Tuesday’s BCC: CRA Redux and Fore!

From Ginny Sherlock, renowned local attorney, civic activist, and former Associated Press editor: Tuesday’s Board of County Commissioners meeting is set to start off with a bang – or, at least, a Fore! – as the Parks and Recreation Department seeks direction on the Martin County Golf Course Master Plan (Item 8D1, pre-set for 9:30 a.m.).

Three items on Tuesday’s agenda were continued from the March 8 meeting after Commission Chair Anne Scott had to leave early due to an unanticipated appointment. Presentations on Community Redevelopment Agency activities for the first quarter (Agenda Item 8A3, pre-set for 3:00 p.m.) and a CRA program update, funding and projects presentation (Item 8A4) were continued to this week’s agenda, along with a discussion of Board priorities for 2016 (Agenda Item 8A2).

The Golf Course Master Plan presentation is a response to a BCC directive issued on July 29, 2015, for staff to determine the most appropriate funding method to keep the 36-hole Martin County Golf Course in business despite serious deterioration of equipment and facilities. A Golf Course Advisory Committee was established to make recommendations, a business plan was proposed by the National Golf Foundation, and an evaluation of the golf course real estate was conducted as part of a study of County facilities.

Staff has concluded that Advisory Committee and National Golf Foundation proposals to renovate and operate the course as a 27-hole public golf course are the most viable plans. There’s only one problem: There’s no existing source of funding for golf course renovation, which has an estimated projected cost of around $7 million.

Staff recommends maintaining the status quo for the next several years, that is, allowing the Parks and Recreation Department to continue operating the facility in its current state until renovation funding can be found.

The summaries for the CRA agenda items that were continued from March 8 consist of the same slick power point shows that provide little substantive information. I still haven’t figured out why the Community Development Department was re-organized and re-named the bureaucratically apt (that is, incomprehensible) Office of Community Strategic Partnerships (OCSP).

The BCC priorities item may present a challenge, with Commissioners ranking the importance of previously stated goals like developing a policy for dealing with County-owned or leased properties, revising regulations that govern Planned Unit Developments (including re-writing the PUD Agreement template that allows developers to avoid compliance with basic rules that protect the rest of us from the impacts of bad projects), establishing local lobbyist registration rules and reviewing the County’s reasonable accommodations ordinances as they relate to “sober homes” and other treatment facilities

Another challenge may be presented by Item 8C1, which attempts to set priorities for projects comprising the $5.4 million Infrastructure Reinvestment Program. Translation: the BCC is being asked to decide which road, drainage and bridge repair or replacement projects should go to the top of the list for funding with new revenues generated by the FPL franchise fee. The Engineering Department’s priorities list includes (#1) restoration of 6.3 miles of SW Farm Road in Indiantown; (#2) Mapp Road resurfacing and drainage improvements in Palm City; (#3) drainage structure replacement and pavement resurfacing in the St. Lucie Shores/Palm City Gardens area (All American Ditch Stormwater Quality Retrofit Project); (#4) drainage structure replacement and completion of septic-to-sewer in North River Shores; and (#5) replacement of drainage structures and regrading of swales, pavement resurfacing and sidewalk replacement in the Pinecrest Lakes and Town & Country Estates neighborhoods in Jensen Beach.

A presentation by U.S. EcoGen, LLC, on an “alternative power source” (Item 7A) is pre-set at 2:30 p.m. at the request of Commissioner John Haddox, who asked that the company be given an opportunity to explain its “electrical generating facilities.”. The U.S. EcoGen website (www.usecogen.com) says the company “plans to develop, finance, construct, own, and operate a portfolio of 66 MW biomass-fueled Generating Facilities . . . throughout the Southeastern region of the United States” with 4 Florida projects currently “under advanced stage development.” A U.S. EcoGen project in Polk County was sited in a remote area with “excellent road and rail access for fuel supply deliveries and is surrounded by competitively priced agricultural lands ideal for growing USEG Polk’s biomass fuel.” The website says the “remote location” was chosen “to mitigate potential noise emissions and visual impacts on the local community.” U.S. EcoGen has an option to purchase 543 acres in western Martin County from Tesoro Groves. It expects to file applications next month for Martin County approvals it hopes to bring on line in late 2019 or early 2020.

Item 6A, pre-set at 1:30 p.m., is a proposed revision to the Land Development Regulations to add a new impact fee for conservation/open space and to increase the libraries impact fee and revise the allowable use to “projects that expand library capacity.” The proposed ordinance was drafted after a consultant conducted an analysis to determine whether impact fees should be increased to generate more revenue for libraries, to set aside conservation/open space, and to expand public broadband infrastructure. Staff is not recommending an impact fee for the County broadband system. Impact fees are charged on new construction and are applied to costs for new or expanded roads, public buildings, parks, fire/rescue services, etc., required to accommodate new development. The new and revised impact fees that are being proposed for adoption on Tuesday apply almost exclusively to residential development. The broadband impact fee would have applied primarily to commercial development.

In other items on Tuesday’s Agenda:

– Item 6B, pre-set for 11:30 a.m., is a request to adopt an ordinance directed at “curbstoning” — the unauthorized display of motor vehicles for sale, hire, or rent on public property. The proposed ordinance will allow the Sheriff to tow vehicles which are found to be in violation of the law.

– Item 8B1 (pre-set at 11:00 a.m.) seeks a timetable extension for final site plan approval for a proposed project that evolved from the settlement of litigation between the County and Avalon Ventures, LLC. The applicant has not yet complied with the newly adopted disclosure requirement to identify persons who will financially benefit from construction of the project on the southeast corner of US #1 and Seabranch Boulevard in Hobe Sound.

– Item 8E1 is a request for approval of a special liquor license for the purchaser of the Hutchinson Island Marriott Resort and Marina.

Please let Commissioners know how you feel about these and other issues by attending the meeting beginning at 9:00 a.m. on 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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