Sailfish Regatta organizers miss the boat by ignoring affected residents and marine wildlife

Sewall’s Point Mayor Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch is, understandably, unhappy that the town was “not included in the planning stage at the government level.” For the complete entry: http://blogs.palmbeachpost.com/opinionzone/2012/04/06/oops-martin-didnt-tell-seawalls-point-about-the-upcoming-regatta/#more-9003

Local attorney Virginia Sherlock details the chronology of these issues in an email (3.17.11):

On December 6, 2011, BOCC Chairman Ed Ciampi placed an unannounced item on the agenda at the last minute – a proposed resolution of support for the Regatta.  There was no agenda item published for the public to review, no notice, and no information made available to the public.  Ciampi had — apparently privately — invited the Regatta organizers (including Don Cuozzo, John Hennessee and Toby Overdorf and Shaun Plymale) to attend the meeting to make a presentation but did not tell anyone else about the planned presentation, including anyone from the Town of Sewall’s Point or the City of Stuart.

Commissioner Ed Fielding objected to being asked to vote to support the event without knowing anything about it.  And although informational packets apparently had been provided to some commissioners, but not all, in advance (guess which ones), Commissioner Fielding had questions that needed to be answered.

Commissioners Ciampi and Doug Smith tried their best to move ahead with a vote on the item despite Commissioner Fielding’s concerns, but eventually the proposed resolution was continued to the following week’s agenda.

On December 13, 2011, again with minimal notice and very little information presented to the public and without making any effort to include the City of Stuart of the Town of Sewall’s Point, the Commission voted unanimously to approve the conceptual plan for the Regatta event “with the understanding that we will continue to have the interaction and to attempt to fully develop this opportunity”.

The Regatta organizers are asking to close the Ernie Lyons bridge, the causeway and roads through Stuart and Sewall’s Point.  Sewall’s Point’s mayor is understandably miffed at having been totally cut out of the process and having been given no opportunity to comment or participate in the planning of the event.

FDOT now says that a permit can’t be issued to a private entity to close down public roads and bridges.  So the Regatta organization has asked the County to be the applicant for the permit.

The law places liability for any damages or losses due to the closing of roads and bridges on the local government that obtains the permit.

The City of Stuart hasn’t weighed in yet, but the Mayor of Sewall’s Point has filed a complaint with FDOT asking that the permit be denied unless both Sewall’s Point and Stuart adopt resolutions supporting the closure of the bridges and roads – which does not seem likely, since the Sewall’s Point officials are extremely concerned about liability, crowd control, traffic issues, and environmental concerns that have not been addressed by the Regatta organizers and which Martin County is not addressing.

Frankly, I don’t know enough about this proposed event to express an opinion supporting or opposint it.  But the Martin County e-mail communications indicate an amazing lack of cooperation between local governments and, as is frequently the case, an attempt by staff to simply move forward at the behest of certain individuals without BOCC involvement.

It is not clear to me:

1.  Why Martin County would agree to apply for road and bridge closure permits without the consent and cooperation of the City of Stuart and Town of Sewall’s Point, since the affected roads and bridges are within those local jurisdictions.

2.  Why Martin County staff would pursue this event without updating the BOCC and making sure the BOCC is on board with the road and bridge closures in view of the objections expressed by Sewall’s Point.

3.  Why this event was rushed through to approval by Commissioner Ciampi (I understand Commissioner Smith is affiliated with the Maritime Museum which is a primary benefactor of the Regatta, which explains his boosterism) without making any attempt to notify, let alone consult with, local jurisdictions who are more severely impacted than the County by the road and bridge closures.

This event is anticipated to bring 15,000 to 30,000 people to Stuart/Sewall’s Point and will cause major throughways to be closed to normal traffic during a three-day period during “season.”

Surely the City of Stuart and the Town of Sewall’s Point deserve the courtesy of being kept in the loop as this event moves forward.

And so do members of the BOCC.

Ginny Sherlock

LITTMAN, SHERLOCK & HEIMS, P.A.

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