Note: It's our goal at One Martin to provide reliable, fact-based information so citizens can be better informed about our government and our community.
One Martin was pleased to see a favorable vote from the Martin County Commissioners on Sept 13 during the public hearing to discuss the Rural Lifestyle Land Use Amendment. We believe it will serve our community well as a valuable planning tool to protect our natural environment, help agriculture remain viable, prevent sprawl, and strengthen our economy and tax base.
Below are thoughts from Tom Campenni, publisher of the Friends & Neighbors e-newsletter, and an expression of gratitude from Rick Melchiori, fellow One Martin Board Member and General Manager of Becker Holding Company.
We hope you will stay informed and involved. Only then, can citizens be an effective part of protecting the place we all call home.
President, One Martin
Thank You, Commissioner Hetherington Guest Column by Tom Campenni
Some people are saying that Stacey Hetherington sold out those who voted for her by ultimately supporting the rural lifestyle amendment to the comp plan. That is just nonsense!
In the beginning, what was originally called Discovery (now Atlantic Fields) was a project of multi-million-dollar homes off Bridge Road that was going to proceed as an exception. There was not going to be any new land use designation. The Becker and Discovery folks were making presentations throughout southern Martin County and on Jupiter Island to select audiences. It seemed everyone was on board.
There was no public outcry or fierce resistance. The way it was proceeding, every commissioner except Heard was in favor of it. Discovery was going to be a money generator, leave acres of open land, and even have 800 acres remain in permanent conservation for farming. What happened?
In the interim, the developer came back with a plan to not proceed with the project as an exception but rather as a new land use classification in the comp plan. Suddenly, thousands of acres throughout unincorporated Martin County seemed to be up for grabs. I firmly said that it was a good project, but the new land use category had me wondering why disrupt the project at this point in the approval process. Until I had answers, I could not support it.
There were now people who began to want to know much more about the project. When it came before the BOCC at the beginning of the year, there wasn’t so much opposition by the public as concern. They also had questions that needed answers and until we (and I am a member of the public) received them, we couldn’t support the change.
Ciampi went from a yes on the project to a definite no on the land use category. Hetherington said she would not vote for it until she understood it better and there was much more public outreach. I was right there with her.
Then election season hit. And to my chagrin Stacey was a bit too strident in some of her campaign rhetoric hitting Stuart as growing too fast. It made her seem as if she was anti, anti, anti-development of any sort and that is not true.
Chastened, Becker, the developer, did do informational meetings and took public comment. The result was a narrowing of where the rural lifestyle could be used by Becker and county staff. It now encompassed only those properties of at least 1000 acres contiguous with the USB but outside the boundary. The number of acres to which the amendment could apply was less than 12,000, and 70% must continue to be open with at least 500 acres additional in conservation. There are 6 properties that meet the criteria.
There would be no package plants allowed. Water and sewer lines must be brought in at the developer’s expense and no other project can tap into those lines. My questions were answered, and there was ample opportunity for residents to go to the informational meetings held at the libraries.
Hetherington’s position was that questions needed to be answered and the number of acres narrowed. This was accomplished.
Unfortunately, she was less articulate on the dais when she was conveying her thoughts. That is too bad. But for anyone to believe she betrayed her beliefs or had situational ethics is not true. Hetherington conveyed to me that she needed a narrower definition of the rural lifestyle amendment.
If I had been a commissioner before the changes, I would not have voted for the designation either. Hetherington, by constant pressure on staff and the developer, received the changes she thought best for the county.
She also received something more…the commission’s vote to go out to RFP for a company to facilitate public meetings about where the future is for Martin County’s development. Doug Smith has been trying for years to have a real plan. Ciampi, Smith, and Jenkins all voted to do this.
In fact, Hetherington would not agree to vote in favor of the rural lifestyle amendment until a vote was taken on having a better planning model going forward.
Unlike Ed Ciampi, she never stated that she was unequivocally opposed to the rural lifestyle amendment. What she said was that she could not support the amendment as it was drafted back in February and without the chance for the public throughout the county to attend workshops on the proposal. I know that is true because Hetherington and I were of like minds and discussed it a couple of times.
Regarding this development and amendment, our five commissioners acted in good faith. Heard and Ciampi voted no, but I understand why even though I disagree. Smith and Jenkins were always in favor of it. Jenkins explained his position very well at the commission meeting as did Smith.
To think that Hetherington was somehow disingenuous is utter baloney. Is she a politician? Yes, what else is new. For that matter so are the others. Could she have better explained her position? Yes, that is for sure.
I applaud Hetherington for sticking to her guns at making the amendment better. I further clap my hands for putting the county on a footing to be able to construct a plan for our future. Thank you, Commissioner Hetherington.
Thomas Campenni is the founder of the Friends & Neighbors e-newsletter and website. Friends & Neighbors was created as a place for more voices to be heard and to provide residents with useful information about Martin County that is not being covered elsewhere.
Sometimes, a simple “thank you” just isn’t enough. Now, having the time to breathe a little easier and reflect on our recent accomplishments, I must acknowledge the incredible contributions of our supporters - without whom our success would have been impossible. Together, we have achieved something that will forever serve as a pillar of the Martin County Difference.
During this process, many of you provided input to our team as well as to county staff and policymakers. Your insights helped refine and improve both the Rural Lifestyle Land Use and the Atlantic Fields development plan.
To the many organizations and citizens throughout the county who attended our presentations and provided feedback, thank you. Your comments, emails, and letters of support were invaluable. To those who took time from their busy schedules to speak publicly on our behalf, we are forever appreciative. You all are the reason Martin County is such a special place.
To our team of consultants, your dedication and professionalism cannot be understated. While the approvals attained last week were a critical first step in bringing Atlantic Fields to fruition, much more work remains. I am proud to call you my colleagues and friends and look forward to working alongside you in bringing our vision to life.
To members of Martin County staff that worked alongside us during this process, I share these thoughts. During my career, I have had the pleasure of working in many jurisdictions throughout Florida and across the country and can say unequivocally that Martin County is blessed with some of the finest professionals in their respective disciplines. The “Martin County Difference” is preserved, protected, and strengthened by your efforts.
Lastly, to members of the Martin County Board of County Commissioners - in particular Commissioners Jenkins, Smith, and Hetherington – your collective leadership is testament to the wisdom of the Martin County electorate. In your own unique way, you shaped something that will bring long-term benefits to our community. You should be commended for your steadfast commitment to making Martin County the place so many want to call home.
Collectively, we have accomplished something that will help perpetually preserve conservation and agricultural lands, protect our growth management rulesrules, and attract world-class contributions to our community.
For that, we can all be grateful!
Rick J. Melchiori, P.E.
Rick Melchiori is the Vice President of One Martin and General Manager at Becker Holding Company.
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