Overwhelming public opposition to Extreme Sports amendments: facts vs fiction

 

The Extreme Sports property — where Palm Beach County residents Jennifer and Marcel Mullet want to build a hotel, RV park and cottages, gas station and auto repair facility, restaurants, convenience stores, retail outlets, indoor/outdoor amusements center and cable-driven water ski park — is located between I-95 and the Florida Turnpike.

 

Because the land is designated only for agricultural use, the Mullets need to make changes to the Martin County Comprehensive Plan to build their commercial project.

And because the property is in a rural area far outside the urban district, the proposed amendments to the Plan should be rejected.

 

The Florida Turnpike Enterprise (formerly the Turnpike Authority) and state Department of Transportation oppose the Extreme Sports amendments. FDOT and the Turnpike Enterprise question the safety of I-95 and the impact of commercial development near the I-95 ramp at SE Bridge Road if the amendments are approved.  The Extreme Sports team revised the project’s traffic studies several times, but FDOT says the studies still are inadequate to determine the actual impact on the traffic pattern.

 

Commissioner Patrick Hayes’ insistence that the Extreme Sports project will affect only 10 or 11 acres and draw just 40 people a day is contradicted by the Mullets’ own consultants, who say the water ski park will cover 50 acres and generate at least 153 trips a day at a minimum.

Traffic impacts related to other components — RV park and cottages, hotel, convenience stores, gas station, restaurants (both drive-in and dine-in), and up to 100,000 square feet of retail space — have not been calculated.  That’s one of the reasons FDOT objects to the amendments and recommends the traffic study be re-done.  Turnpike officials stated unequivocally that “the Turnpike Enterprise would not support this request for a land use change.”

 

Commissioner Hayes and the Mullet team were observed celebrating and high-fiving at Carson’s restaurant the night the commission majority gave initial approval to the Extreme Sports amendments.  Commissioner Hayes has now joined the Mullet team in trying to mislead the public by claiming that a gas station, hotel, and truck stop could be built on the property without comp plan amendments because part of the property already has an Expressway Oriented Transient Commercial Service Center (EOTCSC) land use designation.

 

This is absolutely untrue.  Commissioner Hayes knows that no commercial uses are allowed on the Extreme Sports property unless the amendments are approved.

 

The EOTCSC designation applies only to property accessed from a major arterial road.  The Extreme Sports property is on Bridge Road, which is a minor arterial. The amendments contain language that exempts the Extreme Sports property from the major arterial access requirement that applies to all EOTCSC development.

 

Unless these amendments are approved, no gas station, truck stop, hotel or any other commercial development can be constructed on the Extreme Sports property, which is accessed from a minor arterial road and is therefore not eligible for EOTCSC development without this change to our comprehensive plan.

 

Commissioner Hayes says he does not want to deny the Mullets the right to use their property the way they want.  But Commissioner Hayes knows that the Mullets purchased the property less than eight months ago and that they knew when they bought it that the property was designated for agricultural — not commercial — use.

 

The Mullets, who live in Palm Beach County, bought the property for just under $11,000 an acre — much cheaper than other property they could have purchased which is already designated for commercial use. The Mullets now want the Commission to approve amendments to the comprehensive plan that serves and protects all residents of Martin County so the Mullet property will be more valuable when they want to sell it.  (Adjacent property owned by the same owner that sold the Extreme Sports property to the Mullets is now being marketed for $10 million — that’s $250,000 per acre — assuming the EOTCSC land use designation applies.)

 

The Mullets want all Martin County residents to sacrifice our comprehensive plan and urban service boundary protections to allow them to multiply the value of their property 10- or 20-fold in less than a year.

 

The Mullets and Commissioner Hayes insist that the cost of developing the Extreme Sports property will be borne by a private entity — which apparently means Mr. Mullet’s extremely wealthy father.  But Commissioner Hayes knows that all Martin County taxpayers eventually will pay for infrastructure to serve urban development on the Extreme Sports property far outside the urban boundary — police and fire services, water and sewer, solid waste disposal, roads — and the surrounding property that will be available for more urban and commercial development if the Extreme Sports amendments are approved.

 

And, finally, there is PAM, the deadly amoeba that almost certainly is present in the Extreme Sports lake, as it is present in virtually every freshwater lake, pond, river or stream in Florida.  PAM is an almost always fatal (there has been only one known survivor of the infection) disease that usually strikes children.  Most of the 30 or so Florida victims have been teen-agers or younger children aged 9-12.  While the incidence of PAM is extremely rare, the consequences are tragic. The Martin County Health Department takes the risk of PAM so seriously that it recommends that residents simply stay out of freshwater lakes.

It is one thing to down-play the risk for adults who choose to expose themselves, but exposing our children to a chance — no matter how remote — of contracting PAM is unthinkable.

 

Commissioner Hayes knows that he is not being honest with the public.  After promising his constituents that he would not support this project, he has become its biggest cheerleader.  Why would Commissioner Hayes want to violate our comp plan, expose our children to a potentially fatal infectious disease, force Martin County residents to bear the cost of urban sprawl by busting the Urban Services Boundary, and ignore the clearly expressed wishes of thousands of Martin County residents who have urged him to vote against the Extreme Sports amendments?

 

Commissioners Ciampi and Smith initially voted with Commisioner Hayes to approve the amendments but have an opportunity to correct their mistake by voting on Tuesday to deny final approval.

 

In the face of overwhelming public opposition, staff recommendations for denial based on the requirements of our comprehensive plan and professional evaluation of the project, objections from FDOT, the Turnpike Enterprise, and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, please urge the County Commission to reject the Extreme Sports amendments on Tuesday, July 10, 2012.

Contact commissioners at:

eciampi@martin.fl.us, sheard@martin.fl.us, efieldin@martin.fl.us, dsmith@martin.fl.us, phayes@martin.fl.us with a copy to staff at nikkiv@martin.fl.us, rlawton@martin.fl.us

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