Update: From the Mooring Field to the Beach

The aerial photo provided with the staff report shows a “potential development area” for the Sea Turtle Beach Concession that includes a large portion of the existing parking lot. (Source: Martin County)

Local attorney and civic activist, Virginia Sherlock, provides an informative update on important issues from last Tuesday’s Martin County Commission meeting, and a controversial item scheduled for the June 18 meeting:

Tom Fullman and Jackie Trancynger made terrific comments on the mooring field agenda item at Tuesday’s BOCC meeting. Great remarks, too, from our Indian Riverkeeper, Marty Baum, and from Myra Galoci.

 Commissioners Heard, Fielding and Scott were listening.

 Thanks to the speakers for reaching out to the business community with a reminder that a healthy environment and a healthy Lagoon help create a business-friendly climate for Martin County.

 Good job, everyone.

 The Jensen Beach Mooring Field was costly, ill-conceived and improperly located. Doug Smith spent more than $400,000 in district funds on this failed project — money that is lost forever while Martin County citizens face higher taxes to fund necessary programs, services and infrastructure.

 This terrible waste of taxpayer dollars must not be replicated with Commissioner’s Smith’s latest effort to spend our money on grandiose and unnecessary public facilities, the Sea Turtle Beach concession proposal. Thousands of dollars in District 1 funds already have been spent on “public workshops” and PR to try to persuade residents to support construction of a two-story, high-end restaurant and bar to replace the tiki-hut concession that now serves beach-goers.

 While the concession stand may need repairs and improvements, the style and size of the structure are appropriate and prices were reasonable (at least until the operator walked away last month). The proposal advocated by Commissioner Smith and the Parks and Recreation Department would replace the concession stand with a two-story, high-end restaurant and bar that will be out of many local residents’ financial comfort zone.

 An agenda item for the BOCC meeting next Tuesday, June 18, 2013, seeks approval for a Request for Proposals for “lease, development, and operation of cafe services at Jensen Beach, which will permit the controlled sale of beer and wine, include a long term lease to provide a return on investment and provide designs that are within the vision of the public design workshop which maximize the use of the property.”

 (Don’t be fooled by the proposal to have a private concession operator fully fund the project in return for lease payments to the County. The beach is public property and a critical public resource. The County should not abandon the public beach to private development for private profit.)

The staff report suggests three options for development and says a preliminary construction cost estimate has been provided for each option, although I am unable to locate any cost estimates in the staff report.

(Staff has apparently decided to limit the contents of staff reports and present new information during the actual meeting — as was done with the mooring field item — which prevents the public and commissioners from reviewing proposals in advance so as to provide meaningful comments and input.)

 The aerial photo provided with the staff report shows a “potential development area” for the Sea Turtle Beach Concession that includes a large portion of the existing parking lot.

 If you do not want to see another Renar building on the beach and if you don’t want to spend more public dollars for less public access to the public beach, let the BOCC know your thoughts about the Sea Turtle Concession agenda item, Item 8C2 on next week’s BOCC agenda.

At the very least, more financial details should be provided to the public before any BOCC vote is taken.


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