Martin County Board of County Commissioners may weaken Comp Plan on Tuesday

 

From Ginny Sherlock, renowned local attorney, civic activist, and former Associated Press editor: Proposed changes to nearly every chapter of the Comprehensive Growth Management Plan will be presented for adoption at Tuesday’s meeting of the Martin County Board of County Commissioners.
The agenda includes the usual multi-million-dollar contract approvals as well as the addition of new full-time employees for the Growth Management and Engineering Departments to speed up application review and permit processing for new development.
Agenda Items 6B through 6Q seek adoption of 16 Comprehensive Plan Amendments which include weakening of the four-story height limit and other key policies and overall goals of the Comp Plan that were strengthened in 2013 after a disastrous overhaul several years earlier.  
In transmitting the proposed amendments to the state Department of Economic Opportunity for review last year, the current Commission majority expressed a desire to eliminate strong, detailed Comprehensive Plan policies in favor of revised Land Development Regulations.  
LDRs, unlike the Comp Plan, can be easily and quickly changed to benefit developers who do not want to comply with strict, detailed Comp Plan policies.
Last year, many residents spoke in opposition to changing existing language in our Comp Plan that maintains the four-story height limit, enhances water quality, and protects our rivers and estuary.  But the Smith-Ciampi-Jenkins majority ignored citizens’ pleas and, to add insult to injury, suggested new BCC rules that would inhibit public participation in local government.
Fortunately, an almost universal outcry against proposed new rules to limit public comment kept the new rules from going into effect.
It remains to be seen whether similar pleas from residents asking the BCC to not weaken the Comp Plan will persuade the majority to leave the four-story height limit, shoreline and waterway protections in place.
Agenda Item 8A2 asks the BCC to approve six new full-time County employee positions at an annual cost of $220,990.00.  The Growth Management Department is asking for three new employees to speed up the development review process.  The Engineering Department also wants three new employees – one new permit coordinator and two new project managers to  handle development applications forwarded from the Growth Management Department for engineering review.   The overall goal is to “streamline” the process for approving development review applications and issuing building permits.
Growth Management will likely ask for still more new employees in next year’s budget to handle increased Comprehensive Plan review and Land Development Regulation revision chores.
The Consent Agenda contains a proposal to change the name of the Engineering Department to the Public Works Department.  
Item 4D6 says the new name will more accurately reflect the responsibilities and functions of the department, including stormwater management, infrastructure planning and maintenance, flood control, emergency response, traffic control, transportation and field operations.  This is the type of item that deserves public discussion to explain and notify residents of a significant change in local government structure.  Burying it on the Consent Agenda violates the  Commission’s published rules for placing items on the agenda for automatic approval without public discussion.
In other matters on Tuesday’s BCC agenda:
– Item 8B1 seeks direction from the Commission to initiate a Comprehensive Plan Amendment to change the future land use for property where Fire Station 10 is located on Samaritan Avenue in Jensen Beach.  The property is surplus land that is not being used by the County.  Staff is looking to change the future land use from general institutional to a more appropriate use for a future private owner.  Adjacent properties are designated for Commercial-Office-Residential, Commercial General, and Mobile Home uses.
– Item 6A requests approval of a 6-month extension of a moratorium on applications for installation of wireless communications facilities in County rights-of-way.  An existing moratorium expires on March 13, 2018.  Staff says it needs more time to develop policies and regulations governing wireless communication facilities in public rights-of way.
– Consent Agenda Item 4B1 seeks approval of three 5-year contracts totaling $10.2 million —  $7.5 million for vegetative recycling, $1.5 million for public parks restroom and community center cleaning service, and $1.2 million for aerial mosquito control. 
Download or view Tuesday’s agenda items at:
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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