Tuesday’s BCC meeting: Tax hikes and cell tower redux


The Martin County Board of Commissioners: (l.) Ed Ciampi, Harold Jenkins, Sarah Heard, Ed Fielding, Doug Smith (Source: www.martin.fl.us)

From Ginny Sherlock, renowned local attorney, civic activist, and former Associated Press editor: Martin County commissioners will hear a presentation on the School Board’s previously approved request for voters to authorize an increase in ad valorem taxes and a sales tax surcharge and will reconsider approval of the Little Club Condominium wireless telecommunications tower on Tuesday.

School Board Chair Christa Li Roberts will make the tax hikes presentation during a 1:30 p.m. pre-set item to set out the rationale for proposals that will appear on the August 28primary election ballot (ad valorem hike) and the November 6 general election ballot (sales tax surcharge).  Last month, Commissioners approved the School Board’s request to place the tax hike proposals before voters.  Agenda Item 7A is scheduled Tuesday for an encore presentation of the item presented by the School Board at the June 12 joint County-City-School Board meeting.
The School Board is seeking a half-mill increase in real property taxes (50 cents per $1,000 of property valuation) and a half-cent per dollar sales tax surcharge to pay for School District needs.  The property tax hike would be effective through 2022, while the sales tax surcharge would be in place for seven years, starting next year. 
The other do-over on Tuesday’s agenda is Item 8B1 which is special set for 2:30 p.m. to give the Commission a chance to re-approve, deny, or place new conditions on the application for a cell tower to be constructed by Dynamic Tower, Inc., in the Little Club Condominium community.  The application was approved in 2016 but has been brought back for re-consideration based on a finding that the Dynamic Tower agent misrepresented facts about the proposed tower during the BCC’s approval process.  The BCC voted in March to re-consider the Little Club tower application, which is supported by most residents in the area but faces competition from another tower that was approved for Kenai Properties, LLC, less than a mile from the Little Club.
The Commission on Tuesday will re-hear the original Little Club tower application and decide whether to re-approve it, reject it, or approve it with new conditions to be fulfilled.
The Consent Agenda contains the usual array of contracts, appointments and approvals that will be automatically adopted without public disclosure or discussion.
In addition to the now familiar list of “warrants” the disclose the amount – but not the purpose – of millions of dollars of expenditures of County funds ($11,708,078.74 paid between May 26 and June 6) (Consent Agenda Item 4B2), Commissioners are being asked to make several committee appointments and approve agreements or amendments to agreements with other governmental agencies or private entities, including a proposed modification of the submerged lands lease between the County and the State of Florida to allow an additional five mooring locations to be crammed into the ill-planned Jensen Beach Mooring Field that is going to be constructed in an area that once featured thriving seagrasses (Consent Agenda Item 4C4).
A significant amount of Commission business is transacted via the Consent Agenda, which is designed to allow staff and administrators to obtain approval of contracts, modifications, programs and projects without letting the public know what’s being approved and the amount of public dollars that are spent. 
A new sign ordinance will be presented for final approval as Agenda Item 6C in an effort to bring Martin County sign regulations in line with a U.S. Supreme Court decision that makes regulations based on the content of a sign invalid.  The deisions invalidated sign regulations adopted by the Town of Gilbert, Arizona, which prevented a local church from using temporary signs to advise residents of the location of services that were conducted in different buildings from week to week.  The proposed revised Martin County ordinance is confusing, complicated, and contains so many exemptions that it cannot be considered a serious effort to reasonably regulate signage in unincorporated areas of the county.
Item 8D3 is a long-awaited staff presentation on Planned Unit Development regulations.  This item is intended to be an educational presentation for Commission discussion about PUD developments.
An unusual and rather startling presentation is scheduled for Agenda Item 8D4, which consists of a staff “response” to a letter sent by the Treasure Coast Builders’ Association to Commission Chair Ed Ciampi earlier this year.  The letter praises Ciampi and his colleagues for gutting the Comprehensive Plan, the four-story height limit, wetlands and river/estuary protections and suggests that even more draconian measures can be enacted to reduce or eliminate environmental protections that impact the TCBA’s all-growth all-the-time agenda, such as small urban preserves and shoreline setback requirements.
NOTE TO COMMISSIONERS: How about committing staff time and tax dollars on responses to letters from the Martin County Conservation Alliance or the Treasure Coast Democratic Environmental Caucus or Hutchinson Island residents who are begging for your help in preserving the character and the natural resources of their community.  Surely these residents deserve the same attention you are lavishing on the Builders’ Association.
NOTE TO RESIDENTS: Speaking of Hutchinson Island, please attend the Martin County Metropolitan Planning Organization meeting at 9:00 a.m. on Monday in Commission Chambers to support island residents who oppose a $7 million “decorative street lighting project” that will threaten sea turtle nesting areas and other birds, wildlife and natural habitat on the barrier island.  The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has recommended against proceeding with the project, and the Florida Department of Transportation plans to recommend that the lighting project be put on hold due to concerns expressed by hundreds of Hutchinson Island residents and advocates who have spoken out against a poorly planned and extravagant project that a few self-designated island spokespersons have championed.  The MPO is being asked to remove the project from the final version of the five-year Transportation Improvements Program that will be presented for a vote on Monday.
On other matters on Tuesday’s BCC agenda:
– Items 6A and 6B seek approval of a Comprehensive Plan Amendment and re-zoning for the Hamm conservation land that was finally acquired by the County after years of negotiations and acquisition efforts.
– Item 8C1 asks for re-location of a MARTY bus stop near the Blake Library on SE Monterey Road to improve pedestrian safety.
– Item 8D1 is a Final Site Plan for Phase 2B of the Banyan Bay development, including waterfront amenities.
– Item 8D2 is a request for an amendment to the Planned Unit Development agreement for Toyota of Stuart to provide additional sales and service areas. 
Download or view Tuesday’s agenda items at:
Please attend the meeting at 9:00 a.m. Tuesday at the Administration Center, 2401 SE Monterey Road, Stuart, to express your views on these or other issues or e-mail commissioners at sheard@martin.fl.usefieldin@martin.fl.ushjenkins@martin.fl.useciampi@martin.fl.us, and dsmith@martin.fl.us, with copies to the County Administrator and the County Attorney at tkryzda@martin.fl.us and swoods@martin.fl.us.

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