October 6: ‘Spell-binding’ Board of County Commissioners’ agenda

From Ginny Sherlock, renowned local attorney, civic activist, and former Associated Press editor: Tuesday’s Martin County Board of County Commissioners (BCC) meeting features an unusually light agenda that should give Commissioners and the public a welcome break from wrestling with weighty and controversial issues.
 
So let’s take a moment to consider spelling. 
 
The staff discussion in Agenda Item 8B1 and a proposed resolution to accept four new roads into the County road inventory states that the roads will be “publically owned and publically maintained.”  The accepted spelling of items or matters that are public is “publicly“.  Although “publically” is listed in some dictionaries as an alternate spelling, the universally accepted spelling is “publicly.”  To those of us who appreciate and value language, the alternate spelling is jarring.  Most authorities consider “publically” incorrect and call it a misspelling.  
 
Spelling issues aside, the request set out in Item 8B1 is premature. D.R. Horton wants to build homes on vacant platted land in Port Salerno but can’t get building permits for homes on property that does not front on an “open road.” The developer wants the Commission to agree to designate portions of four roads as “open roads” and add them to the County road inventory, with taxpayers to accept all future maintenance responsibility.  The problem is that the roads haven’t yet been built.  Staff says the County’s procedure has previously been to require roads to be constructed in accordance with the County’s standards prior to accepting them into the County’s road inventory.  In this case, however, staff is recommending that the Commission commit to accepting roads into the County inventory before they are constructed, with taxpayers to pay all future costs for the roadways, stormwater drainage systems and sidewalks once they are built and approved by the County Engineer.  
 
At a time when the County has an enormous backlog of road and stormwater drainage structures to be repaired, replaced, or improved, why is staff deviating from established procedure by asking that Commissioners burden taxpayers with responsibility for new roadways that haven’t even been built?
 
In Agenda Item 6A, staff seeks approval of amendments to the Land Development Regulations to provide “quick fixes” to streamline the development review process for properties within Community Redevelopment Areas which currently face more stringent landscaping requirements than properties outside the CRAs.  It’s not clear why the different requirements were established in the first place, making it difficult for Commissioners to decide whether or why a change should be made at this time. This item might be more appropriately considered during the upcoming CRA workshop planned for November or December to review CRA structure and ordinances that govern properties within the County’s CRAs. 
 
A reasonable proposal to ask the Legislature to eliminate special rules for restaurant liquor licensing in unincorporated portions of the County is set out in Agenda Item 8A2.  The proposal is designed to make requirements to obtain a special beverage license (SRX license) the same for businesses throughout the County, including those located outside the City of Stuart or a CRA.
 
In other matters, the Consent Agenda contains an initial assessment resolution for 75 homes in Port Salerno for installation of water lines at approximately $6,375 per lot (or about $820 per year added to each lot’s tax bill for the next 10 years).  There are the usual code enforcement fine reductions and OMB items seeking approval of grants and grant applications, and proclamations including a declaration of October as Native Plant Month in Martin County.
 
Please let your Commissioners know how you feel about these and other issues by attending the meeting beginning at 9:00 a.m. Tuesday or by e-mailing them at sheard@martin.fl.us, efieldin@martin.fl.us, ascott@martin.fl.us, jhaddox@martin.fl.us, and dsmith@martin.fl.us, with copies to the County Administrator and County Attorney at tkryzda@martin.fl.us and mdurham@martin.fl.us.

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