Martin County Rural Lifestyle: Guest Column By Tom Hurley

Article Posted on April 10, 2023

Note: It is our goal at One Martin to provide reliable, fact-based information so citizens can be better informed about our government and community.
Dear friends of One Martin,

Today we are pleased to publish a guest column from Mr. Tom Hurley, CEO of the Becker Companies. Tom and his team were integral in shaping the Rural Lifestyle Text Amendment to the Martin County Comprehensive Plan. As you read in my last email, that amendment is currently in the midst of an Administrative Challenge filed by a local resident. The final outcome will be determined by the Admistration Commission composed of the Governor and Cabinet members sometime in the future.

We hope you'll read his thoughts below and let us know what you think. 


An Update on the Rural Lifestyle Amendment

By Tom Hurley, CEO of the Becker Holding Company 
Lately, some well-meaning friends have sought to cheer me up after hearing about the recent recommended order in the legal challenge brought against the County's proposed Rural Lifestyle Land Use Amendment to Martin County's Comprehensive Plan. They're usually surprised by my thoughts. I'm neither disappointed nor dissuaded; I was encouraged by the judge's recommended order and frustrated that the County's legal team (and the people of Martin County) have been forced to play a petty game to bolster the ego and presumed political aspirations of activist Donna Melzer. 
Martin County’s latest statement reads in part:
“The judge issued a Recommended Order based on evidence provided at the hearing and found that the petitioner failed to prove the challenged items with one small exception – a proposed community store. Martin County has reviewed the Recommended Order and is pleased the judge ruled in the County's favor on all issues with one minor exception”
Recently, a member of the local media presented me with a proposal. He suggested that the county "start over" with the amendment but fast-track approval—and even waive associated fees—of Atlantic Fields as a stand-alone project. 
As the first project approved under Rural Lifestyle last September, Atlantic Fields is proposed for my family's 1,500-acre property—formerly home to one of our citrus operations. We farmed the land for three generations until canker and greening decimated our crops. We pivoted, creating the Hobe Sound Polo Club, which hosts polo matches during the spring that the public is welcome to view for free. I've proudly partnered with Discovery Land Company—originator of 24 exclusive luxury resort communities worldwide—on Atlantic Fields. As Discovery's first community in Florida, Atlantic Fields' 317 homes, based on today's market activity, would generate more than $30 million in annual property taxes. One county commissioner equated that amount to the tax revenue derived from 8,000 homes.
The billions of dollars that Atlantic Fields will generate in economic activity will create thousands of jobs, contribute to our local non-profits, and add more than  $2.5 million a month in tax revenues for the County, which the legal challenge unfortunately delays.
Atlantic Fields commits to several high-quality public benefits in which we pledge to:
  • Donate our current equestrian center to the Florida Park Service as a comfort station.
  • Create a southern entry point to the 5,800-acre Atlantic Ridge State.
  • Restore a 125-acre wetland.
  • Relocate and donate the Hobe Sound Train Station—currently our office—to the Hobe Sound Historical Society as a museum of local history.
  • Strip future development rights from my 800-acre Becker Tree Farm and place them in permanent agriculture usage.
When we planted a grove in the citrus business, we didn't get a crop for at least five years and didn't get a return on our investment for at least twenty years. Our family's approach to investing is similar—seeking slower but more reliable long-term gains over flashier, riskier investment trends promising quick riches. Perhaps this mindset—calculated risk conducted orderly—is why I'm glad we brought Atlantic Fields forward only after county approval of the Rural Lifestyle amendment.
The amendment keeps the urban service districts intact. It incentivizes landowners to donate minimum parcels of 500 acres for permanent preservation—and foot the bill to maintain them. Most importantly, the Rural Lifestyle—limiting the allowable zoning to one unit per 5 acres—is consistent with the current surrounding agricultural zoning.
Fortunately, the County successfully defended all the critical points of the amendment. The remedy is simple and will be reached expeditiously. We're confident the amendment will protect agriculture, preserve land, generate revenue with minimal impacts, and prove more beneficial to Martin County than the current options permit.  
Thomas W. Hurley, CEO
The Becker Companies
Here's What's Happening
If you'd like to look further ahead or learn more about what's happening in Martin County, visit the links below for government entity calendars:

Martin County Board of County Commissioners

Our mission is to create a culture in Martin County where diverse interests respectfully work together to cultivate an informed citizenry and build a prosperous community. If you enjoyed reading or found benefit in this news, please consider supporting One Martin here.

Join Mailing List
Forward Forward


Click here to view our One Martin Newsletter