Tuesday’s BCC: Waterfront projects rely on ‘fake clean water’

From Ginny Sherlock, renowned local attorney, civic activist, and former Associated Press editor: NOTE: Tuesday’s BCC meeting will follow a joint meeting with the City of Stuart and the School Board that begins at 9:00 a.m. at the Blake Library.  The County Commission meeting will begin in Commission Chambers after the joint meeting  ends.  Joint meetings generally last an hour to an hour and a half.
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As algae and toxins foul our waterways, Martin County Commissioners will consider a final site plan for a waterfront community called Rio Town Center on Tuesday, along with revisions to ordinances that will allow staff to reduce or eliminate fees that allow taxpayers to recoup costs incurred fighting illegal fires or cleaning up hazardous waste spills.
The artistic renditions of the proposed Rio Town Center (formerly called Stuart Harbor) feature something that Martin County residents aren’t likely to see for quite some time: clear blue water.  
Agenda Item 8C3 requests approval of a final site plan, revised master plan, and revised phasing plan for the mixed use Rio Town Center on a 9.8-acre parcel off NE Dixie Highway near NE Martin Avenue in Rio.  The  waterfront project on the St. Lucie River received initial approval in 2015 but has been revised and will be built in six phases, starting with four mixed use buildings containing 18 residential units and 38,000-square-feet of retail and office space.  A 94-slip marina is a key feature.  The phasing plan is not  included in the 289-page agenda packet.  The entire project is supposed to be completed within seven years
If only it were as easy as architectural renderings make it look to restore our rivers and estuary to clear blue waters like those depicted in drawings of Rio Town Center and other development projects which rely on the beauty and safety of our public waterways.
Agenda Item 6D includes proposed revisions to fire rescue and emergency services ordinances that will allow for reduction or elimination of fees the County now collects for responding to hazardous materials incidents, illegal or uncontrolled non-structure fires, false alarms and certain emergency services.  County ordinances currently include requirements that property owners or companies that cause hazardous materials incidents or uncontrolled fires must reimburse the County for the costs of responding to those events, and there are fees for repeated false alarms that require emergency responses. 
There is no reason given for the proposed revision of ordinances to reduce or eliminate these fees, leaving County taxpayers to absorb the cost of carelessness or negligence when an illegal fire or hazardous waste incident occurs.  The agenda summary says only that the Martin County Fire Rescue Department has requested changes to “update” the ordinances.  There are no figures provided to disclose how much money taxpayers will be losing by not collecting fees which will be reduced or eliminated by the County Administrator – not by Commissioners – based on a proposed policy that gives the administrator or her designee (whoever that might be) the ability to “write-off” fees without any public notice or explanation.
The proposed ordinance revisions add “or designee” to virtually every administrative officer or official who is given enhanced powers to affect taxpayers’ safety as well as their pocketbooks.  This allows an administrator or department director to delegate power to an unknown “designee” to determine that eliminating reimbursement is “in the best interest of the County.”  Commissioners appear to be abdicating their duties to ensure the safety and financial viability of Martin County residents by approving ordinance revisions that give unelected officials or their “designees” responsibility with no recourse from residents.
Three other new ordinances or revisions to existing ordinances also are on Tuesday’s agenda:
– Item 6A is an amendment to the Land Development Regulations to allow sporting clays, a form of clay pigeon shooting, as a permitted use on agricultural property.  The ordinance establishes a definition of sporting clays and authorizes the use on land zoned agricultural,  where outdoor shooting courses are permitted.  The change was requested by the owner of an outdoor shooting facility who plans to add a sporting clay course to the facility.  Primary concerns in establishing development standards for sporting clays are safety and environmental pollution, as shot and bullets are comprised mostly of lead, a known environmental pollutant.
– Item 6B proposes an ordinance to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries in Martin County. The ordinance amends the Land Development Regulations to regulate dispensing facilities in a manner similar to regulations that apply to pharmacies.  The ordinance requires a 500-foot separation between any school and dispensing facility, establishes hours of operation which are the same as medical offices, and identifies dispensaries as a limited retail sales and service use permitted in specified zoning categories.
– Item 6C is an ordinance to prohibit the use of electronic nicotine delivery devices, including e-cigarettes and liquid nicotine, in County parks and any place where smoking is prohibited.  The ordinance is similar to regulations previously approved by the City of Stuart and authorized by state law. The ordinance also regulates sale and marketing of electronic nicotine delivery devices, prohibiting self-service dispensers and forbidding sale to persons under age 18.
Tuesday’s Consent Agenda includes the usual “warrants” listing more than $9 million in unidentified payments made by County taxpayers between May 9 and May 25, 2018 (Item 4B2) and seeks approval of $6 million in spending without any public discussion or input (Item 4B1), including contracts for County building custodial services ($3 million), marine contracting services ($1.2 million), build-out of Utilities Department and Property Appraiser offices at Willoughby Commons ($933,195.83) and drainage, swales, resurfacing and other “restoration” work in the Hobe Heights neighborhood ($1.01 million).
NOTE TO COMMISSIONERS: Residents of Pinecrest Lakes are still suffering from the poor quality of “neighborhood restoration” work that has left swales and drainage structures overflowing, resulting in flooding throughout the subdivision.  Residents who sent e-mails and called commissioners and the Public Works Department were told that the contractor would come back and fix the mess.  Homeowners are still waiting for relief as the rainy season swings into high  gear.
Other matters on Tuesday’s BCC agenda:
– Item 8B1 will release $20,269.59 in uncollected garbage assessment liens that were imposed between 1988 and 1992.  The liens are no longer enforceable due to the statute of limitations but may create a cloud on title to the affected properties.
– Item 8C1 is a plat for a DR Horton project called Jensen Village, formerly known as Charleston Place, a 130-unit residential development on a 61.5-acre parcel off US Highway #1 on the Martin/St. Lucie County line.
– Item 8C2 requests approval of a plat for the 450-acre Grove Golf Club in Hobe Sound, consisting of a golf course, clubhouse and entrance, with an adjacent agricultural tract.
The joint meeting with County and City Commissioners and School Board members will begin at 9:00 a.m. at the Blake Library.  The agenda will include discussion of the proposed half-cent-per-dollar sales tax for School District projects that will be put before voters on the November general election ballot.  The property tax hike for School District expenses that will appear on the August primary ballot will also likely be addressed.
Download or view Tuesday’s BCC agenda items at:
Attend the meeting on Tuesday after the joint meeting with the City and School Board which begins at 9:00 a.m. at the Blake Library.  The County Commission will meet at the Administration Center, 2401 SE Monterey Road, Stuart, after the joint meeting concludes.  Attend the meeting 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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