Tuesday’s BOCC Agenda: Revenue enhancement, alcohol, parking, code enforcement workshop

 

From renowned local attorney and civic activist Ginny Sherlock: Tuesday’s Martin County BOCC Agenda features discussions of revenue enhancement (money-raising) programs for the Parks and Recreation Department and potential alcohol consumption, operating hours and parking fee policies for County parks and beaches.

The Code Enforcement Workshop that was abruptly removed from a prior agenda (causing some residents to waste a trip to Stuart to voice concerns about the current code enforcement process) is back on the menu along with a quarterly report of Community Redevelopment Agency activities that should prompt some discussion about how the county’s Community Redevelopment Areas should be managed in a time of budgetary shortfalls.

Agenda Items 8F1 and 8F2, an update regarding the Parks & Rec Revenue Enhancement Program, and a discussion of public beach and causeway parks policies, are pre-set for 9:30 a.m. and 9:35 a.m., respectively.

The Revenue Enhancement Program was approved in 2011 for Sailfish Splash Waterpark and was expanded in 2012 to Indian Riverside, Halpatiokee and Phipps Parks. Staff now wants to include all County parks in the program that raises money by selling event sponsorships and advertising related to the operation of the parks. Express approval to allow the Parks Director or his designee to actively solicit businesses or vendors to participate in the program is discomfiting but doesn’t seem to have produced problems to date.

Of perhaps more widespread impact are requests for the Commission to consider establishing policies to prohibit consumption of alcohol at all 16 County beaches and 2 causeway parks, to establish hours of operation, and to charge fees for parking and access to the beaches and causeway parks.

Item 8B1, the Code Enforcement Workshop to advise commissioners about successes and failures of the current code enforcement process, is pre-set for 2:30 p.m. The staff report discusses the process leading up to finding a code enforcement violation but doesn’t address what should be done after a violation is found and a lien has been created with a fine accruing.

The report notes that Martin County ordinances authorize “abatement” procedures, but these procedures have not been used for at least 20 years. Abatement means the County can go onto a violator’s property and correct or eliminate the violation, then invoice the property owner for reimbursement of the cost of the work (cutting weeds, removing an inoperable nuisance vehicle, cleaning up trash from a yard, etc.). There is no explanation given as to why the County as not employed authorized abatement procedures in the past.

Staff espouses the philosophy that code enforcement is about achieving compliance rather than punishing violators. But it doesn’t address what happens when compliance is NOT achieved or when it takes years to achieve compliance, with a fine reduction then given as a “reward” to a violator who has managed to “hold out” against enforcement efforts for a very long time to the detriment of neighbors and code-compliant residents.

Presentation of a report of activities of the Community Redevelopment Agency, Agenda Item 8C1, is pre-set at 4:30 p.m. The report should prompt some serious discussion about the purpose of Community Redevelopment Areas and whether the manner in which the seven CRAs in Martin County are being operated comports with statutory and local requirements and needs.

The CRAs have amassed hundreds of thousands of dollars which have been used for questionable purposes — landscaping streets that serve only a few businesses or “beautifying” squares or roundabouts. The recent septic to sewer report identifies two CRAs as among the most needy parts of the County for drainage and wastewater infrastructure to lessen pollution of the lagoon and our estuary (old Palm City and Golden Gate). Why are CRA funds being used for non-essential projects instead of sorely needed infrastructure?

The state statute that authorizes counties to establish CRAs requires that affordable housing for low-income and senior residents be included in CRA plans. Where are the reports from our CRAs with respect to meeting this statutory goal?

Commissioners took back control of the CRAs several years ago from a board that devoted a lot of time and money to enhancing property values for agency members and their friends. It’s time for the BOCC to take its role as CRA board to the next level and give firm direction to staff about CRA priorities, starting with parking, housing and critical infrastructure improvements.

As always, please come to the Commission meeting beginning at 9:00 a.m. Tuesday, April 28, 2015. E-mail comments to your commissioners at efieldin@martin.fl.us, ascott@martin.fl.us, sheard@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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