Harmony development, fire assessment on BCC agenda Tuesday

From Ginny Sherlock, renowned local attorney, civic activist, and former Associated Press editor: Martin County commissioners will hold a public hearing Tuesday on a petition filed by Harmony Ranch to establish an independent Community Development District on 2,700 acres in Western Martin County for a 129-home residential development.  The public hearing will be conducted at 9:30 a.m.  

The BCC will also consider approving a special assessment for fire protection services to raise money to pay for deferred maintenance projects that taxpayers rejected when they voted against a discretionary sales tax proposal last year.  The fire assessment does not require voter approval.
Commissioners previously rejected a proposed Comprehensive Plan amendment to move the urban boundary to allow public water and sewer service to be extended to the Harmony property.  Harmony is now applying for a Community Development District designation, which must be approved by the state.  A CDD is a special-purpose local government district, similar to a municipal corporation, that pays for and manages infrastructure such as roads and a community-wide stormwater management system.  The district would be operated by a five-member board of supervisors.
The Florida Land and Water Adjudicatory Commission makes the final decision to grant or deny a request for establishment of a CDD.  The petition must first be presented to the County, which can support or oppose the application after a public hearing.  Staff says the application is not inconsistent with County regulations or Comp Plan provisions and recommends that the BCC accept public comment and hear the applicant’s presentation as Agenda Item PH-5 without either supporting or opposing the application.
The fire assessment fee was discussed earlier this month when several alternate proposals were presented.  Agenda Item PH-6 seeks approval of a $155.00 annual assessment on residential properties in unincorporated areas of the County and additional fees on commercial, industrial and institutional properties.  Final approval of the assessment will be part of the budget hearings in September.  
The BCC is using contractual or statutory tools to raise revenue following rejection of sales tax hikes that failed to garner support in voter referenda.  The Florida Power and Light franchise fee and proposed fire assessment are new and increased “taxes” that do not require voter approval but can be imposed by the Commission to avoid having to cut costs or make responsible budgetary decisions.  Unlike ad valorem tax increases, these revenue-generating measures apply to all taxpayers regardless of the value of their properties.
The ever-growing Consent Agenda features a number of proposals that deserve public discussion but will be approved without public input or explanation.  Item CNST-1 will approve more than $5 million in continuing contracts for services ranging from painting public buildings to St. Lucie Inlet engineering.  Item CNST-2 is the “warrant list” confirming more than $10.5 million in taxpayer dollars were spent between June 23 and July 3, 2018, without detailed explanation.  A special assessment for improvements that will add $1,175.00 to the annual tax bill for Mack Dairy Road residents is Consent Agenda Item CNST-11, and the boundaries of the Martin County Airport will be adjusted – with one property added and another property removed from airport boundaries – with no discussion as Consent Agenda Item CNST-12.
In other items on Tuesday’s agenda:
– Agenda Item PH-1 seeks approval of an Amended Local Housing Assistance Plan to allow program participants to connect to public water and sewer services.
– A second public hearing may finally be conducted as Agenda Item PH-2 on an ordiance to include standards for sporting clay shooting courses.  This item has been continued from prior meetings on several occasions.
– Public hearings are scheduled as Agenda Items PH-3 and PH-4 to adopt Jensen Beach and Rio Community Redevelopment Overlay Districts.
Download or view Tuesday’s agenda items at:
The new agenda system is still perplexing and decidedly more complicated and difficult to navigate than the “unimproved” system.  Click on the Agenda for the meeting date and then select items from the .pdf file for further viewing.   It is impossible to view the summary and all documents related to the selected agenda item in a single file.
Attend the meeting at 9:00 a.m. Tuesday at the Administration Center, 2401 SE Monterey Road, Stuart, to express your views on these or other issues or e-mail commissioners at sheard@martin.fl.usefieldin@martin.fl.ushjenkins@martin.fl.useciampi@martin.fl.us, and dsmith@martin.fl.us, with copies to the County Administrator and the County Attorney at tkryzda@martin.fl.us and swoods@martin.fl.us.

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