Tuesday’s BCC: Long agenda short on excitement



From Ginny Sherlock, renowned local attorney, civic activist, and former Associated Press editor:  The BCC Agenda for Tuesday’s meeting is full of mostly routine, mundane items that make up the day-to-day life of local government. There are no public hearings scheduled, no highly contested proposals, no urban boundary-busting plans. There are several “presentations” ranging from potentially interesting to mind-numbing.


In the former category is Item 2B, a brief video demonstrating the transformation of a former mulch plant in Hobe Sound into a beautiful public water resource by the County’s Ecosystem Restoration and Management Division. The Kitching Creek restoration project affirms local government’s ability to work with nature to enhance public property.


Also potentially interesting are presentations on the status of various legislative proposals (Agenda Item 8A2) and proposed priorities to be addressed by the Board of County Commissioners during the remainder of 2016 (Agenda Item 8A4).


With the session scheduled to end on Friday, the legislative update should be less frightening than usual. The BCC priorities presentation may produce discussion on the importance of such as-yet-to-be-achieved goals as developing a policy for dealing with various County-owned or leased properties, revising regulations that govern Planned Unit Developments (including re-writing a horrendous PUD Agreement template that essentially contracts away compliance with basic development rules), establishing local lobbyist registration rules (how about adding conflict-of-interest, pay-to-play, and revolving door rules while we’re at it), and reviewing the County’s reasonable accommodations ordinances as they relate to “sober homes” and other treatment facilities.


Several juicy topics already are scheduled for future discussion, such as a long-term plan for the Martin County Golf Course (March 16), potential revival of an infrastructure sales tax (April 16), City and County Fire Department Consolidation (April 16), and fee-based parking at County beaches (May 2016).


A not-so-fascinating presentation in the offing for Tuesday is the annual report of the Business Development Board (Agenda Item 8A3, pre-set for 10:30 a.m.), a self-serving promotional packet produced by the hapless agency that is hopefully on its last legs as its contract with the County expires at the end of September. The BDB should go the way of the Convention and Visitors Bureau, with economic development (like tourism) more effectively managed in-house.


The Town of Ocean Breeze is scheduled to present a plan for a proposed water quality improvement project seeking partnership with the County (Agenda Item 7A, pre-set for 2:30 p.m.), and the County Attorney has requested a shade session at 11:30 a.m. to discuss a recent Circuit Court appellate division decision on the Martingale Commons project in Palm City (Item 8D1) rejecting a Commission decision to deny further approvals related to an expired development order.


It’s difficult to evaluate presentations on Community Redevelopment Agency activities for the first quarter (Agenda Item 8A5, pre-set for 3:00 p.m.) and a CRA program update, funding and projects presentation (Item 8A6). The agenda item summaries consist of snazzy power point shows. I’m still trying to figure out why the Community Development Department was re-organized and given a new name that only a bureaucrat could love – the Office of Community Strategic Partnerships (OCSP). The agenda summary does not mention a recent opinion by the County Attorney’s Office concluding that members of Neighborhood Advisory Committees (and other local government advisory committees) cannot do business with the CRA or with the County. In response to an inquiry from the newly named OCSP, the County Attorney advised that any member of an NAC or other County advisory board should resign from the board or cease contracting with the County.


Speaking of advisory boards and committees, the Consent Agenda includes a slew of appointments (Public Art Advisory Board, Agriculture and Natural Resources Advisory Committee, Parks and Recreation Advisory Board) and a resolution to reaffirm the Golf Course Advisory Committee and its current appointees (Agenda Items 4B3, 4B4, 4B5 and 4D).


Item 8A1 is the usual list of requests for approval of grants and local funding characterized by what the agenda summary doesn’t say rather than what it says. For instance, the Business Development Board seeks $10,000 in matching funds for private contributions. The item notes that the County agreed to match up to $100,000 of private funding for the BDB but fails to provide a tally of how much private funding has been matched to date before requesting approval for an additional $10,000. The same item seeks an amendment to the Capital Improvements Plan to reflect increased costs for the Charlie Leighton Park floating dock project but doesn’t say exactly how much the total increased costs are. The original construction cost estimate was $130,000 (with an additional $40,000 cost for design). The agenda item sets out additional costs totalling $34,300, but the proposed new CIP sheet increases construction costs by $45,000 to $175,000. The BCC is being asked to simply approve a construction cost increase in excess of 25% by “amending the CIP” sheet to reflect higher costs. The requested increase is significant and deserves more explanation and evaluation by the Commission. Staff notes that the project is funded by TIF and grants and, thus, doesn’t impact the County’s operating budget, ignoring the fact that TIF funds and grants might be used for other projects that may have a higher priority.


In other items on Tuesday’s Agenda:


– Item 8B1 (pre-set at 1:30 p.m.) requests a road frontage variance as part of a settlement agreement reached between Trailside subdivision residents and an adjacent property owner in a dispute that erupted after Engineering Department staff unilaterally reversed a County Commission decision to deny an open road permit to the property owner. The property owners resolved their dispute and now are seeking to implement their agreement.


– Item 8B3 requests approval of a proposed lease for Building 17 at the Martin County Airport by Liberator Medical Supply, Inc., to bolster the Airport Enterprise Fund.


– Item 8C1 is an update to the fee policy manual to generate revenue for the Parks and Recreation Department. The proposed policy may raise some questions from the Commission, but it does NOT include paid parking at parks or beaches. In fact, it presents a generally well crafted and reasonable approach to balancing free or affordable public recreational activities with revenue-generating services.


As always, 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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