Open to public: Final hearing on Comp Plan challenge begins Tuesday

Noted local attorney and civic activist Virginia Sherlock details the upcoming final hearing on a challenge to portions of the Comp Plan Amendments that were adopted by the Martin County Board of County Commissioners last year, scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, September 30, 2014, at the Martin County Building Department conference room, 900 SE Ruhnke Street, Stuart:


Amendments to several chapters were adopted by the County Commission to restore many of the protections that were stripped from our Comp Plan by the Future Group re-write in 2009.

The final hearing will last all day Tuesday and Wednesday and may continue into Thursday if necessary. The Administrative Law Judge is Suzanne Van Wyk.

Maggy Hurchalla is scheduled to be the first witness on Tuesday morning.

The hearing is open to the public.

The ALJ is being asked to determine whether the Comp Plan, as amended, is in compliance with state law. The challenger(s) argue that the amendments were drafted by Maggy Hurchalla and approved by the new Commission majority for “a singular purpose — stop growth and development in Martin County.”

One issue in dispute is whether the Martin County Comp Plan, as amended, can limit the amount and location of development as a comprehensive planning tool for the future or whether growth and development must be allowed to occur where ever and when ever “the real estate markets” determine that there is a need for more housing in any particular part of the County.

The original challengers included:

— The Lake Point rockpit operated by George Lindemann, Jr., who served time in federal prison for having his show horse electrocuted to collect insurance proceeds and who is now prosecuting a SLAPP suit against Maggy Hurchalla;

— King Ranch, owner of the AgTEC property which obtained a special land use change to use ag land for industrial and commercial purposes;

— Becker Groves, which has attempted to convert Martin County ag land to commercial use and originally proposed the Hobe Groves development; and

— Midbrook 1st Realty Corp., which purchased the Hobe Groves property from Becker and still plans to build a new city outside the urban boundary.

Lake Point, King Ranch and Becker have settled their challenges.

The final hearing will move forward with only Midbrook (Hobe Groves) as the remaining challenger.

Martin County is defending the challenge, represented by Linda Shelley, a former secretary of the now-defunct Department of Community Affairs. Key witnesses for the county, in addition to Maggy Hurchalla, are Tom Pelham (secretary of the DCA immediately before it was dissolved) and Charles Pattison as well as County staff.

1000 Friends of Florida, the Indian Riverkeeper, and the Martin County Conservation Alliance have intervened in support of the County (represented by our firm).

The City of Stuart, Town of Jupiter Island and Town of Sewall’s Point also have intervened to support the County’s position (represented by Tom Baird).

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