Mark your calendar for Tuesday’s jam-packed Board of County Commissioners’ meeting agenda

Tuesday’s Commission meeting is jam-packed with litigation updates, a proposed sales tax referendum, CRA and Library presentations, airport grant and lease assignment proposals, and a request to initiate a comp plan amendment for Chapter 10 (sanitary sewer element).

 

Virginia Sherlock, local attorney and civic activist, summarizes the agenda of the upcoming Board of County Commissioners’ meeting:

 
Agenda Item 8D5 is a proposed sales tax surcharge that will be placed on the November ballot if the Commission approves a revised ordinance calling for a 1-cent sales tax for up to 10 years to be used for roads, bridges and drainage projects.  The item is pre-set for 10:00 a.m.
 
It will be hard to persuade Martin County voters to tax themselves to extricate Commissioners and Administrators from the hole they dug for themselves with excessive spending on unnecessary items while critical infrastructure maintenance was neglected over the past decade.
 
The Commission routinely approves grants that require hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars in matching funds for non-essential projects. More reckless spending is evidenced in a review of CRA projects and expenditures (see Agenda Items 8.B.1 and 8.B.2.) and the recent vote to approve a costly Customs Facility for Witham Field to avoid “inconvenience” for wealthy aircraft and boat owners who engage in international travel.
 
The current Commission has not yet regained residents’ trust that was lost by the prior Commission.  Until residents see signs of careful, thoughtful fiscal management from our elected representatives, a sales tax referendum stands little chance of approval. 
 
At 11:00 a.m., Agenda Item 8.E.2. seeks Commission approval to initiate a Comprehensive Plan Amendment to revise Chapter 10, the Sanitary Sewer Element, to restore mandatory performance standards for septic systems that were removed in re-write of the Comp Plan in 2009.  The Future Group eliminated local restrictions on septic systems from the Plan, leaving only inadequate state standards to enforce (although LDRs remain in place, Comp Plan policies supporting the LDRs were deleted). Chapter 10 revisions, which also restrict package plants and encourage connection to regional water and sewage systems, are critical to protect our rivers and estuary. 
 
Agenda Item 8.A.1. includes a request for approval of a budget resolution accepting an FDOT grant for “Runway 25 obstruction removal.”  Only in the English language-challenged world of government bureaucracy is cutting down trees referred to as “runway obstruction removal.”  
 
(Another airport-related item is a request by Galaxy Aviation to assign its County lease and four subtenant leases following acquisition of Galaxy by a larger FBO operator, Atlantic Aviation.  See Agenda Item 8.D.4.)
 
Agenda Item 8.A.2. is supposed to educate commissioners about procedures used by the County to hire outside consultants.  The agenda item describes two categories of requests for consultant services: RFQ (request for qualifications) and RFP (request for proposals). The item fails to describe the RFB (request for bids) category (how is an RFB different from an RFP?) Commissioners — and residents — should periodically review pending proposals for an eye-opening education about how consultants are selected. There are currently eight pending requests.  Here’s the link: 
 
 
Item 8.A.4. is a performance review for County Attorney Michael Durham, whose one-year anniversary is April 23.  Durham took over a department with serious deficiencies and immediately took on a number of challenging matters — including defending the County against the Lake Point rockpit owners (who also filed a SLAPP suit against Maggy Hurchalla), a legal dispute with the City of Stuart over misallocated tax receipts, and an administrative proceeding to invalidate a Comprehensive Plan amendment designed to restore protections removed from the Plan by the 2009 Future Group re-write.  Durham deserves an attaboy from the Commission.
 
Items 8.C.1, 8.C.2 and 8.C.3 involve pending litigation updates from the County Attorney.  
 
A private attorney-client session with Commissioners will be held at noon to discuss an offer from the City of Stuart to resolve a dispute arising from errors made by the Property Appraiser in allocating TIF collections, with the County receiving more than $1 million that should have gone to the City.  At the same time, the City received funds that should have been paid to the County in personal property taxes.  What should be a simple mathematical calculation to set things right has turned into a churlish dispute between the City and the County that should be resolved without further posturing.
 
At 3:00 p.m., a public briefing will be given on the challenge filed by King Ranch (AgTEC), Coventry (Hobe Grove DRI), Becker Groves and Lake Point to revisions to Chapters 1, 2 and 4 of the Comp Plan.  An administrative hearing is set to begin March 31; however, settlement negotiations are underway.  A private attorney-client session will follow the public briefing.
 
At 4:00 p.m., another public briefing will be presented in the case of Shewmaker v. Campbell, a dispute over rights-of-way in Palm City Farms. Members of the Palm City Trails Association want to clear the rights-of-way for equestrian trails.  The County has been sued in an attempt to get a Court ruling that the County accepted dedication of the rights-of-way on the Plat of Palm City Farms.  This has been an extremely contentious issue among Palm City Farms property owners for many years. The County previously refused to side with either the Trails Association or the property owners, taking the position that the dispute is a matter between subdivision property owners.
   
Finally, Item 8.F.1. is a presentation by the Library Director and the Chair of the Library Board of Trustees on the future of the Martin County Library system. Libraries are operating with reduced staff, fewer hours, and less funding than in previous years.  Citizen complaints about empty shelves and too much emphasis on “electronic” books prompted the Commission to request a presentation to help the County develop a vision for library services in the coming years.  This item is pre-set for 2:00 p.m.  
 
It’s a full agenda with items of interest to many residents.  Please come and express your support — or opposition — to whatever moves you.  
 
As usual, you can also contact commissioners in advance by e-mail:
 

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