join the ranks of the Green River Parkway and Citrus Boulevard as roads which cost taxpayers millions but serve only a few.  
Please contact your commissioners about these and other matters of interest. Attend Tuesday’s meeting if you can.  E-mail commissioners at  sheard@martin.fl.us,efieldin@martin.fl.usascott@martin.fl.usjhaddox@martin.fl.us  and dsmith@martin.fl.us  with copies to  mdurham@martin.fl.us  and  tkryzda@martin.fl.us.

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