Martin County Latest News From The June 25, 2023 Edition




Gayle Harrell first went to Tallahassee in the year 2000. She succeeded Ken Pruitt in the old 81st Florida House District. In the Florida House and now in the Senate, she has represented Stuart and Martin County along with St. Lucie and northern Palm Beach Counties. Yet I always consider her a Stuart girl. Her late husband Jim practiced medicine here for many years.


I don’t always agree with her, but in the 10 plus years I have known her, Senator Harrell has always at least listened to what I had to say. And she has brought back millions and millions of dollars to her district including Martin County and Stuart. As far as I am concerned, that is an important responsibility of a state or federal representative.

Harrell will be up for re-election next year. She is running and is counting on her loyal base to turn out the voters. The last time around, she ran unopposed. I don’t know if she will next time. If she does have an opponent in either the primary or the general, that person will have one hell of a fight on their hands once Gayle slips into her red sneakers for campaign season.


During this legislative session she brought home appropriations for her district. Below are her budget requests along with the few that were vetoed by Governor DeSantis:


  • FAU College of Dentistry Planning, Engineering, and First Traunch of Construction $30,000,000
  • IRSC Renovation Science $4,000,000
  • IRSC Deferred Maintenance $3,093,317
  • Boys & Girls Clubs of Martin County Education and Mentoring Program $250,000
  • Busch Wildlife Sanctuary Environmental Education Center $500,000
  • District 19 Medical Examiner Facility Planning and Design $1,000,000
  • Palm Beach County Sheriff – The Unmanned Aerial Response Team (UART) $500,000 VETO
  • FAU Doctor of Dental Medicine Program


  • Statewide Study of Community Residence Zoning


  • Alzheimer’s Community Care – Critical Support Initiative $750,000
  • Drug Free America Foundation – Reducing the Use of Marijuana During Pregnancy and Postpartum


  • Els for Autism Foundation Specialized Autism Recreation Complex Phase 1 $1,000,000
  • Florida Senior Living Association CNA On-The-Job Training Program $500,000
  • Improve Health Care for Florida’s Mothers: Assuring Quality Florida’s Hospital Levels of Care


  • Lucie County Homeless Veterans Community Village $875,000
  • University of Miami Miller School of Medicine – Florida Stroke Registry $1,000,000
  • 211 Palm Beach & Treasure Coast Building


  • Place of Hope – Child Welfare Services $1,000,000
  • Florida Community Health Centers, Obstetrical Services Viability for Underserved Population


  • Center for Child Counseling: Urgent Children’s Mental Health Services Expansion $300,000
  • Council on Aging of Martin County, Indiantown Senior Resource Center $250,000
  • Florida Research & Innovation Center Protein Production for Novel Therapeutic Development

$750,000 VETO

  • ARC of the Treasure Coast Women’s Accessible In- tensive Behavioral Living Environment $750,000


  • Hanley Foundation Community Recovery Center


  • Dental Student Loan Program $2,000,000
  • Pediatric Cardiac Technical Advisory Panel Proviso


  • Child Protection Team Retention and Inflation in- creases in operations Proviso $7,000,000
  • Loxahatchee Groves Stormwater System Rehabilitation $750,000 VETO
  • Indian Trail Improvement District M-0 Outfall

$500,000 VETO

  • Juno Beach Universe Boulevard Drainage Improvements $1,000,000 VETO
  • Loxahatchee River Preservation Initiative


  • Royal Palm Beach Canal System Rehab Phase II


  • Loggerhead Marine life Center Lifesaving Water Treatment System for Sick or Injured Sea Turtles


  • Loggerhead Marine life Center: Improving Water Quality and Coastline Cleanliness $250,000
  • Pahokee King Memorial Park Improvements Phase 2

$550,000 VETO

  • Martin County Fair $900,000
  • Martin County Public Safety Training Tower


  • Town of Jupiter Town Hall Cybersecurity Infrastructure $102,250
  • Port of Palm Beach Land Acquisition for Cargo Capacity Throughput Increase $500,000
  • City of Port Lucie Tom Mackie Boulevard Phase 4


  • MartinArts: Creating an Arts Center for the Treasure Coast $500,000 VETO
  • Town of Sewall’s Point South Sewall’s Point Road Reconstruction Phase 2 $1,000,000
  • Martin County South County Line Road Bridge Re- placement $3,000,000
  • Village of Indiantown SW Lincoln Street Roadway and Drainage Reconstruction $550,000
  • Royal Palm Beach La Mancha Subdivision Roadway Underdrain $500,000
  • JARC Florida Community Works Program


  • Communities Connected by Kids and other CBC ‘s Shortfall Proviso $18,496,941


I asked Gayle why some of her appropriations were vetoed. Here was her response:


“Florida’s 2023/24 budget is the largest budget in the history of Florida, over $116.5 billion, and it continues the great progress we are making in education, health and human services, the environment and infrastructure while putting over $10 billion in reserves and returning over $2.7 billion in historic tax relief to Floridians.  I am so pleased to have sponsored over $100 million in various budget requests that made it into the budget. Although 7 of the 47 were vetoed (a little over $4 million) many of those projects will have the ability to procure those funds through various grants that were established in the budget. It was a great year for Florida and District 31!” 


Some people are upset because she voted for the Live Local Act which preempts local government’s ability to prevent multi-family construction in some situations. That bill was Senate President Passidomo’s chief priority, and if state senators expect to get any of their bills or appropriations through, they just don’t say no.


Besides, at some point as a state legislator, doing what is good for the entire state is what needs to be done. Martin County isn’t the only place in Florida that is trying to thwart any reasonable development, but it is the best known and not always in a kind way by the rest of Florida. The public has been screaming about the lack of housing for years, especially for those that can least afford it. Did we think it was going to happen by building single family homes?


Harrell’s home is on the St. Lucie River in Martin County. She has lived in it for decades. She has seen the green slime, the degradation, and deterioration of our river and the estuary. She has sponsored and helped provide millions of dollars to the cleanup efforts and to water quality not only in her district but throughout Florida.


Many spout how much they want this or that for a better environment. I am still waiting for someone to match her track record for delivering and not just talking. Today, we have elected officials who substitute rhetoric for action. That is not leadership. Gayle has quietly done things and in some cases allowed others to have the bulk of the credit.


There is no perfect score in politics, the goal is to have someone who tries and succeeds most of the time. Gayle Harrell does that and has done so for almost 25 years in Tallahassee. In my book, if she wants to stay another four years, she has my vote.




Up for discussion and a vote was the sceptic-tank-to-sewer conversion for Port Salerno and New Monrovia neighborhoods.


In 2015, Harbor Branch did a study that concluded that those areas had higher concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus than their reference sites. They stated that the residential wells that supplied drinking water had wastewater contamination which led to these neighborhoods being chosen for a more accelerated conversion.


Estimated wastewater conversion costs per unit would be a total of $12,774 including removal of the old septic tank. According to commission policy, mandatory hookup needs to happen within 365 days of completion. The entire amount of $11,924 can be prepaid or paid over 20 years with fees and interest as an assessment on your tax bill estimated at $749.17 per year. Homeowners who don’t hook up are charged the minimum sewer fee of $19.34 by the utility.


That sure is a good sum for the people of these mostly working-class neighborhoods. Yet new infrastructure has traditionally been paid for by the homes that will use it. There also is the part about the contaminated wastewater in the drinking supply. After public comment, what was the commission’s decision?  Punt.


There are various programs that will help lower income homeowners pay for hook-ups including Florida SHIP funds and possible CDBG funding. All good but limited in the amount of money available. Another tactic employed was securing a 60-day extension from the contractor on the price for his winning bid. That may not appear to be much but with constantly escalating prices, it certainly is.


Ciampi said he couldn’t support doing the work at this time because of the costs. That shows he is in full election mode more than a year away. Is it alright for the neighborhood to be drinking what is not the safest water? The entire commission voted 5-0 to postpone the vote on whether to do the work.


In the meantime, they may change the county ordinance requiring mandatory hook-up. While the state only requires it when your septic system fails if sewer is available, that is not a good policy. We are spending billions of dollars to construct modern sewer systems and then allowing people to go on as if they are not there. It is a criminal waste of tax dollars.


The county can also see whether there are more grants available to lower the costs. Already grants have been received in this case that have cut the individual expense in half.


I don’t know legally whether the county can use ad valorum funds to subsidize these homeowners. Ad valorum funds are paid by every taxpayer in the county including those who live in the municipalities and even county residents who have different utilities providing their sewers. As a Stuart utility user, I know I don’t want to subsidize another utility customer.


Then perhaps the utility’s funds could be used to buy down the cost. That would be asking one rate-paying customer to subsidize another. If the people of Palm Lake Park had to pay for their hook-up, why should they be asked to pay for another neighborhood’s hook-up?


Besides the contamination aspect, there is a huge push to develop the many empty lots in the area. Without sewers, builders and developers will not be able to do so. Some may not care but people who have bought property with the assumption that they can build will care.


Let’s see what happens after the 60 days. I expect the same dilemma that the commission faced in June will be faced again in August. You can see the presentation here


Fire/Rescue Chief Chad Cianciulli made a compelling presentation for the new contract.

Chad Cianciulli

The most compelling figure I heard was that there were 7 structure fires so far in 2023. The notion that many of us grew up with that “firemen” are constantly fighting roaring blazes is no longer even remotely true. It appears from the statistics that the department’s biggest responsibility today is providing emergency medical care.


They are the ones who not only transport people to the hospital during a heart attack or were in a car accident, but they administer first rate care while doing it. Fifteen years ago, victims had to wait until they were in the emergency room. It sort of puts to rest the idea that volunteers could administer this level of care.


Cianciulli provided many statistics about why he needed not only more personnel but that his people needed to be paid 12% more in the first year of the contract. He said that most who leave end up in Palm Beach County where currently the beginning salary is $77,518 as compared to Martin County’s $55,793. It takes roughly 5 years to train a Fire Medic. At that point, they are being paid $70,437 per year and in Palm Beach they would go back to the starting salary of $77,518. That is still more than one receives in Martin County.


We have essentially created emergency rooms in fire/rescue trucks. This is a level of service beyond anything we could imagine a few short years ago. Do they deserve the $6 million more in the first year? Who can say no? Four commissioners will not.


The one who voted no was Heard. Her reasoning is the sheriff has a clause in his labor contract that is a “me too” clause. So that 12% will go over to his department too. Heard also mentioned that the rest of the county employees will be receiving 4% raises. Taxpayers are left to pay for this great care. You can see the presentation here


If you acknowledge that the department is providing a great level of service, then the question is, does the public want to pay for it? Most people want the very best that money can buy. The catch is they don’t want to be charged more. It isn’t whether the fire/rescue employees are performing better and better as care givers, the question that is never asked by anyone except Heard is can we afford the Rolls Royce that has been created?


Budget time is coming up, and I suspect there will need to be instances when the four commissioners who voted for this contract will have to stick together. They will need all four to vote for next year’s taxes to pass. Heard will be a no and that will be consistent with her other votes throughout the year.


Ciampi, Smith, Jenkins, and Hetherington will be doing all sorts of posturing regarding raising your taxes. Throughout the year, they have voted on ways to make it palpable. Can they cut other projects? Sure, parks, public works, and administration can all take hits. Without having a policy discussion about how much public safety services are necessary and the true costs, they vote yes, and the future should look after itself.






Martin County Latest News From The June 11, 2023 Edition




I was away and unable to attend either the Pal Mar property owners or board meetings on June 1st.


I was told that the annual property owners meeting did not go forward because improper notice was given. It is amazing that could occur considering that we had the same legal firm and executive director as in the past issuing the notice. These same individuals should know the process. How could a mistake have happened?


Regarding the board meeting that followed, once again nothing was decided. I guess I should be glad I wasn’t there since apparently it would have been a big waste of time. But I really don’t know what occurred and have no way to verify any of this.


It is standard practice to record all meetings of Martin County governmental entities so that citizens can watch online or listen to a recording of the meeting. Even though Pal Mar meetings are held in the Martin County chambers, no meetings are recorded. I found that amazing.


Pal Mar is a separate taxing district. It isn’t on county TRIM Notices, so Martin County residents are not directly taxed for the lots. However, Martin County owns thousands of lots and of course the assessments are paid by the county using citizen tax dollars. In essence, county residents are the owners. This also applies to residents of Palm Beach County which also owns lots as does SFWMD (and those taxes do appear on citizen TRIM Notices.)


Then why aren’t the meetings recorded and available for viewing on MCTV and the county’s YouTube channel? I don’t think it is because they want to keep voters and taxpayers ignorant…I just don’t believe they think.


I sent an email to Assistant County Administrator George Stokus and Commissioner Sarah Heard, Martin County’s representatives on the PalMar board, asking just that question. You can view it below:


Dear Pal Mar Board Members:


I find it strange that the Pal Mar meetings are not being recorded and then made available to Martin County taxpayers and residents on MCTV.


We, Martin County residents, own thousands of lots within the district. There is keen interest in the fate of this valuable resource. We are locked in a battle as to whether the Pal Mar district will remain a piece of a forgotten Florida or destroyed for the profit of a few.


In an age where the public wants the government to be transparent this utter lack of it with Pal Mar is appalling. Since moving the meetings to the Martin County chamber, the ability to watch it live and have recordings for later viewing is very easy to accomplish.


If an interlocal agreement is needed, then by all means initiate one immediately. But what is happening during the meetings is of concern to our citizens. It would seem a poor waste of a valuable asset (the ability to record the meetings) if it is not used. 


Thank you for your consideration of this request.


There may need to be an interlocal agreement between the county and the Pal Mar District to facilitate the recording of the meetings. That shouldn’t be too hard to achieve. The ability to record is not in question since it is in the chamber where things are recorded regularly. Where is the commitment to transparency that we hear so much about?

The budget for Martin County is north of a half billion dollars. The expense to record one more meeting is negligible. We have a government TV channel just for this purpose. How about using it for the people of Martin County.




Sheriff Snyder made a compelling presentation for building a special pod for his mental health prisoners.

The Martin County jail is the largest mental health facility in the county. According to the sheriff, that is true in every Florida county. The cost for construction of the pod would be millions of dollars. He had a figure of $30 million but that was an estimate from several years ago.


How do individuals with mental problems end up as inmates? Many commit crimes when they are in full mental crisis. During an event, they either do property damage or hurt someone. If it is a very low-level property crime, then the person would be “Baker Acted,” an involuntary commitment to a mental health facility for evaluation that can last no more than 3 days.


As many as 30% of the jail population are taking psychotropic medication. Snyder tries to segregate those with mental health problems from the general population, but he doesn’t have the room to do it every time. The sheriff had a presentation that graphically portrayed some of the problems that the staff and inmates face.


He is looking for funds not only from the county but also from the state. We know that many of our “crime” problems are the direct result of the state not providing the resources to alleviate this suffering. As Snyder said, we, as a society, need to make a course correction because what is happening currently is unsustainable.


We probably will be hearing more about this as budget time approaches.


The next presentation was from Judge Jennifer Waters who presides over the mental health court. According to Judge Waters, Florida is 12th in the nation with those that have diagnosed mental health problems yet 50th in resource funding. Of the 176,000 in the Florida penal system, one in four are mentally ill.

If the offender can be diverted to her court, they will receive a panoply of services and are required to appear weekly. If the person has a full-time job, they can arrange to do so by Zoom. If the offender sticks with the program and takes advantage of it, the diversion from criminal court is well worth it.


Florida has a recidivism rate of 58%. Those who finish this program have a 12% rate. The program saves thousands of taxpayer dollars based on the current costs of keeping the offender in jail and future costs if they re-offend. You can see the presentation here


The commission went into executive session to discuss the lawsuits with the stores selling live animals in the county. After several meetings last year, the commission passed an ordinance that stopped the sale of dogs, cats, and rabbits after June 30th of this year. The two pet stores commenced legal action to set the ordinance aside. The commission agreed to stay enforcement of the ordinance until the current legal matter has been adjudicated.


Three Lakes golf course requested a revised site plan approval. The 1216-acre site will have 2 golf courses, practice facilities, an existing home as the temporary club house, and other ancillary uses. There will be 141 acres of lakes to act as storm water retention. There will be 14 cottages for members and their guests only. 97% of the 1216 acres will be open space.

The 14 golf cottages will only be allowed to use one bedroom of the three- and four-bedroom cottages. The project is limited to 5000 gallons of waste per day. This was the first sticking point with Commissioner Heard who didn’t believe them. She also felt the parking was inadequate.


A third golf course, a new clubhouse and the use of entire cottages would have to wait until the applicant applies under the Rural Lifestyle Amendment. If that is successful, then they can tie into water and sewar lines which are adjacent to the property.


All the irrigation water will come from the C-44 canal. That water is loaded with nutrients. Earlier in the day, there was a presentation on best management practices for golf courses. It highlighted that science has changed considerably regarding both irrigation and fertilization. Unfortunately, the county did not provide the presentation as one document. I have enclosed a link to the agenda item where individual pages can be found here


As Commissioner Ciampi stated, Martin County is becoming known for some of the best golf courses in the country. It is a perfect match for our western lands. Farmers and ranchers didn’t stop farming and ranching just to sell their land to developers. It no longer made good business sense to farm because of the price of crops, livestock, and citrus greening.


On this 1200 acres as of right, more than 200 homes could have been built under current zoning using wells and septic tanks. That would equate to sprawl with the need for roads, schools, and public safety. The taxable value would be less than what the golf course’s value will be. The alternative is not leaving the land as is. The alternative is a golf course with a small impact or homes with a large impact.


A motion was made by Hetherington to approve and seconded by Jenkins. It passed 4-1 with Heard dissenting.


Staff needs guidance on the now defunct golf course clubhouse and Top Golf experience at Sailfish Sands. In May after just 6 months, the one bidder for the operation, LaMattina Management, gave the keys back to the county. Should the county operate the facility, or should it go out to RFP for a private operator?

Commissioners Heard, Ciampi, and Smith couldn’t stop describing in glowing terms how staff handled the entire debacle. According to those three, staff handled everything perfectly. Since staff created the problem beginning with the RFP process, that is kind of hard to swallow.


From the very beginning of the building of the new golf course, commissioners were more interested in creating a “private” feel to the clubhouse than what was necessary and the public using the golf course wanted. The facility was not geared to the people who play golf on the courses but rather the commission’s idea of a sophisticated restaurant. In my opinion the food was good but not excellent as Ciampi claims. The service was not good…forget about excellent.


The hitting bays were enticing. However, the two times I wanted to use them they were closed and out of order. That is where the restaurant and bar would make the money.


The staff wants to run it for a year to have figures before sending it out to RFP. But according to staff, the place grossed $2.2 million in six months so that figure is available.  It was revealed that the county spent $634,000 on capital equipment so that a more upscale menu could be produced. The staff in their proposal are not going to sell real liquor and be cashless which already would not give a true picture of a private operation.


Staff are proposing to run the facility cashless, which the commission was not enthusiastic about. There would be beer, wine, hard cider, and canned cocktails. Unlike the beach cafes, they want to allow tipping. They will honor gift cards purchased under LaMattina until the end of the year.

Heard moved to approve staff’s recommendation. The only one who wanted to really understand why the venture failed was Commissioner Hetherington. She said the county needs to take some responsibility for the failure. When there was only one bidder, that should have been a warning sign and she mentioned that at the time the bid was accepted.


She is philosophically opposed to the county operating businesses. Hetherington wanted an audit done by Comptroller Timmann to help unravel the problems encountered. I agree with her…what is going to be different a year from now?


Jenkins seconded the motion but added he wanted it brought back in January to see about going out to bid. The commissioners wanted to have cash considered as an option. Since Heard never agreed with Jenkins and reiterated she wants staff’s recommendations, I don’t think anything was included. The motion passed 4-1 with Hetherington voting no.


There has never been a discussion item on the agenda regarding Martin County running businesses. When staff are questioned, they suggest that the businesses are well run and make loads of money. That may even be true. But it is irrelevant as to whether the government should be competing with the private sector.


In the case of the golf course, the commissioners may have set up the entire clubhouse to fail. They insisted on a grand and beautiful place. They wanted to have a Top Golf facility. This fact alone probably precluded some restauranteurs from bidding.


Most golfers who play on that course want a beer and a sandwich not Pasta Bolognese, which was one of the entrees on the menu. The private sector did not open a Top Golf in Martin County for a reason. The same goes for a water park.


The commissioners need to make their philosophy known to the taxpayers and voters. Is it Martin County’s responsibility to do things that can be done better by the private sector? Just because the private sector is not doing something doesn’t mean Martin County should do it instead.


As a taxpayer, I want to hear if our commissioners want to own and operate the means of production. If they answer yes, then they are not Republicans or even Democrats but Socialists. I think I know where Hetherington stands, how about the rest?





Martin County Latest News From The May 28, 2023 Edition


The next commission meeting will be June 6, 2023



By Tom Hurley

Becker Companies, CEO



It sounds a little absurd to make an association between comprehensive planning and poetry.


Yet over the last three years working to advance the Rural Lifestyle land-use amendment and Atlantic Fields project—which we sincerely believe will soon prove among the most positively impactful planning achievements in recent Martin County history—I found myself recalling a line from the well-known poem, “The Road Not Taken,” by Robert Frost.


“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

“And sorry I could not travel both

“And be one traveler, long I stood

“And looked down one as far as I could”


Earlier this week Florida’s Administrative Cabinet confirmed that the Rural Lifestyle amendment complied with the Martin County Comprehensive Plan, affirming previous opinions by the county commission majority and the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council. This upended the recommended order by an administrative law judge who—when presiding over an activist’s legal challenge—took issue with the definition of a small store located within a private community.


The cabinet ruling clears the way for us to now create something incredibly special with Atlantic Fields and hopefully pave a path for other high-caliber projects. The amendment—which incentivizes landowners to help preserve as much land as possible for agriculture or conservation—will protect Martin County’s rural character and create a hedge against the kinds of development patterns seen across South Florida.


That last goal is what put us on that divergent path referenced in the Frost poem.


You see, we’d originally planned to introduce Atlantic Fields—an exclusive community by Discovery Land Company of only 317 homes on 1,500 acres at the Hobe Sound Polo Club property—as a standalone.

As a standalone we planned to seek zoning from one unit per 20 acres to one unit per 5 acres, matching nearby 5-acre ag ranchettes. We also wanted to serve the site with water and sewer, protecting the nearby headwaters of the St. Lucie and Loxahatchee rivers.


Our property is a former citrus grove where my two brothers and I grew up working as third-generation farmers before canker and greening—whose spread the 2004 hurricanes accelerated—decimated our crops and later the industry countywide.


We sought a minimal footprint, lots of open space and numerous public benefits, including:

  • Placing the 800-acre Becker Tree Farm in permanent agricultural preservation;
  • Restoring a 125-acre wetland for improved flood control;
  • Donating our equestrian center to the park service for public enjoyment;
  • Creating access to the southern portion of the Atlantic Ridge State Park;
  • Donating and relocating the original Hobe Sound Train Station within town for a museum of local history.


After consultation with many smart and accomplished people we realized our offering posed the framework to help preserve large tracts of rural lands through private-sector involvement rather than reliance on taxpayer dollars. With the input of conservationists and slow-growth advocates, we memorialized safeguards into the amendment:

  • Limiting the property applicable to minimum 1,000-acre parcels;
  • Granting one-unit-per-5-acre zoning only if a separate parcel half the size of the site proposed for development—at least 500 acres—is set aside for permanent preservation;
  • Ensuring preservation by placing the land under control of three entities—landowner, local government and established conservation nonprofit;
  • Committing the developer to paying all land management and water/sewer costs;
  • Limiting service strictly to the site using the Rural Lifestyle amendment;
  • Requiring an economic study—reviewed by third-parties—that validates the proposed project’s overall positive economic impact.


We did that with Atlantic Fields, which is projected to generate more than $20 million a year in annual tax revenue. Those 317 homes of mostly seasonal residents will generate the revenue of “8,000 homes,” as one county commissioner stated.


Should other projects meet its high threshold, Rural Lifestyle will help place under permanent preservation land that would otherwise cost taxpayers dearly.

Skeptics may doubt those claims. But now, with the obstacles removed, speculation isn’t necessary, as we’ll all soon get to see.


“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

“I took the one less traveled by

“And that has made all the difference.”


Tom Hurley’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint




When the Sailfish Sands Golf Course restaurant opened, the Parks & Rec Department decided to have a private vendor run it. But it recently became clear that it didn’t work. The question is why!


Did the vendor have a menu that was too ambitious for the venue? Was it solely the vendor’s fault or did the county push the company into bad choices to satisfy unreasonable requests from the commissioners and staff? Apparently for it to fail so spectacularly so quickly, things were dreadfully wrong from the start. That includes the selection process. The restaurant only opened last fall.


At that time, I was on the county’s Parks & Recreation Board. I went to a pre-opening and thought the food was good. We toured the facility including the Top Golf Bays. Everything looked great from a public perspective.


I liked the restaurant so much that I ate there a couple of times. Service was not terrific but that was to be expected with a new restaurant. The first time I was there, the golf bays were all filled. By the second time I was the only table booked, and the bays had many fewer people.

Then in March we attempted to reserve a bay when we had friends visiting. We were told to try again in an hour because everything was down. Other people have told me they had the same experience. Did the vendor suffer because the equipment that was supposed to be part of what would draw patrons to the restaurant didn’t work? Could the rent at $45,000 per month ($1500 per day fixed cost before any other expense) have been a large contributing problem?


The vendor only paid partial rent for the first month of November. It appears the lease gave him generous payment terms. November rent wasn’t due until December 1st. It was paid January 4th. He paid $20,000 on January 30th and then never paid another dime. Mr. LaMattina, the vendor, left owing the county $250,000 plus.


The county intends to reopen using a menu like the beach cafes have. No liquor…only beer and wine. The county will run it as they do the cafes.


Will they look for another vendor? Knowing our commission, I wouldn’t bet on it. They seem to enjoy operating businesses.


Maybe this was set up to fail all along. There was only one bidder. That should automatically tell you that something is amiss. Taking care of hitting bays is not in the purview of most food and beverage people.


I have also heard from golfers that it is too expensive to play golf there. They don’t accept cash and a reservation is required to play. All things that are fine in the private sector but perhaps too much for a public government course. Fewer golfers mean fewer restaurant customers.


I place this blame where it belongs…on the backs of the commission. Each commissioner was responsible for the bad judgement that gave us failure because they each supported it. They couldn’t just have a place to have a sandwich and a beer…they had to have a pasta bolognaise and a prime steak.

The commission needs to recognize what a parks and recreation department should be doing. Staff will need to identify where the funds will come from to fill the $250,000 shortfall since that revenue is going to be used to fund other expenses at the course. That would apply to the loss rent of $45,000 per month that no one is paying going forward.


It would not surprise me to see that either deep cuts must be made and/or taxes increased this budget cycle. What is the county’s philosophy toward parks and the other services it must provide? There are many more needs other than giving money to an air show or other deserving non-profits. The commission has put in place staffing expansion in public safety which will cause spending to escalate to unsustainable levels.


I don’t blame the private sector company for this as much as I do the public sector. Mr. LaMattina’s company seemed undercapitalized. I could not find a security deposit anywhere. The proof that this opportunity was not viable for a restauranteur should have been clear because there was only one bidder. It should have foretold this story. And it sort of did.


As Published In Martin County Moments




Bob Berman, who is currently on the board, has changed his tune recently regarding what is acceptable behavior for landowners.


For the past two years, he has said repeatedly that cars, trucks, and other 4-wheel drive vehicles are perfectly fine in PalMar. He believes that they can’t be restricted, and access should be provided. That is a far cry from what he said a decade ago.


Public Records show that a memo dated March 31, 2010, written by Berman as president of the Palm Beach Heights Landowners Coalition to the board instructs the board that many restrictions apply:


RE: Suggested/recommended access permit requirements/restrictions



  1. Applicant must produce evidence that they are a property owner in Palm Beach Heights
  2. Must produce a survey showing the location of the land including GPS coordinates
  3. The land must be physically marked by a surveyor and certified as to the location
  4. If it is determined that there is direct physical access to the land, the applicant will be eligible for an access permit for a vehicle. Otherwise, access is limited to pedestrian
  5. If a vehicle access permit is issued, the permittee shall have the obligation to keep Pal-Mar Security informed of the vehicle make, model, year, color and tag number prior to access.
  6. Permit will have a expiration
  7. There shall be a separate permit for each lot owned by the Some lots may be vehicle access and others pedestrian only.
  8. Permit shall specifically prohibit random travel within the District


For applicants eligible for a permit the following should apply at a minimum:


  1. Permittee shall notify Pal-Mar security in advance of the intention to visit the property
  2. Person must produce a copy of the permit and photo identification for entry
  3. Approved permittee must accompany all other guests or family No admittance to anyone unaccompanied by the permittee
  4. The permit shall identify the shortest and most direct route to the land and there cannot

be any deviation

  1. Motorized vehicles are prohibited on all canal banks for any reason
  2. Any firearm on person or in vehicle must be securely encased and not readily available for use for all travel until arrival at the permittee land
  3. All alcohol shall be unopened and sealed until arrival at the permittee land
  4. Any animals must remained leashed or caged unless on the permittee land
  5. An indemnity clause for any travel while within the boundaries of the Pal-Mar



This is a far cry from Berman’s last statements regarding access.


Here is a letter from Berman as president of the Palm Beach Heights Landowners Coalition to landowners:


October 6, 2013


To whom it may concern:



I wrote in September regarding Florida Statute 704.01 because there was this ridiculous notion that this statute somehow applied to the Palm Beach Heights subdivision lots. As I explained last month, this statute is irrelevant for the Palm Beach Heights lots and does not apply.


It has also come to my attention that there are individuals that think that the property is not posted and therefore it is somehow O.K. to trespass on other people’s property.

That is also ridiculous.


First, the entire perimeter of the Pal-Mar (Palm Beach Heights subdivision) is clearly posted with no trespassing signs. These signs are everywhere and clearly visible prior to entering the area. The entire perimeter also is fenced with KEEP OUT signs.


But attached is a copy of Florida Statute 810.09 which the Trespass law for the state of Florida. The law is clear. Notice to prohibit trespassing can be EITHER posting OR actual communication.


This letter is being delivered to you as ACTUAL COMMUNICATION according to F.S.

810.09 (1)(a) 1.


You are hereby prohibited from trespassing on any privately owned property within the Palm Beach Heights subdivision that you do not own. If you are trespassing and are armed with a firearm or other dangerous weapon, you will be guilty of a felony. Hunting is prohibited on all privately owned lots that come under the jurisdiction of the Palm Beach Heights Landowners Coalition. Hunting and trespassing are also prohibited on all lots owned by the South Florida Water Management District or Martin County.


Ownership of a lot in the Palm Beach Heights subdivision does not allow anyone to trespass on another lot PERIOD. Very few lot owners have any physical access to their lot. If you do not know the exact location of a lot that you own, please feel free to contact me. This Coalition has an extensive and detailed inventory of ALL lots in Palm Beach Heights. We will be happy to locate your lot and tell you if you have access or not.


Please do not be a criminal. There will be no further warnings. Anyone caught trespassing and/or hunting in Palm Beach Heights will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.


Bob Berman, President


If the individual landowners were acting that way now, then Trailside would have no problems with being their neighbors. Then on June 6, 2014, Berman wrote the board complaining about hunting:


June 6, 2014


Board of Supervisors


Ladies & Gentlemen:


I own, control or represent the owners of approximately 5,000 acres of land within the Pal-Mar Water Control District. The acreage is comprised of several thousand individual parcels. Each of these parcels is encumbered by easements for ingress/egress, drainage or both. There are additional easements for utilities etc.


Many of these easement areas are dedicated to the Pal-Mar Water Control District. Some of the easement areas have been improved and are included in the approved water management plan for the Pal-Mar District. That plan includes many canals and levees. However, it does not include any roadways.


In the past several years there has been significant deterioration of the perimeter levee located on the eastern boundary of the Pal-Mar District. This damage has occurred because there are owners of lots in the Palm Beach Heights subdivision who mistakenly believe that the levee is a roadway.


Prior to the hiring of Mr. Mansell, no truck/car access was allowed along the perimeter levee without contacting the Pal-Mar security officer at the time. There was a gate on SR711 that was locked at all times. Mr. Mansell and others acquired lots in the Palm Beach Heights subdivision at tax deed auctions in approximately 2004 with the express intentions of that ownership allowing them access to the entire Palm Beach Heights subdivision for hunting. To this day, I believe that Mr. Mansell does not understand the fallacy and illegality of that intention.


Worse than that, Mr. Mansell has instigated, promoted and encourage others to do the same thing. I don’t know the exact number but my estimate that there is now over 30 individuals engaged in this illegal activity within the Pal-Mar District.


These individuals use of certain Pal-Mar District levees has caused the wash-outs and pot-holes in the levee that now need to be repaired.


I respect the rights and authority that the Pal-Mar District has contained in their easement areas. However, the Pal-Mar District has not done enough to ensure that the levees and canal easements are not used for other illegal purposes including trespassing.


I intend to provide private security for the lots that I represent. I am proposing a cooperative effort with the Pal-Mar District to eliminate the illegal use of the levees. In some cases that will include erecting fences or gates that will restrict access. Pal-Mar District access for maintenance will remain unrestricted. Public access will not be denied, however the use of the canals and levees as “roads” needs to be immediately terminated.

I look forward to working with the Pal-Mar District to resolve this very serious issue.

Robert A. Berman



What happened? Who knows except Bob Berman over the past decade has sold the land he owned in the district to Zach Gazza of “Be A Man Buy Land” and maybe others who promote the place as a free-for-all club where you buy your lot and can use the entire place to do whatever you want. The last of the wilderness.


I have been told that Berman has sold the rest of his property. He probably won’t remain on the board. When money is involved, the tune you whistle changes.


You can see these documents and others here




“Oops I did it again” is a song Brittany Spears made famous.


Administrative Law Judge Francine Ffolkes understands those lyrics well. She has now been overturned twice by the Governor’s Cabinet regarding land decisions in Martin County. When you cannot get anything right you usually are sent back down to the minor leagues. That may be her fate, but for right now, Discovery Land should be just celebrating the victory.


Throwing out the rural life-style land use designation because of the inclusion of a private convenience store for the use of the residents in a gated community was always a stretch. When do the NIMBYs hang it up and stop complaining about every use of former agricultural land in the county?

Just like the Costco project in Stuart, Discovery will help preserve open space… not destroy it. You can’t bring back citrus to Martin County or for that matter most of Florida. We were the pineapple capital 130 years ago but that faded. Should we have tried to preserve those plantations instead of concentrating on other industries?


Costco is on the site of an old farm and apparently a private dump by what the developer has had to remove. For years after the farming ceased, the past owners dumped cars, trucks, boats, construction materials and other debris on the site. Illegal ponds were dug to irrigate and divert water. That site is as pristine as the old Stuart landfill.


Discovery was more recently agriculture and ranching. Becker Farms, the owner, was a good steward of the land. Why wouldn’t they since it is and was their livelihood.


Now a choice has come to Martin County. Will we have a development catering to the very wealthy which will result in $30 million in taxes, keep most of the property green, and another 800 acres will remain as an existing tree farm in conservation for perpetuity. The other choice is going to be thousands of homes, new commercial development to service those homes, new schools, and other county roads and infrastructure. That type of development would bring in much less revenue than Discovery and it would cost thousands in additional taxes for the new permanent residents living there.


That type of developmental sprawl (which has nothing to do with the recently enacted Live Local Act) would probably be stopped for a few years because of the magical, mystical comp plan. In the end, given the pressures to provide new housing in Florida, subdivisions will sprout with a devastating impact on the environment and demand for services.


Here are the ultimate choices for Martin County and one of the choices is not to do anything.


As Published In Martin County Moments






Martin County Latest News From The May 14, 2023 Edition



By Tom Hurley

Becker Companies, CEO



“Every man has the right to an opinion, but no man has a right to be wrong in his facts. Nor, above all, to persist in errors as facts.” (Bernard Baruch, 1948)


I recently received an email; within seconds of reading it, I felt the intended sense of dread and outrage.


“Time is running out!” the author warned, evoking vivid imagery of a terrifying transformation of Martin County’s bucolic western pastures, farmlands, and woodland preserves into asphalt, concrete, and gridlock.


Sounds awful, I thought, and it is something I strongly oppose. But wait for it- the writer, Donna Melzer, referred to the amendment my partners and I brought forward. The Rural Lifestyle amendment bears NO semblance to her characterizations. Most frustratingly, she knows this. We have discussed its details many times publicly and privately, as well as debated it in her ongoing legal challenge.


What is going on here??


I then read further down to the form letters included for its recipients to copy and paste into emails to Martin County commissioners.


Prepared responses claimed:

“The urban boundary will become meaningless because residential and who knows what commercial will be allowed ANYWHERE in the county, from the barrier islands all the way out to Lake Okeechobee.”


“Costly sewer and water extensions would be allowed anywhere outside the urban boundary.”


“More than triple the current density will be allowed outside the ‘urban boundary.’ How many thousands of units and malls will sprawl across the 130,000+ western agricultural acres.”


Some of these prewritten responses—in total or in excerpts—recently appeared in commissioner’s emails.




The amendment passed last September does none of these things. It does the exact opposite. Rural Lifestyle preserves the urban boundary, limits where services can be provided, and only affects a potential 12,000 acres—making her off by some 90 percent.


Rural Lifestyle requires a minimum 1,000-acre parcel adjacent to the county’s primary, secondary, or free-standing urban service district. Not a by-right entitlement, the amendment commands an extensive application process with multiple public hearings. Seventy percent of the 1,000-acre parcel must remain in permanent open-space conservation. Should the landowner seek zoning greater than one unit per 20 acres, the only option is one unit per 5 acres, mirroring the county’s existing Ag Ranchette zoning.


Even then, the hurdle gets higher. To receive such zoning, the landowner must set aside another Martin County property—a minimum of 500 acres or half the size of the property planned for development—for permanent agricultural or conservation preservation. The set aside must fall under the control of three parties—a government entity, a landowner, and an existing nonprofit dedicated to conservation. All three would have to agree to adjust its protected status—an outcome made remote-to-impossible by design.


The developer is obligated to pay the property maintenance costs for life. The parcel planned for development may seek water/sewer services—but must bear all associated costs. Services remain restricted to the approved site and cannot extend beyond its borders. Such safeguards help protect the rural character of the region where I grew up farming my family’s citrus groves.

By incentivizing the private sector to help permanently preserve land, the amendment seeks to take pressure off taxpayers to purchase conservation land, an increasingly challenging prospect as voters have rejected the past two proposed sales-tax referendums.


When our Atlantic Fields proposal was approved in September using the Rural Lifestyle amendment, we committed to placing our 800-acre tree farm into permanent agricultural conservation. Consisting of only 317 homes on 1,500 acres, this community by exclusive designer Discovery Land Company will generate nearly $30 million a year in tax revenue. We know this thanks to our economic study—which underwent third-party review—demonstrating as much.


This study is another requirement of the Rural Lifestyle amendment.


We included in the amendment findings from nearly 30 years’ worth of planning studies conducted by Martin County, 1000 Friends of Florida, and other esteemed organizations. We wanted the benefits of the best ideas to protect the rural nature of western Martin County.


Of course, we understand that reasonable people may disagree about how best to do so. During this process, we happily and repeatedly met with many people—including staunch critics, specifically Ms. Melzer—to gather insights. We listened intently, incorporated input, and operated in good faith. One often learns more from skeptics than supporters. But when you do ask someone to support your cause, you’re honor-bound to provide them with truthful information. Anything less is irresponsible and risks compromising your credibility and theirs.


In one of her canned letters, Ms. Melzer tells commissioners that “your reputation and legacy are hanging by a thread.”


Those are wise words for her to bear in mind.


Tom Hurley’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint




The Pal Mar board meeting was cancelled…yet again.


I don’t understand why this happens. Is it that the board members don’t care? When I spoke to one of the members, they did not know why the cancellation occurred. With all the problems going on there, you would think that having meetings to sort out disagreements and problems would be paramount.


Are the cancellations being done by the manager, Michael McElligott? During the meetings I have attended, he has been more of a hindrance than a help in resolving some of the issues. Since I have been following the district during the past few years, the support staff has not been very supportive in expeditiously carrying out board directives.

There have been numerous cancellations of meetings this year alone. Nothing is ever put on the website regarding the cancelled meetings. Poof they are just gone. McElligott works for a company specializing in managing Florida special districts.


Special District Services Inc. manages 70 plus such districts in 13 Florida counties. The company was founded in 1993. There is a staff of 22 people. Perhaps McElligott has too many other districts to look after to devote enough time to Pal Mar.


There are problems in Pal Mar. Could a more effective manager, engineer and legal firm do a better job for the district and alleviate some of the problems? I think it is worth exploring the possibilities by the board. One thing is for sure…not having meetings is not part of the solution.


The annual meeting of shareholders is coming up in June. The board will likely still be controlled by the government entities that own the majority of the lots. They need to have the district’s property protected from any more devastation. It is time they actually became serious about that.




During Commission comments, Zach Gazza addressed the commission regarding his lots in Pal Mar. The governing board majority and Mr. Gazza have opposing viewpoints about how the property should be managed. The county, together with the South Florida Water Management District and Palm Beach County, owns by far the largest number of lots.


Mr. Gazza stated that he will be returning to these meetings as many times as necessary to make the commission aware of his views and offers. You can read more from Mr. Gazza in his letter published in this week’s letter section.


It is time to begin preparation for the Evaluation and Appraisal Revue (EAR) to the Comprehensive Plan which is mandated by Florida Statute. The contract with the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council was pulled from the consent agenda by Commissioner Heard. She was right because it should be discussed by the commission.


Heard was a bit hyperbolic with her comments that they would take apart the comp plan. With the Live Local Act, the legislature has put local governments on notice that they can’t hide behind the comp plan or their LDRs, zoning or anything else. Housing will be built in the state. Florida has taken the position that if counties and cities want to continue to exist, then get on board with the state’s objective of more housing.

The EAR will allow the county to control some facets of development if it is done with the above in mind. I agree with Heard that two public meetings as called for in the contract are far from enough for public input. During this process, the public should let the county know what is on their mind, and the facilitators should give the public an education as to what is possible under the Live Local Act.


This is a great opportunity to inform the public about how much local government’s abilities have been curtailed by the state legislature. If I were the commission, I would be making sure that the message gets through loud and clear… “The next development you see, don’t blame us call your state representatives.”


The motion to sign the $83,600 contract was made by Smith seconded by Jenkins. It passed 4-1 with Heard dissenting. You can see the contract here


For some time now Tom Pine, a Martin County resident, has complained that putting the “warrant list” on the consent agenda is a way to conceal payments. It is not. The paying of the county’s bills is one of the most carefully monitored systems in local government.


The paying of bills is governed by Florida Statute 218.7. The framework is tightly controlled, and there are many checks and balances. Administrator Don Donaldson explained the procedure at this meeting.

In his presentation, Donaldson stated that the operating budget and/or the CIP have been approved by the commission in two budget hearings and a CIP agenda item before the budget year begins. The county’s warrant list is required by statute. That is similar to a check register. The invoice is matched up to an approved budget item and submitted to the county comptroller for review and payment. If the work was not authorized by the commission in the budget, a check is not going to be cut.


Any county check or bank payment is a public record and on the Martin County website for review. Commissioner Smith stated and Donaldson agreed that the county pays $10 million a week in bills. The consent agenda is the only way possible to provide a public record and be transparent.


There is, at times, some “good old boy” favoritism, but the commission, staff, and the clerk of the court are not all conspiring to have a slush fund and pay for things that have not been approved in the budget. Even when the money has been allocated to an individual vendor, if the contract is over a certain threshold, the commission approves the contract.


I hope Mr. Pine and anyone else who thought that the government was doing something slippery has been satisfied. I suspect that, if not Pine, someone else will make the same allegations again soon. You can find the presentation here


Government has its own language. This week’s agenda item with a special acronym was SPARC. Can anyone guess what that stands for?


I didn’t think so! It stands for Special Parking Alternatives for Redevelopment Centers. If you still don’t understand what it means, I can’t blame you.


The United States, and Martin County in particular, worries incessantly about parking. How much, where, what type of business, and many other factors are in the mix for a project to be approved or a business allowed to open. In this instance, we are speaking about the parking requirements within CRAs.


SPARC is a “Payment in Lieu Program.” For example, if someone wants to open a restaurant and is required to have 15 parking spaces but only have 12, he wouldn’t be able to open a restaurant. This program would allow him to buy parking from the CRA for those 3 needed spaces to open the business.


The restaurant operator is not purchasing or reserving spots in front of the business but contributing to a dedicated fund. The money could go to creating more on-street parking, or a municipal lot, or other street amenities depending on the CRA. How much is paid for this privilege?


There is a current program that pegs the cost of a spot at $7900. Since its inception in 2007, it has been used once in Jensen Beach. The new program pegs the pay-in at $24,600 which is the realistic cost of providing one parking space. How many small business owners can spend that amount of money on a phantom parking space?

The question should be asked why government should be involved in how a business’ customers park. The government dictates parking minimums and the results are empty parking lots (Treasure Coast Mall) or businesses not opening. We use parking requirements as an excuse to curtail development and businesses.


Elected officials like Stuart City Commissioner Chris Collins make no bones about his position of artificially high numbers of parking spots to stop new ventures. Other planners and elected officials believe it is their responsibility to run a nanny state and they know what is best.


After spending over 50 years in the private sector, I know what is best for my business…and if I am wrong, I will fail. That is the free market capitalistic system.


A motion was made by Jenkins and seconded by Hetherington to approve the SPARC plan. Both Heard and Smith voted no. Hetherington would also have been a no vote if it didn’t have a provision for the program to be re-evaluated after a year. Stacey, have your aide put it on the calendar so it is brought back.


I am a member of the LPA, and I voted yes to recommend adoption to the commission because of the re-evaluation provision. You can see the presentation of the program here






Martin County Latest News From The Apr 23, 2023 Edition




This a follow up to my reporting on “The Tunnel That No One Claimed” here


I spoke with Representative Snyder last week regarding the $6.5 million appropriation for a tunnel under Kanner Highway to connect the 2 sections of Three Lakes Golf Course from one side to the other. The appropriation was filed as a local government request even though it was signed by an employee of the owner of the property. (You can find the link to the appropriation here


Though Don Donaldson, the county administrator, is listed as the party to contact for information, he did not sign any of the paperwork. Donaldson is claiming that it was not the county’s request in any way, shape, or form. But the money, if it had been appropriated by the state, would have gone to Martin County to administer.


Snyder told me that it was filed as a local government request though apparently no one in his office thoroughly went through the paperwork to make sure that it was. The person who filed it works directly for one of the partners of Three Lakes and not Martin County. Representative Snyder said it was too late to pull it but that there was no way the money would be appropriated. He went on to say that, in the future, he would require a resolution to have an attachment showing that the local government approved the request in a unanimous vote.

Photo by Benmar Schmidhuber on Unsplash

Some individual commissioners have told me that they would not vote to accept the money for this purpose from the state. Martin County staff in some way knew that the developer was looking for state funds for the project. The commissioners, while not running the day-to-day activities of the government, do oversee policy and the actions of the administrator. What are they going to do to make sure this does not happen again?


In my opinion, most commissioners stick to their lane and stay out of the nitty gritty of operations. At present I don’t see this being discussed at a public meeting as to how it occurred. If they sweep this under the rug, it will inevitably happen again.


There is a duty to insist publicly that no individual commissioner pushes the process or county staff into unilateral action without full commission consent by giving Donaldson and Attorney Woods specific instructions to that policy. Sometimes things become unpleasant and confronting the problem is the only way to give staff clear guidance.


We should expect the entire BOCC to hold each other responsible for infractions by a single commissioner. Sunshine Laws require them to do this in public and for their constituents to see it occur. There can never again be a publicly-funded tunnel benefiting a private company that no one claims.


As Published In Martin County Moments




There was a brief discussion regarding the Best Management Practices (BMP) of golf courses as practiced today. Martin County is becoming home to some of the most exclusive private courses in the country.


While some may believe that golf courses are extensions of development, they may yet become the saviors in keeping our no longer feasible ranch and farms as open space. For a variety of reasons, farming may no longer be economically viable. The only thing left for this land is development.


As Martin County has more and more of these exclusive courses being built, it is likely that it will attract even more top-notch courses. It then becomes important about how the courses use irrigation and chemicals. For many years, golf courses were thought of as places that used inordinate amounts of water and spread chemicals to maintain the greens.

That apparently is no longer true. The golf course that was on the agenda for approval was continued. However, at the LPA meeting (I am an LPA member) it was explained that they will be using the St. Lucie Canal for their irrigation. The runoff will be treated before being allowed to go into the aquifer.


It was also explained that the nitrogen and phosphorus in the canal water that is used for irrigation is beneficial for maintaining the greens instead of applying more chemicals. They will also be using native plants for the landscaping.


Chair Ciampi asked John Maehl, Ecosystem & Restoration Manager, to give a presentation to the commission.


The board also looked at the proposed CIP list for next year. The list is a compilation of the projects that the county would like to see funded in 2024. The total cost is $108,486,311.


No one expects that the entire amount will be funded. The county administrator said as much when he told the commissioners that staff is ready to cut the amount by 50% by the effective date of October 1st when the budget year begins. Even 50% may be a high number for ultimate approval.


The commission, not wanting to disappoint anyone, approved all except for the firing and training range and the new pod for the jail. They asked that Sheriff Snyder make a presentation.


The commission does not seem to have any fiscal philosophy. For the past few years, it approved a hodge podge of projects and expenditures without laying out what is important to accomplish. This was on display most recently with Wojcieszak Park.


For years they ignored the deteriorating conditions at the park by underfunding the FARB (Fixed Asset Replacement Budget). The Parks Department came up with a plan to address many of the issues resulting from the neglect by using ARPA funds. They could do this because this was the only park that was in a poor area that qualified to use such funds.


A plan was being created by staff in conjunction with the neighborhood. But the commissioners received negative feedback from the baseball parents. To appease them, funding was taken that should have gone to other park improvements wanted by the neighborhood residents and devoted it to fixing the fields. Most of the ball players and their families are not from the neighborhood.

This is the result when there isn’t a disciplined approach to budgeting and having a sustained capital improvement vision.


That doesn’t mean our taxes will not creep up. It just means that things are funded in an undisciplined way. I would not be surprised if there won’t be a necessity to have a super majority (4 commissioners) vote because of the possible size of the rate increase to fund a budget for 2024. Or they could make no capital improvements and watch more infrastructure fall apart.


You can see the capital improvement budget here






Martin County Latest News From The Apr 9, 2023 Edition





By Tom Hurley

Becker Companies, CEO


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 winter 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 that the amendment will protect agriculture, preserve land, generate revenue with minimal impacts, and prove more beneficial to Martin County than the current options permit.


Tom Hurley’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint


“What Is A Store In Western Martin County?”


Is Judge Ffolkes’ decision in the Rural Lifestyle land use trial a meaningful win for Ms. Melzer, the plaintiff, or a pyrrhic victory?


Ffolkes took 28 pages to state that having a convenience store for Discovery residents is a violation of the comp plan because it is a commercial venture. Except for that one exception, the developer’s use was acceptable, and the county commission did not exceed their authority in having the use. This decision is hardly going to stop a project that has reserved parcels totaling millions of dollars.

The simple thing to do would be to forward a text amendment removing the store. But is that the best thing for the developer, the county, or the Urban Services Boundary? That is what the county and developer are probably contemplating now.


Another question that needs to be answered is whether an appeal of the judge’s ruling and the text amendment can be done simultaneously? That would be what I would like to see done.


For the “store” is a de minimis and is not a commercial venture at all. It is there for the convenience of the residents and no one else. It is far from the classic definition of what a grocery store is. If anything, it could be argued that having the store is good for the environment and traffic since it keeps people off the roads.


One solution that I know is not a good one is to withdraw the Rural Lifestyle use and for Discovery to go in as a PUD exception. That ship has sailed. There is now too much at stake in western Martin County to allow each development to come in as a stand-alone project. There need to be rules and clarity for property owners. The badly named Rural Lifestyle land use is what will prevent sprawl from taking over.


When a developer brings a project under that amorphous PUD exception, it creates a precedent for other developers. PUDs will do nothing to keep the USB intact. The purpose of the Rural Lifestyle use was to have in place a way for non-functioning citrus land and farm owners to develop their property but still provide for open space with minimal impact to county services while also bringing in tax dollars.


Judge Ffolkes’ decision really did not stop much. It delayed the development now known as Atlantic Fields for sure, but county taxpayers are the ones that will suffer. This proposed community will have homeowners who have three other luxury homes just like the one in Discovery in other places.


I bet the management can afford to give away all the bread and milk that would have been purchased at the convenience store for free.


As Published in Martin County Moments



By Kyla Shay

Trailside HOA President



2023 has started with a bang and a fireYes, a real fire.


Nothing has changed in the hazardous, noxious activity in PalMar.


The native land including wetlands continues to be destroyed.  The shooting continues unabated and has even increased from previous levels.  This is not hunting. If they are hunting as some allege, they would have fully obliterated their targets, unless they are really, really poor shooters.


Over the past three months, we’ve had to call too many times about the shooting being very close to our border.  We have residences on the south, adjacent side who are afraid to let their children be outside. They are afraid to work on their lot and wetland, being adjacent to PalMar.


They cannot mow the field or trim the fence line for fear of being shot.  Bullet projectiles have crossed the canals into our property.  Is this fair?  Is it right that we are forced to live in fear and exercise extreme caution because the Martin County Sheriff’s Office will not enforce any laws within PalMar?  The Sheriff’s office is supposed to protect all citizens.  However, Trailside is an island that is consistently ignored.


The Sheriff’s department cannot do trespass arrests or cite anyone in PalMar.  Why?  They don’t know who owns what!  Nothing is surveyed.  Nothing is posted “no trespassing.”  If it were posted, the signs would likely not stay up very long.


For example, this “do not shoot north” sign which was posted last year got pushed down (or… “run down”) then marked up with a derogatory “Karen” comment, then unmarked, then shot up and pitched into the swamps.  In just five weeks’ time:







The Sheriff’s department is ineffectual, and says they can’t help us in any way, shape, or form.  We are just sitting ducks here or moving targets—depending on the day.  Why can’t the MC Sheriff’s department cite people driving motorized vehicles for DUI’s?  Are they not willing to enforce the State of Florida laws?  No answers are ever given to us.


On March 23, 2023, at 11:00 am we glanced to the south and witnessed a large plume of smoke from PalMar.  Several residents of Trailside called in.  (NOTE THIS:  911 dispatch is not even aware of where PalMar is.)  They want a specific address.  Well, we don’t have one. We just give our address and say, “keep driving down Pratt-Whitney Road, Martin County Fire/Rescue should see it.  The woods are on fire.   Bring the brush truck. Call Forestry. You are going to need them.”



Forestry and Martin County Fire were dispatched and fought valiantly to contain the fire.  It was a difficult scene.  From Trailside, we heard the propane tanks exploding.  Propane tanks that have no permit and should not be in PalMar.  It is not permitted as a permanent hunting camp nor a residential area.  We heard multiple tanks exploding from the campsites as the fire engulfed the trailers.  Television news crews interviewed persons who admitted they lived permanently within “Hungryland Trails” their catch phrase for PalMar.


I have left messages with the State Fire Marshall who is investigating the fire in PalMar as potential arson from what I am told.  No answers.  I guess it’s an active investigation.  It will probably get nowhere as did the investigation of the last fire in PalMar two years ago on March 17, 2021.  Nothing could be proven in that investigation; I am not expecting anyone to be held accountable for this one either.  Pessimistic?  Yeah, we all have had practice and have been let down by all the agencies involved in this PalMar disaster.  Consistently!


We have called Martin County Commissioners.  We have e-mailed each and every one of them.  I sent a series of questions, photos, and requests on March1, March 10, March 23, March 25, March 26, March 28 and April 2.  I’ve had no responses.  I have sent emails to Don Donaldson and other staff for an update on March 10 and March 26.  No response.


I have called FWC.  They are sending officers as available to check permits.  They did this weekend.  There was an ATV racing event even advertised for PalMar.  There’s a large area cleared adjacent to Trailside’s western boundary.  Is this the new racetrack?  FWC issued warnings and wrote citations.  We have had updates and contact with officials from FWC.  They state it is a work-in-progress and for us to hang in there.  The Regional Commander for FWC is not invited to meetings of other officials discussing the PalMar problems.  Why not?


SFWMD- Nothing new to report here.  No updates on the enforcement in PalMar.  All that is there is new damage to SFWMD (i.e. Florida State owned) land in PalMar.  SFWMD is waiting on DEP to investigate and do something.  It’s like waiting for rain this year.  Years and months have gone by, and DEP has done not one single thing.  Why?  They are short staffed. There are not enough investigators we are told.  They are aware and are very concerned.  My response… That’s a really good, canned message.


Governor DeSantis has been emailed for a year and telephone calls have been made to his office.  Not one staff member has had a moment of time to reach out and discuss our concerns about a systemic failure of multiple government systems.


Overall, a less than adequate performance has been issued by Martin County Sheriff’s Department, SFWMD, DEP, Martin County Administrative Staff, and our very own Martin County Board of County Commissioners.  We are asked to hang on, wait another month, and maybe just maybe something will change or not.  So exactly what is going on?  Will there ever be a resolution?


Kyla Shay’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint





I have written about PalMar for well over a year.


Over and over, I have emphasized the illegal development that has happened without building permits. There are no roads in the area. And there never will be because of current codes. Just like nothing can be built in PalMar or Hungryland as it is sometimes called. That is the way it was meant to be.


In both TCPalm and the local tv stations last week, they covered the 800-acre wildfire and kept referring to “residents” who had lost their homes and hunting camps. Legally speaking, everything that the fire consumed in that area should have never been there…not a trailer, a generator, a lean-to, or a well.

I have worked with the residents of Trailside, and they have taken hundreds of photos documenting this illegal activity. Martin County is aware of this unlawful activity and has begun to code enforce, but by the time any significant progress is made, this treasure that was always intended to remain pristine will be an illegal environmental mess.


Just imagine if you decided to erect a house on a vacant parcel on Mapp Road in Palm City without a permit. How long do you think it would be before the county would put a stop work order in place. Why are there two standards of justice? In PalMar, officials are threatened and ignored. Where is the sheriff?


We have all seen what happens during public comment when citizens speak to the commission. If 5 people show up, then things happen. Where are all the self-proclaimed environmentalists? This is truly an environmental wonder that is being destroyed even though Martin County and the South Florida Water Management District are the biggest landowners.


There is an election in 2024 for Commissioners Jenkins, Ciampi, and Smith. They all profess to be champions of the environment. I don’t know about you, but we should hold those three plus Heard and Hetherington responsible for what they do to return this area to what was intended. Much is riding on keeping this as a natural area for wildlife and the environment, native plant species and wetlands.


We now have visual as well as people speaking about their illegal acts to the media. Should the county continue to let it slide because the property is out of sight to almost all residents? Friends of the Everglades, Audubon, 1000 Friends of Florida, The Guardians of Martin County, and all other supposed conservationists, this is your fight. Don’t you collect donations for just this purpose?


Kyla Shay and the rest of the Trailside homeowners have been warning about this for years. I started writing because of the dangerous gunfire into Trailside from these illegal PalMar residents. After going out to PalMar and seeing the devastation of a wetland, that devastation is equally as important to stop. The time for our local government’s needed action is now.


As Published in Martin County Moments




The board met after a three-month hiatus because members were unavailable. This board tends to change or cancel meeting dates if a member is on vacation. I can’t understand why it would not meet on the days that they have on their published calendar. To board members who are serving, meetings shouldn’t be seen as an afterthought.


In January after a motion was made by Board Member Heard, the board instructed staff to remove the illegal culvert and gate from the border of Trailside and Pal Mar. Although the gate is still there, the culvert was removed the day before the meeting according to the president of the Trailside Homeowners.


It is possible they would not have removed it at all if Kyla Shay hadn’t sent me an email with pictures the week before. I forwarded them to Heard with a note. Perhaps she intervened or Pal Mar’s director decided to finally do something about a board directive from months ago. The emails and pictures can be seen below in a report after this section.

Vice-Chair Stokus made a motion to hire Tim Wallace Lawn Service as the district’s new mowing contractor. The motion was seconded by Heard. The bid of $3 from the current contractor, Zach Gazza’s Lumberjack Land Management LLC, was rejected. Chair Marino didn’t believe that it was a real bid. She said there had to be something else he was receiving from the district since this was not adequate compensation.


Board Member Lew Lolmaugh felt the work outlined in the RFP would be done too often. Stokus amended his motion to allow for the director and Lolmaugh to negotiate a contract with Wallace that is more in line with what they believe is the appropriate schedule and bring it back to the board for ratification. The vote was 4-1 with Board Member Berman dissenting.


One of the most perplexing issues to me, Trailside, and the public is the Sheriff’s Department disappearance from law enforcement in Pal Mar. We have written about how 24-7 gunfire comes from Pal Mar into Trailside. The deputies say it is legal to shoot on your own property. But the deputies claim they can’t trespass anyone because the land is not posted. How does a deputy know it is the shooter’s land then? Joseph Heller’s character Yossarian in the novel “Catch 22” would understand this dilemma completely.


At the last meeting three months ago, the board asked that staff come back with a price for employing off-duty deputies to protect the “works of the district.” The price is $60 per hour per deputy. The Chief Deputy will only allow it if there are two deputies working together. It is too dangerous otherwise. (I guess for Trailside residents, the shooting and intimidation from Pal Mar isn’t serious and dangerous.) After discussion, the board wanted to have deputies starting at 8 hours per weekend which is $960 for two deputies.


Deputy Andy Smith spoke about what the department can and cannot do. Berman asked whether a family driving on a berm in their golf cart would be considered hurting the “works of the district.” Smith said no. Stokus then asked whether a deputy would step in if the driver was drinking a 40-ounce beer with his two kids in the back seat. The answer was “it depends.”


A few weeks ago, 800 acres of Pal Mar burned. The illegal buildings, shacks, generators, and propane tanks caught fire. None of those things are allowed in Pal Mar. Firefighters risked their lives to make sure people were safe and evacuated.


People had no business having these structures on their property (or more probably someone else’s property). If property lines are so blurred that the county and SFWMD can’t delineate their own property lines with multi-acres, then how is someone who bought a quarter acre without a plat able to do so?


The next meeting will be May 4th and the annual landowners June 1st.




A significant development occurred to preserve the environmentally sensitive Pal Mar lands on April 5th.


SFWMD and FWC manage the public lands in Pal Mar. They do so subject to leases between the two entities. A letter was sent to FWC from SFWMD informing them that they are in violation of the leases.


The leases call for the management of these sensitive lands “only for the conservation and protection of natural and historical resources and for resource-based public outdoor recreation that is compatible with the conservation and protection of the lands, as set forth in sections 259.032 and 373.1391, Florida Statutes.”


The permits that have been issued by FWC for vehicle access have resulted in adverse impacts to “the natural habitat and resources, which contravenes the FWC and District Leases, Florida law, and the Land Management Plan required by Chapter 259.032, Florida Statutes.”


SFWMD has asked that permits not be issued or renewed, and existing ones be revoked. That doesn’t mean landowners can’t access their property in Pal-Mar according to the letter which states, “Thank you for your continued support in allowing passive, non-vehicular recreational use within Pal-Mar in accordance with Chapter 40E-7, Florida Administrative Code.”


Speaking to Martin County officials, they believe the main gate off Beeline will be closed to all vehicular traffic.


This is the first step in returning Pal-Mar to what it had been for generations. Instead of a shoot- ‘em-up fantasy world for would be Daniel Boones, it goes back to being an oasis from modern Florida to that of 100 years ago. Only true environmentalists and campers will hike in and discover nature’s wonders.


You can find the letter here


My EMail To Commissioner Heard




I received these photos from Trailside which is, as you know, adjacent to PalMar.


At the last PalMar Board meeting I believe you made a motion which passed to have the illegal culvert and gate removed. PalMar staff and their contractor stated it would be no problem to have done. I remember the staff said within a week.


According to the photos nothing has changed since the meeting in January. And while no one likes to blame staff in the case of PalMar they seem to be unaccountable to the management board. If the county administrator or attorney so blatantly ignored the commission’s policy directives, they would not have their jobs for very long.


With the recent wildfires 800 acres burned. The remarkable thing was the news media portrayed those that suffered losses as residents. Anything from a lean-to to a trailer should never have been in there. It’s all illegal!


If someone built a structure on a lot they owned in Salerno or Rocky Point without permits, the county would be all over the person responsible. Then why is everyone at the county allowing this to occur as if those owners are different.


We may at times disagree on development projects but as to the sanctity of the IRL, LoxaLucie, and PalMar we are agreed. We cannot allow this desecration to continue. This is our Martin County heritage, and we hold a sacred trust to preserve these lands for the future. Once they are gone, we will not have them back.


Thank you.


———- Forwarded message ———
From: <>
Date: Fri, Mar 24, 2023 at 11:21 AM
Subject: Fw: PalMar Culvert into Trailside.


As you can see, a violation notice has been posted on the PalMar side.  The culvert is still intact.  The locks are dummy locked giving anyone access to our gated community.

























Martin County Latest News From The Mar 26, 2023 Edition




Administrative Law Judge Francine Ffolkes has ruled that the Rural Lifestyle use, which was a text amendment to the Martin County Comprehensive Plan, is not in compliance.


This is reminiscent of the same thing that happened with the Kanner PUD (Costco). It is the same judge and apparently the same faulty reasoning behind her decision. I predict it will result in the same outcome…the Governor’s Cabinet will overrule her findings. What is it with this judge and Martin County?


It took much convincing before I bought into this amendment. I did not think there was enough community outreach at first. Then the county did have several informational meetings with the public. Once the outreach happened, then the commission voting to approve the amendment was fine.


What the amendment is attempting to do is preserve as much open space as possible by clustering development. This concept has been considered good planning by experts for many decades…except in Martin County. Here the “environmentalists” have embraced zoning that allows for the development of 20-acre ranchettes from the USB to the most western part of the county. Having ranchettes located over thousands of acres of western land is the very definition of sprawl.


The other reason that Rural Lifestyle would be important is that it mandates hundreds of acres to be in conservation forever. To qualify for the use is difficult because of the large amount of acreage needed. Because of how hard it becomes to qualify for the use, it encourages development that caters to the more affluent non-homestead owner. They will pay huge real estate taxes to the county and have a very low usage of county services. It is a win-win for the full-time tax paying residents of Martin County.


With this challenge, Martin County once again maintains its reputation for unreasonableness and short sightedness throughout the rest of the state. All the reasons why the legislature and governor are looking to take away the ability of local government to craft local land use and zoning.


Tallahassee will succeed in limiting local government’s ability to determine the appropriate parcel for attainable housing projects during this legislative session. This action is the direct result of not allowing appropriate development. Martin County for a very long time has allowed a few citizens to control the narrative concerning development.


The state by their action for removing local government’s ability to hamper multi-family projects for attainable housing has fired a very close warning shot. They are saying to Martin County and other like-minded jurisdictions to unreasonably stop delaying development. Private property rights are important to us, and we need to have places for people to live.


The county commission, in its determination that the amendment complied, did not need to meet any other burden of proof except that compliance met the “fairly debatable” standard. The Florida Supreme Court has already determined that “the fairly debatable standard of review is a highly deferential standard requiring approval of a planning action if reasonable persons could defer as to its propriety.” That definition was contained in the decision.


In this instance, the judge concluded that the most important factor in her decision was the inclusion of a commercial store which was inconsistent with the county’s policies. The store is limited and only accessible to the residents of the gated community. It is an ancillary use just like the golf cottages and a pro shop would be.


As a practical point, since it is limited to 6000 square feet, it will only carry very basic staples like bread and milk. This will alleviate the need for residents to drive on Bridge Road to the shopping centers at US 1. Traffic and the environmental effects of keeping cars off public streets are important. If they were building a Publix within the closed community and opening it to the public, then it would truly be a commercial use.


That is why I am so confident that a year from now this decision will be overturned by the Governor’s Cabinet. As a practical matter, the legislature will use this unreasonableness as one more instance to be against home rule. At some point, the very people protesting this amendment are going to complain about a project. Then the commissioners are going to smile and say, “Tell it to the legislators. I have nothing to say about it any longer.”




Sewall’s Point septic to sewer conversion seeped over into the county commission meeting.


Utilities Director Sam Amerson gave a brief presentation about the county’s perspective regarding installation of a grinder system for Sewall’s Point. The utility’s rationale for allowing no more than 300 such units in any geographical area is because of the cost of maintaining such a system.

Donaldson reiterated that the county’s policy is to treat all residents equally. One of the town’s contentions is that the municipality has several HOAs which would constitute individual subdivisions. Therefore the 300-unit cap should apply to each separately. The point is moot since Sewall’s Point Manager Daniels said the town’s request to increase the number to 706 units is being withdrawn at this time.


Earlier during public comment, a few of Sewall’s Point’s more vocal advocates for keeping septic systems stated that they did not want to move forward with sewers. Mr. Daniels said that he and the commission represent all the residents. He had gone through all the low-lying areas and only one homeowner did not want to connect. That homeowner had just finished building a new house with a new septic system.


Sewall’s Point will go forward with the grinder system at this point. They are in negotiations with staff to increase the allowable amount to 337 ERCs.


The commission also approved a contract between Halpatiokee Regional Park with the Halpatiokee Outdoor Center for 10 years to provide for the rental of canoes and kayaks, pontoon boat tours, and a concession stand for food, drinks, beer, and wine. The launching ramp will remain free for those bringing their own kayaks and canoes.


The rent will be $4000 per month which includes the 1500 sq ft building. For the past 25 years, this operator has run a similar venture in Jupiter at Riverbend Park. The contract can be found here






Martin County Latest News From The Mar 12, 2023 Edition




Every year, the county presents something called the “State of the County”.


I have been attending for several years. For a while, the meeting has been held at New Hope Church in Palm City. The confab is a breakfast. Each of the commissioners has a table where their invited guests sit. The county has two reserved for their staff directors. The rest of us grab a spot where we can at the other tables.


The main reason to go is because many elected and appointed officials attend. It provides a few minutes before the presentation formally starts to meet and greet old and new friends and perhaps have an introduction to someone you have been intending to meet. For many, it is an opportunity to plug their project or organization.

This year as Chair, Ed Ciampi, was the MC…a role he was born to do. It is always humorous and rather funny. It began this year with a clip of him skydiving and seeing the entire county as he glides to the ground. In the video, he landed at the church to the sound of James Bond’s entrance music. He really did skydive…just not that morning.


With the levity out of the way, he introduced County Administrator Don Donaldson who made the actual presentation. As usual, the state of the county is good…think of the president’s state of the union. There were no surprises.


Then why go through the time to have such a shindig? Most of the people attending know each other. They may even have seen each other the day before at some other meeting. Martin County is a small place.


I sometimes think of all the people who sit in their gated communities without a clue about what is going on in the local world around them. Some residents have big opinions and have no concept of why about 80% of any local government decision is because there is no choice due to state and federal laws and regulations. I look at the posts on “Next Door” or Facebook and chuckle. Many people don’t even know whether they live in Stuart or unincorporated Martin County.


How many complain about a project on private land as if the government has the right to prevent something from happening? They complain about the schools being overcrowded when most are below capacity. Others gripe about traffic…not understanding that much of it is caused by people travelling through the county from somewhere else to somewhere else or coming here to work.


Most people who go to something like the State of the County know who the movers and shakers are in Martin County. They understand that any one person only has so much sway with a commissioner or administrator. But most attending can at least pick up a phone and have a conversation with anyone else.


The alternative is you can sit behind your wall in Palm City, play golf, and be ignorant about what is happening in Martin County. I would say to anyone living here…get involved. Learn what is possible and what is not. Pick your battles to fight and know how to fight them. And, importantly, know who you want to fight them with.




For some time now, Commissioner Smith has wanted the county to have a dedicated FTE (Full Time Employee) to coordinate the Special Olympics in Martin County.


There is already a non-profit in the county that has a dedicated group of people who put on the Special Olympics here. They are affiliated with the national association. So why is Commissioner Smith so eager to have the county take over a private nonprofit’s role?

This could be one more time that government is overreaching to do something that is already being done by an organization. Commissioner Heard asked about liability, accessibility, and transportation. Why should the BOCC take on that responsibility? The private organization’s leader said all three were already being covered.


The $92,000 budgeted position has no clearly defined role in the Parks Department. In the past few weeks, we have seen how inadequately our parks, such as Wojcieszak, have been maintained and continue to be underfunded. Yet the commission is ready to commit almost $100,000 because of a whim.


It was suggested that the organization ask for funding during the annual grant approval process in July. The Special Olympics has not expressed whether they even need an employee or could the money be used by them for some other more pressing purpose.  It would be better that they come up with their own plan and then apply for funding.


Tom Lanahan, from the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council, addressed the board regarding Senate Bill 102 which could seriously affect home rule.


The legislature is about fed up with counties like Martin that complain about the lack of affordable housing then do everything in their power to prevent it through their comp plans and LDRs. At some point, some accommodation must be made, or the state will do it. They have begun here with this bill.


The real pre-emption is about taking away real estate taxes from local government. Depending on how many units are involved, much of those taxes will be waived as a condition in the bill. Only local governments collect real estate taxes. That will leave those projects’ services being funded by existing taxpayers.

There is also a provision stating that if rent of 120% of the AMI (which in Martin County would equate to about $2000 per month for a one bedroom) would qualify as affordable and thereby the exemption.


In some respects, this is a sop to developers at the expense of residents. The hype about density, height, and zoning is a way of diverting attention from the real problem which is depriving cities and counties from collecting taxes to provide services. Tallahassee won’t end here.


There is another bill that would do away with localities having storm water requirements as well as wetlands. That would mean most of western Martin County would be subject to being built upon. Not really very good overall.


Nick Blount, the head of the affordable housing coalition, said it best. If affordable needs were met locally, the state would not need to step in. No truer words were spoken.


Chair Ciampi and the board are calling a press conference for March 10th to “talk about home rule.” While home rule is important, for the past decade we have seen Tallahassee taking more and more of it away. If a municipality or county stands in their way or protests, Tallahassee has been known to look at what funding the local government is also asking for. All local elected bodies should walk softly here and as Blount said solve a problem and not try to lay blame.


You can see the Lanahan’s presentation here






Martin County Latest News From The Feb 26, 2023 Edition




Assistant County Administrator George Stokus gave an update on the county’s affordable housing efforts to the commission.


He mentioned Banner Lake where they are looking to form a community trust to own the land and build affordable homes. Commissioner Jenkins envisions this as a pilot project for the entire county. The people involved are looking for a legal firm.

Stokus is looking for it to be a public/private partnership opportunity. The County is looking to put attainable housing in its comprehensive plan. What I did not hear was where the funding for either of these initiatives would be coming from.


The buzz word seems to be tiny homes. After reviewing whether the construction meets the building code, it appears that most do not. A bright spot is Operation Lift which does construct their tiny homes to meet the state’s standards.


Even so, in most areas of the county, the minimum home size requirements and parking standards would not allow these homes. Within certain areas like the CRAs, dwellings of 800 square feet or less are counted as half units. That would push your density up to 30 units per acre in some areas.


In Martin County, many believe we need hundreds of units (if not thousands) to be built to house our population. This is no small feat. Land trusts, tiny homes, and other single-family residences will, at most, give us tens of homes. That is not anywhere near what we need.


Tallahassee realizes this and is rapidly moving to pre-emp local control to speed development of attainable housing. I believe zoning will be the first casualty of this effort. It will be followed with density and parking requirements being curtailed.


By local government moving too slow in this regard and other land development matters, the state will execute what they believe is necessary to solve this crisis. Commissioners are very interested in paying lip service but are trying to be on both sides of this issue. I fear it is already too late to stop the first stage of pre-emption for development regulations. If our county and cities do not become serious, local authority will be a thing of the past in much of the development arena.


You can see Stokus’ brief presentation here


Fire/Rescue made a presentation to hire 40 more personnel. 20 of which would be immediate hires and 20 additional by applying for a SAFER grant. There is much to consider about whether to do so.

Chad Cianciulli

There is no doubt that while Martin County’s population has not grown very much, the call volume has. In the past, 15 years call volume has increased by 63%. The population has grown older and there are many more assisted living facilities than in the past.


A SAFER grant is a federal program that pays the cost of a new hire entirely in the first year. Over the next two years, it pays less and less of the cost until the local agency picks up the entire cost after three years. They are competitive grants, so applying for a grant is not a guarantee that it will be awarded.


Four of our commissioners asked no hard questions or even easy ones to justify what additional millions of dollars could be needed. Their focus was that this is the level of service our residents want. Yes, that may be true, but for what level of service are they willing to pay?


Commissioner Heard feels the department has grown very fast especially since 2017. There was a motion to approve the request by Hetherington, seconded by Smith, it passed 4-1 with Heard dissenting.


You can see the presentation here


I am not a huge fan of district funds. While I will not call it a slush fund, it can be used for things that could be seen as a waste of money. Commissioner Smith used over $200,000 to have a more architecturally pleasing roof for a new fire house.


This time I want to applaud Smith for using district funds to pay for a study by the Treasure Coast Planning Council detailing the possible uses for the Treasure Coast Mall. The mall has suffered greatly with changing retail times. At some point, it will no longer be in existence…at least in its current iteration.


Commissioner Heard believes that staff can perform the work. It is true that staff can, but in the past few months, the commission have given the department several projects to work on plus their primary responsibility to look at new projects. The mall project is a forward-looking idea that has merit.


This wouldn’t usually come before the commission for a vote except that, in this case, an Inter Local Agreement needs to be signed between the county and the Treasure Coast Planning Council since they are both government agencies. A motion was made by Smith that was seconded by Hetherington for $115,000. It passed 4-1 with Heard dissenting.






Martin County Latest News From The Feb 12, 2023 Edition




The Elliott Museum is a Martin County success story.

Bob Steele, the CEO, has brought that institution to the next level. It has become a showcase for exhibits, now concerts, and he has made sure that local artists have a place to exhibit their works. The museum has quite simply run out of room.


Next to the museum, which is on county property, is the soon to be de-commissioned fire house. Steele proposes to build a new two-story 20,000 sq foot building on the site that would be entered through the existing museum. 10,000 feet would be for exhibition space and 10,000 feet for storage. There would also be a new 54 space parking lot as part of the project.


In a 5-0 vote, the commission directed staff to come back with an agreement on the terms for the expansion of the museum. You can view the presentation here


How do you get anything you want from the Martin County Commission? Be Martin County Fire/Rescue.


Back in October 2019, the board approved $8,800,000 for a new fire training facility including $577,000 for design. Lo and behold an item was presented for an additional $457,680 for more design work for a total of $1,034,628. Apparently, the site chosen was inadequate. Further the Burn Tower needs to be redesigned because the original one that was spec’d was not right for Martin County. The new price tag for the training facility is now more than $15 million dollars. OOPS.


This is very reminiscent of the new golf course which has far exceeded planned costs. Similarly, the commission was all in favor of the grand vision without regard to the taxpayer. The golf course is fluff. The fire training center is anything but that.

Currently, Martin County trains in Fort Pierce. That means for an entire day several times a year stations are closed, and others need to pick up the slack. This results in overtime. And it does make some sense to have a training facility here. I would imagine that Stuart would pay to train its fire staff locally, and it would benefit all residents since both departments at times answer calls in each other’s jurisdictions.


There is no need to go into all the excuses the commissioners except Heard came up with for this almost 100% over run in costs. It was reminiscent of courtiers prostrating themselves before some royal potentate in the Middle Ages. (And, of note is the fact that they do need the campaign funds and manpower the union provides.)


But why should we be taken for suckers? This is one of the reasons why the public looks askance at the BOCC and does not trust them. The vote was 4-1 with Heard dissenting.


You can find the backup information  here


The final item was a discussion on “Western Lands Planning Study.”


This goes back to the rural lifestyle amendment’s passing when Hetherington stated she would vote yes if the rest of the commission would agree to have at least this discussion. Where the price tag of $400,000 for the study came from is anyone’s guess. Jenkins asked where staff comes up with these names. Could you think of something that sounds more controversial? And emails poured into the commission.


Staff is supposed to be apolitical. But apolitical does not mean staff should be tone deaf to what things are called. Almost immediately, the pro, slow, and no growth factions began their finger pointing. Smith wanted the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council to take the lead. Jenkins demanded that 1000 Friends of Florida be included.

Ciampi wanted to have a non-Martin County agency involved. The Guardians spoke and wanted to be involved. Heard mentioned that the comprehensive plan is the guiding document. No one agreed with anyone else on how this should be done. The only sort of agreement I gleaned was that all were interested in having some sort of plan and method for the county to buy sensitive lands.


It was also said by everyone but Heard that if there isn’t a reasonable way to move forward, either the courts or Tallahassee would do it for Martin County. It is true that when the no-growth commission was in charge, the county paid out millions in settlements to developers, and the laws have only become more developer friendly in the ensuing years. While the comp plan is good, it isn’t the Ten Commandments set in stone. There must be a way for property owners to use their land.


It was agreed that staff should look at the 2020 Plan that was done at the turn of the century to see what has been accomplished. That, at least, is a starting point. Not only should we take advantage of acquiring land, but we also need a better plan to prevent sprawl.


As Jenkins said, right now, someone with a large ranch can break it up into 20-acre parcels and from the banks of Okeechobee going east, we would have nothing but sprawl.





Martin County Latest News From The Jan. 29, 2023 Edition




Wojcieszak Park was the main agenda item at this meeting.

A group of dedicated parents had complained for some time about the conditions at the baseball fields. They are right…the ballfields are deplorable. The park has been neglected for years.


Until recently, I was a member and chair of the Parks & Recreation Advisory Board (PRAB). I know that parents did follow procedure and met numerous times with the department and came before the PRAB to plead their case. Little do most people understand that there is serious underfunding for the maintenance and capital improvements in the park system.


Wojcieszak (Wojo for short) is in the Port Salerno Community Redevelopment Area. Most people who use the park walk to it. It is truly a green oasis within an urban setting. The park is 11.5 acres with a beautiful canopy of shade trees. According to the agenda item, it has 5 baseball/tee-ball fields, some batting cages, a playground, 6 racquet ball courts, 1 tennis court, 1 Futsal court, and 1 basketball court. There are no soccer fields or open space. Both the Boys and Girls Club and Port Salerno Elementary School are on the boundaries of Wojo and use it.


On two separate occasions, November 18th, and January 20th, the PRAB approved recommending to the BOCC using $1.7 million in ARPA funding for a redesign and renovation of the park. The reason that ARPA funding can be used was because the park is in a census tract that is considered low income. This was a way to immediately do the needed work. In this fiscal year, the Fixed Asset Replacement Budget (FARB) has $1.6 million that will be spent for improvements across the system’s 72 parks.


At the February 1st BOCC meeting, I spoke as a member and chair of the PRAB urging the commission to approve the $1.7 million in ARPA funding which they voted to do. Since then, the department has conducted focus groups and presentations with the neighborhood including hiring Hoyle Tanner and Associates, Inc for $234,000 to meet with the community and redesign the park. There will be a workshop for the community conducted by Hoyle Tanner on February 2nd.


Those were the facts leading up to the commission taking an interest. After the three parents spoke who are involved with the league, it was the commissioners turn. Commissioner Heard, whose district Wojo is in, emphatically wants to continue with the community process.


Commissioner Smith asked Kevin Abate, the department director, if the $1.7 million was enough. His response was it depends on the results of the February neighborhood meeting. Commissioner Hetherington toured the park with the baseball parents and rattled off a list of things that should be done immediately for safety.

Kevin Abate

Abate stated that he would immediately have TRICO, the county’s insurance carrier, come and do a risk management assessment and then immediately take care of those items flagged. No commissioner said it was a good idea to have the experts decide what was an immediate danger.


They would rather trust their own expertise and ideas on what was needed. The ideas of the parents of the baseball players who had been ignored for years were suddenly important. Spending scarce funds even if six months from now the repairs become obsolete because of a new park design.


Commissioner Jenkins stated the one unequivocal truth. The Parks & Recreation Department took the biggest whipping at budget time including the freezing of the use of FARB funds. Smith noted that the parks were, by far, the most widely used county amenity.


Chair Ciampi went through a laundry list of immediate improvements that the ball field parents want done. And after the long list, he instructed Abate to make it happen. Hetherington wanted the process to begin immediately.


Heard and then Smith kept saying that there needs to be community involvement. Most of the community are not the baseball parents. They use the fields, but most don’t live around the park. In fact, I would suspect the actual Port Salerno folks would say take a baseball field or two away and give us soccer instead. But statistically the poor and immigrants don’t vote.


Ciampi has already determined how the park should look after he visited. He said that things don’t need to go back to the PRAB because the commission has a good idea on how to proceed. Commissioner Hetherington brought up the fact that the last two PRAB meetings had been cancelled because of a lack of a quorum.


After having served on numerous boards, I can lay much of the blame for lack of quorum on the commissioners who appoint people to boards who do not come to meetings. One reason for the attendance issues may be because the members attend meetings and spend time studying issues related to boards’ agendas but find their advice is ignored by the commission. More on that in a subsequent piece.


A motion was made by Hetherington to spend the money and do the safety corrections based on staff’s evaluation of the fields. It was seconded by Jenkins and passed 5-0.


The current commission, like commissions before, has no philosophy regarding the parks and recreation department’s mission. Should it concentrate on the basic needs of neighborhood and regional parks that serve most of our residents or be in the glamour business? This department, at the commission’s direction, spent about $10 million on the county golf course.


The golf course is not just a municipal golf course. It is a sight to behold. Mr. Abate and his department have given us a great casual restaurant (privately operated), a state-of-the-art driving range, and a Top Golf facility. It is something that is stunning and beautifully executed and was done with the approval and urging of this commission. The same can be said for the beach restaurants, splash water park, and the soon to be completed Phipps Park.


According to the county, they all are in the black. Those facilities give the private sector a run for its money. But it cost millions of dollars to do. And even if these facilities make money, is that the function of government?


The commission starves the Wojos to fund these other projects. Fixing benches and lighting is not sexy. Until a constituent group shouts, those kinds of repairs don’t matter…parks are an afterthought. The motion that was passed is the worst kind because it says its ok to waste funds to satisfy one group, but we are not going to change the starvation diet that led to the problem in the first place.


The agenda item can be found here


The second agenda item that was of importance was the 2023 commissioners’ priorities.


Commissioner Heard had an interesting idea regarding the gates to the St. Lucie Canal from the Lake. She would like to see the muck dredged from in front of them and then install new gates that would allow water to flow over the top instead of swinging the gates open which allows the sediment from the lake to flow. Heard said the Corps of Engineers, as well as other agencies, were interested in the proposal. It would cost millions of dollars if the funding could be found.

She also had the idea of seeing if the entire 156 miles of the Indian River Lagoon could become a national park which would allow more sources of funding for the waterways and further protections.


The commission is very interested in buying more land in IRL South, Pal Mar, and the Loxa-Lucie for conservation. Most of the land will never be developed because of wetlands. It is a great idea though what is not spelled out in their priorities is where to get the funds. I believe a dedicated sales tax of ½ cent would have a good chance of passing but only if the ballot language clearly limited it to conservation land in those areas.


The list can be found here



By Kyla Shay

Trailside HOA President



This past week, the Pal Mar Water Management District held another meeting.


Some progress is being made. Ingress and egress to Pal Mar was discussed as to how they can limit who and what is allowed to utilize the Pal Mar accesses.  In viewing a few of the western portions of Pal Mar’s title searches, it clearly states: “no ingress or egress provided”


It has been discussed by others that the lots within Pal Mar have ingress and egress. My question is: What do the title searches say according to the recorded Plat. Anyone can record an easement. It means nothing if it is not recorded and accepted into the Plat.


We do have a comparison of the illegal building and campers within Pal Mar.  Some of the violations have been removed due to Martin County Code Enforcement. But not all.  What is going on with those? Have they had their time in front of the Magistrate? What is the outcome.


The ATV’s, side-by-sides, dune buggies and hunting buggies are still destroying the wetland areas. They are utilizing the works of the Pal Mar Water District to access the areas of Pal Mar they wish to tear up.


So here are the images for comparison. April 2022 to December 2022.


April 26, 2022

Dec 21, 2022


4-22-22 image 512-21-124



Nice garbage and debris in a wetland.  SFWMD and Martin County must be cringing.  I know we wouldn’t get by with that in our area.


In short nothing much has changed.  We are still waiting.


Kyla Shay’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.




This meeting was originally scheduled for January 5th and listed as such on the Pal Mar District’s website. All the meeting dates for the entire year are listed. Guess what…there is no mention of the meeting being moved to January 17th.


I went to the meeting location on January 5th expecting a meeting. The Martin County chamber was closed. I ran into County Administrator Don Donaldson in the lobby, and he made some phone calls only to find out that it would be on the 17th.


The board decided not to have the February meeting at the January meeting. I will bet you that the February meeting will continue to be listed on the website. March’s meeting is also cancelled because one member was not available to attend, and a suitable date could not be agreed to.


The scheduled meeting should occur and the member either misses the meeting or attends by an electronic means. For example, Commissioner Heard did not attend the last commission meeting. It went on without her.


Looking further at the meeting calendar, the April meeting is listed on the website as April 6th, but one of the board members can’t make it. It has been switched to April 5th. There was no meeting in December, the January meeting was moved from the advertised and listed date, February was cancelled, March was cancelled, and April has been changed from the noticed date. What about the public?


Back in November, George Stokus was elected to the board in place of Zach Gazza. In December, the Martin County Board of County Commissioners appointed Sarah Heard to this board as their representative instead of Harold Jenkins. This was done in the annual re-assignments by the commissioners. The site still has Gazza and Jenkins listed as board members.

It would appear to me that the district staff has been lax in the performance of their duties for some time. Another example was District Director Michael McElligott was instructed by the board to send a letter in November to a property owner regarding the removal of a culvert placed illegally. The letter was not sent. If I heard the director correctly, the letter got “buried” on his desk.


The board needs to take control of the situation and have the regularly scheduled meetings. If they believe there is only need for quarterly meetings, then schedule quarterly meetings. But the excuse that people can’t make meetings is unacceptable for a public board. Further, it is unacceptable if staff can’t get things done in a timely manner.


A question arose regarding how different people can access Pal Mar. A legal memo was written by the district’s attorneys in 2019 outlining this very subject. In the statement of facts section on the front page, the memo claims that, “Because of strict development rules and regulations promulgated by Martin County, the land within the District has not been developed as originally conceived, and no road, rights of way, or outfalls have been constructed.”


The board’s duty is to operate according to a water control plan. It is a “Special District” under Florida statute. Easements can only be used for the purpose those easements were granted. Further, there is no statutory authority for the public use of district lands or property. The general public does not have any right to use the Pal Mar District’s lands.


In the conclusion section of the memo, it goes further to state, “There is no express obligation in the District’s legislative authority to grant landowners access.” If there are no roads in what are called the “works of the district,” then the only way to gain entry is across other lot owners’ lands. While there is no express prohibition about vehicles, there is no way to drive from point “A” to “B”.


Further all building permits which would include roads on all property must be approved by Martin County. Under the County’s current zoning, Pal Mar does not qualify for any type of construction. The board asked legal to flesh out the memo to make the districts ongoing policy understandable, but in a 3-2 vote, it was deemed good enough to have as a beginning of a policy. The memo can be found here


Board Member Stokus then wanted to obtain prices from both Martin and Palm Beach Sheriffs’ Departments to have off-duty deputies patrol the district’s property on the weekends.  Board Member Lew Lolmaugh stated that the district has no enforcement powers, and he is right. They can only protect the district’s property. However, off duty deputies are sworn law enforcement officers, and if they see a crime is being committed, they should stop it.


Stokus also wanted to terminate the funding agreement and a separate mowing and maintenance agreement being done by a company owned by Zach Gazza. I have not seen either agreement, but it appears that Mr. Gazza donates $12,000 per year to the district to pay $12,000 per year to his company to do basic maintenance and mowing. That results in the district not paying anything.


While that is a great deal for the district, Mr. Gazza was on the board and is a large landowner in Pal Mar. It saved the district money…there is no denying that. However, there may be something, if not improper, at least having the appearance of being so in that arrangement. Just think if Commissioner Jenkins’ landscaping company did the maintenance for a county park and had a similar deal. Even if Jenkins was paid without the offsetting credit it would still be illegal.


The funding agreement was terminated with a 5-0 vote. Staff was instructed to do RFPs for both the maintenance and management agreement. The new “maintenance manager” will report directly to the district engineer.






Martin County Latest News From The Jan. 15, 2023 Edition


The next meeting will be January 24, 2023






Martin County Latest News From The Dec. 18, 2022 Edition




Most of the meeting focused on the housing shortage.


Chair Ciampi has made this issue the centerpiece of his chairmanship. Assistant County Administrator George Stokus gave the county’s presentation. His presentation showed the limited tools they have to work with.


The state has constrained the ability of places like Martin County and Stuart from requiring developers to include affordable housing in their projects as part of the approval process. If you can’t mandate 10 or 20% of units to fall within that category without paying a subsidy to the developer in perpetuity, then a valuable tool has been removed.


If you look at the chart attached here


You will see there is not much of an opportunity for the county to have rental subsidies. There is less than $3 million in funds that the county has for both rental and home fix up projects from the state.


When asked about whether to pursue rental or home ownership, the commission was all over the place. Jenkins wants to focus on the ownership piece as part of the plan to build “generational wealth.” Ciampi saw it as a three-tier approach: homelessness, doing something about rental forces, and home ownership.

Hetherington is in favor of home ownership but, given current circumstances, more people could be helped in the rental market. She believes it should be high on the legislative priority list. The entire country is having these problems and, according to Heatherington, it needs a national solution. She is not for any type of rent control which had been brought up as an option in the presentation.


Smith said the state will be doing something with building codes because of the devastation by Ian, especially on the west coast. If the codes are tightened, the result will be higher building and remodeling costs. He wants more study perhaps using the Treasure Coast Planning Council.


Jenkins also brought up a county land trust. They are fleshing out that idea in Banner Lake with a group of citizens. He is thinking the county would give excess property to the trust to build housing. The board unanimously approved the study of the idea.


Hetherington also said that the ideas tossed around are good ones. But it all means nothing when, even under current code, when accessible dwelling units are included projects, the commission often restricts them in the approval process.


Rob Ranieri, Nick Blount, and other advocates spoke. The commission decided to make this a permanent part of the meeting once a month.


Staff will now begin working on land trusts, and CRAs and ADUs will be explored. Perhaps using funding to do more infrastructure projects will also be included. That allows more density because there are sewers instead of septic systems. It makes lower cost development more palatable.


Until both state and national government view this as a priority, nothing localities do will come close to solving the problem. Perhaps places like Cleveland Clinic or IRSC could build housing for their employees with the county and Stuart waiving impact fees to make it less expensive. But these are only minor as compared to the entire problem.


You can find the entire presentation here




Sometimes commissioners cannot get out of their own way and sometimes they can. The agenda item regarding the sale of dogs, cats, and rabbits exhibits both.


The commission originally directed the Animal Care & Control Oversight Board (ACCOB) to draft an ordinance regarding the sale of dogs, cats, and rabbits after two pet stores opened that sold those animals.


ACCOB was formed in 2017 to provide oversight of the contract between the county and the Humane Society of the Treasure Coast (HSTC) and to rewrite the entire Martin County animal ordinance. Part of the revised animal ordinance created a TNVR program (Trap, Neuter, Vaccinate, Return) to reduce the size of feral communities by eliminating their reproductive capabilities.  This program, currently administered by HSTC, has dramatically reduced their euthanasia rate as they are no longer required to euthanize feral cats as the earlier ordinance required.


The ACCOB has been meeting every six months to monitor the HSTC contract and any other business having to do with the welfare of animals. The commission asking the board to draft a proposed ordinance about pet sales was in keeping with its mission.


The ACCOB investigated the matter and unanimously voted to recommend that the commission prohibit the sale of those animals while giving the two existing stores the ability to continue the sales until June 30, 2023. This would give the businesses time to retool providing only pet supplies and services like all of the other Martin County pet stores. When approving the proposed ordinance, the commission decided to reduce the ACCOB-recommended grace period for the sale of dogs, cats and rabbits and banned such sales after December 31, 2022. The motion passed 5-0.


A few months ago, the two stores and their supporters decided to threaten legal action if they were closed. Supporters spoke during public comment. The commission, instead of just listening, did what politicians do and that is back pedal.


There are 85 governments in Florida that ban such sales. Martin County had followed in their footsteps. But when trying to please everyone, the commissioners, in my opinion, threw their staff and the ACCOB volunteer board under the bus. Commissioners, because they didn’t want to just do nothing and allow the ordinance to stay in place, came up with a ridiculous charge to the ACCOB to have a workshop with all interested parties to work out the differences.


These are not differences about things such as store hours. There is two diametrically opposed views on the matter. When the workshop was started, it quickly degenerated and became raucous to the point that a recess was called. There wasn’t even a deputy in attendance. A few weeks later, the ACCOB met for their regularly scheduled meeting and again unanimously voted to recommend the same original ordinance including their original grace period until June 30, 2023.


Those who were against the ordinance were in opposition for two reasons. The first was “the being unfriendly to business” bunch. They claim that government regulation is wrong. Yet government regulates businesses all the time defining what can and cannot be done. And 85 other Florida governments have banned these sales not to mention entire states throughout the nation.


The pet store owners affected have more than just a libertarian argument to make. They opened stores that sold a product that was legal in Martin County at the time they entered business. The argument of the animal advocates is that at least some of the puppies are being acquired from out-of-state puppy mills. The two store owners vehemently deny this, but the evidence presented states otherwise. The agenda item is attached here


One of the pet store owners pleaded no contest to a felony regarding the forging of documents related to the sale of animals while owning his local store. This is not an old charge. It was adjudicated March 2022 in Martin County. Neither he nor his attorney appeared at this commission meeting.


The commission listened to several speakers including the other pet store owner and her attorney who was allowed extra time to make his comments. They then voted to accept the recommended ordinance from ACCOB. The vote was 4-0 with Hetherington absent.


Willis Custom Yachts had final site plan approval for their continued expansion.


This is a targeted industry in Martin County. They will more than double the number of employees. These are high paying jobs. The company is working with both the school district and IRSC to have training programs.


It passed 4-0. You can see the presentation here



By Kyla Shay

Trailside HOA President




Nothing has changed with PalMar.


The engines roar over across the canal in PalMar daily. The destruction continues day by day.  The shots are still fired.  Fertilizer bombs are shot off destroying native areas. The quiet is gone.

Over the past months, I’ve met with Martin County Staff. I have spoken twice at SFWMD board meetings in West Palm Beach.  We’ve alerted Martin County Commissioners to the difficulties presented to Trailside with the unchecked activities at PalMar.

Where we understand that the wheels of government move slowly, HOW LONG SHALL WE WAIT to not be shot at? How long shall we wait to not hear the destruction of what are precious Florida native areas. Native vegetation is torn up and destroyed. The animals have left PalMar, either by death or fleeing for their survival.  Alligators are shot within PalMar and left for the vultures to feed on.  The alligators are being poached.  No tags are attached. FWC has on one occasion that we know of found a deceased poached alligator being removed from PalMar.


South Florida Water Management District under the Preservation 2000 Florida Forever does mention PalMar under the FY 99 Objectives. Management agreements need to be done with DEP immediately. DEP was contacted by SFWMD over six months ago. To date, Trailside’s board has had no response from repeated requests to DEP for a status update on their plans going forward.


Most of the lots that were sold within Pal-Mar on a title search show there is no ingress and egress into the lot. Why is the PalMar Water Management District allowing their works i.e. canal banks, to be used for ingress and egress? In the past, those who hunted the PalMar area, enjoyed a quiet, native Florida wildlife and fauna within PalMar, walked or biked into their lot. There’s a lot to be said about leaving only footprints when in native areas. This is not the case in PalMar.  There is no legal recorded easement for ingress and egress. FWC, MCSO, Martin County Administration, DEP, PalMar Water Management District and SFWMD need to put a stop to the nonsense.


On an article published by the Stuart news, the reporter felt residents of Trailside should not have purchased land in a Martin County approved development next to hunting. It has never been the hunting we are objecting to. We are objecting to dangerous behavior resulting in shots being fired into our neighborhood. We are told by the Sheriff’s Department that there is nothing they can do to stop it. We are objecting to native Florida lands including wetlands being destroyed by ATV’s, side-by-sides, and hunting buggies. We are objecting to the blatant destruction of the wildlife. We object to the poaching. We object to being shot at. We object to not being able to utilize our bridle paths and common areas without the fear of being shot.


Where we understand there are differing opinions, we LIVE here.  How would you feel about what we are simply enduring if you were living here.


Hoping for resolution and repair within PalMar within the coming year of 2023.


Kyla Shay’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint






Martin County Latest News From The Dec. 4, 2022 Edition




Commissioners Hetherington and Heard were sworn in for another four-year term at the start of the meeting. Congratulations to both for their work on behalf of the people of Martin County. 

It was also the meeting where a new chair is selected. A motion was made by Hetherington and seconded by Jenkins for Ciampi to become chair. It passed 5-0. Jenkins was nominated for vice-chair in a motion made by Hetherington and seconded by Ciampi. It passed 4-0.


In the re-organization of the committee assignments, Chair Ciampi gave up his seat on the MPO to Commissioner Heard. Vice-Chair Jenkins relinquished his seat on the Pal Mar board to Commissioner Heard. The rest of the assignments stayed the same with minor tweaks.


The old Golf World site on Kanner Highway was re-zoned to General Commercial. The applicant, Barron Landings, stated that the old zoning was no longer appropriate. Michael Houston, their land planner, argued that Kanner was no longer the same 2 lane road that it had been. It is a classic infill project he said.


Commissioner Heard did not think that it was compatible with residential. I don’t understand why not. Don’t you want commercial uses next to residential to encourage multi-modal transportation?


The vote was 4-1 with Heard voting no. You can see the presentation here


The idea of the county building its own wellness center was once again discussed. It would be operated under a VEBA Trust. A VEBA is a way to provide benefits to employees under the IRS code.


They predict that the county will run out of space with their current setup by 2024. If they build the center under a VEBA, the county can customize providing medical care to employees, their families, and former employees who have retired and are still on the county’s plan.


According to the study presented, the VEBA model would give a better ROI than any other in the long run. The downside would be the higher startup costs. Currently, Palm Beach County uses that model.


The staff gave the commission five location choices for the building. The consensus was to locate the facility on one of two vacant parcels already owned by the county on Ruhnke Street.


The more employees who participate the better to keep costs down. Currently, the sheriff uses a different center than the rest of the county. If the county and sheriff become consolidated, it would add 600 more employees.


Hetherington, Jenkins, and Heard are fine with the VEBA model. Ciampi likes the idea of a county-owned facility but would lean toward a 3rd party administrator. Smith apparently was not happy with the choice of location. He wanted to locate the facility on the lot owned by the county between the Blake Library and Kingswood.


Heard moved approval of exploring one of the Ruhnke lots for a site. Jenkins seconded. The vote was 4-1 with Smith voting no.


Whether it would be the VEBA model (owned & operated by the county) or a third-party administrator has not yet been determined.


You can find the presentation here


You can find information on VEBA here


For years, the City of Stuart has had a financial reimbursement program as part of their CRA to encourage businesses to improve their properties. After extensive NAC and other community-based meetings, CRA Manager Susan Kores has now brought a similar program to the commission for final approval.


There were three parts to the program. One was a minor business retention piece for up to $2000 for things like design and very small improvements. There are also $10,000 and $20,000 grants available. It is a reimbursement program and will be up to 80% of the uppermost grant amount.


When questioned by commissioners about non-profit participation, Kores said the reason not to include non-profits was because the program’s aim is to increase tax revenue…non-profits pay no tax.

Heard was not going to support it. She has never been a fan of the CRA concept. Hetherington was not initially in favor of the program, but once she went to the Golden Gate NAC meeting, she saw where it could be useful. She was not in favor of the smaller grants going toward marketing and business development. She also did not think non real estate taxed properties (non-profits) should benefit from taxpayer dollars.


Smith cited Stuart and stated that non-profits were still part of the street scape. He did agree to eliminate the marketing piece. He made a motion for the program without non-profits and the marketing. It was seconded by Jenkins and passed 4-1 with Heard dissenting.


Smith then made a motion to include non-profits to be part of the program. It was seconded by Jenkins. It passed 3-2 with Hetherington and Heard dissenting.


I have never been a fan of the government choosing one business to receive tax money over another. However, I also see that it could be a beneficial program. I certainly agree that marketing and non-profits should not benefit from tax dollars under any circumstances.


You can find the presentation here






Martin County Latest News From The Nov. 20, 2022 Edition




It was a light agenda for this meeting.


The county had an RFP to engage firms to perform public relations, communication, and community outreach. There were six firms that answered the RFP. Two of them were local, Firefly Group and Cotton & Company Inc. Neither were picked by the selection committee.


The two most highly ranked firms were Quest Corporation of America and M Network Inc. Commissioner Hetherington asked why there was not at least one local group. Commissioner Ciampi believes that the internal staff is very good, but he understands that they cannot do everything that the county needs in this area. Both wanted to have a firm that knew Martin County.

Commissioner Smith asked whether there was latitude in this regard to pick more than two firms for consideration. Assistant County Administrator George Stokus said if that was going to be done, then he would recommend that all firms be in the selection. Commissioner Hetherington made the motion to include all six then departments could pick the firm that best suited their needs on a case-by-case basis. It was seconded by Ciampi and passed 4-0. Commissioner Heard was absent from the meeting.


You can find the ranking sheet here


The proposed Hobe Sound Tennis Center located on Federal Highway and SE Constitution Blvd was approved in a 4-0 vote. It will have 12 tennis courts, a clubhouse, and a pool. The PAMP will take up more than 25% of the 9-acre property.


You can see the presentation here





Martin County Latest News From The Nov. 13, 2022 Edition




The BOCC meeting took just 1 hour and 24 minutes from beginning to end.


It wasn’t that the commission did not do anything. There was actually quite a bit that was accomplished. Not counting the several agenda items having to do with the Loblolly and FIND land swap, the commission approved three developments.


Just down the road from Stuart (which has morphed into a sideshow when it comes to development), Phase III of Banyan Bay on Kanner Highway was approved. The 72-unit multi-family development will have its own separate entrance onto the roadway. There will be three 3-story buildings.



There were no hysterics from “concerned citizens” or anyone else for that matter. Just a routine 72-unit project that took about 5 minutes to approve. A few weeks ago in the city in a much more built up area there was so much concern about the impact of what would have been less traffic caused by the development just a mile up the road?


DR Horton’s Sabal Pointe Project on Savannah Road will have 68 single-family homes on 30 acres. It is a typical Horton project of suburban homes 3 story high like so many others. The homes are on lots of 7500 sq feet with lot dimensions of 60 ft. x 125 ft.



Again no one spoke against the project, and it took less than ten minutes to approve.


And last, there was the Willoughby Townhomes PUD. It will be on Willoughby Blvd. and Salerno Road. There will be 117 townhomes on 18.37 acres. Again, the public said nothing.


In the span of about 45 minutes the BOCC approved 257 new units for unincorporated Martin County. There were no hysterics, outraged citizens, or commissioners wringing their hands as if the weight of the world was upon them. The commission’s 5-0 (including Commissioner Heard) response was appropriate for the approvals that were given.


If that had been the current Stuart Commission, two out of three projects would not have passed, and I am not even so sure about the single-family home development. Most of the people who will occupy those homes will work and shop and recreate, to a large extent, in Stuart.


City police and emergency services will have to consider these visitors in their planning. They will drive on city roads and add to the supposed congestion that we hear about. What the city will not have, is one cent of tax money.


Every time the city denies a project, it doesn’t end development. Stuart commissioners have preserved the idiocy of NIMBY within the city’s boundaries. Unincorporated Martin County doesn’t quite believe in NIMBY. The county has invaded Stuart’s back yard. Stuart just doesn’t have the tax dollars to deal with the invasion.


At almost every commission meeting, one member of the public denounces the county for putting every check that the county has cut in the past few weeks on the consent calendar. He makes it out as if the county is somehow trying to get away with not informing the public about these “Secret Expenditures.”


Martin County spends a lot of money…there is no denying that. But every cent must be appropriated by the commission, and they do so by passing a budget. By state statute every dollar then that is being spent of that appropriated money must be approved by the commission at an advertised meeting. There is just no reason to have county staff read every check into the official minutes. It would take several hours more to complete a meeting.


You can look at every check and to whom it was written on the county website. Further if you really are interested on what county money is being spent on then look at the budget. In the past few years, the public except for the Taxpayers Association has not been very curious.


By the time the check is cut you are way too late to complain. It is just as idiotic as the federal raising of the debt ceiling which is done after the money has been appropriated and spent. The same congressional fools voted in passed bills to spend the dollars. There is no grandstanding at the county like Congress.




After months of writing about Pal Mar and looking at it from Trailside, I finally had the opportunity to visit it myself with Martin County staff.

What was once a place that had been relatively untouched by humans now bears all the signs of a paradise lost. It was one of the last places in Martin County that was what most of our area looked like two hundred years ago.  Pal Mar should not be thought of as a recreational area. Even though now it has been relegated to an unregulated such place. Martin County, which owns thousands of lots there, is also the legal authority regarding what can be done within its boundaries.


The county allows no construction of anything whether it is a shack, a road, or full-fledged home. Further, staff told me that the use of off-road vehicles is not permitted…though I saw trucks and cars parked throughout. Yet there are complications. It isn’t black and white.

There are many lots that are in private hands. In the past when the bulk of the properties were owned by “old timers,” they were more in tune with the wonder of Pal Mar. Camp out, do a little hunting, do a little drinking, and hike back out to your truck on the other side of the gate. Now with the newbies, it is apparent they believe they have the right to tear the place up with off-road vehicles, shoot indiscriminately, build roads, erect homes and pretty much do whatever they want.


For the most part, we are not talking about large acre parcels. Most are one acre and recently they are even being divided into quarter acre lots. To get access to almost any lot, you need to trespass over at least one other person’s property if not a dozen.


The lots are not really demarcated. Generally, it is guesswork where lot lines are. The county has been sending out their surveyors to determine ownership when someone is building an illegal structure…and they are all illegal. Is the structure on their land or the county’s property or South Florida Water Management?

In a legal opinion regarding providing access to individual lots the district obtained from Caldwell Pacetti Edwards Schoech & Viator LLP in 2019, it states that:


There is no express obligation in the District’s legislative authority to grant landowners access. The District is authorized to exercise only such powers as have been expressly granted or necessarily implied. Any reasonable doubt as to the lawful existence of a particular power sought to be exercised must be resolved against the exercise thereof. The District is utilizing its easements

lawfully for the purposes for which they were granted. Furthermore, there is no statutory authority providing for public use of property owned by drainage and water management districts created under Ch. 298, F.S. The members of the general public do not have a legal right of access to those easements which are dedicated in the District’s favor and not to the general public.


It seems clear that the public or, for that matter, individual landowners do not have the right to use the district’s easements to go anywhere. In the old days when someone hiked or biked into Pal Mar doing no ecological damage to the land, no one cared. Now sensitive wetlands throughout have been torn up by ATVs and four wheelers driven by yahoos who claim they can do whatever they want.


The county has started to enforce code violations against people building roads, wells, and houses. It is a daunting task. Made even more dangerous by staff (and even the residents of the Trailside community) being threatened with violence. It is so dangerous that when we were there county employees would not leave the district’s right of way without law enforcement.


So where is the sheriff in this? Good question. The sheriff’s department has told me that they can’t stop the shooting. Everyone has a right to shoot on their own land. But as I said, very few people have any idea where their lots are.

What about the fact that they have vehicles using district roads that no one is to use for non-district access? No good answer was forthcoming.


The sheriff’s department is working with the county using their helicopter for scouting and providing deputies to go with code enforcement to these encampments. The mindset at the department may be that people destroying the environment is not the same priority as catching bad guys from down south on I-95.


The Pal Mar Water Control District needs to hire security such as off duty deputies to protect this property, especially on weekends. Anyone out there has almost certainly committed trespass, which is illegal. If people provide the proper paperwork verifying that they are landowners and want to hike into their property and just camp without the benefit of anything more than what they caried in on their backs, then no one would care.


But if a visitor is using a motor vehicle and in some cases a tractor trailer to bring in loads of lumber to build their dream house, that person should be arrested. A house cannot be built without supplies, and some of the structures out there are substantial.


If it can’t be stopped, then Pal Mar will be destroyed. This is our heritage. It isn’t some old orange grove but an intricate eco-system. Either our commissioners, the water district, and law enforcement can end the rape of this magnificent area, or we should get used to the fact that we will have a new subdivision.


The Pal Mar subdivision will have no approvals, no inspections, no public hearing, no public input. It will just be a mish mosh of desecrated habitat that once had enumerable plants and animals living there. That will be gone. In its place will be the Pal-Mar Subdivision.



By Kyla Shay

Trailside HOA President




It’s Been a While, Not Much Has Changed


We had a few weeks of respite due to the after effects of Hurricane Ian.


Heavy rainfall placed PalMar under two feet of water. Now that the water has receded, it’s back to PalMar business as usual.   The mud buggies, ATV’s and side-by-sides are tearing up the wetlands. Noise travels out here in the county. We hear the engines roaring, the yelling and screaming of the persons destroying Florida protected areas.


The bullets still fly. We frequently hear the rapid repetitive gun fire with no understanding of where the bullets may land or which direction the projectiles are headed in.  Last week, one lot owner had a work crew working in his wetland and yard. The workers took shelter behind vehicles and the building.


They stated they could hear the bullets flying over their heads…WITHIN Trailside.  The Sheriff’s department was notified. They stated they would send someone out to check who was in PalMar. No follow up has been received.


Until one of us dies, nothing will change. We doubt even if one of us gives our life if it will even change then. According to the Sheriff’s department, they must put the gun in the person’s hand who caused the injury/death.  That simply is not going to happen. 8000+ acres to escape to. Plausible deniability. Trailside has been abandoned by the Sheriff’s department and the elected officials of Martin County.


We have written letters to multiple State agencies asking for help. Crickets and frogs are all we are hearing.  There isn’t much left to say. We are obviously left to our own devices to protect our way of life, our livestock, our families, and our property.


We all feel abandoned by all aspects of Martin County government.  Our commissioners and staff can concentrate on their land use changes and getting more houses built.  They are not interested in solving a situation that Martin County politics, Martin County policy, and the State of Florida neglected to fix from the 1960s. With the lack of response, they don’t seem very interested in correcting the error.


Kyla Shay’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.






Martin County Latest News From The Oct. 16, 2022 Edition




It was a brief meeting with very little of significance to report.


There was a discussion about the progress in the construction of the mooring field in the Manatee Pocket. In essence, it will be almost identical to how the field in Jensen Beach is operated according to staff. The next thing to be done will be the dock which is scheduled for completion in early 2023.

There was a change in the county code to mirror state changes mostly dealing with the regulation of home-based businesses. The state has pre-empted much of what local government can do in this respect. Economic freedom trumps zoning which is what occurred with short term rentals. Local government is no longer allowed to have any regulations concerning that. The people of Martin County should become used to more and more of this occurring.


Donna Melzer has filed a suit against the county for the adoption of the rural lifestyle use. It looks like it is almost identical to the one filed against Costco. We will report on this as more is known.





Martin County Latest News From The Oct. 9, 2022 Edition




Hetherington requested that the ordinance having to do with the sale of dogs, cats, and rabbits be brought back for discussion.

For some odd reason, the discussion was framed that the ordinance was unfriendly toward business. Some commissioners believed that the two stores that opened very recently should have received notice that an amendment to the county’s animal ordinance was being considered which would ban retail stores from selling dogs, cats, and rabbits in Martin County. That type of personal notice is not how it is set forth in statute.


As an example, Hetherington said that when they were discussing an ordinance to ban vaping for those under 21, the county spoke to the businesses who sold those products. The same went for the irrigation ordinance restricting how often lawns could be watered. In both those instances the county was attempting to solicit advice before the ordinances were written not in this case.


The motions and direction to staff had encompassed doing that with those two examples. There was no direction given for staff to contact anyone with the animal sale ban. Staff followed usual county procedures and the statute. Without clear direction from the board how is staff to know that something more is necessary.

As to whether the ban is anti- business, I don’t know how it would be in this instance. Government restricts what businesses can do…from dictating product placement to hours of operation…all the time and on every level. I do not blame the businesses for trying to overturn rules that limit their ability to sell to the most customers possible. I do object when the government does not step in when there is a potential problem.


There are really two problems with these types of sales. First, most large chain pet stores have eliminated selling dogs, cats, and rabbits for profit. In most of the stores today, they allow animal rescue organizations the opportunity to adopt animals out of their stores. The store benefits when a person adopts the pet and then immediately needs to spend money on food, litter, toys, a cage, and all other manner of accoutrements. There is no need for the store to source, feed, and pay vet bills for animal inventory. It is a win-win.


The second reason that stores sell live pets is because they can reap big profits by having a finance company come in and charge interest rates that would make a loan shark blush. If someone wants to overpay for an animal, that is their business. But the government started protecting the public from loan sharking a long time ago. Just this week the Washington Post published an article on this very practice and one of the predatory financing companies that both of the stores use, according to their own websites, is named in the article. Read it here


Every animal I have ever owned came from a rescue of some sort. We haven’t had a dog for quite a while, but we do have cats. I have never been disappointed in either any dog or cat that I have adopted.


Frank Valente of the Treasure Coast Humane Society stated that there are 85 ordinances banning the practices of selling dogs and cats in retail stores in the state of Florida. He also mentioned that some of the breeders that the two stores buy from have been cited by the USDA. He further went on to state that this ordinance did not put anyone out of business.


Ciampi and Hetherington did visit the stores. Ciampi is very concerned about the financing part and what happens if a customer ends up with a sick animal that costs a fortune in medical bills or dies. These are serious problems.


Most people who sign the financing contracts may not be the most astute financially. If you buy a bad product, then taking the store to small claims court could be a nuisance but not a catastrophe. When something happens to your pet that costs thousands of dollars in vet bills and/or the pet dies you have lost a member of the family. These pet owners may still be on the hook for thousands of dollars in loans.


I can also see the store owners’ dilemma. They have guaranteed the leases with the properties’ owners. The county should have gone to them to help negotiate surrender agreements and even pay some money to avoid any possible litigation. Since the businesses have been opened for less than a year, there is not a huge loss of income that can be proven in a court of law.


The commission has sent it back to the Animal Care and Control Oversight Board to have a public meeting with all the pet store owners invited (including those that do not sell animals), the Humane Society, and all other interested parties. The motion passed 5-0.


The Oversight Board was tasked originally with overseeing the humane treatment and welfare of the animals. They aren’t about looking to other competing interest outside of the animals’ well-being including real or imagined concerns of business owners who want to sell those animals. The board is not a competing interest group nor is it an arbiter between the animal rights and rescue community and the two store owners. Either the county considers this type of commerce acceptable or not to continue.


The agenda item which includes the USDA reports of violation and customer complaints can be found here


A major site plan approval for two 18-hole golf courses on Kanner by 96th Street was approved by the commission 5-0. All the irrigation for the courses will come from the C-44 canal. This is a good idea since it will not be taking water from the aquifer. Instead, the gray water from the canal which does have phosphorus and nitrogen will be used. A byproduct of this is that the courses will need to use much less fertilizer.


You can find the presentation here


If I were to say the Martin County Fair Grounds Board was back for another extension, would that surprise anyone?


They are now asking for the lease option to be extended from November of 2022 to 2024. The Fair Manager, Jay Spicer, has commitments but not firm dollars to construct his Agri Plex. This is not only going to be the Martin County Fairgrounds but so much more…a museum, a teaching farm, a campground, everything that you can imagine including a go cart track.

It is true that COVID prevented many things from happening perhaps including the fair board the opportunity to raise sufficient funds to sign a lease. Yet why can’t a fairgrounds with the few buildings it takes be built now and all the rest come later? Commissioner Ciampi has become a champion of this never-ending saga with asking the question why not just give a lease?


Attorney Woods explained that she is trying to protect the county’s assets. Heard, in her usual fiscally conservative manner, grilled Spicer on why he had not been able to do the things outlined in the option agreement to obtain a lease. Hetherington is with Ciampi on this because the community needs it. Agreed, but after years of the Stuart Fairground being in disrepair and the inability of the Indiantown property to proceed, when does it stop being funny.


It seems that the commissioners can’t separate the fairground from the fair from the fair board. The first question to be answered is should there be a fairground? Who should manage the fairground which is owned by the county? And should the fair board, an independent organization, have both the fair and the fairground under their auspices?


The county should take the asset of the fairground back under their control and build only those buildings necessary to have a Martin County Fair and the needed parking. The county can reduce the acreage now promised as they did to give to the Indiantown Charter High School and either use it for other purposes or lease the excess for private sector development.


Martin County Parks can construct the basic fair buildings and infrastructure under their auspices and be responsible for this county asset. It has been determined by the BOCC that a fair is needed. The county can have an RFP or a long-term contract with a company to run a fair. For the rest of the events/activities, the parks department can handle the scheduling and maintain a public asset. They do it now throughout the system, including at Sailfish Splash Park, where they have meets throughout the year.


Let us stop making a mountain out of mole hill and recoup some of the acreage that will sit unused but in the hands of an inept organization. At some point in the next decade, they may get their act together and build a few buildings…then what?






Martin County Latest News From The Sept. 18, 2022 Edition




This was the meeting when the rural lifestyle amendment finally came to a vote. It was a long day.


Most of the day was spent on public comment. And as usual, most was uninformed and, in some cases, not relevant to what was being voted on. Someone mentioned a more European approach where urban areas are clustered surrounded by farmland instead of sprawl. I like that one.

A few people said that the county needs to keep green spaces. Yet while farmland is green, it is not open to the public as a park is. Farmland or a golf course is owned by a private person and citizens can’t just take a stroll.


Others mentioned to preclude Harmony litigation, rural lifestyle should pass. Though it does give a viable option to Harmony as one of the properties that could opt for the designation, I don’t believe anything will stop the litigation.


Former County Administrator Taryn Kryzda explained the financial ramifications of having the tax dollars from the project with a minimum of increased use of existing services. Another person said that the rural lifestyle amendment was not going to be the typical suburban sprawl development. That is correct.


In a nutshell the amendment currently applies to 6 properties, and it is highly unlikely any new ones will join those. The new criteria apply to properties that are at least 1000 acres and outside the USB but contiguous to it. There are no package plants allowed but rather the property owner must extend the sewer lines from the USB and no other property can piggyback on those lines. It restricts retail to 6000 sq feet. An economic analysis must be done by the applicant.


70% of the property must be left green which does include golf courses as it would under the current code. And another parcel of at least 500 acres must be given in either conservation or into a perpetual agricultural trust owned by a third-party non-profit. So, even more space will be left open.


Heard wondered why the 6 properties couldn’t just be included in the amendment as having the designation if they chose. According to the assistant county attorney, since each individual property must show they would meet the criteria then they could not just be included. I don’t quite understand but the attorney is the expert.


Another observation was how bad the staff is at presenting in a public setting. They are more than competent as planners and in their specialties. However, when something like this comes up, they are presenting not only to commissioners but to the public.


At one point in time, weather presenters on TV were seldom meteorologists. Al Roker, from “Today Show” fame, is not a scientist at all but he sure could make weather lively and fun and explainable to the masses. Today almost every weather person on TV is a meteorologist. Not all meteorologists are on TV. Some of our county presenters need to learn how to improve their public delivery skills.

Jenkins gave a history on how Nathaniel Reed knew him from the time he was born. Jenkins was annoyed that some people suggested that Reed would not have approved of this change and never even knew him. I only met Mr. Reed once or twice so I have no idea what he would have thought of this amendment, but I would trust that Jenkins would know.


Jenkins also said that the voting public is changing, and it is. He used the example of a relative unknown that had not much of a platform but came within 5 points of beating Sarah Heard. That is true and he does have a point. He also brought up the fact that Tallahassee will take back control of development and I agree there.


Smith stated that we have a very wealthy tax base that does support the county philanthropically. Everything comes with a cost. Preserving land is also costly whether it is done as a wetland or a park. In this case, green space is being provided by the private landowner as part of the development. He also mentioned the pre-1967 constitution where the county did not have much authority in the development area. He also feels those days are coming back.


Ciampi said little. He was steadfast in his opposition to the amendment even though he was for the Atlantic Fields project. Hetherington was the key vote as to whether the amendment would be part of the comp plan. She played it for all she could.


At this point, Atlantic Fields and the $20 million tax bill that will benefit the county coffers would not happen without the amendment. Hetherington had always expressed support for the project. Perhaps if the tape could be rewound, the developer would have had a different scenario and plan, but it could not.

Hetherington felt she needed to extract something of benefit from her colleagues for her vote. She did.


After her continued soliloquy, there was a vote to go out to RFP to hire an entity to conduct planning sessions throughout the county to see where our future development goes from here. Everyone was on board except Heard. This a very good benefit for Martin County.


The motion to accept the amendment into the comp plan was approved 3-2 with Ciampi and Heard voting no.


The other two hearings to have the Atlantic Fields’ property adopt the land use of rural lifestyle and the PUD agreement passed 4-1 with Heard dissenting.




By Kyla Shay

Trailside HOA President




Representatives from Trailside HOA met with reporters from TC Palm.


Initially, the Reporters were accompanied into PalMar by a sheriff’s deputy. They then asked the deputy to reach out to me for an interview. Due to a lack of immediate availability, one of our board of directors and another lot owner generously gave time to the reporters to talk about the difficulties Trailside has faced with PalMar’s unabated activity.


We were assured by Martin County staff that the county continues to move forward on the code enforcement violations. However, the shooting is still very close to Trailside. One can never determine when a bullet will strike one of us, our guests, our horses, or cattle.


It isn’t a pleasant way to enjoy our rights as property owners.  We do hope the county and other agencies can come to a resolution soon.  We continue to alter our behavior to not fully utilize the common area of Trailside for fear of dying.


With our area finally receiving rain, we are still hearing the ATV’s and Side-by-Side’s tearing up the wetland areas.


A group of us who reside in Trailside have reached out to ecological organizations to help save the sensitive lands of PalMar. We are still waiting to hear the results. It will be a long and arduous process.


Stay tuned…It’s never a dull day out west in Martin County.


Kyla Shay’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.






Martin County Latest News From The Sept. 4, 2022 Edition




Stacey Hetherington is completing her freshman term as a county commissioner.


She has learned much in that time. Her constituent services have been excellent. But what she really excels at is political campaigning.


Though her opponent T.J. McGowan was a novice, Hetherington approached the campaign as if she were the underdog. I don’t really know what Mr. McGowan’s reason for running was. Neither did most of the voters.


McGowan did not respond to our repeated attempts to have him submit a statement for the newsletter about his reasons for running and why he deserved to be elected.


Stacey has grown into the job of commissioner, and I believe will only be better in her 2nd term. She deserved re-election. The voters agreed. She received nearly 65% of the vote.


A more interesting race was the Heard/Mustapick race. Sarah Heard has been a commissioner for the past 20 years. She is very conservative fiscally, pro-environment, and fervently anti-development. She brings a different point of view to the dais that no other current commissioner expresses.


Doug Mustapick is a Marine veteran who served in Afghanistan. According to his statement, he was born in Tequesta and works for a veteran’s aid group. In his online biography, it doesn’t appear he was a member of any local nonprofit groups or civic organization until he wanted to run for office. He was in last year’s class of Martin County leadership which is run by the Stuart Chamber of Commerce.


According to his financial filings, several Stuart Chamber members and fellow leadership classmate Zach Gazza (of “Be A Man Buy Land” fame) contributed to his campaign.


His campaign was exceptionally well run for a political novice. However, his reasons for running were a bit obscure. He said he was non-growth, citing his opposition to the proposed Rural Lifestyle use. Mustapick also claimed to be pro-environment but did not have any specific proposals differentiating himself from Heard.


If that is what a voter wanted in a commissioner, why wouldn’t that voter just cast a ballot for Heard whose actions prove she stands for the environment and no growth. Besides the clouded message, his campaign supporters are just the opposite of both those attributes.

While Heard pulled it out by about 5%, is Martin County tiring of her. In my opinion it is time for Sarah to take a bow in four years and retire. At some point the voters, even those that agree with her, will want to see a fresh face on the dais.




By Kyla Shay

Trailside HOA President



Trailside Homeowners Association is a development in Martin County located off Pratt Whitney Road.


It is an easy drive to Indiantown, Hobe Sound or Stuart for any of our needs. There is easy access to the Turnpike, I-95, or Beeline Highway for transiting to and from work or shopping.

Trailside Homeowners Association was developed by Clifford Burg Sr. in 1999.  He proposed the development to Martin County Growth Management, Martin County Commissioners and South Florida Water Management.  The development of 41 individual lots was approved by the Martin County Commissioners in late 1999.


The approximate 950 acres had been part of Box Ranch and had been used for cattle grazing pastures. Existing canals for drainage had been added at approximately 1947 or so.  The drainage was put in to service the orange groves.


Westberry Farms had previously owned the property and were responsible for the canal systems under permits from the State of Florida.  We are the only 20 -acre community in Martin County that has survived and thrived. Currently, I receive many telephone calls and email communication inquiring if any of the lots are for sale, or if I know of any owner’s that may sell.  We are different from the average community and proud of it.


For our residents, the community has drawn all of us here for the peace, quiet, bucolic lifestyle we all enjoy. White three rail fences surround our properties giving us a feeling of tranquility that we call ours.  The 20-acre lot minimum up to 38-acre lot sizes allow for privacy from our neighbors.  Our lots cannot be subdivided. The privacy and tranquility allow our children and grandchildren to be surrounded by animals and learn a country living lifestyle instead of being packed in a zero-lot line community.


Trailside HOA was set up as an agricultural community primarily for equestrian use.  Bridle paths surround all our lots.  Quite a few of us have horses here and enjoy the freedom of being able to ride within our community. The bridle paths are for lot owner and guest usage for horses only.  The equestrian rides are peaceful in the surrounding natural setting of South Florida.

We enjoy riding our horses, riding our bikes, and walking on our private roads.  Can you imagine country living with the amenities of paved roads, underground utilities, wooded lots, and fantastic sunsets over wide-open spaces. We can. We live here. We raise our children here. Our grandchildren visit us here. We raise our horses and cattle here.  This is home.


That is why we are fighting so hard to protect our Martin County way of life from those that clearly have no idea about our rural lifestyle and want to destroy it.


Kyla Shay’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.




This was the conclusion of the meeting that began on June 27, 2022, when the meeting was adjourned to allow for the challenges of all the objections to counting proxies to determine if Zack Gazza would remain on the board or be replaced by county employee, George Stokus.


The crux of the matter is whether Martin County and South Florida Water Management District paid their fees and assessments. That payment would entitle them to vote.

According to the property appraiser, they did pay the current year but there were back years plus late penalties still due according to Gazza. As of June 27th, there was a court case on whether Martin County and SFWMD had to pay those back charges or not. That was resolved on July 27th when the Florida Supreme Court let a ruling stand that they did. However, as of June 27th when proxies and other objections were made, it was still outstanding and therefore the payment was not yet due because of the litigation.


Legal counsel for the Pal Mar District gave their opinion that dismissed two objections from Martin and Palm Beach Counties and seven from Gazza’s group. In essence the decision was that the proxies and votes as of June 27th were accepted. That gave the disputed board seat to George Stokus. With that control of the board went from the Gazza group back to Martin County and the other governments.


A motion was made to seat Stokus, and it passed 4-1 with Gazza voting no.


At the board meeting that followed, they then elected Commissioner Marino from Palm Beach County as chair on a 3-2 vote followed by Stokus being elected vice-chair 3-2. Another piece of the puzzle toward bringing law and order back to Pal Mar has been solved.


There were many angry small landowners in the audience. Why were they angry? It doesn’t appear that any of their rights will be violated regardless of who sits on the board. The matter of general easements across properties was dropped by the board. Every property owner must now give individual permission for another to cross their land That will cramp some of the cowboy style in the sensitive habitat.


If these landowners can’t do what they believed they should be able to do or were promised they could do, it is not the government’s fault. Whoever they purchased the property from may have not been honest with what was and wasn’t allowed out there. That is who they should be angry with…and at themselves for not adequately performing their due diligence regarding permissible uses.


The board needs to stop anyone who is not a landowner from using Pal Mar as their unsupervised playground. That would include personnel from the sheriff’s office. Pal Mar is not a target range or a hunting preserve.


In the meantime, another skirmish has been won in bringing a little sanity to the wilds of Pal Mar.






Martin County Latest News From The Aug. 21, 2022 Edition




The commission was asked to approve an increase in the charge for waste pick-up by about $16 per year.


That increase was almost all due to inflationary pressures. A single-family household is currently charged $389.69 per year. It will increase to $405.55, which is $15.86 per year.

Some members of the public complained. If you remember, the county chose Waste Management for the contract last year. It was the most expensive firm. When compared to the problems with the level of service that St. Lucie County and the City of Port St. Lucie are experiencing, Martin County has it good.


Though I was against the selection last year, Martin County made the right decision in keeping Waste Management. In any event, what is another seven and half cents per pickup as Ciampi stated.


Hetherington did not support it because she said that once the county begins hauling their own recyclables to St. Lucie County instead of a contractor, it would not be necessary. Though she did agree that Waste Management was the right company. You figure it out.


The vote was 4-1 with Hetherington opposed.


The Meridian Marina in Palm City at Champion’s Way has been considered an eyesore for years by some. It was bought in bankruptcy last year by a husband-and-wife duo that own and operate marinas throughout the country.


They have a proposal to spend a bundle of money to rehabilitate the facility. It is amazing that this is part of the Martin Downs Master Plan. They will have 540 dry slips and a revised restaurant building from 12,000 sq feet to 6,000 sq feet even though no food facility is open there now.

It was amazing that the public comment was all positive even from the residents of the 49-unit Admiralty Condo which is located right next store. Rob Lord, the past CEO of Martin Health systems, said that it was a vast improvement over the previous marina owner. I did not hear one negative public comment.


At first, I thought that Heard would not vote in favor, citing incompatibility. If it had been an application for a new marina, she may have had a point but since inception the area was always supposed to be mix use. Today more and more projects, especially on the waterfront, will be.


Ciampi made a motion to approve staff’s recommendations with the following conditions:


  • No rooftop uses
  • Two accessory dwelling units only
  • No music venue after 9 pm
  • The applicant must come back with a projected opening date for the restaurant


It passed 5-0. You can see the applicant and staff presentations here




Commissioner Heard stated that Discovery Land Company submitted a new application with new changes and requests last week. It is starting from scratch. She said that we had promised our residents public workshops to explain what was being asked by the developer.


She is right in wanting those workshops. People need to understand that Discovery is not what many have believed it is. The facts need to get out there. The way to do it is by having many informational meetings, so the public buys into the project.


Loblolly and FIND (Florida Inland Navigation District) have parcels next to each other on the intercoastal. They are asking the commission to allow them to exchange 51 acres so that FIND would then have contiguous lots. (See drawing) In order to do that, the lots need to have new zoning classifications to go with the swap which is what was being requested. It was approved unanimously.

Three Lakes Golf Course asked for a mandatory rezoning classification. There is nothing else being asked at this time. It was approved 5-0. Now they can begin their site plan drawings. You can see the presentation here


Palm City really blew it when they made sure that Costco was defeated on Martin Downs Blvd and Martin Highway. Instead of an integrated plan and dealing with one owner, they now have a Tractor Supply, Wawa, and a self-storage. But the district commissioner was a little peeved because the developer did not come to him and receive permission.


In all fairness, before proposing something (even something that is as of right), the developer should have called Ciampi and filled him in. The only reason they had to come before the commission is because it is a PUD. The BOCC can’t reject a use because commissioners want to substitute something else that, in their judgement, should go there instead of what the property owner plans to put there which is a self-storage. Mr. Ciampi did not think that use should go there.


Every commissioner was waiting for Ciampi to make the motion to approve. Finally, Jenkins did and, after a little more dialogue and a break, Heard seconded. As County Attorneys Elder and Woods stated if you are going to vote to reject the project, then you must give a reason after looking at the competent substantial evidence.


The vote was 4-1 with Ciampi voting no. You can see the presentation here

Banyon Bay on Kanner has been going along for almost 20 years. In the interim, single-family homes have been built under the PUD. Now comes 72 multi-family units of three 3-story buildings with garages and a club house. While it is on the master site plan, it will have no relationship with the rest of Banyon Bay. The project will have a separate entrance off Kanner.

Now it was Hetherington’s turn to be a little disappointed that she was not contacted as the district commissioner. Again, since it was consistent with the master plan, they had no choice but to vote in favor. Hetherington urged the developer to make sure the neighbors were consulted. You can see the presentation here




By Kyla Shay

Trailside HOA President


And Some Things just don’t change


It was another noisy weekend on Trailside’s southern border. The shooting continued unabated over Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Due to a sick horse, I spent the night keeping a close eye on him in our barn with a perfect view of PalMar (Gate One entry area.) All night long, I witnessed headlights going back and forth within PalMar. All night I heard truck engines, ATVs and buggies traveling through PalMar. Sunday brought a new level of the amount of gunfire.


We have rumors which are unconfirmed by FWC of individuals being caught with out of season bucks that were killed and an alligator. Most of the game killed in PalMar stays in PalMar. We can hope that FWC is ramping up their enforcement of PalMar to the previous supervision levels.


FWC was called out to deal with all the semi-automatic and automatic shooting within PalMar this weekend. Did they arrest individuals or just nicely discuss it with them again?


It is concerning as I have had others within PalMar tell me that at their last lot owner meeting it was mentioned that they should shoot me a message. Did that mean email me, call me, or shoot with a weapon. It sounds like a deadly threat to me. But I am sure that MC Sheriff’s department and FWC will just talk to the individuals involved in the threats and not actually do anything at all. I will be reporting this to FDLE for oversight on the actions of our law enforcement community or lack thereof concerning the PalMar issues.


We are waiting on code enforcement action. We shall see what happens at the end of August.  PalMar owners have posted on Facebook encouraging the owners to contribute to a legal fund to fight Martin County Code Enforcement. They do not feel that Martin County has the right to tell them they need permits to build on their lots.


I am not surprised as I have been told that what is happening with the code enforcement actions is all my fault.  If PalMar lot owners weren’t doing anything wrong or against Martin County code, there wouldn’t be anything to write home about.


Last weekend more vehicles were stuck on the Gate One access which is FWC property. Vehicles were trespassing on SFWMD land to free the vehicles.  The persons involved do not think it matters that FWC property is actively being destroyed. Does FWC care?


This coming week is packed with meetings with conservation organizations to attempt to assist in finding monies to purchase PalMar land and start to correct the ecological disaster.


Time will tell if anything at PalMar is corrected.

Kyla Shay’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.




After months of speaking with “Ag Deputies,” I finally had the opportunity to have a conversation with Chief Deputy John Budensiek about PalMar.

I thought he would be unfamiliar about the details with Trailside and PalMar, but he was up to speed with the situation. According to Budensiek, his department’s hands are tied because of the way current laws are written. He said the department is helping the county with enforcement regarding illegal buildings and wells. Unfortunately, he said that he is not able to do anything when it comes to shooting.


The big problem, like so much in PalMar, is that no one really knows what parcels belong to whom. Until that is established, how do you enforce trespass? The same goes for even reckless shooting. Unless a deputy sees someone deliberately firing in the direction of Trailside, how could the officer know which rounds belong to any one gun. Budensiek said that when people with guns are confronted by deputies, they claim they are shooting into the ground.


I asked whether it would help if they had better laws regarding the unsafe discharge of firearms. He didn’t think anyone, including Representative John Snyder who is Sheriff Will Snyder’s son, would want to try and pass a law like that. 2nd Amendment rights being sacrosanct.


I agree that the 2nd Amendment is a primary right under our Constitution. Like other rights guaranteed under the Constitution, it is not absolute. You have the right to own and carry a firearm, but you do not have the right to discharge it wherever and whenever you want placing others in jeopardy. It is amazing how we continue to believe we possess all types of rights without any responsibilities.


If this PalMar dispute was just about the county on one side and Gazza and his small owners on the other, it would be interesting but nowhere near as dangerous. There are live rounds going into Trailside and it is only a matter of time before someone is killed. It isn’t a land dispute anymore but a public safety issue.


Unfortunately, according to Budensiek, there is not much they can do. I don’t know if I buy that completely, but to a large extent I do. Then it means in my mind the safety of the Trailside Residents is secondary. I guess that is what is hard to fathom.






Martin County Latest News From The Aug. 7, 2022 Edition




The newsletter asked each candidate to provide a statement on why they wanted to be elected or re-elected. If a candidate did not provide the statement in time to be included, then if their statement comes later, we will publish it as a letter.


Stacey Hetherington (incumbent) District 2 Republican:


One of my Dad’s favorite sayings growing up was, “all I want for you is to be better off than I was.”  That’s exactly what I want for Martin County.  I want future generations to experience the natural beauty I grew up with, while having quality jobs and low taxes so they can call Martin County home.


You have entrusted me to serve nearly 4 years as your District 2 County Commissioner, and I have qualified, by signing petitions, as a candidate for re-election to continue to serve you.

As your representative, I have always prioritized protecting our unique quality of life and putting our tax payers first.


As a third generation Martin County native raising my sons here, I will remain devoted to preserving the character of the small community we have in Martin County.


I understand our challenges we continue to face with our vulnerable waterways which is why I have worked hard to secure funding and solutions to these environmental challenges.  The funding secured to complete water quality projects in Martin County has

One thing I have never forgotten is as your representative, I work for you and those hard earned tax dollars belong to you!


I believe in accountable and transparent government. My top priority has always been to have a local government that is fair, truthful and that works for the betterment of our community


Public Safety and Education are a vital part of our community and I will continue to actively support maintaining the highest standards in both in Martin County.

Solving problems in our neighborhoods and on local roads has been a priority and in fact one of the most enjoyable parts of serving as your representative.   I will continue to work with our neighbors to protect their quality of life.


For these reasons, I am running for RE-ELECTION to continue my service as your District 2 County Commissioner with balance and integrity.  


I would appreciate the opportunity to continue to earn your support.


Together we can continue to keep this community the greatest county in Florida to live, work and play.


T.J. McGowan District 2 Republican:


Did not respond.


Sarah Heard (incumbent) District 4 Republican:


Martin County is different.  My goal is to work in the public’s interest to preserve our special nature.


My straightforward platform is to clean up our water, manage our growth, and keep taxes low.


Clean water here is critical to our health, the health of our ecosystem, and prosperity.  When I first ran for office in 2002, commissioners were blatantly ignoring our deteriorating water quality.  I championed the Indian River Lagoon (IRL) South Plan, our portion of Everglades Restoration, and the IRL South Plan became one of the first federally authorized Everglades Restoration projects.  Since then, hundreds of millions of federal and state dollars have been spent in Martin County to help clean up our waterways.  The Army Corps of Engineers’ 2022 budget for the IRL South Plan is $455 million.  I won’t rest until our water is clean and the Indian River Lagoon is once again the most biodiverse estuary in North America.


Managing growth isn’t a NIMBY contrivance.  It preserves our resources and keeps taxes low.  The Urban Services Boundary is an essential planning tool and a legal requirement.  Urban services like roads, schools, police and fire protection, and potable water and sewer are all very expensive to provide.  The Urban Services Boundary mandates that they are provided only or at higher levels within a compact geographic area.  This keeps the costs of these services manageable, and it preserves our western lands for conservation and bonafide agricultural production.  Allowing urban development clusters willy nilly all over western Martin County makes provision of these urban services wildly expensive and it forever fragments our environment.  Above all, our Comprehensive Plan provides transparent, predictable, and accountable planning mandates, with strong emphasis upon fiscal conservancy.  It puts in place proactive policies that require adherence to sound principles, rather than reacting to market whim.


We are at a crossroads here.  Development pressures have never been greater.  Record numbers of residents from Broward and Palm Beach Counties and New York and Connecticut are fleeing their home in these overcrowded places and taking refuge in Martin County.  Developers are putting immense pressure on commissioners to abandon our award-winning Comprehensive Plan to allow urban sprawl throughout our western lands.


I won’t cave into special interests.  You can rely upon me to continue to represent and advocate and protect the public’s interests.


Douglas Scott Mustapick District 4 Republican:


We’re created to serve. That’s how I was raised and it’s why I’m running for Martin County Commission District 4.


Born and raised in Tequesta by loving, compassionate parents, I honorably served in the U.S. Marines, deploying to Afghanistan in 2012. Today, I work as a Chief Information Officer for a veteran-owned-and-operated home care agency. Solving problems and helping others are what motivates me.


After Afghanistan, I was blessed to return to Martin County and find a home. But that’s not the case for many people. Over the past few years we’ve seen home prices soar. Many young people who grew up in Martin County and long to return remain shut out due to high prices and limited employment opportunities.


Clearly, we need to strengthen our economy and plan for sustainable growth that protects what makes our community special, but enables opportunities for the middle class. Martin County has thankfully always been home to wealthy families—and they pay a large portion of the tax base. But we’ve also always had balance with room for everyone of various means. I fear that’s slipping away.


My opponent—a 22-year career politician—is best known for saying “No.” She even voted “No” on the last county budget even though it had a tax decrease. Perhaps this was just reflex. Or maybe not. She was the only county commissioner to vote to advance the sales tax—and at a time like this!


As inflation increases and gas prices rise, the challenges we face are serious and require a leader who listens and looks for solutions.


My priorities are simple: God, family, and service over self. If you agree, I hope you’ll grant me the honor of your vote.


Thank you for your time.


Though the candidates are listed by the seat they are running to represent, they are elected by every voter in the county.


The next meeting of the county commission will be August 9, 2022.




By Kyla Shay

Trailside HOA President




Over the past two weeks, Martin County Code Enforcement sent out notices of violation to PalMar Property owners.


The county officials started the process in September of 2021, long before Trailside residents addressed the county commissioners and long before our first meeting with staff. Somehow, PalMar property owners feel that their actions are Trailside Homeowner Association’s fault and specifically my fault for being too vocal. If a person is not doing anything wrong or against county & state guidelines, they should not have any problems.


This is not the case with PalMar lot owners and potentially illegal trespassers within PalMar.

The County Code Enforcement issued violations for ponds dug without a permit. Structures built without a permit. A shooting range was cited. That same shooting range is pointed directly within firing distance of Trailside.


We did not ask them to build there. We can all understand they feel that they have property rights. What they are forgetting, is we have property rights also. We have the right to enjoy our property. We have a right to feel secure in our neighborhood. We shouldn’t fear bullets injuring our residents, guests, or cattle.


I have received several telephone calls from PalMar owners who feel that the facts I am reporting are not true. I can assure you they are true. In my first article, it did reference that we are very aware that not all the PalMar lot owners are causing the problems. There are quite a few who are following the rules FWC, Martin County, and SFWMD have set forth for the land.


We have no desire for persons to be forcefully bought out by the state or county. However, in 1991 there was a court decision that stated the PalMar land should be purchased by conservation agencies, SFWMD, Martin and Palm Beach County.


Last week, a group of the surrounding landowners met to discuss what solutions would work best for all of us. In previous discussions, surrounding landowners are having their fences cut, their gate locks cut, and persons are trespassing on their property.


Other landowners have had their land cleared and/or fill added by persons who think the land is theirs.  Cattle are being harassed and harmed when the gates are cut by trespassers with their dogs illegally hog hunting on private property. These actions are what we all need to see stop. These are trespassers who simply do not care that the property is not theirs. They are infringing on the right of adjacent lot owners to farm their land and raise cattle.


It would be nice to see FWC and the Sheriff’s department set up check points on all access to PalMar checking that each truck entering and leaving PalMar has a right to be there by way of their land deed and FWC permit.


We do hope for a solution soon.  Steps are being made in the right direction. We would like to not live in fear. We would like to have our quiet neighborhood without hearing all the ATV’s and Side-By-Side’s tearing up the wetlands.


It would be nice to go back to the time when PalMar was a place where only PalMar lot owners went and quietly went about their business.


Kyla Shay’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.





Martin County Latest News From The July 24, 2022 Edition




The most significant item of the day wasn’t even on the agenda.


During commissioner comments, Ed Ciampi brought up how much the county needs affordable or attainable or workforce housing. That was precipitated by the comments made by advocates for such housing during public comment which Ciampi probably knew were going to be made. Ciampi wanted to keep the ball rolling from the joint meeting last month.

As usual with such a spur of the moment discussion, there were many ideas floated. Doug Smith would like to see focus groups headed by the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council. Ciampi wants to use staff and existing groups and others to move it along.


Heard made it quite clear that taxpayers don’t want to grant any subsidies for such housing nor have it in their backyards. Then she began saying density is not the solution. Too much traffic on the roads and zoning incompatibility were also bywords.


Hetherington wants the private sector involved and, perhaps, the school board. She has constituent families that have had their rents raised. But she believes too much housing is already being built. And non-profits should collaborate.


Jenkins does want an item to come back. He is working with Banner Lake on a community land trust to foster home ownership. Ciampi made a motion to bring back an agenda item that Jenkins seconded. It passed 5-0


At the present, the members of all these committees who are pushing for an answer to the affordable, attainable, and workforce housing shortage have no real experience with operating, building, or maintaining such housing. I have worked with and managed this type of housing using the Section 8 program and other such federal and state programs, and it is daunting. One thing those programs did do was allow the private sector to make money. Alas most of those programs are now history.


On a national level, that is one of the reasons that fewer and fewer units are available at affordable rents. This isn’t the only reason. But This problem will never ever be solved without an infusion of massive federal money. Even states can’t do it, and it is certainly prohibitive for local government to do so.


Sybil was a book in the early 1970s that dealt with a woman that had 29 multiple personalities. Martin County may have that many or more when it comes to its affordable, attainable or workforce housing goals. It can be seen by the commissioners’ comments.

It is not that they are not serious about the task, but it is beyond county or municipal government capabilities. To encourage private sector response, you will need to encourage building of more housing not less. Real estate is where supply and demand make the market. As a glut happens then prices fall, and this is very true of the rental market. Right now, we have nowhere near the number of units needed.


The county can eliminate impact and other fees for those who will commit to a specific number of apartments with rental rates based on an AMI derived formula. They could give a density bonus in their CRAs if the extra apartments had cheaper rents using an AMI derived formula. The more apartments that came under the formula, the more they would be allowed to build up to 30 units per acre.


Every single-family home, regardless of where it is located even within HOAs, could have an accessible dwelling unit that, if rented, would not be subject to increased real estate taxes. The community land trust idea is a good one, but like Habitat for Humanity, it can only build so many homes.


In fact, all these suggestions would eventually lead to more housing options. However, these are stop gap measures without a commitment by the feds to release billions in housing dollars. And that is not likely.


Heard and Smith and, now to a lesser extent, Hetherington are not interested in more housing being built. The City of Stuart did approve more housing for the last few years but has now gone back into its shell and is not likely to come back out for a decade or more. Politicians cannot blame greedy developers and property owners when the reason existing prices are so high is a lack of product.


Government adds about 25% to the cost to build and that doesn’t consider the increased building prices due to more stringent construction codes. The private sector’s motive is profit. Local government can incentivize to some extent, but it cannot do so unless it gets behind a continuous effort to produce these units. They cannot retreat every time people complain about a new project being built.


So, form any committee you want. I would be glad to lend my expertise. Commissioners, just realize you can’t complain about the lack of housing and then do everything in your power to prevent new housing. And if you think by allowing more single-family homes to be developed you are going to solve the existing problem, you are not. That is what will contribute to sprawl.


(As Published In Martin County Moment)


The other item I found interesting was the discussion about the proposed building of the new medical examiner facility.


The current and future facility is used by the entire Treasure Coast. The other three counties, Okeechobee, Indian River, and St. Lucie have agreed to fund design of the new facility. The amount contributed is proportionate by county population. For the design phase only, Martin County’s share is about $225,000.


The design is usually about 10% of the construction costs according to what Don Donaldson, the new county administrator, told the commission. That means when it finally gets around to being built, it will cost Martin County roughly $2,250,000. That is nothing to sneeze at.


The existing medical examiner office has been on IRSC grounds in Fort Pierce for nearly 50 years. The facility is old and may have been adequate in 1975 but the population and therefore the number of examinations necessary have climbed substantially in the intervening years. While I haven’t seen the office, it probably is time for a new facility.


According to a few commissioners, this is an unfunded mandate from the state. I don’t quite understand why except that under FS 406 Part 1, it is necessary for districts to have an examiner. There is a governor-appointed commission to oversee the operation of the medical examiners.


While I may agree that the state should kick in more funds, I don’t know if I would categorize it as an unfunded mandate. The state also requires there is a sheriff’s department and a tax collector’s department in every county. Those officials are paid for by the county. Is that an unfunded mandate?


Ciampi was correct when he said the county can’t opt out. The motion passed 5-0 to authorize the county administrator to sign an agreement up to $225,000 for design. I guess it is tax and election season, and the need for commissioners to make some noise is necessary.




The county budget for this coming year is almost $559 million as compared to last year’s amount of $526.5 million.

One of the highlights according to Jennifer Manning, OMB Director, was that impact fees were higher due to increases mainly from new construction in Stuart and Ocean Breeze. There will be 7 new FTEs (Full Time Employees) 5 of which will be in utilities and solid waste funded by enterprise funds paid by rate users. There are roughly 160,000 people that call Martin County home with almost a third over the age of 65.


The median home value is $352,615. Taxable value of all real estate is $28,124,150,246. The total tax bill for the General Fund (all taxpayers) will be 3.5% less with those in the unincorporated areas including paying their MSTUs will be less by 2.95%.


Fire/Rescue will have 394 FTEs…one more than last year. They are adding an administrative person. Their total budget is $51.9 million about $900,000 more than last year. That comes to about $370 per Martin County resident in the areas that the department responds.


The Sheriff’s Department has 608 FTEs, and of that, 433 are in law enforcement. Their total budget is $86 million which is $7 million more than last year or a 9% increase. That comes to $535 per resident.


It is great that we are receiving a millage reduction. That will result in a $30 reduction for each $1000 paid last year. What is not widely known is that the millage cannot be easily raised in the future if needed due to the convoluted tax system. Because of various rules implemented by Tallahassee, it could take several years for the county to collect once again the $1000.00. It might have been better to put the 3% in a rainy-day fund or use it for capital improvements that were delayed last year.


At one time, it took the commission several days to go through the budget. The public hearing has been reduced to a couple of hours. That doesn’t mean there haven’t been one on one meetings between staff and commissioners. There has.


Some would argue that transparency requires the public to witness commissioners asking questions and more questions on a line-by-line basis. But how many people either watched or were in the chamber during budget hearings in the old days? Transparency means access and if necessary, an appointment can be made with OMB to have questions answered. There may not be endless hours of public meetings, though the public can easily look at the budget and see where the money is allocated.


With today’s budget books being online, it is much more transparent than in the past. It is also much easier to get a handle on trends because of graphs and charts that were never there in the past. Does it really mean anything for the budget of Parks & Recreation’s administrative offices to spend $300 on pencils instead of last year’s budget of $240 for them? Those were the type of questions asked when the budget was presented in the old way.


You can see the entire budget here




By Kyla Shay

Trailside HOA President



With the rain finally arriving in our immediate area, one can clearly see the continued destruction of the preserve areas of PalMar.


Nothing has been done to stop it. Not ONE thing. The photos clearly show the ecological disaster unfolding at PalMar. Yes, we get platitudes of “working on it”. From our side of the canal, it certainly doesn’t seem like there is any work being done on it. There appear to be at least one pond that has been excavated. Where is the permit for the earth moving?

On June 27, 2022, representatives from Trailside Homeowner’s Association attended the PalMar Water Management Board meeting. A formal request was made at that time that the unpermitted culvert placed within The PalMar Water Management Board’s canal adjacent to Trailside be removed. This unpermitted culvert gives access to Trailside’s private lot owner property and the common area of Trailside’s Bridle Paths.

It is a security and safety risk as well as a large liability to let unknown individuals have free access to our community. A PalMar Board member argued that persons may want access into other lots outside of PalMar. He was assured that Trailside did NOT want access into Trailside from PalMar. Our neighborhood was set up with one main entrance for ingress and egress. There is an emergency exit to the west through other properties which has not been utilized during my 16 years at Trailside. This emergency ingress/egress is for periods of storm damage only.


Despite our requests, the culvert remains.  On an official survey of the southern side today, we witnessed ATV tracks on the Trailside bridle paths and the other side of our canal coming from the unpermitted culvert. We visualized the gate which is too high to keep ATV’s out of our neighborhood. In addition, the chain on the gate has three locks on it. We question, WHO has unlimited access to our neighborhood?


We are still waiting on confirmation that Martin County Staff has sent out the letters to owners of PalMar lots who have illegal unpermitted structures and campers on their lots. It was mentioned that they needed to do another survey.


Our initial meeting with Martin County Staff was March 21, 2022. What exactly is the hold up? During this delay, there are now a few additional structures that have been erected or deposited on the PalMar lots.  Also noted are the metal roof trusses and poles for yet another building. These are permanent 24/7 camp residences. When will any enforcement be done: HAVE THE VIOLATIONS GONE OUT?


Hungryland i.e. PalMar Lots have their own Facebook site. The caption to this photo is “No One was hurt”. Is Charlie Armstrong’s fence damaged? What wetlands and natural habitat have been destroyed this week by all the side-by-side, hunting buggies and ATV’s.

I did speak at the SFWMD Board meeting on July 21, 2022. We are seeing a large amount of wading birds that have been injured by the gunfire. During the 4th of July weekend, we could hear PalMar persons yelling between gunfire “If it flies, it dies.” FWC is now aware of the problem as well as SFWMD.


We still hear target shooting every day. It’s not hunting. You do not need an AR-15 or an AK to hunt. Nor do you need exploding targets and ammonium nitrate bombs to hunt. Every day we wait for the bullet that injures or kills one of us or our animals. It is not difficult to see the shooting range aimed at Trailside from the aerial views of PalMar.


When can we expect some forward action from the agencies involved?  We are still waiting.


The platitudes of “we are working on a difficult situation” just does not appease us in the least bit.


Kyla Shay’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.











The chaos continued at this board meeting from the last one.


At some point and I believe as soon as the August 22nd landowners meeting who will hold the contested seat on the board will be decided. Probably it will be George Stokus even though I suspect Mr. Gazza who currently holds the seat will try to remain for as long as he can on the board. In any event there will be a lawsuit that may go on for quite some time. That will not stop the seating of the new board member if I understood the district’s attorney at this chaotic meeting.


PalMar is a water control board. It is an independent district that has taxing authority to maintain the property for the purpose of controlling and directing water flow. The two governmental entities that decide what can and cannot be done for other matters are Martin and Palm Beach Counties. Both have determined that roads, buildings, or other structures have never been or will never be allowed within the district.


I wish I could vote for Palm Beach Commissioner Maria Marino who is not a shrinking violet. She flat out told one speaker that the lot he bought would never have a home or even access to his lot via a road. And that is a tragedy for him but not the fault of the governmental bodies. All you had to do is look at the FLUM to know that or make a quick call to the growth management department.


As to the flooding because of the Bee Line that was mentioned. The PalMar land is supposed to take the water off the road and let it filter down into either the aquifer or make its way south. PalMar once again is a “water control” district and not a recreational park. People who claim that their land is no longer to be used for the purposes they bought it forget what the intended purpose was.


Martin County should have paid all assessments and not been so cute with the PalMar district. Much of what has occurred may have been avoided if they and Palm Beach had never lost control of the board. So now the pieces must be picked up and a semblance of order restored.


Martin County is beginning to do that. There is still the problem of lax law enforcement for a reason only the sheriff’s department can answer. You want to restore law and order the law needs to do so and curb the gun fire that has nothing to do with hunting and everything to do with chaos.

I want to commend County Attorney Sarah Woods for her handling of this mess and trying to steer the county to being back in control. The same thing goes for County Administrator Don Donaldson who needs to keep staff on task and enforce the county’s codes. This is no time to let up on the pressure for any reason. Commissioner Harold Jenkins as the county’s representative is trying his best to hold his temper during these meetings. He is following the advice of counsel and not making any errors that can be used against the county in the coming lawsuit.


And lastly Martin County should not forget what Trailside has and continues to go through because of the chaos of PalMar. These citizens deserve a break because their lives have become chaotic even though they followed the rules. For no other reason, a calmness needs to descend on PalMar, once again.




Martin County Latest News From The July 10, 2022 Edition



Next meeting will be July 12, 2022




By Kyla Shay

Trailside HOA President





This weekend has been active again at Pal-Mar. The residents at Trailside have listened to the rampant ATV engines racing around the Pal-Mar area morning, noon, and night since Friday. The shooting has been extremely active for the weekend also.  Our Board needs to survey the south and east bridle paths for any evidence of destruction or erosion. However, it was not safe. The shooting was too close for comfort in being able to access our own property.


A group of Trailside residents and Board members attended the Pal-Mar Lot Owners yearly meeting for election of the Pal-Mar Water Management Board representatives. It was interesting to witness a remnant of the past.


As we expected, there was a large dissention between the individuals nominated to the Pal-Mar Water District’s Board.  Challenges were issued and no decisions were made.  The subsequent Pal-Mar Water District’s meeting was again with a large amount of controversy.  Special meetings were set up to hopefully deal with their Board issues.


In the Board meeting session, comments were made by a Pal-Mar lot owner. Yes, many people enjoy Pal-Mar. One owner addressing the Board, stated there in an immediate need of talking to the property owners about acceptable behavior. Pal-Mar Water District does not have policing abilities. They depend on FWC and Martin & Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Departments for enforcement.


The comment that a Flak jacket (or bullet proof vest) is needed to visit properties is appropriate with the daily activities witnessed and heard from Trailside. Chairman Bob Berman responded to a prepared statement read from a Trailside Board Member, that Palmar is not doing anything about the ATV’s/ Dune buggies/ Side- by sides tearing up the wetlands. They do not have the ability to police their own. He is of the opinion that these activities will continue unchecked with potentially 5000 different lot owners.


A rebuttal was also done when the Pal-Mar Board discussed illegal unpermitted gates entering onto other properties including Trailside. Zach Gazza responded that others may want them there. One of our board members who was present did speak on this issue.


Trailside was developed as a private, closed community. It is meant to stay private and closed.  We do not wish for an entrance to Pal-Mar. We have our own canals and bridle paths to maintain. We do not wish for the liability of others who have no right to access Trailside causing liability issues.


It appears that Pal-Mar Water District has only board members insurance coverage. We did request a copy of Pal-Mar Water District’s insurance policy. We shall see if it is forthcoming. I am relatively certain that no general liability policy exists.


Also reviewed at the meeting was a Pal-Mar Region wetland/ sensitive land survey done by Engineer Bob Higgins that stated no damage had been done due to no activity out there. His report was challenged by Palm Beach County Commissioner Maria Marino. It befuddles me to see an engineer’s report of no damage in Pal-Mar. Perhaps, he was talking about the Pal-Mar Water Districts works, but even those have been damaged. Dune Buggies buried up to the axles on the Pal-Mar Water District Canal banks are an example.  When was the last time, Mr. Higgins went to Pal-Mar?


In watching the meeting and subsequent disagreements, it struck me that in addition to being a remnant of the past, wetland & sensitive land protection rules are not being enforced within Pal-Mar. In today’s rules for land in Florida, the property is not developable for residential units.

To my mind, this means the State of Florida and Martin County/Palm Beach County have failed to rectify a disaster in the making. Yes, all three entities have purchased tracts of land and lots within Pal-Mar in the past. However, the process is too slow and cumbersome. With the land prices within Pal-Mar driven to very high levels considering the inability to develop of the area, this process is approaching nonexistent.


This last week upon returning to Trailside, I found an interesting “note” painters taped to our gate’s keypad.  I’m not sure how to take it: threat, warning, or a head up about a previous business plan. I’ll let the readers decide.  This all goes right back to buyer beware. Undevelopable land is undevelopable land with rules of what you can do there attached.



Kyla Shay’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.





At the annual meeting of the Pal-Mar landowners, it did not take long for the fireworks to begin.


Martin County, Palm Beach County, and the South Florida Water Management District own the vast majority of acreage in the Pal-Mar Water Control District. The seat on the board that was up for election is currently held by Zack Gazza who owns “Be A Man Buy Land.” And that was the first point of contention.


George Stokus, Assistant County Administrator, was nominated by Harold Jenkins for the seat. Gazza decided to nominate himself stating that he has done a fabulous job. When the votes were counted Stokus had 6480 and Gazza 3218. That is when Gazza and Chair Berman began their contesting of the vote. Of course, one contestation begets another, so both Palm Beach County and Martin County did the same.


The legal reasons do make all the difference. And both sides raised their arguments. I would imagine that at some point this is going to court and will be settled there. There will be a resumption of the landowners annual meeting on August 22nd to try to ascertain which votes should be counted.


What I didn’t understand was why Gazza remains on the board if the voting for that seat is contested. If I were Palm Beach and Martin County, I would immediately seek to have him removed until the results of the election are known. The district’s attorney cited statute that if a replacement is not found then the person stays in place until the successor is found. That interpretation makes no sense. Since by Gazza contesting the results, he remains in the seat until it is settled even though, if it holds up, he lost by a 2 to 1 ratio.

As an aside, the chair isn’t much of a chair. Gazza seems to run the meeting and I hear no objections from either the Palm Beach or Martin County representatives. There are no rules of order, and it seems no need for any with things just moving along as Gazza sees fit.


And lastly there is a perception from some of the smaller landowners that they are being taken advantage of by the government. There is a fundamental misunderstanding of the district’s purpose. It is a water control district and nothing more. In Martin County, the county is in control of all government functions from planning to law enforcement.


By being on the board, Martin County represents its citizens who are the actual purchasers of the land which was done to protect sensitive lands from being destroyed. Pal-Mar was not a ranch or farm but always a flow way.


The county needs to begin acting as the government and enforce the law. For too long, it has neglected to do so resulting in this mess.


And I don’t blame Gazza for his stance. He has a huge financial interest in preserving the status quo. He is not evil. He is attempting to sell the American dream through his company named “Be A Man Buy Land.”


The difference is Martin County represents the people’s interest which is to preserve a place for native habitat and a water retention area and flow way. Pal-Mar is not a recreational area. It is not meant to have ATVs. pick-ups, and campers crisscross its boundaries. In other words, it is no River Ranch.





Martin County Latest News From The June 26, 2022 Edition




The newsletter asked each candidate to provide a statement on why they wanted to be elected or re-elected. If a candidate did not provide the statement in time to be included, then if their statement comes later, we will publish it as a letter.


Stacey Hetherington (incumbent) District 2 Republican:

One of my Dad’s favorite sayings growing up was, “all I want for you is to be better off than I was.”  That’s exactly what I want for Martin County.  I want future generations to experience the natural beauty I grew up with, while having quality jobs and low taxes so they can call Martin County home.


You have entrusted me to serve nearly 4 years as your District 2 County Commissioner, and I have qualified, by signing petitions, as a candidate for re-election to continue to serve you.


As your representative, I have always prioritized protecting our unique quality of life and putting our tax payers first.


As a third generation Martin County native raising my sons here, I will remain devoted to preserving the character of the small community we have in Martin County.


I understand our challenges we continue to face with our vulnerable waterways which is why I have worked hard to secure funding and solutions to these environmental challenges.  The funding secured to complete water quality projects in Martin County has

One thing I have never forgotten is as your representative, I work for you and those hard earned tax dollars belong to you!


I believe in accountable and transparent government. My top priority has always been to have a local government that is fair, truthful and that works for the betterment of our community


Public Safety and Education are a vital part of our community and I will continue to actively support maintaining the highest standards in both in Martin County.

Solving problems in our neighborhoods and on local roads has been a priority and in fact one of the most enjoyable parts of serving as your representative.   I will continue to work with our neighbors to protect their quality of life.


For these reasons, I am running for RE-ELECTION to continue my service as your District 2 County Commissioner with balance and integrity.  


I would appreciate the opportunity to continue to earn your support.


Together we can continue to keep this community the greatest county in Florida to live, work and play.


T.J. McGowan District 2 Republican:


Did not respond.


Sarah Heard (incumbent) District 4 Republican:

Martin County is different.  My goal is to work in the public’s interest to preserve our special nature.


My straightforward platform is to clean up our water, manage our growth, and keep taxes low.


Clean water here is critical to our health, the health of our ecosystem, and prosperity.  When I first ran for office in 2002, commissioners were blatantly ignoring our deteriorating water quality.  I championed the Indian River Lagoon (IRL) South Plan, our portion of Everglades Restoration, and the IRL South Plan became one of the first federally authorized Everglades Restoration projects.  Since then, hundreds of millions of federal and state dollars have been spent in Martin County to help clean up our waterways.  The Army Corps of Engineers’ 2022 budget for the IRL South Plan is $455 million.  I won’t rest until our water is clean and the Indian River Lagoon is once again the most biodiverse estuary in North America.


Managing growth isn’t a NIMBY contrivance.  It preserves our resources and keeps taxes low.  The Urban Services Boundary is an essential planning tool and a legal requirement.  Urban services like roads, schools, police and fire protection, and potable water and sewer are all very expensive to provide.  The Urban Services Boundary mandates that they are provided only or at higher levels within a compact geographic area.  This keeps the costs of these services manageable, and it preserves our western lands for conservation and bonafide agricultural production.  Allowing urban development clusters willy nilly all over western Martin County makes provision of these urban services wildly expensive and it forever fragments our environment.  Above all, our Comprehensive Plan provides transparent, predictable, and accountable planning mandates, with strong emphasis upon fiscal conservancy.  It puts in place proactive policies that require adherence to sound principles, rather than reacting to market whim.


We are at a crossroads here.  Development pressures have never been greater.  Record numbers of residents from Broward and Palm Beach Counties and New York and Connecticut are fleeing their home in these overcrowded places and taking refuge in Martin County.  Developers are putting immense pressure on commissioners to abandon our award-winning Comprehensive Plan to allow urban sprawl throughout our western lands.


I won’t cave into special interests.  You can rely upon me to continue to represent and advocate and protect the public’s interests.


Douglas Scott Mustapick District 4 Republican:



We’re created to serve. That’s how I was raised and it’s why I’m running for Martin County Commission District 4.


Born and raised in Tequesta by loving, compassionate parents, I honorably served in the U.S. Marines, deploying to Afghanistan in 2012. Today, I work as a Chief Information Officer for a veteran-owned-and-operated home care agency. Solving problems and helping others are what motivates me.


After Afghanistan, I was blessed to return to Martin County and find a home. But that’s not the case for many people. Over the past few years we’ve seen home prices soar. Many young people who grew up in Martin County and long to return remain shut out due to high prices and limited employment opportunities.


Clearly, we need to strengthen our economy and plan for sustainable growth that protects what makes our community special, but enables opportunities for the middle class. Martin County has thankfully always been home to wealthy families—and they pay a large portion of the tax base. But we’ve also always had balance with room for everyone of various means. I fear that’s slipping away.


My opponent—a 22-year career politician—is best known for saying “No.” She even voted “No” on the last county budget even though it had a tax decrease. Perhaps this was just reflex. Or maybe not. She was the only county commissioner to vote to advance the sales tax—and at a time like this!


As inflation increases and gas prices rise, the challenges we face are serious and require a leader who listens and looks for solutions.


My priorities are simple: God, family, and service over self. If you agree, I hope you’ll grant me the honor of your vote.


Thank you for your time.


Though the candidates are listed by the seat they are running to represent, they are elected by every voter in the county.




Representatives from Brightline gave a presentation to the commission regarding the work being done in Martin County.


Almost everything that people fear, the double tracking, horns, and safety issues today that seem insurmountable will not be such big problems in the future. Whether or not Martin County has a station or not, while important, will be decided at some point. The only issue that will grow in importance is the bridge over the St. Lucie.

We learned from Brightline that they will install a bridge tender at the site. That is something that will be needed. There is anticipated to be 32 passenger trains and up to 14 freight trains a day. That means a lot of boat traffic will be inconvenienced.


Brightline has said that they will refurbish the bridge. New mechanical parts will be installed. The structure is still a hundred years old and using technology from that period.


When the bridge is down, the only thing at 6-foot depth that can go under it are the smallest of vessels like skiffs, rowboats, and the smallest of power boats with their tops down. Even with the new bridge which will be erected using government money (if Brightline secures the money) will only accommodate less than 70% of the boat traffic when it is in the closed position. Is that what we need for the next hundred years?


If we are going after state and federal money, shouldn’t we get a bridge that will accommodate us through this century and beyond? What is being proposed is already inadequate to meet the needs of Martin County. Brightline had plans for a bridge that would be on par with the new Roosevelt Bridge. I saw the preliminary drawings. What happened?


We have been let down by our state and federal officials not securing the funding and really lobbying for something that is crucial for our city and county. There is something wrong when our own representatives won’t do anything to help. Brightline is coming, they have said as much. Their trains and the infrastructure they ride on will be state of the art. The only thing lacking will be the part that matters most…the bridge over the river.


On another matter, the county will be buying almost 30 acres from KL Waterside for their new public works complex.


The parcel is located on Kanner Highway and SW 96th Street. The price is $120,000 per acre for a total of $3,576,360. The county will also pay for creating the entrance to the lot off Kanner.




As I have written in the past, the Rural Lifestyle designation has had insufficient public vetting.

What I was hoping to see was the same thing that occurred with the CRA changes. Or an even better example of what to do would be Kiplinger’s Newfield project. Months and months of community meetings were held to get resident buy-in. And in both instances, the approval process went smoothly when it finally came to the commission.


This week, Discovery once again came back to the commission for consideration. The opposition was out in full force ready to do battle. In the interim since it was last tabled, no community meetings were held. The only thing that occurred at this meeting was more opposition and it was more vociferous. Is anyone surprised by this?


There were three agenda items devoted to the project. In each instance the commission tabled the item to sometime in the future. And the developer had no choice to do this or see failure of his project to be approved. This is an example on how not to get approval for a project or a new land designation.


I am afraid that the developer and owner along with his consultants did not have a handle on what needed to be done. The Discovery project itself was, and hopefully still is, a good proposal for Martin County. Even the Rural Lifestyle land use could be beneficial (with a new name) for our western lands. Everyone just needs to do the work.


If the work had been done 18 months ago by having those informational meetings and community outreach, the project might have been approved by now. Instead, everyone was in too much of a hurry which has only made everything less certain to happen.


Developing in Martin County is like building the pyramids…it proceeds at a glacial pace. There is no skipping of steps. Success comes with months of preparation and community involvement…just ask Knight Kiplinger. I hope we haven’t thrown out the baby with the bathwater.




By Kyla Shay

Trailside HOA President



And the rampant shooting at Pal-Mar continues.


This past week, we had our first documented human injury.  As a resident of Trailside was walking her horses out to their pasture, the gunfire erupted very close to Trailside’s southern boundary.  This is where Pal-Mar is.


Horses have two responses to being scared:  fight or flight. As the horse was on a lead line, the “flight” option was eliminated.  He chose to strike out at another nearby horse and when the resident blocked that strike, the horse struck at her head.  Thankfully, she managed to get her arm up to block the blow.


From my view on my adjacent lot, it appeared as if the horse had kicked her in the head.  The injury to her forearm is significant bruising.  No fracture, or worse…THIS time.


Martin County Sheriff’s department was called. A report was taken.  No one was in Pal-Mar again, but that is no surprise to us.  This event is what we have been concerned about all along.  Someone being injured or killed.  Someone being shot.  Animals being shot.  Animals injuring themselves by running through fences.  Our sensible pleas have been ignored.


When the sheriff’s department responded a report was taken (see below).  I have redacted all pertinent identifying information from the report for privacy reasons. However, as you can see the conclusion is CASE CLOSED. It does not matter that the shooting caused a resident to be injured by a horse.  The underlying tone of the sheriff’s department is Trailside residents are being overly sensitive. Yes, we are hesitant to call anything in. There is nothing they will do to help us anyway. Platitudes of Florida law prohibits us from doing anything. They have a right to enjoy their property. And the list goes on.


However, we did notice a pattern of behavior.  The last few times we have called for sheriff’s dispatch to Trailside about the shooting, it stops as soon as the deputies are dispatched.  This leads us to believe that the sheriff’s dispatch system is compromised.  The persons at Pal-Mar are “listening.”  It also makes us wonder if it is persons who are actually law enforcement utilizing Pal-Mar as their personal playground.  Is this why the sheriff’s department is not able or willing to do anything to stop the terrorization of our neighborhood?  Is this why the sheriff’s department is stating there are no rules for what the shooters are doing in Pal-Mar?


In past years, Pal-Mar has always been the “private” hunting ground, (hidden jewel) for Martin County governmental employees.  Unfortunately, Google Earth blew their hidden jewel wide open. Lots started being sold in great quantities with promises of 8000+ acres of a private playground.  Those promises are not true.  It is not 8000+ acres of free playground.


These are individually held lots that have been destroyed by ATV’s, side-by-sides, and dune buggies.  Land owned by SFWMD, Martin County and the State has been destroyed.  It will be taxpayer’s money that eventually is used to restore these delicate wetlands.  It will take years for the decimation of the wildlife to be replenished, if ever.  What wildlife is left has fled to northerly Trailside lands or easterly, across Pratt Whitney Road to “Nine Gems,” a public equestrian area.


I did receive a response from the office of Governor DeSantis.  Unfortunately, whoever screens his mail and e-mail does not have competent reading comprehension skills nor decisive action aptitude.  My complaint was instead referred to the Condo, HOA and Time Share division of Florida’s government.


Their response… we cannot help you with this.  But if you have an election recall issue, we are here for you.  Please follow the following process. This was not exactly the response we were hoping to receive.


I attended the South Florida Water Management Board meeting in Palm Beach County last week.  I did speak at the general comment session about the problems that are within Pal-Mar, and which threaten Trailside.   Hopefully, Trailside will see some resolution via the SFWMD.


The Department of Environmental Protection has not responded to queries on what their investigation has shown.  I do not have any hope that any of the governmental agencies which are in place to protect us will help.


My question to Martin County, the State of Florida law enforcement, and governmental agencies:



























Kyla Shay’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.




Sometimes things come down to dollars and cents. And sometimes it is more than that.


According to the tax assessor’s records, the Trailside community has a total market value of $26,417,535. The assessed value for the 41 parcels is $13,741,722, and the taxable value is $12,741,000. It is no Jupiter Island by any stretch, but Trailside residents pay a considerable sum…more than most other communities do. It would seem that they pay enough to be able to be protected from random gunfire from Pal-Mar.


Some time ago, I had a guy break into our home while we were sleeping. I called Stuart PD and they responded in about 3 minutes. I chased the guy out and I never really felt in danger. When they arrived, the police did a search of the neighborhood and had one of their dogs track the intruder’s scent until it ended after a few blocks. The police bagged the guy’s hat, which he lost on my back porch, as evidence.


They never caught him. I didn’t expect that they would. I did expect a law enforcement department to respond and take the crime seriously. Stuart PD did do that, and I felt that if something more serious had occurred, my safety would be good hands.


My thief didn’t brandish a weapon. He didn’t utter a threat or, for that matter, a word. It was an unfortunate event but not a life threatening one.


Trailside is bombarded with life threatening events. Gunfire goes on day after day and night after night from nearby Pal-Mar. When those residents call the sheriff’s office, they may get a response not in minutes but in hours…many hours. By contrast, I was made to feel as someone who had been a victim of a crime by Stuart PD. Trailside residents feel as though they are imposing on their law enforcement by even asking for help.



The residents of Trailside are starting to believe there is more here than meets the eye. If you live there, you don’t feel that law enforcement is there to protect and serve. In her article in this issue, Kyla Shay, the president of the HOA, has doubts about the integrity of the sheriff’s department. I am not ready to go there yet, but it is now in my mind.

If the citizens lose trust in those that are entrusted to use lethal force and make arrests, then they are no longer the servants of the people but the oppressors. Are the sheriff and deputies there to help or are they part of the problem? When the residents begin asking that question, then should we begin looking for others who will serve and protect. Isn’t that why we pay taxes?





Martin County Latest News From The June 12, 2022 Edition





Joint meetings are usually a dull affair, but recently they have had a theme. This week’s theme was how to build housing for the homeless, workforce housing, working poor, etc.


Most of this population is commonly known as the ALICE population. It stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed individuals and families. They live paycheck to paycheck. Most make too much to qualify for any subsidies. These are the people who wash our dishes, work as clerks in our stores, and some are even teachers and other government workers.


There is no doubt that the need is great. Just like the housing needs are in St. Lucie County, Palm Beach County, Florida, and the entire country. And there were many speakers who told of the need.

Ed Ciampi, who got this placed on the agenda, gave the presentation. He too had all the right phrases and catchwords. Ciampi is calling his program the Starfish Initiative from a children’s story.


Recognition of the need is the first step. But what I didn’t hear was any solid proposal for moving the initiative forward. I heard phrases such as “tools in the toolbox” and “we need to do everything possible.” What does “everything” really mean. Stuart’s Meier elaborated on Florida’s pre-emption of localities being allowed to require a percentage of units in a new project to be devoted to this population. They can only do so if the government reimbursed the developer the costs of the subsidy.


Both political and economic capital must be spent to accomplish even the smallest progress. Immediately, the county and Stuart could authorize accessory dwelling units as of right in one-family neighborhoods. While that would not solve the problem alone, it could help young people and seniors to find affordable apartments. You can read about such units here


There needs to be federal funds made available to have much of an impact. They can consist of tax credits, Section 8 funding, and other grants that could help make progress toward helping the ALICE population. I ask again…is there the political will in Martin County? Maybe we will find out.




Could there be a little light at the end of the tunnel for the people of Trailside and the rest of us in the county regarding the anarchy known as the Pal-Mar Water District. I hope so.


Martin County will once again have a seat at the table on that district’s board which will be Commissioner Jenkins. Palm Beach County has one of the seats for a member of their county commission. The other three seats are for landowners. As one of the largest landowners, Martin County has a lot of votes. The agenda item at this meeting was to transfer a 25% interest in one of the lots to Assistant County Administrator George Stokus.

Stokus will then be eligible to become a board member of Pal-Mar if elected. The deed will only be in effect if he remains a county employee. This is something Martin County has done in the past. Stokus would stand in for the people of Martin County that have invested millions to own land in Pal-Mar to preserve it and not as is happening currently having that land destroyed.


How much damage that has been done to this ecological sensitive property is hard to know at present. This is due to what has happened by those that believe they have the right to kill every animal, drive pick-ups, and four wheelers anywhere they want. As a by-product they indiscriminately shoot thousands of rounds into the Trailside subdivision. This should have never happened, and I hope our commission won’t let it happen again.


The motion was made by Jenkins and seconded by Heard. It passed 5-0.


Patti Page had a best-selling record when I was a child entitled “Doggie In The Window.” For most city kids their exposure to puppies were through the windows of pet stores. In the song as well as the window, we were told to look for the animal with the waggly tail. Though my family never had a dog when I was young and only briefly as I became older, I always looked through the window and smiled.


Little did I understand how much those cute little animals’ lives were not what I thought. In recent years, many counties and towns have outlawed the sale of dogs and cats through pet stores. If you want a pure bred, then you should go to a reputable breeder that can give you papers proving the dog’s heritage. You are paying thousands of dollars for that pet, and you want to make sure it is as healthy as possible.

Martin County is the last place on the Treasure Coast that pet stores are allowed to sell dogs, cats, and rabbits. Two such stores opened in the past year prompting the county to do something. It also must institute the ordinance prior to July 1st in order not to trigger a new pre-emption from the state allowing businesses to demand compensation if a new ordinance affects them.


At the last Animal Care & Control Board meeting (full disclosure my wife is a member) they recommended that the commission out law the sale of dogs, cats, and rabbits and allow the existing stores one year to come into compliance. The timeline of a year was debated by the members with some wanting six-months. The stores would be able to facilitate adoptions of animals by aligning with recue groups but could not make any money off the adoption.


The county working closely with Stuart, where the two stores are located, and other municipalities will have the ordinance be county wide with municipalities opting out if they desire. All animal control is handled by the sheriff. Making enforcement of this ordinance their responsibility.


Ciampi thought the year was too long so his motion to accept was for 6 months and included unannounced inspections of the entire stores by animal control. The motion was seconded by Heard and passed 5-0.


Speaking of animals…there was also a chance to bring backyard chickens to outside rural Martin County. No fear the idea was not well received except by Ciampi so went nowhere.


The commission also approved having the distance from a school that a sex offender can live being increased from 1000 feet to 2500 feet. The measurement will be a straight line from house to school. If they presently live between 1000 and 2500 feet those offenders will be grandfathered. However, if they seek a new residence, they must be 2500 feet.


Landlords are now responsible for running a background check on tenants to make sure a sex offender is not living within the statute’s prescribed distances. If the offender is registering with the sheriff’s office as they are supposed to do why is the owner of a property responsible to make sure that the offender is obeying the law?


The motion passed 5-0.








This was going to be the meeting where the residents of Trailside received some answers about their ongoing problems with the Pal-Mar shooters. I have named these miscreants as the “Hole in the Wall” gang of Martin County.

If nothing else, Martin County administration is taking this seriously. The incoming County Administrator, Don Donaldson, ran the meeting. John Maehl, the Ecosystem Restoration and Management Manager, was there. So was County Attorney Sarah Woods. The district commissioner, Harold Jenkins, was away but he sent his executive aide, Colleen Pachowicz.


The wheels of government are slow. To correct what is going on in Pal-Mar will take a while to accomplish. The county is working methodically, and for those who live in Trailside, it will never be fast enough.


It seems the county will be code enforcing the worst and most easy to prove offenders first…those who are clearly in violation such as constructing buildings. One of the reasons that it takes so long is that there isn’t a plat system but rather everything is by metes and bounds. To legally go after the owner, a survey must be done to make sure they are enforcing at the right “address.” This is going to take up to a year to go before the magistrate for a hearing and receive a judgement. A year of living in Trailside with thousands of rounds being fired in your direction is an interminable time.


For the past few years, the county has not had a seat on the Pal-Mar board because of a taxing dispute. That hopefully has been resolved. With the Martin County seat back and then another seat because of the vast acreage that is owned by the county, more order can be introduced to the lawless area. A little hope at least.


Martin County should also be bidding at every tax sale. It doesn’t matter that there are private individuals bidding outrageous sums. The county’s goal is to stop the degradation of environmentally sensitive lands. Isn’t it cheaper than having staff spend thousands of hours this way?


Perhaps an examination of the business practices that allow the breakup of these lots by the state is in order. Representative Snyder and Senator Harrell need to bring the case to FDLE and Governor DeSantis’ administration


While slow, at least the county has a plan to tackle this problem. Who apparently has no plan is the sheriff. It is being treated as “no big deal and nothing we can do.” While Martin County sent their deciders to this meeting, there was no such person representing the sheriff’s department.


Sheriff Snyder was not there, nor his Chief Deputy, John Budensiek. Nor was any major, captain, lieutenant or even sergeant. There was a lone deputy that is one of those who patrol out there when called.

Usually if there is a situation where there is increased crime in a neighborhood, law enforcement responds by increasing patrols where it is occurring. Someone stealing valuables in cars or even breaking into people’s homes during the day when the homes are unoccupied to take jewelry and electronics is bad. Isn’t someone shooting hundreds of rounds indiscriminately in your direction worse? The one thing both Martin County staff and Trailside residents could all agree with was that if the shooting could be curtailed, the condition of Pal-Mar would immediately improve.


With helicopters, drones, more deputies, and other technology, this problem would be infinitely better. When are the Trailside residents going to receive the same law enforcement protection as the Palm City residents have received against the pillowcase bandits? In both cases, those committing the acts are overwhelmingly from outside the area. The differences are one group is stealing valuables and the other shooting at people.


By Kyla Shay

Trailside HOA President



Pal-Mar – Another Week to Endure

This past Memorial Day weekend was again a long weekend to survive.


Saturday’s shooting was extremely close to Trailside’s boundary. Without backstops, we never know when one of our buildings, animals or ourselves may be shot. We have no idea which direction the shots are headed in. With the previous building damage, the large amount of expended bullets littering our bridle path and (adjoining) south canal, we have cause to be extremely concerned.


We have asked the Sheriff’s Department for assistance many times. We call 911.  Most likely we will not have a response from a deputy to even take a report. We log our calls. When we question the Sheriff’s Department, we are told “if a deputy doesn’t respond to your address for a report, file a complaint” or, “are you stating you want a deputy to respond?”  Calling 911 and asking for a deputy as the shooting is close by and we don’t feel safe, means a deputy should respond.  This is one reason why the 911 system was created!


Emails to the Sheriff go unanswered.  When we asked for a meeting with Martin County Staff and Sheriff Snyder, a deputy was sent in the sheriff’s place. It is not the deputy’s fault he was sent, but where is the sheriff? Our concerns are obviously not his priority.


A few weeks ago, I was told to expect a telephone call from Sheriff Snyder. It’s been three weeks now. My telephone has not rung with a call from Sheriff Snyder. Trailside’s opinion is the Martin County Sheriff’s Department won’t do much, or anything, to help us until someone is seriously injured or killed and maybe not even then. Our opinion has not changed from our two fruitless meetings with Martin County staff and the sheriff’s department.


Certain structures of the Pal-Mar Water Management District are being used as elevated shooting towers and to also view racetracks for ATV’s, “side-by-sides,” and trucks.  In the last two weeks, a friend of a Pal-Mar lot owner took his dune buggy out to Pal-Mar.  It sunk to its axles in the sand of the ditch.  Eventually, it was dug out. What damage was done to the district’s property?


Is anyone from the Pal-Mar Water District honoring their responsibilities? Do they even care about damage to their ditches and easement? Trailside HOA would like a copy of Pal-Mar Water Management District’s liability policy. The district themselves are courting danger and liability by allowing activities on their property which are endangering Trailside lot owners and causing property damage within our borders.


Shots fired can cause a horse to bolt, startle or throw their rider. Would YOU ride a horse under these conditions? Shots entering our borders have caused property damage. Every day when we hear the shooting, we wonder if today will be the day one of us is shot and perhaps killed. The district’s stance on ignoring their own responsibilities and liabilities makes the entire district, including top management, complicit for the damage being caused.


Last week, persons within Pal-Mar shot into prepared, activated Tannerite®. It causes a loud percussion, a shock wave.  For those who are not aware of the Tannerite reaction when a bullet is shot into it, think…bomb.  The sound is extremely loud.  The ground shakes all around.

Here are a couple of short YouTube videos so you can better grasp the situation




We have horses and cattle. The recent explosions caused the animals to startle and bolt within their pastures. Several horses ran into fences. The cows actually ran through a couple of fences into adjacent pastures. Why is this being allowed within Pal-Mar?


THIS IS NOT A GAME. This is not fun for us. Is it even legal to discharge Tannerite outside of a designated detonation area?  It seems the lot owners/guests/invitees of Pal-Mar are deliberately being disruptive and dangerous to Trailside residents and our animals.


Further, FWC is responsible, and accountable, for allowing persons into Pal-Mar.  Are they monitoring that only legal lot owners are utilizing the property and the access road?  In the past, lot owners had to have a key to let themselves in.  Now the gate is open. Anyone can enter with impunity. I have left five messages for FWC Management in our area. I have yet to get a return telephone call.  Emails also go unanswered. And I have logged all my calls and e-mails.


We have met with Martin County Staff. They are working on this multi-faceted problem. However, will it be fast enough to save our lives? The wheels of the legal process move very slowly at any governmental level.


Trailside lot owners who are here legally have serious concerns. We are concerned about our health and safety. We too pay our taxes to Martin County.  A county which has a responsibility to “protect and serve,” to ensure we are treated equally and fairly with a right to our safety and security.


Kyla Shay’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.


Martin County’s Own “Hole In The Wall”


The legislature passed a bill that the governor signed into law which increases the penalties for those convicted of committing a burglary outside their home county. It was sponsored by our own Representative John Snyder in reaction to criminals coming to Martin County from down south. The famous “pillowcase” bandits.


I don’t know if it will stop the thefts, but if they are caught by Sheriff Snyder (John’s dad) and his deputies and convicted, then they will stay behind bars a little longer. It probably will be beneficial for us, so I am for it. And if there is one thing the sheriff has been, it is insistent that those coming from Miami/Dade or Broward pay the price of invading Martin County and committing mayhem even of the non-violent kind.


The sheriff even has what is known as the “Tact Team” to arrest those from other places accused of crimes here. Again, I believe a good use of taxpayer dollars to protect the citizens of Martin County. That is why we spend millions of dollars on law enforcement each year so that we can feel safe.


Now imagine out-of-county criminals breaking the law in another way. They come to Martin County every week from down south. Instead of breaking into someone’s home and burglarizing it, they threaten residents by indiscriminately shooting thousands of rounds which penetrate people’s fields, yards, barns, and homes. So far, no wounds or deaths but it is only a matter of time. This is what the homeowners of Trailside must deal with.


Trailside is an old equestrian community just north of Martin County’s very own “hole in the wall,” known as Pal-Mar. The original “hole in the wall” is in northern Johnson County in Wyoming. During the late 19th and early 20th century it was where Butch Cassidy and his gang and other criminals held up between hold ups. Lawmen seldom ventured through the pass much as Martin County deputies seldom venture to catch the lawbreakers of Pal-Mar.


The sheriff’s department response to the residents of Trailside is that they cannot do anything about this mayhem. They cite a lack of a statute to stop this craziness. Local governments have been pre-empted from any regulation of firearms.


Whoever thought that supposedly law-abiding Martin County would have its own lawless enclave filled with Dade and Broward residents able to do anything they want with impunity. The “bandits” destroy the homeowners of Trailside’s peace and their ability to be safe in their homes. Pal-Mar with thousands of acres of biological and ecological sensitive lands has become the home to destruction. Martin County supposedly the home of staunch environmentalist is ignoring the destruction of Florida wetlands.

The department has told the Trailside residents that they can’t know who is firing the indiscriminate shots. The perpetrators of this free-for-all are people that have decided not only to disregard common sense gun safety but also destroy the wetlands of Pal-Mar with their vehicles and four wheelers. They are building cabins on their ¼ acre tracts without permits (no permits are permitted under zoning) and moving dirt even though that isn’t allowed.


The sheriff is a very religious man. He often talks about his faith and even when he presented to the commission about allocating funds for body cameras, he spoke about how he prayed before making his decision. Perhaps he should pray about his decision to do nothing for his constituents at Trailside. If the indiscriminate shooting continues by those from out of county, Snyder may be praying at a resident’s funeral.


(As Published in Martin County Moment)





Martin County Latest News From The May 22, 2022 Edition




Sheriff Snyder and his entourage made a presentation to the commission regarding body cameras. He said it was a discussion of policy, but there was no doubt where this policy was headed.


Snyder said, “Today everyone lies.” Unfortunately, that is the truth. Law enforcement personnel are often reluctant to engage. The use of body cameras by deputies and supervisors in other jurisdictions has proven that there is a dramatic reduction in complaints by the public claiming some sort of improper behavior.

Most of the surrounding jurisdictions have them in use. I am surprised it has taken Snyder so long to request the appropriation to outfit his department. With the additional people needed, it will cost over a million dollars a year for the cameras. The department will not own the equipment but lease from Axion. The sheriff explained that most departments do it this way. Axion provides new cameras every 30 months and is responsible for maintenance and upkeep.


After a long soliloquy, Ciampi agreed that it was money well spent. Jenkins agreed as did the rest of the commissioners. Kryzda and her team were tasked to work with the sheriff to accomplish it. It passed 5-0.


There was a quick hearing on the ½ cent sales tax for the purchase of sensitive lands such as in Pal-Mar. The gist of the commission’s sentiment was that it was a fine idea whose time had not yet come. Due to inflation and the state of the economy, this was not the right time. Commissioners heard that from their constituents.


Commissioner Heard’s constituent feedback was just the opposite with her followers wanting the sales tax to buy the sensitive properties. She made a motion to have the sales tax, and it died for lack of a second.


Ciampi once again mentioned using a portion of the real estate tax proceeds from the Discovery Project to fund the buying of land. At the moment, this funding mechanism is the only way this will happen. However, even after approved, any ad valorem tax will not be available for several years.


The commission unanimously approved Don Donaldson’s contract to be the next administrator. His salary will be $220,000 per year. The contract mirrors the one that was approved for Kryzda last year. It will run for one year.


You can see it here




Forty years ago, Martin County had many undeveloped tracks of land including the eastern part of the county along Federal Highway.

One of the tracks that was platted and assigned land uses was a parcel in northern Martin County on Federal which encompassed acres and acres. It was known then as a DRI (Development of Regional Impact.) Those were substantial proposed developments that would affect the “character, magnitude or location, would have a substantial effect upon the health, safety, or welfare of citizens of more than one County.”


Over the years, many acres of this DRI were developed. No doubt, many of the residents in these developments do not even realize that their homes are part of this. The 40.5-acre West Jensen CPUD is part of it. A land use change from industrial to residential and commercial was being requested by the owner of the property.


The area is off Federal and Goldenrod. The developer is asking for 8 units per acre. A small part of the land will be used for general commercial. Some nearby residents are anxious about what was going to be built, but the development area was decided a couple of generations ago. The owners as of right could put anything from a junk yard to a factory. What is currently being proposed is ultimately a better solution.


A motion was made by Heard and seconded by Jenkins. It passed 4-0 with Smith absent.


A final site plan approval was given to KL Waterside for an industrial use. It is located on SW 96th Street and Kanner Highway. The facility is expected to employ 400 people.  It passed 4-0


Commissioner Smith asked Martin County Utilities to compare the county’s water with different bottled waters. The utility would measure impurities and chemical compounds. As expected, the county’s water scored just the same as the bottled water except it is much less expensive. The cost to the consumer is less than ½ cent per gallon.


While I have Stuart water, it is equally as good as the county. In our household, we use it for everything from cooking to drinking. Time and time again in test after test both utilities have proven that they provide a good tasting water at a low cost. To see the tests results in a number of categories, including chemicals, in the water you can go here





By Kyla Shay

Trailside HOA President


What are the Agencies hiding from Trailside Residents?


In the past four weeks, I have made 5 telephone calls and 3 e-mails to FWC asking for an increased presence within Pal-Mar.  I’ve demanded that they enforce their own rules.  In the past four weeks, I have had not one returned phone call or email.  Perhaps they are avoiding the issue they helped create.

I have emailed Governor DeSantis three times.  I’ve filled out the form for a private meeting in the past two weeks.  Not one call, not one returned email.


Martin County Government departments and officials have set up a follow-up meeting with us for the last week of May.  We will see if they answer any of our questions this time.  We aren’t holding our collective breaths.  They are simply “dotting their i’s and crossing their t’s” so they cannot be accused of burying their head in the sand and avoiding the issue.  Their due diligence “responsibility” will be “done” without really resolving anything.  Their condescending attitude was noted in the previous meeting.  We hope is does not recur.


I have e-mailed SFWMD executives.  Three times, 8 executives.  I did get one email back that said “this isn’t my department, but I’ll forward it for you.” No return emails and no phone calls.


No response from the Martin County Sheriff Department.  Most of our calls for a deputy go unanswered.  We are simply not a priority. But our tax dollars are funding the Sheriff’s department.  And they assure us they are here to protect us.


Department of Environmental Protections did a fly-over with SFWMD over 6 weeks ago.  I have left 3messages and sent 3 emails.  No response.  No action.  NO COURTESY.


I did receive a personal telephone call from our SFWMD governor-appointed representative, Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch.  We had a lengthy conversation on what has been happening in Pal-Mar and the negative effects that Trailside is experiencing.  She is the only person that has bothered to respond to our appeals for help.  Every other agency is ignoring the issue.  We have faith that Jacqui will help us resolve this issue.


On May 3, 2022, at 5: 57 pm. Ammonium Nitrate “bombs” were exploded in Pal-Mar.  The Sheriff’s department did not respond to the telephone 911 call.


On May 7-8, 2022, Pal-Mar hosted a “friends-and-family” event where guests were welcomed and encouraged to tear up other lot owners’ land.  The line of vehicles hauling in ATV’s stretched for over a mile on Pratt-Whitney Road.  All weekend, we heard them having a great time destroying the wetlands and flag ponds.  Where were the FWC officers, the sheriff’s deputies, DEP, SFWMD, and Martin County Growth Management?  They certainly were not in Pal-Mar observing, let alone curbing, the negligent behavior.

The shooting continues unabated. We continue to call for sheriff’s deputies for help. There is nothing they will do to help us.


As FWC, SFWMD, FDEP continue to ignore a horrendous destruction of our vital resources, we are left with the attitude they do not care. What are they hiding?


It does make me wonder, what are the multiple agencies hiding?  What part did their agencies play in allowing this destruction and terrorization of a neighborhood who follows the rules? Since the agencies in question are too busy ducking their responsibilities, we shall have to seek the truth without them.


Why are Martin County Commissioners & Martin County Growth Management hiding a proposed land swap deal? Wouldn’t it benefit the county to have ownership of the remainder of 2500 lots within Pal-Mar? At that point, Martin County and SFWMD could work out usage agreements with the remaining lot owners.


Why do the Commissioners need Trailside lot owners to petition the Governor for funds to buy the land? Well, they certainly haven’t made the request themselves. And if we accomplished this feat for them (but we don’t know how many funds to petition for) would the Sheriff’s department, FWC, SFWMD and Martin County Growth Management enforce their own rules then?  Definitely thoughts to ponder.


We are still awaiting answers.


Kyla Shay’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.





“Where Have All the Flowers Gone” is a folk song by Pete Seeger, written in the 1950s. It reached its height in popularity during the Vietnam War protest movement.


The last time I was driving from Trailside back to Stuart, that song became stuck in my head. I was thinking about the plight of the Trailside residents and Pal-Mar being ecologically destroyed by supposed owners of the tiny lots that now make up much of the Pal-Mar property.

I began singing the song to myself and substituting Martin County ecologists in place of flowers. Like the soldiers dying in a war mentioned in Seeger’s song, places like Pal-Mar that disappear can never be replaced. So far in this tragic plight, not one environmental organization or so-called environmentalist has said a word about this destruction.


Everglades Foundation, don’t you care about wetlands or is it only when some landowner wants to build a project on his property that you pipe up? Sure, there is no massive housing project going in at Pal-Mar, but there are trailers and campers being brought in and shacks being constructed one at time in violation of the rules and the comp plan that you claim to want to uphold and preserve. Dragging a trailer across ecologically sensitive lots not even owned by the miscreant is an egregious violation of our environmental laws.


The Guardians and Director Braun Trailside residents would like to ask if the destruction of native species by four wheelers only counts when the rich say it does. Where are the 1000 Friends of Florida complaining about unregulated hunting that goes on out-of-season and for species that should be protected not slaughtered? How about all the usual suspects who call themselves environmentalists and come to commission meetings to bemoan any change in land use even on an old farm site, while earth moving is going on at Pal-Mar without the benefit of any permits.


FWC has jurisdiction but apparently it is too hard to make sure that their own rules are enforced. It is ludicrous that they do not give out gate keys only to legitimate permit holders, but they leave the gate unguarded and unlocked for anyone to call Pal-Mar home. South Florida Water Management District is one of the largest property owners in Pal-Mar yet seems incapable of making sure that the land will be used to clean water headed for the Everglades and Florida Bay as it is intended to do instead of being a race track for four wheelers.


Where have all the county commissioners gone? I know they claim they can’t talk about anything because of pending litigation. The litigation concerns dues that should or should not be paid to the Pal-Mar Board. I am tired of listening to that same refrain in the county’s songbook. They simply won’t enforce our building codes because they are afraid of the big bad men defying their rules.


Lastly, where is the law? The duly sworn sheriff and deputies who have pledged to enforce all laws. We hear about the helicopters and how they can swoop down and make sure that lawbreakers are caught in the act. Where are the drones paid for by tax dollars patrolling the skies looking for those not obeying the law? Would it be different if the Pal-Mar gunmen belonged to a Broward street gang coming here to do bad?


How do you think the landowners of Trailside feel when confronted with the lack of responsibility by all these elected and appointed officials? All of whom are on the government payroll yet won’t lift a finger to do their duty. Just another day in the life of a fool…but that is a different lyric from a different popular song…though it could apply to the governments here.


(This appeared in Martin County Moment)


Letter From Gary Krosin

Trailside Owner

Our immediate problem is the random gunfire coming from Pal-Mar to our south.  Semi-automatic AND automatic fire cadence.  Rifles, not shotguns.

This is a serious, legitimate safety issue which severely affects and restricts our right to “peaceable assembly,” which is a First Amendment guarantee, to its core, from the US Constitution.


We cannot safely take a walk around our own neighborhood!


We cannot “peaceably assemble” on our own horses and take a pleasant walk, or trot on our bridle paths, which are on the extreme, “exposed” perimeter of Trailside.


Our immediate goal and requirement are to curtail the shooting, at least in the northerly direction coming from Pal-Mar.

As you could each well see from your personal visit of April 25, 2022 (Campenni, Representative Snyder and his aide,) we Trailsiders do support the Second Amendment… if responsibly followed.


We Trailsiders are not a proper target of any “well regulated Militia,” as the Second Amendment calls for.


We simply want to peacefully coexist with those who presently disrespect our life, liberty, and our pursuit of happiness.


On the environmental side of the situation, clearly the landowners and users of this section of Pal-Mar have substantially defaced the wetlands. There is no respect for property lines at all.


Per SFWMD rules, any “innocent” property owner is still personally responsible for wetland damage occurring on his owned lot. This is true whether the actual landowner did the damage, or if his “neighbor “multiple lots away did the damage.


One could make an argument, that “eminent domain” in favor of properly maintained wetlands should apply.

These defaced lands need to be returned to the “public.”


Clearly, private owners have betrayed the public trust on proper custodianship of these wetlands.


Private owners should be compensated at fair value for their land, minus restoration and remediation expenses….and bought out. Just like the CARL (“Conservation and Recreational Lands”) buyback program was intended to do during the 1990s, but did not.


This buyout would include the “Be a Man Buy Land” organization, presently selling lots in Pal-Mar.



If SFWMD, FWC, DER, and other agencies having jurisdiction follow their own rules and requirements for wetland preservation, many of these promoted uses would be called out as not allowed. Please note the letter sent to Pal-Mar private property owners earlier this year by Don Donaldson, Deputy County Administrator.


Numerous violations are enumerated:


“Negotiating” with these owners is a tough proposition. They tend to shoot first and encourage no dialogue, let alone…questions. There is no official Homeowner’s Association. There are no official “representatives” of the lot owners.


The local Martin County Sheriff officers are understandably reluctant to risk their own lives dealing with these owners. They don’t want to get shot at, either…

It seems the only appropriate agencies of sufficient force and authority rests upon the US Army, National Guard, or similar!


It might be instructive, as a means of testing their “civility” to post this sign on their Pal-Mar entry roads:


If the signs get shot out, run over, or otherwise destroyed, we have our answer:  the Pal-Mar owners have zero respect for our concerns, let alone personal safety. if the signs do not get damaged, perhaps the mayhem…might stop.


Personally, I will gladly pay the cost and install the signs myself.


We at Trailside simply want our way of quiet, peaceful life, to return!!


Gary Krosin’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.




Martin County Latest News From The May 1, 2022 Edition




Most of the meeting was consumed by the rural lifestyle amendment.


There were more than fifty public comments that by my count were almost 3 to 1 against passage. Some of the public made statements in opposition that were not factual. And a minority would have been against anything that would be proposed. Most people just didn’t have the information they expected.


Paul Schilling, Director of Growth Management, and his team gave a presentation of the amendment as did the applicant’s consultant. The Guardians, who had held two informational meetings for the public, could only perhaps support Discovery. Smith commented on the quality of staff. I’m not sure that the timing of his praise was appropriate. They had something to do with the debacle that this was becoming. Culpability belongs not just with Schilling. It goes all the way up the staff chain including a misreading of the public.

Commissioner Heard was the most critical. Her examples of what could be built using the classification for a fictional 1500 acres were accurate but highly improbable. What she did expose was that guidelines for what could be built were not as complete as they should have been. This is something that needs more work. Every home built could have an ancillary dwelling that could be ½ as many square feet as the main dwelling. Another thing that the growth management team admitted was that for dormitory housing for staff, the current draft allows the building to be four stories. Not exactly rural lifestyle.


What became clear especially to Hetherington was that there are few parcels that would qualify for this use. Then why is it needed? It quickly became apparent that this amendment affecting the entire county was sinking the Discovery project. It was as though they had pointed a gun to their own heads.


Ciampi reiterated that the amendment was too broad. Heard moved to deny the adoption and it was seconded by Ciampi.

Jenkins could hardly contain himself. He stated he “bleeds Hobe Sound.” He thought the Guardians were in favor of the amendment. He doesn’t understand what happened. It is a vehicle to contain the urban service boundary. He had a 2-hour lunch with a high school friend who lives on Jupiter Island to explain why it was good. Jenkins’ friend then told him that it was a no brainer to support it.


It may be a no brainer, but not everyone is lucky enough to have a two-hour lunch with a commissioner to receive a thorough explanation and have their questions answered. The next best thing would have been to have lots of community meetings conducted by professionals to provide thorough explanations.


Jenkins moved to approve which was eventually seconded by Smith who passed the gavel to Ciampi. During discussion, Hetherington said this project and concept did not come overnight to the public. Hurley of Becker Farms is a great guy, but she can’t support the text amendment to be for the entire county. She is fearful for the future, but the applicant should not have to be responsible for the entire county.


Hetherington asked if the use could be site specific. The county’s attorney said it could but not today. Then Smith blamed the public backlash for the amendment on Stuart’s development projects which seemed highly inappropriate and comparing a dog with a cat.


It is beyond a stupid statement. First, if development should occur, shouldn’t it be inside the urban area? Second, the rural lifestyle amendment was intended for vast acreage in western Martin County. To equate the two is the height of hypocrisy. Stuart commissioners should do everything possible to ignore him since he clearly is the city’s enemy even though Smith represents a substantial part of the city.


Finally, the Board moved to table the resolution and to bring it back later without requiring any additional fees. It passed 4-1 with Heard dissenting.


You can read more about this at HERE





By Kyla Shay

Trailside HOA President



Pal-Mar is an ecological disaster on so many levels.  Trailside Homeowner’s Association has asked for answers from all of our local and state governmental agencies.  We do not get answers.  We get finger pointing to other agencies who direct us back in a continuous circular motion. There have been no answers given, just excuses:  “kick the can down the road” is the favored approach.


Here is an aerial from the Martin County Property Appraiser’s Office.

Note the vast number of tiny lots on Pal-Mar… (Trailside lots are 20 acres± for comparison.)





Here is how Pal-Mar is supposed to look, from Google Earth:




And from the same exact viewpoint, here is how Pal-Mar adjoining Trailside looks now:



In March of this year, a group of Trailside residents confronted the county commissioners at a regular meeting.  The result… they would like us to write to Governor DeSantis.  This week we met with our local state Representative John Snyder.  He was not aware of anyone in Martin County’s local government having approached Florida State government for either help or funds to purchase back the Pal-Mar land.  It appears that our Martin County Commissioners are waiting for us to do their job for them…


On January 27, 2022, after repeated complaints about the ecological destruction of the sensitive lands within Pal-Mar, Martin County Deputy Administrator Don Donaldson sent a letter to all Martin County Pal-Mar lot owners.  Mr. Donaldson has received irate telephone calls from some of the lot owners, but from our side of the Pal-Mar fence, nothing has changed.  This last week, we witnessed four camper vehicles being hauled into Pal-Mar to join the other structures out there.




According to the real estate listings of lots for sale there, it states that a lot owner may:

Bring camper vehicles in as long as they are not permanent houses

Camp, hunt, fish and ride ATV’s.

Have access to 8000+ acres for your personal recreational pleasure (whether it’s “your” lot or not).


This is a misrepresentation of what we are told is actually allowed within Pal-Mar. Who is telling the truth?  Dump trucks with fill travel along the drainage berm illegally dumping dirt.  Where are the permits for this?  Has Code Enforcement been out to start citing people?  NO:  they are fearful of the rampant, seemingly random gun discharges to venture into lawless Pal-Mar without a law enforcement presence.


We understand their fear.  We live here!  We get to experience bullets crossing into our platted, gated community’s boundaries.  Every week.  We have lost our First Amendment right to “peaceably assemble.”  It is no longer safe, nor prudent to take a pleasant neighborhood walk, or even enjoy our own back yards, or ride a horse— lest the rider get “bucked off” by a scared, startled horse.  Take a moment, and then take a deep breath:  Put yourself and your family members in our shoes (and stirrups)!


The Sheriff’s Department instructed us to call them promptly when we hear gunfire close to us.  We do call.  Typically, it takes about an hour for the deputy to arrive.  A deputy takes our report:  add another half-hour. We are told their next action is that they will go out to Pal-Mar and look to see what they can find.  Is that happening?  We really don’t know.  Often, they tell us there is nothing they can do about it.


“Just keep reporting it,” we are asked.


The Martin County Prosecutor’s office states there is nothing they can do either!  We are told there is case law that prohibits it.  The Pal-Mar lot owners have a right to enjoy their land.  But are they even on their own property?  See attached photos please…vehicle tracks everywhere…zero respect for any “property lines.”


With ¼ acre to 1 acre lots, it is not safe to be firing weapons.  There is just not enough space.  Law enforcement must determine who actually fired— who held the gun at the time of the “shot.”  In the recent case in Indiantown, about five weeks ago with great bodily injury, four people admitted to firing the weapon.  There were no arrests.  Police and prosecutors cannot say which of the four fired the actual shot that caused injury.  No justice for the injured.  Perpetrators get better treatment under the law than do the victims!


In the 1990’s Pal-Mar was designated as 47th on a list of 85 sensitive lands under Florida State’s 1979 Conservation and Recreational Lands (“CARL”) program.  Recommendation was to purchase the lands to protect the surface water that is vital to the area.


Today, ATV riders have destroyed the flag ponds within Pal-Mar.  In the past, lot owners within Pal-Mar had to walk in or bicycle into their lots. They were not allowed to utilize ATV’s or dirt bikes for access.  No motorized vehicles of any type were allowed in the interior.


Today, it’s a free-for-all, a complete mess of a train wreck.  Each day we listen to ATV’s tearing up the ecologically sensitive lands.  As mentioned earlier, a letter was written to the Pal-Mar lot owners by Martin County on January 27, 2022, reminding them of allowed and disallowed property uses.  What has been done for follow up?


Apparently, Martin County Growth Management and South Florida Water Management District (“SFWMD”) will not even enforce on their own actual owned, and damaged, lands.  For example, if a Pal-Mar owner has property next to SFWMD parcels, and then tears up his parcel and also the adjacent SFWMD parcels, each lot owner bears the onus of remediation and “repair,” but only of his own property.  There has been no evidence of the Pal-Mar owners being cited, and SFWMD seems not to care about fixing up their own damaged properties.  There is no accountability against reckless Pal-Mar lot owners.  It’s like having a neighbor who trashes your lot but is not required to pay for your damages!  Sensible people and government officials would likely agree this “no-fault” concept is quite ludicrous in the context of land destruction.







The Department of Environmental Protection did a flyover with SFWMD about a month ago.  What is the result of the flyover?  Silence, or less, is all we are “hearing” from these agencies.


The metal lead content in the bullets is damaging the ecological system (bullets embedded in the canal banks, or the canal itself, which releases lead into the water.)  Defenders of Wildlife report “Illegal shooting and lead poisoning are among the primary threats to bald eagles”.  Their report can be found at  Pal-Mar and Trailside have always been prime Bald Eagle nesting areas, not a good place for lead poisoning.


Furthermore, why is the main entrance gate, “Gate One,” on Pratt Whitney Road (C.R. 711) not locked as the Florida Wildlife Commission (“FWC”) has the right to do? We have been told by FWC there have been too many lot purchasers. FWC issues the keys. With the large amount of request for keys, they could not keep up.


Verbal threats about denying legal lot owners’ access to their land was mentioned as the reason the lock was taken off the gate. Gate Seven, elsewhere, has a lock still on it. Why? We are told certain Pal-Mar lot owners did not want their land trespassed on. How are they special while other lots are being destroyed? Special interests? Fear of lawsuits? Anyone’s guess is as good as ours. FWC does not have answers for us. They tell us to call the Sheriff’s Department. OK, been there, done that.  Next suggestion….?


We do realize that the damage done to the lots owned by SFWMD, Martin County, and Pal-Mar lot owners who are following the original rules set forth for Pal-Mar will cost the taxpayers of Martin County, the State of Florida, and private lot owners tens of thousands of dollars, or more, to fix destruction that they did not cause.  Allowing this behavior to continue will only increase these costs.  Each of us gets to pay for damage caused by the lawless, destructive behavior of others.


When will we get action and answers?

Who is in charge?

Who will be accountable and act responsibly and effectively?

When can the residents of Trailside get to enjoy OUR guaranteed First Amendment rights again?


Kyla Shay’s opinions are her own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.




This week, I attended a meeting between Trailside residents and Representative John Snyder at Trailside.


There were twelve residents in attendance including the farm manager of a still working farm next door whose employees have had shots whizzing by as they worked in the fields. Over and over, those attending said that they feared for their lives. Someone whose home is close to Pal Mar left his property last Saturday because the gunfire was non-stop and intense.


The commission goes on about a rural lifestyle, but this community is what it is all about. The homes in this community are on 20-acre ranchettes. Some of the people have larger properties. This is a group of people who are not averse to the outdoors. They own cows, and horses, chickens, and goats. Most have houses but a few just have fields and barns.


Indiscriminate shooting from Pal-Mar has prevented these law-abiding citizens from enjoying the full use of their property. These are not Second Amendment bashers. When I asked for a show of hands for how many people owned firearms, everyone raised their hands. Many of the residents were born in Martin County. So again, it isn’t a band of northerners moving here and then trying to change their surroundings.


If anyone is trying to change those surroundings, it is the new acre and quarter-acre landowners in Pal Mar. Many are from down south and think they have been given the right to shoot at anything alive or dead moving or not. They tear up the wetlands with their four wheelers. The county and sheriff are taking a hands-off approach. It is a breakdown of law and order.


Someone is going to die. That isn’t hyperbole but a fact. Last month a woman was killed in Indiantown after being shot when her neighbors were target shooting. No arrest has been made even though they know the four individuals who were shooting the gun at the time. I was made aware of this by Trailside residents. Is this the fate of someone in Trailside?


The people who pay taxes, live in Martin County, and vote are being told that the county’s hands are tied. Sherrif Snyder says there are procedures to follow whatever those are. FWC and DEP are allowing illegal use of the lands of Pal Mar. Aren’t all these layers of government for a purpose other than collecting taxes and providing people with employment?


We have reverted to the 19th century wild west. Should the Trailside folks hire their own gun slingers to clean out the “nesters” south of the canal? Government is saying that residents are on their own in the wilds of Western Martin County every time a beehive or barn is shot up without any repercussions.






Martin County Latest News From The April 17, 2022 Edition





Kyla Shay,

Trailside HOA President



DUCK !!  …(again?)





There are times in your life when you realize there are unintended consequences to what our legislature has done. In protecting private landowner rights regarding gun regulation on their property, our legislature has set up Trailside HOA residents to be shot at. An “unintended” shooting zone.  In a populated neighborhood.

Over the past year, we have experienced, often as many as five times a week, high-powered weapons’ target shooting bullets entering our borders:  think semi-automatic fire, and even AUTOMATIC fire!


We have politely met with our local Commissioners.


Their response: they cannot do anything because the Florida Legislature stripped their rights to control a dangerous situation.


The area to the south of the Trailside HOA is currently known as “Pal-Mar.”  The Pal-Mar lots are now privately owned. The sizes of the lots range from ¼ of an acre to one acre lots.  South Florida Water Management and Martin County own a number of the lots.  The area is rural, “native” Florida, composed of large undeveloped wetlands, cypress domes, and pine flatwoods remaining in the various Pal-Mar lots.


The land of Pal-Mar was identified in 1991 under the CARL program (“Conservation and Recreational Lands”) as environmentally sensitive land that Florida needed to save.

In the past, the owners of the Pal-Mar lots have respected Trailside residents and their homes which were developed in 1999. The hunting on the land did not bother us in the least. Hunters were aware that we lived within Trailside HOA. We were aware they safely hunted the area.  They did not bother us. We did not bother them.  We respected their property rights.  Bullets did not come our way.


Approximately two years ago, there started to be a change in Pal-Mar lot ownership. This resulted in a defiant change of attitude among lot owners within the Pal-Mar land. Target shooting is now frequent. The bullets are not staying within the lot they are being shot from. There are no backstops to keep the bullets on their individual parcels as prescribed by Florida Statute.  As these are wetland areas, dirt cannot be added to the lots to provide a backstop.  And ATVs are destroying the wetlands daily.


The persons utilizing Pal-Mar may or may not be lot owners. The lock on Pal Mar’s “Gate One” on Pratt Whitney Road has been “dummy locked” (it appears to be locked, but it is not). So now, anyone can enter. And shoot all they want, in any direction, at any time. And so… they do!


FWC (“Florida Wildlife Commission”) previously responsible for the keys, decided they did not want a battle with challenges as to the number of keys requested for the lots that were sold over the past two years. Meanwhile, we are taking live rounds. Buildings have been shot into. Commercial beehives have been shot. Our border’s canal bank is riddled with bullets.  Persons utilizing the adjacent horse bridle paths are threatened, weapons are discharged into the ground or air.  The persons at Pal-Mar drive on their easement road adjacent to our bridle path and yell threats of bodily harm at us!

Unless they are caught in the act, there is no way to stop this behavior. Would you choose to take a video of a rifle being pointed, amid threats, at YOUR camera lens?


Further, on March 17, 2021, Trailside experienced a near catastrophic fire on our southwest boundaries. The fire originated in Pal-Mar during a timeframe of a burn ban.


  • It was not caused by nature.
  • Lightning strikes were not present over the three days prior to or during the fire.
  • With strong winds that day, the fires jumped our south canal adjoining Pal-Mar and burned onto four of the Trailside lots. One of the lots had an equipment barn surrounded on three sides by fire. Martin County Fire Rescue and Forestry battled for three days to control the fires, including helicopters dumping water into the blaze.


Two other lots with residences were in the direct path of the fire.  One lot had its entire pasture burned.  We residents frantically struggled to evacuate livestock and horses to a safe space.



At this point, we have been abandoned by our local, regional, and State of Florida Representatives. We are essentially being told, “Pal-Mar property owners’ rights cannot be infringed upon.”  


But our right to a peaceful, safe, bullet-free space is not allowed?


p.s.    To all readers, and to the lawmakers and law enforcement:


We recognize and respect the rights established by the Second Amendment:

“…the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”





I drove south on Pratt-Whitney Road, past Bridge Road to the Trailside community. After going through the coded gate, I drove over a mile to the “homestead” of Kayla Shay who is the president of the homeowner’s association.


Trailside is composed of 20-acre-minimum ranchettes, and some are much larger. Unlike newer developments, the wetlands are situated and maintained on each property owner’s land. This is an equestrian community that has allowed property owners to have cows to take advantage of AG exemptions.


Kayla, who has lived there for 17 years, drove me around in her off-road vehicle. We looped around one of the equestrian trails. Trailside is bordered by preserve land, a large farm, and Pal-Mar. She said about 18 months ago, things began to change with the Pal-Mar neighbors.


Pal-Mar had been a place where land owning families had hunted and camped for generations. As newer people began buying property, it has come to resemble a place of indiscriminate gun fire…some of which Kayla says has come awfully close to hitting her and others.


On St Patrick’s Day 2021, an out-of-control fire came close to burning animals and buildings in Trailside. It was supposedly started to clear land by a Pal-Mar landowner according to Kayla. The result was a heightened tension in the community.



On weekends, the gunfire is non-stop. Now even if it isn’t aimed in Trailside’s direction, horses do become skittish and can throw their riders when scared. The property owners have complained incessantly to the sheriff’s department, but apparently it isn’t a top priority as there has been no increased law enforcement activity. Martin County has also sent letters to property owners in Pal-Mar regarding non-permitted buildings being constructed.


At some point, someone will be shot or be trampled by a horse as they ride on Trailside’s equestrian paths. Isn’t the safety of the citizens of Martin County foremost the responsibility of government? The Sheriff has a budget north of $80 million most of it from Martin County taxpayers. Taxpayers like those of Trailside residents and landowners. Supposedly, it is to be used for their protection.


They deserve more than the old two-step…we hear you and we can’t do anything because as the department claims the state has pre-empted their ability to regulate shooting with firearms. I guess they read that pre-emption to be limiting even when the lives of citizens are threatened.


Then perhaps the state should step in and show local law enforcement what can be done. Law-abiding citizens deserve to be protected from being killed or hurt by the acts of others by their government. I spoke with Representative Snyder, and he assures me that he is checking into the matter on behalf of his constituents.


To read more on Olde Time Florida go here




Meritage homes is having a rough couple of weeks in Martin County.


At the last Stuart meeting, their Future Land Use change was denied 4-1 for a project located on Commerce Street. In that case every, commissioner but one decided that until other residential projects were built outside the CRA, they were not going to change maps to allow new residential projects.


In this case, Meritage conformed to the wishes of their neighbors on Willoughby and Salerno. They wanted to have the project be fee simple. As of right they could have built 117 condominiums or 117 rental units. Instead, they decided to build 117 town homes that were to be owned by the buyers. So, what went wrong?


Smith and others brought up what went wrong with Meritage’s Jensen Beach project on the old Langford property. Also mentioned was Osprey Preserve in Stuart where they cut down their preserve and buffer. All of this did not help Meritage’s case. Jenkins was leery of the traffic impact on Salerno Road.


Smith also mentioned he did not like the architectural details. However, his architectural judgment should not have any bearing on private development that is otherwise in compliance with all the code requirements. Ciampi made a motion to accept with Jenkins seconding. Then strangely without voting on the Ciampi motion, Heard made a substitute motion to have them come back at the next meeting after trying to iron out the difference. Hetherington seconded.


The substitute motion seemed convoluted. I always thought you had to vote on a motion before moving to another. They really should check that. The Heard motion passed 3-2 with Ciampi and Jenkins in opposition.


Tyson Waters, the attorney for Meritage, and the county’s own legal staff said the project met the criteria for acceptance. Could the county be opening themselves up for a possible lawsuit? We will see in two weeks.


The Guardians are now hiring a consultant to help the county craft the 1/2 cent sales tax initiative to buy environmentally sensitive lands. Initially, I was in favor of the sales tax but with the school board and the newest state exemption on the ballot, I do not believe this is an ideal time to move ahead.


Is the county ceding too much of its authority to the Guardians, a private organization? Make no mistake, the Guardians is just one of many private nonprofits in Martin County. The organization just happens to be better funded than most. Jupiter Island pays a disproportionate share of Martin Taxes. This is where the Guardians are based.


Is Jenkins, in whose district this is located, trying to have them exert too much influence over matters? The county can and should do its own work regarding this. Of course, the state once again has pre-empted local government from even educating about referenda.


Ciampi was the only one to come out and say he did not want to further burden individuals with more taxes at this time. I was surprised that other commissioners did not have this same opinion. The motion passed 4-1 with Ciampi opposing.




I listened to the Guardians rural lifestyle presentation given two weeks ago.


The meeting was at the Wolfe Technology Center on the I.R.S.C. Chastain campus. My big question is why? Why is a private nonprofit deciding to shill for the county? Why isn’t the growth management department explaining an amendment to the comprehensive plan to Martin County residents in libraries, the commission chamber, and everywhere else?


It is true that the amendment was not staff driven but brought forth by the Discovery project on Bridge Road in Hobe Sound. I still do not know why the amendment was championed by a private landowner who had a project that would have been approved by now using the exception process. It seemed that is where it was going. The Discovery people should be working with the LDRs and comp plan that is in place rather than looking to change the world.



Extraordinary projects should be the exception and not the rule. The beauty of Discovery is that we all know and recognize that this is a project that should be built. It is a multimillion-dollar home run. Only those that have extraordinary money will own there but with very minimal usage of county services. It is like Jupiter Island as a gated community without becoming a municipality.


It will have to bring its own water and sewer lines and no other project can tack on to those lines. The rural lifestyle will require at least a thousand acres but probably more land to qualify. It is for super rich owners…rural lifestyle is the exception and not the rule. And that is the point! Why are we making it a formal comp plan amendment?


Having this use as of right is not the way it should go. It doesn’t matter whether only a handful of projects could qualify for this use. Taking this amount of acreage and devoting it to the rich may be an excellent idea like Discovery, or it could be a bad idea.


Without more of an explanation of the amendment, many other citizens will not understand it either. Yet as time has gone on, it seems the BOCC, and its staff continue to avoid explaining this use. If contacted, I would have encouraged them to write an op-ed explaining everything. Why such a secret?


Rural lifestyle may be the best thing since sliced bread. It may be that it isn’t needed at all. There are too many questions still unanswered. Let’s just make sure that the residents agree with the county’s newest planning ideas. So, far that has not been done.




After this Newsletter was put to bed The Guardians have issued a position paper drastically reducing what this amendment should cover. I have included there paper below. The graphics may not be perfect but I thought the citizens of Martin County should have all the information to make their decision.




Executive Summary of Guardians Position on Proposed Rural Lifestyle Amendment


The Guardians are opposed to the Rural Lifestyle Zoning (RLZ) Amendment as currently proposed.


As described in greater detail in the following Position Statement, the Guardians would support the Amendments, provided:


  1. The spatial extent of the RLZ is limited to the area shown below (~14,000 acres);
  2. A minimum of 50% of the new ad valorem taxes generated by RLZ projects will be committed for acquisition of conservation lands;
  3. A task force is created to study and develop a plan for western lands;
  4. Consideration is given for planning of corridors;
  5. A commitment is made for permanent protection of a 1,500’ corridor frontage along the Bridge /Discovery project as open space (excepting existing impermeable surfaces);
  6. Water quality monitoring is obligatory and modifications are required if discharges are harmful;
  7. Analysis of site-specific geology/geohydrology and monitoring ensures that chemicals from the golf course and polo fields do not contaminate the surficial aquifer;
  8. A commitment is made to conform with Best Management Plans for golf courses;
  9. Potential use of “Advanced Water Treatment Systems” as necessary to ensure that heavy metals, herbicides, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, PFAS and/or other carcinogens will not be introduced into the environment;
  10. Analysis is undertaken to identify impacts on County “levels of service” (e.g., access to beaches, emergency services, law enforcement, etc.);
  11. The Amendment sets a maximum intensity standard, establishes meaningful and predictable standards for the future use and development of land and provides meaningful guidelines for more-detailed land development and use regulation; and
  12. The Amendment stipulates that any “open space” within the bounds of an individual subdivided house lot is excluded from the required 70% on-site open space; development rights on the off- site preserved open space are retired upon project approval; and the 501(3) (c) conservation organization should be long-standing and experienced in open space management and not created specifically for, or under the control of, the development


The Guardians of Martin County support the proposed Rural Lifestyle Zoning if it is limited to the area outlined in red (~14,000 acres) and the previously described stipulations are adopted.


Position Paper on proposed Rural Lifestyle Zoning Amendment to

Martin County’s Comprehensive Growth Management Plan

The Guardians Board of Directors, donors and staff consultants have been in frequent discussion with the Martin County Growth Management staff since the proposed Rural Lifestyle Comp Plan Amendment was first considered by the County Local Planning Agency on January 20, 2022. We believe that, if approved by the Martin County Commission as currently drafted, the adoption and implementation of the new Rural Lifestyle Zoning (RLZ) would have far-reaching deleterious impacts on the future of Martin County. Accordingly, the Guardians do not endorse the RLZ Amendments as currently drafted and presented.

The Guardians are willing to support the RLZ Amendments, however, if the spatial extent of their application is restricted and approved now only for the roughly 14,000 acres(approximate boundary identified on the last two pages of this paper) and a variety of related issues (e.g., protection of water quality, establishment of a fund for acquisition of environmentally valuable lands, among other objectives, including the potential expansion of subsequent amendments to other areas, etc.) that are identified and described hereafter are accepted as stipulated provisions of the Approval.

If the RLZ is to be made available to an area larger than what is shown on the last two pages of this memo, we request that consideration of the RLZ Amendments be deferred for a period of 6- 12 months during which time a Martin County Environmental Initiative is undertaken, with a County Commission appointed Task Force of stakeholders engaged in extensive meetings to further refine details of the proposed new zoning category. We suggest that the Task Force be composed of a diverse group of stakeholders representing different constituencies that are interested in the future of western lands in the County, and that the Task Force be supported by County staff and operated in full compliance with the Florida Sunshine Law. This Initiative would stimulate the development of a thoroughly considered strategy to permanently protect our unique Martin County difference, that which makes our county such a desirable place to live and work.

If these additional steps are not taken, and for the reasons described hereafter, the Guardians will not endorse the current RLZ Amendments as they are presently proposed.

Of utmost importance to the Guardians, is that, in spite of two County-sponsored Public Hearings (i.e., LPA Hearing on January 20, 2022 and Board of County Commission (BOCC) hearing on


February 22, 2022), a Workshop facilitated by the Guardians on March 23, and an open meeting by the Martin County Conservation Alliance (MCCA) on March 29, 2022, many questions remain un-answered and critical wording in the proposed Amendment remains un-refined.

On numerous occasions, the Guardians have met with proponents of the Becker/Discovery Lands project and County staff to learn details of the project. We believe that:

  1. Previous uses of the ~1,500-acre Becker property have nearly totally eliminated significant natural resources from the site. It is unfortunate that the spread of diseases in the citrus industry has ruined the agricultural profitability of the land. The current lack of natural resources, however, makes these 1,500 acres considerably different than many other large tracts of land in Martin County that are zoned agricultural and which could potentially be available for development pursuant to the RLZ Amendments as currently proposed and shown in the County’s Figure depicting “Agricultural Land in Private Ownership (Large Acreage)” dated March 16,
  2. Restoration of approximately 120 acres in the NE corner of the property is likely to have a beneficial effect on the ecology of the Atlantic Ridge Preserve State Park (ARPSP), and possibly the South Fork of the Lucie River, so we support this aspect of the project.
  3. Donation of the existing stable and a corridor along the east side of the Becker property to create a future equestrian access to ARPSP is a potential public benefit of the project. We are aware, however, that the State of Florida has been working on updating the Unit Management Plan for ARPSP, and that an alternative point of access from the Becker property is not included in the plan for the current ten-year planning period. Access to ARPSP, and even use of the stable area is constrained by the presence of a high water table and nearby wetlands, which may explain to why this area has not been selected by the State as either the primary or secondary point of access to the Preserve. Given these constraints, while the Guardians do see some public benefit in the proposed donation, it is of limited value if this parcel is not accepted for management by
  4. The Guardians support the offer by the applicant to return the historical train station to

“downtown” Hobe Sound for the benefit of the public.

  1. The Guardians are aware of previous long-range planning studies that included western areas of Martin County. The Sustainable Visioning process conducted by a consultant working on behalf of the County in the 1990s included a genuine community engagement component, a process that was not employed as part of the current Comprehensive Plan Amendment process. Multiple well-advertised workshops held in different areas of the County engaged a cross-section of the community, which resulted in a product that, while


not perfect, represented the views of the stakeholders and members of the public who chose to become involved.

The impacts of the current proposal (which would amend the Comprehensive Plan in a way that was expanded from an initial proposal for applicability to a single property owner to agricultural owners throughout areas outside the urban services districts), have not been fully studied. Many residents were not unaware of the breadth and scope of the Amendment, and requests to the County to “slow the process down” to allow more public participation have not been accepted. As a consequence of this history and an on- going lack of transparency, there is a lack of confidence that decision-makers are acting in support of the majority of their constituents in a way that is best for Martin County while protecting the private property rights of landowners, now and in the future.

  1. The Guardians support the Commission’s suggestion to assign 50% of the “new” ad valorem taxes that would be generated by developments approved pursuant to the RLZ Amendment to acquire environmentally valuable lands. We are concerned, however, that there are a variety of factors outside the control of a property owner/developer that could prevent the achievement of the owner’s economic analysis targets

The Amendment currently under consideration does not include this provision, and inclusion of such a binding commitment is a significant and critical component that must be developed and refined before the new Amendments are considered for adoption. We understand that fiscal analyses will vary with other future development(s) and that economic benefits may be different. Furthermore, the stated “inability to bind future commissions” gives pause that, what might be negotiated to satisfy current opposition, cannot be assured to continue in a manner that is beneficial to residents unless such protection can be negotiated to be part of the Amendment.

  1. The Guardians believe that preventing degradation of surface waters and groundwater resources is critical. We are concerned that neither the proposed Becker/Discovery Land proposal, nor other potential developments under the future RLZ Amendment are currently being required to conduct water quality monitoring of off-site discharge (i.e., surface discharge and through percolation into the surficial aquifer). We believe that any project to be developed pursuant to the RLZ must be required to meet state water quality standards and not cause degradation to the receiving waters. We believe that the Amendment must include continuous in-stream monitoring, which would include nutrients, metals, herbicides, pesticides and their breakdown products, pharmaceuticals and PFAS. Further, we believe that the Amendment must include a provision that if monitoring documents that discharges are having adverse impacts, that the owner/developer is required to upgrade/retro-fit the system to prevent further degradation, for the life of the


  1. The Guardians are concerned about the protection of groundwater resources. Presently neither the Amendment nor the Planned Unit Development step of the process require that site-specific geologic/hydrogeologic analyses be performed prior to Requiring these studies prior to consideration of a proposed project is particularly critical when a project includes the creation of lakes that will be used for surfacewater management and which have the potential to interact with a sub-surface confining layer.
  2. Similarly, the Guardians are concerned that the inclusion of “advanced wastewater treatment system(s) consisting of individual treatment units that treat domestic waste to secondary standards may be utilized as permitted by the State of Florida“ will not prevent nutrients, heavy metals herbicides, pesticides, PFAS and other potential carcinogens from entering the aquatic environment where they could pose a threat to the health and safety of our residents, visitors and the
  3. The Guardians are concerned about a potential lack of regulation on the number, size and potential effects of worker housing and “small-scale service establishments necessary to support rural and agricultural uses”. Without regard to the extent to which these structures may be currently allowed on agriculturally-zone lands under the Comp Plan, the construction and occupation of these ancillary facilities will potentially require County services (e.g., utilities, law enforcement, emergency/fire rescue, schools, use of roads, beaches, parks and other “Level of Service” commodities) all of which are more expensive for the County to provide based on the distance from the Urban Service District We concur with the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity’s comments dated March 31, 2022 regarding a lack of data and analysis, which indicated that the Amendment, as presently written, “does not: a) Set a maximum intensity standard; or b) Establish meaningful and predictable standards for the use and development of land and provide meaningful guidelines for the content of more detailed land development and use regulations”.
  4. The Guardians are concerned that provisions that offer/commit to creating and maintaining private open space may offer little genuine benefit to taxpayers as currently Potential improvements to address this shortcoming are possible, but not within the expedited schedule under which the current process is being driven.
  5. The Guardians believe that financially-viable agriculture should be an on-going component of Martin County’s We are concerned that adoption of the proposed RLZ Amendment on the initially proposed >130,000 acres (and a somewhat reduced acreage) may have unintended adverse impacts on agriculture that have not been adequately evaluated. Concerns that should be considered are the acreage in


different types of agricultural production (e.g., citrus, row crops, sod etc.), use of abandoned citrus for solar facilities), impacts on infrastructure, land values etc.).

  1. The Guardians share the concerns voiced by others in the community, that provisions associated with this Amendment, and potentially all future PUD Agreements and conservation easements, are subject to change by a majority of a future County
  2. The Guardians believe that additional time is also necessary in order to address comments/suggestions raised by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity and other state commenting

Based on these, and a myriad of other unknowns, it is the Guardians position that approval of the proposed Rural Lifestyle Amendment should be postponed until such time as a Martin County Conservation Initiative Task Force has been created to evaluate the future development potential of the lands outside the USB, further discussions are held within the community, and details of the current proposal are further discussed and refined.

In accordance with “the precautionary principle” (a decision-making tool to assist in dealing with highly uncertain risks), if consideration of the proposed amendment is to proceed, it is the Guardians recommendation that the spatial applicability of the RLZ be restricted to the area shown on the following figures. The boundaries of the limited polygon shown hereafter are proposed based on the adjacency to the existing boundary of the Urban Service District (and therefore at a location where providing public services is more cost effective than more distant areas), the presence of abutting properties on the north, south, east and west that are not conducive for urban lifestyle development, and the desire to provide an incentive to preserve a higher proportion of open space and habitat protection in the critical headwaters of the South Fork of the St. Lucie River than would likely be otherwise proposed.

In summary, reducing the potential spatial extent of this zoning designation by approximately 90% below what was initially proposed, and integrating the protective covenants identified previously and those that address comments by state agencies could:

  • Allow the Becker/Discovery Land project to move forward;
  • Create a new permanent, non-taxpayer funded income stream for acquisition of environmentally valuable lands by allocating 50% of the new tax revenues that would be generated as a direct result of construction of a project pursuant to the RLZ. The Fund would be created through a yet-to-be written and BOCC-adopted ordinance and used for acquisitions in the four key areas of projects within the boundary of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, the Loxa-Lucie/Atlantic Ridge Pal-Mar and the Indian River Lagoon Blueway; and


3)  Give owners of other agricultural lands adjacent to the Urban Service District boundary an additional opportunity to use their land in an economically-profitable way, while ensuring permanent protection of a minimum of 70% of open space.

Potential expansion of the spatial limit of the applicability of the Rural Lifestyle zoning could be considered in the future, based on the results of the Martin County Conservation Initiative Task Force and the degree of success of a limited number of trial implementations.






By Tom Hurley

Becker Farms



As a third-generation farmer who grew up with my brothers working in the groves, I’ve experienced firsthand the tremendous challenges inherent in agriculture.


Even though the Becker family is celebrating our 60th anniversary in farming, it seems like only yesterday when citrus canker, greening and hurricanes devastated our groves—and not ours alone. Today, no commercial citrus operations exist in Martin County. 


Further, the prospect of intense residential development places additional pressures on agricultural landowners. Fortunately, the proposed Rural Lifestyle land use—which offers an option for qualified landowners to potentially apply to their property—could provide an appealing alternative.

Although the proposed comprehensive plan amendment that the Martin County Commission will hear Tuesday bears the Becker name, we alone cannot take sole credit for this amendment. It’s resulted from an evolving process incorporating diverse voices from the planning, agricultural, conservation and environmental advocacy communities.


Originally, we sought a different planning path for our Atlantic Fields project with Discovery Land Company (more below). But after feedback from the public, county staff and advocacy organizations, we realized that Rural Lifestyle is the best way to preserve the urban service boundary, provide a blueprint—rather than patchwork—for rural planning, and set high standards by which an opportunity with broad-based community benefits could emerge.


Thanks to input from community stakeholders Rural Lifestyle language is much different than what was first presented. Most recently, another option recently introduced is that Rural Lifestyle will not apply to the entire county, but only to areas adjacent to the urban service boundary—where services can be efficiently supplied.


Its strong safeguards now require:


  • A minimum 1000-acre parcel, 70-percent of which must remain in permanent open space—clear from ground to sky.
  • An additional parcel in Martin County—at least 50 percent of the original site designated for development (or minimum 500 acres)—set aside for permanent agricultural or conservation use.
  • Set-aside parcel must falls under control of a local government entity, the landowner and an established, existing conservation nonprofit, ensuring permanent preservation.
  • Funding sources to properly manage the set-aside property.
  • An economic study—reviewed by a third-party—demonstrating how the project will financially benefit the county.
  • Should the site be eligible for water or sewer services, those services must remain solely on the project in question, preventing any property nearby from connecting.


These are just some of the restrictions. All of these encumbrances add up to more costs on properties that will only be able to add about 1 unit per 7.5 acres. This makes the economics of such undertakings largely self-limiting. Suffice to say, it will take a project with a very unique housing stock to become profitable.


Atlantic Fields aims to embody and establish the best of this amendment. Conceived in partnership with Discovery Land Company, creator of 24 luxury resort communities around the world, Atlantic Fields seeks 317 homes on 1,500 acres—currently site of the Hobe Sound Polo Club on Bridge Road.


Public benefits include permanent preservation of the 800-acre Becker Tree Farm, creating a southern access point to the Atlantic Ridge State Park, gifting to the park an elaborate equestrian facility and public meeting place, gifting and relocating the historic Hobe Sound Train Station to the local community, and restoring a 125-acre wetland habitat area.


Featuring a golf course by local legend Tom Fazio, Atlantic Fields offers the quality amenities Discovery is known for, enabling the undeveloped home sites to start at more than $3 million. The economic study projects annual tax revenues exceeding $20 million—or the equivalent of 8,000 homes.


It is especially exciting that Discovery chose Martin County for its first-ever project in Florida. We’re appreciative for the chance to partner—and that is and will remain our role in Atlantic Fields, as partners—with Discovery because of the high caliber of communities they create. But we’re also encouraged by their environmental track record.


From Kaua’i, Hawaii, to Big Sky, Montana, to the Southern Gulf Island of British Columbia, to Barbuda, West Indies, to Great Guana Cay, Bahamas, Discovery works in environmentally sensitive locations while protecting the surrounding area and also supporting—through its generous foundation—local charities and nonprofits.


Protecting the rural character of western Martin County is extremely important to us and is incorporated into our vision through, among others, sustainable development practices, habitat protections and dark skies lighting restrictions.

Interestingly, before the comprehensive plan was drafted, our property was zoned one unit per 2 acres. We were asked to accept the down-zoning of one unit per 20 acres with an understanding that in time our zoning would change again. Please know, we’re in no way upset that my family made this sacrifice. It was the right decision for the time and played a key role in preserving our rural character.


But one unit per 20 acres requires no environmental or agricultural protections and not any public benefits. It can accomplish nothing of significance for the community at large, much less for the family agricultural legacy we aim to honor and preserve.


Rural Lifestyle, however, enables select properties with select projects to come forward for consideration. But it demands much—more land for preservation than the county could easily attain otherwise—be given up in return.


That’s a goal we all share.


This is a longer version of a commentary piece published elsewhere. At Friends & Neighbors we encourage our contributors on important subjects to take all the space needed to give us their full story.



Martin County Latest News From The April 3, 2022 Edition




Fire/Rescue proposed that automatic remote-access-controlled gates be installed at all HOA unmanned entrances. It would cost roughly $2,000 per gate. There are about 200 such entrances throughout Martin County. The proposal calls for everything to be completed within 3 years. The ordinance only applies to unincorporated Martin County.


Knox boxes, as they are commonly known in the industry, will allow the responding units to gain access while remaining in the truck instead of having a fire/rescue person get out of the rig and unlock the gate manually wasting possibly valuable time. It passed 5-0

About 6 months ago, there was only one bidder to transport recyclables from the Martin County transfer station to St. Lucie County’s material recovery facility. The price is $334.00 per load. Since there was only one bid, the commission asked for a review in 6 months, so the review is occurring now.


Staff ascertained other counties were paying from $34.62 per mile to $5.62 which is a large spread. Martin County, if broken out the same way is paying, $15.18 per mile. Martin County Public Utilities has determined that they could do it for $4.35 per mile. The Board approved buying the trailers needed to have the transporting of recyclables done internally.


In another matter of “you scratch my back, and I will scratch yours,” Martin County has leased the community center building in Charlie Leighton Park for $12 per year for twenty years plus a ten-year renewal to the Palm City Chamber of Commerce.


Did I miss something or isn’t the Palm City Chamber of Commerce a private organization? Why should the taxpayers subsidize them? This trend started with the Jensen Beach Chamber taking over the Jensen Beach Civic Center for another sweetheart lease. Smith and Ciampi are paying off their supporters with taxpayer dollars. It is indefensible.

Heard immediately pointed all of this out. Why should a public building be rented for nothing per year to a private entity? The nonsense that Ciampi spouted about the building being empty is because the parks department is not adequately programing the site. As Heard again pointed out the civic center in Port Salerno (her district) is used almost every day. The board is not holding the staff responsible for doing their jobs for the public. Or were they directed not to program there?


Chambers of Commerce are businesses representing businesses. When are the people going to be represented? Isn’t that what the commission is the people’s representatives. Like the entire state of Florida, this county is being taken over more and more by special interests. They will say that they are being business friendly. In my mind, it has the air of corruption.


The motion was made by Ciampi seconded by Hetherington. It passed 4-1 with Heard dissenting. The lease can be found here




I don’t usually report on this board…not because it isn’t interesting but because of time constraints. However, since I did write about the disagreement between the Hobe Sound Farmers Market and the property appraiser in another edition, listening to that hearing was important.


The magistrate for the Value Adjustment Board found that the property appraiser was correct in not allowing an agricultural classification for 7 acres that was used for the market out of the total farm of 129 acres. This hearing was to determine whether the appraiser and magistrate were incorrect to not grant the classification of agricultural because the use was or was not agritourism.

The board determined in a 3-2 decision that it should go back to the magistrate for reconsideration. The attorney for the board agrees with the magistrate’s decision. The magistrate will look at the information already in evidence and see whether his opinion was right or not.


I do not know whether Zach Gazza and his wife Catherine are correct in their interpretation of the agritourism statute. The experts in this are the property appraiser, her staff and attorney, the magistrate, and the Value Adjustment Board attorney. They are all in agreement that the Hobe Sound Farmers Market is not an agritourism business for last year as determined by the statute.


The entire argument for the classification can change from year to year. The difference between the agricultural and commercial classification is $2,000 additional real estate taxes for those 7 acres. The Gazzas made the determination to close the market voluntarily. No government entity forced them to cease the market’s operations. They can re-apply for the agricultural classification for the 7 acres and may already have done so.


At some point in the future, the land that is not in agriculture could be subject to a higher valuation. Projects like Discovery may ultimately force that to occur. Would a businessperson rather pay $2000 or thousands for legal fees? Something doesn’t make sense.


Jenny Fields, our appraiser, is someone who takes her job seriously but goes out of her way to be helpful. What she will not do is bend the rules. I would hope that the Gazzas can show her office that they do now comply with the agritourism statute.


I don’t know why the market couldn’t be opened tomorrow. They have their business tax receipt. The increase real estate taxes until this is resolved is less than $40.00 per week. A successful business does not close over that amount.



Martin County Latest News From The March 20, 2022 Edition



So, what is going on in Pal-Mar?


During public comment, members of the Trailside Homeowners Association spoke about stray gunfire from Pal-Mar striking their property. Trailside is an equestrian community and now the homeowners are afraid to ride on their trails in case an errant bullet from Pal-Mar hits the rider or the horse. One person even had bullets hit her barn and go through the wall.


How did Martin County ‘s Pal-Mar end up as the wild west? In the 1950s and 1960s, it was a place that had thousands of lots that had never been platted. The original owners of these lots and their descendants have used it to fish and hunt. No one can live there legally, and because of the nature of the area, no one should ever be able to do so.


There is no means of access legally. To get to a lot, you must trespass across others’ property. When only the locals were out there, they understood that nature required they keep a small footprint on the land. With new people buying lots as small as a quarter acre, there is no wonder that chaos has ensued.


Martin County and the South Florida Water Management District are two of the largest landholders. Some of Pal-Mar is a wetland all year round. During the rainy season, most of it is or should be. That is the point…it is acreage that should never be developed and probably cannot legally.


Anybody who is really an outdoorsman should know that shooting rifles on lots of an acre, never mind quarter acre, is extremely dangerous. And since you cannot legally construct a backstop for targets, the property cannot be used as a range. Alas stray bullets end up going into Trailside.


Commissioner Smith claimed that the county wants to purchase all of Pal-Mar. It lacks the appropriate funds. He urged the Trailside residents to contact their state reps to secure the money to do so. While it seems, Smith has a good idea, I am not sure conflating the two, illegal activity and conservation, is the right way to approach these problems. People should be safe while pursing legal activities on their property.


Don Donaldson, the current Deputy Administrator soon to be Administrator, has sent a letter to all Pal-Mar owners telling them to stop illegally constructing structures on their properties. You can find his letter here


This serious problem needs the Sheriff and his deputies to enforce the law regarding trespassing, unlawful discharge of a firearm, and all other environmental laws. County code enforcement must go out there with protection provided by the sheriff and begin the process of having illegal structures torn down. FWC, the water district, and anyone else with jurisdiction should be stopping any illegal activities.




The new club house at the county golf course, Sail Fish Sands, will soon be ready. I have been adamant that businesses like that should be leased to the private sector to operate. I thought that Martin County was becoming a socialist bastion. But then we learned that their brand-new clubhouse and hitting bays will be run by LaMattina Management which is a private company.

Adam Smith (Pinterest)

While the last thing we needed was a new fancy clubhouse that is unaffordable for most Martin County residents to frequent, at least the private sector will be running the operation. This is a good sign that Martin County still wants to participate in the capitalist system. I applaud the Parks & Recreation Department moving in that direction.


Now if we can only pry the other restaurants that are owned and run by the county out of the grip of the commissioner “restaurateurs.” In the restaurant business, the operators can hedge their bets by having investors. Those investors seldom make any money but love the idea that they have a place to tell people they own. Our commissioners are no different only you are the owners, and it is your money they are using to be investors.



Martin County Latest News From The March 6, 2022 Edition



MARCH 1, 2022:


I have never thought much of these meetings. And I still do not. Though a couple of things were illuminating in this one.


The first was that in answer to a public comment about understanding the rural lifestyle comp plan amendment, County Administrator Taryn Kryzda stated that the county will not be having informational meetings for the public. The Guardians of Martin County will conduct those meetings. Think about that statement for a second. It is a complete abrogation of Martin County government’s taking responsibility for a comp plan amendment that will completely change how our county may develop.

That means our county government is saying we do not have a responsibility to the citizens to explain our actions. Because it was not the Guardians who drafted and sent that amendment to Tallahassee for approval. Nor was it the Guardians that will ultimately vote on the amendment for inclusion into the comp plan.


When did the Guardians become our defacto government? They are an advocacy and lobbying group. They have been an environmentalist group in the past but why are they so anxious to take up this mantle now? Have they suddenly switched and have gone over to the development side? I doubt that, but they are still not the county government.


We have five commissioners…where do they stand with this acquiescence of their role. They cannot be bothered to make sure that any citizen who has a question can have it answered? Amy Pritchett, the citizen who made the public comment, was not opposed to the rural lifestyle amendment. She was just asking to be informed.


I am sure the Guardians can capably answer some questions about environmental factors. However, there are more than just environmental factors to this amendment. Who will be at the meetings to explain the other facets like the USB and package plants?

It seems that the commission is trying not to be seen as too close to the rural lifestyle amendment. It is almost as if they are hiding. They have made sure that staff has nothing to do with the education process. And commissioners being in the audience as ordinary citizens being educated along with the common folk…please!


What are commissioners and staff trying to do to make sure that broad support is forthcoming? Or is there something in the amendment that they don’t want the public to understand and know about? Most members of the public just want information that is truthful and doesn’t seem to be gobbily gook.


Commissioners should stand up in many public forums and answer the questions citizens have. They can have staff help on technical matters. What this would do is alleviate the public’s suspicions. It would also show that commissioners understand what they are voting on. If they can’t explain the amendment and what it means, they shouldn’t be voting on it.




I think the way education is delivered needs to change. The school district is not moving fast enough in introducing innovations that some parents would like to see. But one thing they are good at is trying to use excess seats as constructively as possible.


School Board Chair Roberts stated that there are 18,544 students, in the public schools including charters, in the district. The board keeps 25% of seats for growth in every district school. Even with this reserve, there currently is excess capacity. The only two schools that are operating above capacity are Martin County High School and South Fork High School.


At a recent school board meeting, the board opened several schools for anyone to attend because of the excess capacity. One speaker at this meeting authoritatively stated that Martin County is going to be overrun by kids from other districts because of our “A” rated schools. The obvious place for the invasion to occur is from St Lucie County.


Roberts also had a few other figures on student enrollment. There are currently 120 out-of-county students. 119 go to Treasure Coast Classical Academy, a public charter. Even counting the charter, that is less than 1%. Hordes are not likely to descend.


Another remark made was that while students bring their per student financial allocation to the school they attend, out-of-district parents don’t pay any taxes for the other costs. The buildings and infrastructure costs on district schools are already spent and they must be maintained. While there are on-going costs that are not in the per student allocation, it is still money that would not be there if registration was not more broadly opened. The number of programs and teachers would still be the same.


The real question is why aren’t our schools more used by parents in the district for the education of their children?




The chamber was packed. There were many who had signed up to speak. Most were there because they did not think that they had the entire story about what was being euphemistically being called “Rural Lifestyle.” That is a name that has very little to do with what was being proposed.


And the classification that was being proposed was because of the Discovery Project on Bridge Road in Hobe Sound. When it was first proposed there really was no opposition. It would have to go through a comp plan amendment to be able to do the project but the amenities being proposed, and the public benefit seemed to justify it.

Then a golf club was going to come before the commission that had no homes. Another good project with all open space, 95% permeable, all storm water kept on the property, and irrigation using water from the St. Lucie Canal instead of wells. With all that green space I liked that one too. Staff and private consultants in their eagerness to not want to go through the comp plan amendment process for each project decided to create the land use designation of “Rural Lifestyle.”


They neglected to do one thing get the buy in of residents. Instead, the BOCC and staff created their own crisis. They thought no need to reach out to anyone but the elitist Guardians and Jupiter Island. The people living in Jensen, Rio, or Palm City Farms do not need to be consulted. And then came this meeting.


Of the many, many people that spoke only two were in favor…one was a developer, and the other was the head of the Economic Council. Those that spoke in opposition were of two minds. There was the usual no-growth contingent that would be against anything ever being built anywhere.


Former Commissioner Anne Scott spoke against, and she was on the commission at the time that they turned down the growing of Eucalyptus trees for commercial use out west. That was the final straw that made Indiantown incorporate.


Maggy Hurchalla had passed away a few days before. She was against this comp plan amendment. She may have had a point with the way it was written. The Urban Services Boundary seems to be ignored. Package plants, water lines and other questions abound.


Questions and uncertainty were where the majority of people were that spoke. “Where was the public outreach?” People didn’t know what the changes meant. It just seemed that three commissioners were tone deaf to the concerns of Martin County residents.


The growth management department was exceptionally blind to answering what it all meant. Most of what they said makes perfect sense to those who are immersed in this sort of thing every day. Unfortunately, most people are not.


Commissioners gave their reasons why they were going to vote for or against. Ciampi was finding the proper balance. He was preserving open space by clustering homes from 20-acre ranchettes to closer together.

The developers would have to provide at least 70% green space. The development would have to be at least a thousand acres to qualify. If more homes were asked for then another large track of land would have to be given in conservation controlled by a government or nonprofit.


Ciampi, Jenkins, and Smith kept saying it was a transmittal hearing to Tallahassee. They would still have to vote to approve it. The time between transmittal to the state and the amendment coming back is about fifty days. Perhaps the ownership of conservation land can be adjusted commissioners said.


Smith was voting for it because of long range planning. He understands the growth process. He and Ciampi said 25 to 50% of the ad valorem taxes for Discovery should go to pay for conservation land. Smith who represents part of Stuart couldn’t wait to knock the city for approving new housing. Ironic since housing should be in the urban core and not outside the USB even for rich folk.


Ciampi had the Guardians agree to do a community meeting to answer the public’s questions. Perhaps one or two meetings for public outreach would suffice, he thought. One of the most significant changes to land use and this is what the citizens should expect?


Heard was a no and she was always a no. Nothing was going to make her a yes. To her the comp plan is not a changeable document. Any variation is like rewriting the bible. The Ciampi/Smith/Jenkins idea of transmitting and fixing anything later made no sense to her and for that matter me.


Hetherington was the only one with an open mind. She liked Discovery. Thought it was a good project. Would vote for it as a standalone. Unfortunately, it was not. Discovery was its own victim.

She had questions that still had not been answered. Hetherington thought the public’s questions should be answered also. She is very much in favor of smart growth and a property rights advocate. Hetherington realizes that she represents the people…all the people.


It passed 3-2 with Hetherington and Heard voting no. You can explore more about the initiative here

And here




At the September 4th meeting the commission wanted staff to look at a sales tax for acquiring environmentally sensitive lands. These properties would be in Pal Mar, IRL South, and the Loxa-Lucie.


Heard thought that the commission’s credibility after the “Rural Lifestyle” vote would prohibit voters from supporting this. Ciampi is against because of inflation’s effects on the taxpayers. Smith was all for it. One of the reasons that the last sales tax initiative failed was because of Smith promising goodies to everyone.


Voter education and communication would be key. (Ironic after the earlier discussion.) Therefore, it should be on the general ballot. Jenkins made a motion to bring back an ordinance and ballot language for the general election. Smith passed the gavel and seconded.


Heard would vote yes because there was plenty of time to vote no later, she claimed. It passed 4-1 with Ciampi dissenting.




Martin County Latest News From The February 20, 2022 Edition


The next Meeting will be February 22, 2022.



Martin County Latest News From The February 6, 2022 Edition




It was another light day for the commission.


The commission did agree to lease to Precision Jet Center a third parcel at the airport. The price will be a total of $83,776.00 per year ($ .30 per square foot) for the three parcels. The lease will run to 2050 and may be extended.

Precision Jet will tear down an existing building and construct a new one to serve their aviation business. A motion was made by Jenkins and seconded by Heard to approve the lease. Hetherington recused herself because her children’s father is a key player with Precision Jet, and they may have a financial gain. It passed 4-0.


To see the lease, go here


There was a presentation about the 2017 update from Wood Inc. on a previous water quality needs assessment. It examined the water quality needs of storm water projects in the St. Lucie, Indian River Lagoon, and the Loxahatchee.


The presenters spoke for more than an hour. It was quite impressive. Chair Smith, though, summed it up nicely when he said this needs to be paired down for a ten-minute presentation. He was right as most people would not sit there for that amount of time.


You can see the presentation  here




The Rio Town Center Project, now known as the Rio Marine Village, has been in the process of developing for a couple of decades. Charles Modica, a developer who has had success in several states, took on this newest version.

Years ago, I remember looking at the project when I was a city commissioner and speaking to the then developer about annexing into Stuart. If it had happened, Stuart would have had river taxis, ferries, and other synergies between downtown and Rio which is another great area. That was when the county commission and staff were not as nimble as they have become.


The proposed 192 units, boat yard with dry and water storage, 3 restaurants, an office building, and new sea wall is the very essence of good development. This is the kind of CRA improvements that is now beginning to happen in all the CRAs. You must applaud CRA staff and the Neighborhood Advisory Committee for working tirelessly to make this a reality.


The existing roundabout will be replaced by two new ones at the entrances to the development. It will be paid for by the developer including new artwork. What is not to like? Rio has not been neglected, but it hasn’t flourished either.


The gavel was passed to Ciampi, and Smith made the motion to accept with staff recommendations. It was seconded by Jenkins and passed 5-0.


Congratulations to Smith for he is the father of this development.


You can see staff presentation here here


The applicant’s presentation can be found here


The other project on the agenda was an amendment to KL Waterside’s land use from limited industrial to a PUD. Apparently, there are hush hush negotiations going on to entice businesses there. Ciampi referred to these as businesses that Martin County could be proud of. I hope that we are. Ciampi moved approval and it was seconded by Hetherington. It passed 5-0


Waterside is also asking to become its own Community Development District. By doing so, it will be able to borrow money or bond infrastructure projects. That is the same ability to bond or borrow as any other government entity. The interest is tax exempt to the bondholder or lender.


A CDD is not its own government. They are still under the BOCC. Instead of getting in line for scarce county resources, the entity taxes itself to pay for the improvements. It is an especially good idea with industrial or manufacturing development.


A motion was made by Jenkins and seconded by Ciampi. It passed 5-0.




Martin County Latest News From The January 23, 2022 Edition




It was a meeting of less than an hour.


The meeting’s focus was Taryn Kryzda giving notice of her intent to retire in June. She explained that after 35 years, it was time. Taryn has informed the state pension authority of her intention to retire (known as DROP).

Once that notice is given, she is looked upon by the state as having retired already as far as her pension is concerned. Taryn had five years to stop working from the date she gave notice, and she will receive a lump sum payment from the Florida Retirement System for those years in addition to her regular pension. This June will be the 5th year.


Taryn said that she had built a good team and that the county can count on them to continue. Kryzda recommended that Don Donaldson succeed her. He has been her deputy for the past five years. Donaldson has been employed by the county for 25 years.

Ciampi gave her much praise as did the rest of the commission. A motion was made by Ciampi to direct staff to begin negotiations with Donaldson for a new contract. It was seconded by Hetherington. There is no rush, and nothing will come back to the commission until late April or May. The motion passed 4-0.


Congratulations to Kryzda for a job well done. Congratulations to Donaldson for being chosen. He has a hard act to follow.






Martin County Latest News From The January 9, 2022 Edition


The next meeting of the commission will occur on January 11, 2022.




In the coming year, Martin County will have financial challenges. As we saw last year during budget time, the BOCC had to cut capital projects on the day of adoption otherwise they would have needed super majority votes to raise taxes sufficiently to meet expenses in some tax categories.


It is apparent that the commissioners have grown accustomed to spending without consideration of whether the funds are available. Commissioners Heard and, to a lesser extent, Hetherington ask the right questions before certain votes. There needs to be more scrutiny before voting yes by the BOCC.  At some point, the county will have a reckoning for the continued level of spending.


Martin County’s biggest ticking time bomb is the public safety budget. Both the sheriff and fire rescue have continued to see growth more than inflation year over year. There will come a time when a population of our size cannot afford the increases. If you look at crime rates, number of fires, or medical responses, how much more protection can every increased dollar provide? The question needs to be asked.


The biggest immediate change in the coming year will be the retirement of Taryn Kryzda as county administrator. It seems her likely successor will be Don Donaldson, the current deputy administrator. The BOCC has not formally made an offer to Mr. Donaldson though individual commissioners have been speaking with him.




Martin County Latest News From The December 19, 2021 Edition




The commissioners were tasked with bringing back their priorities for the coming year. This has become a yearly exercise to give staff direction on where the commissioners want to focus.


Chair Smith wants to focus on acquiring more land in Pal-Mar, an environmentally sensitive area. There are several complications including a pending lawsuit between Martin County and the Pal-Mar Water Control District regarding withholding of dues by the county. Commissioner Heard waded in that there is illegal building going on within Pal-Mar, and she wants to see more enforcement.

After further discussion, there was consensus that the commission needed to be brought up to speed on the lawsuit and there will be a “shade meeting” (one where the commissioners and legal counsel confer behind closed doors as not to give away their legal strategy) at the next regular meeting to discuss options for going forward.


Further, this commission seems to be in favor of having a referendum to institute a sales tax to buy lands in Pal-Mar and other ecologically sensitive areas.

The vast number of these southern properties are wetlands. They cannot be built upon or developed. They need to be placed in conservation and maintained so that the natural flow ways can be restored. Most of our current flooding issues will only become worse if we do not allow storm water to take its historical pathways to the south.


If the commission has a good communications plan and sticks to its present intent, a sales tax will undeniably pass. The public in Martin County believes in conservation. It would be up to our leaders to move us in the right direction.


Another of Smith and Ciampi’s priorities is to construct a diving well at Sailfish Splash. They claim that the USA Diving Association would welcome the move and more tournaments would come to the park. The diving association is already headquartered on the IRSC campus in Fort Pierce where a diving well is being constructed.

The well at Sailfish will not be used by the public but only for competition. Spending tax dollars will help business the commissioners claim. I always get nervous when the words “heads in beds” are used by a commissioner. I would like to know when it became the government’s job to use taxpayer funds to ensure a hotel is full or a restaurant sells more meals. If you are taking money in the form of taxes out of residents’ pockets, our own residents are certainly able to buy fewer meals themselves.


Splash Water Park, like the golf course, is an expensive place built and maintained with taxpayer money. The facilities cost money to enter and can be prohibitively expensive to many Martin County citizens. The government should not subsidize the rich and business. Every dollar spent needs to be for a genuine public purpose. I wish the commissioners would stop interfering with markets by their use of tax subsidies.


Hetherington still wants to improve communications with the public. The county has made some strides but there is still a long way to go. She would also like to see the completion of El Camino Trail in Golden Gate. Hetherington mentioned that we should promote educating residents for the marine and aviation trades. Those are three worthwhile priorities.


Jenkins wants to continue to build on better customer service. There are also CRA projects that need attention. Interestingly, he wants to restore Banner Lake and its flow way. Only a true Hobe Sounder could have conceived of that project. There was also a mention of a land trust to aid affordable housing development.


Heard spoke about buying IRL South lands. Twin Rivers Park restoration was on the top of her agenda. Heard also mentioned a sales tax for land acquisition. Every commissioner, I believe, is on board with that idea.


Ciampi thought that drainage and flooding issues have improved in his district, and he would like to see more. He wants broadband connectivity. Many parts of western Palm City have no internet or cable for that matter. He also mentioned shelters. He would like to explore the possibility of a men’s shelter. The closest one is in Fort Pierce.




Re-districting can be very contentious.


The districts each need to have about the same number of voters, but they also need to be contiguous using natural and logical boundaries. Re-districting is also a political matter. The staff drew the districts with commission input. Unlike the school board’s school re-districting, the public had no say and that is a shame.


County bureaucrats are not as invested as either the commissioners or the public. Staff did not want to look at anything but census tracts primarily. There is more to a district than population. In some instances, they had unnatural lines being used to determine boundaries. I am not in favor of gerrymandering, but I would like to see neighborhoods and municipalities contained within single districts.


If the school district had not used a citizens committee, there would have been many more children switched from their present schools to new ones. Theories on the separation of friends are big in the educational world as if families don’t ever move for the 12 years that a child is in school. Experts sometimes do not see the forest for the trees.


Since every voter votes for every commissioner, I believe more leeway could have been used in determining boundaries. In the future, there should be a citizens committee that makes the final recommendation to the commission for adoption and not staff.

Ed Ciampi (District 5) and Harold Jenkins (District 3) have immense districts as measured by land area. Because of the law, 1600 of Ciampi’s constituents happen to be residing in a state penitentiary. Jenkins’ district goes from east to west in a huge swath of the county that has no residences at all. Smith (District 1) and Hetherington (District 2) have only two little changes on their borders.

The contention took place between Heard (District 4) and Jenkins over Loblolly Pines being switched to District 3. Loblolly did create a peninsular enclave of District 4 into District 3. The real fight could have been over MSTU funds.


Loblolly has a large taxable value. That money will now go into the commissioner funds for District 3 instead of 4. As you can see, re-districting has a political component. Ciampi will get no additional money from his prison constituents.


A motion was made by Jenkins and seconded by Hetherington for Option 3C (see link below) to be placed on the next meeting’s agenda for adoption. The motion passed 4-1 with Heard dissenting.


Option 3C will likely be the new school board district’s boundaries since they adopt the ones selected by the county.


To see Option 3C and the other ones go here




Under pressure from the South Florida Water Management District, the county is changing its year-round irrigation ordinance. Both Sewall’s Point and Stuart have already adopted the SFWMD current recommendations. Currently watering is prohibited from 10 am-4-pm.

At first glance, it seems like a no brainer to adopt the ordinance. Everyone wants to conserve water. Going to a two-day-per-week schedule like the two municipalities would appear to be a good thing. This ordinance does not apply to reclaimed water users, nurseries, or athletic areas. It has monetary penalties for noncompliance.


The sprinkler contractors spoke in agreement of this ordinance. Exemptions on the two day per week cap were available to properties if a smart water system was installed. Another example of technology saving us at a greater expense.


For a mere several hundred dollars, a smart system could be installed allowing the property owner the possibility to irrigate more than twice a week. Could this be another example of business development by the commission?

Hetherington spoke out loudly against the enforcement provision. She called it an unfunded mandate. Code enforcement must be used and be pulled off more important tasks. She said there was nothing in the budget for that.


Smith stated that his yard is sugar sand. In the dry season, he said he would lose his yard if he were limited to two days per week. He went on to state that he did not like the fact that neighbors would be calling code enforcement on each other. Smith also said if people had to spend additional funds on their sprinkler systems, it was, in effect, a tax increase.


I agree with both Smith and Hetherington. Wouldn’t a better solution be to require a smart system in all new construction now and at multifamily and commercial properties over a period of five years. The county could then tackle the existing single-family homeowner. At the same time through an education campaign, the county could alert those single-family homeowners that twice-a-week watering would be coming in the next few years.


The county attorney stated that SFWMD wants an ordinance to be in place to obtain grants and receive consumptive use permits. A motion was made by Jenkins and seconded by Ciampi to adopt the ordinance. It passed 3-2 with Hetherington and Smith voting no.


You can find the ordinance here


Without fanfare Commissioner Ciampi made a motion to adopt the re-districting maps for commission districts. It was seconded by Commissioner Hetherington. It passed 4-1 with Heard dissenting. The new maps can be found here




Martin County Latest News From The December 5, 2021 Edition


The next meeting will be December 7, 2021


Martin County Latest News From The November 21, 2021 Edition




This was the BOCC re-organization meeting.


Jenkins nominated Smith to be chair. It was seconded by Ciampi. The vote was 5-0. Jenkins then nominated Ciampi as vice-chair which was seconded by Hetherington. The vote was 5-0.

Smith is an old pro at the job and is more than capable. I want to congratulate him on once again being chair. Hetherington did an outstanding job for her year.


I am a bit disheartened…not that Doug was elected but that Heard has not been nominated by the board. I know there were years when Smith was ostracized by Heard and the other commissioners. He was not given his chance to be chair and other slights. Now I guess it is payback. When does payback end?


Though the election for commissioner is partisan, there are currently five elected Republicans on the commission. Our factions within the commission are more determined by how much growth a commissioner is in favor of. The role of chair is ceremonial as the presiding officer and setting the meeting agendas. The position should be a shared responsibility.


This meeting was supposed to be where the vaunted comp plan was to be eviscerated. The commissioners fooled all those who believed that they would throw out Chapter 2 of the plan. That chapter was authored by Maggy Hurchalla and made it into the plan in 2016.


This thorough review was precipitated by the state requiring a new element be added to every comprehensive plan regarding property rights. Just like Chapter 2 is unnecessary, so too is this element. Staff took this as an opportunity to look at the entire plan for inconsistencies. They said that most of Chapter 2 is inconsistent with the current plan and unnecessary.


There were many speakers during public comment that were against the changes, and others did not understand what was being proposed. It looked as if the commission was setting itself up for a protracted battle.

When the item was called, Commissioner Ciampi immediately spoke. He recognized the concerns of the public and saw that they had questions. He praised staff and said they were not political, mentioned the number of emails received, and acknowledged the politicization of the plan. He said that the comp plan should not be political.


Ciampi then made a motion that the property rights element be adopted with any necessary language in other parts of the plan for it to be incorporated and that staff come up with a process for more public education and input. Jenkins seconded the motion and it passed 5-0


In 2023, the county will be required by state statute to do an Evaluation and Appraisal Report (EAR) to update the entire comprehensive plan. That is a process that will go into all the elements of the comp plan with extensive opportunity for the public to be heard. That process will begin in 2022. The commissioners and public agree that the EAR process is the place where a robust discussion of Chapter 2 should take place.


Ciampi and the rest of the commission acted politically smart but also as good public servants. They all agreed the public should have a forum to comment on the plan. I believe there was universal agreement.


You can find the changes  here




The commission was supposed to tackle its own redistricting at the meeting. They were presented with district maps and options. When Ciampi said staff was not political, he was not kidding. And while I don’t think districts should be drawn to favor political parties, there are no political districts in Martin County.


Every person, regardless of commission district, votes for every commissioner. There is no “one man, one vote” aspect which was a Supreme Court case that found that districts must be equal in population when the elected official only receives votes in that district (congressional districts.) There is Florida statute that says districts like Martin County’s should be drawn as compact and be as close in population as possible.


The districts that staff drew only take into consideration population with a 1% difference while other counties have a 3-6% deviation in population. The City of Stuart is split between two county districts. As a city resident, I would prefer to have one commissioner not two. Neighborhoods should remain under one commissioner’s district.

Why is there not more of a population deviation? There are not commission voting districts only commission MSTU districts. The larger the unincorporated population is in a district, the more you collect for those slush funds known as district funds. Municipalities are not taxed since they pay for municipal services through city taxes. The MSTU money cannot be spent in cities.


The commission realized that what the staff proposed was not going to fly. They were given their marching orders to come up with other solutions. Like the school board for school redistricting, the county should have a citizen committee that considers staff’s recommendation but then draws district lines and those are presented to the BOCC for approval.


If that system is good enough for Martin County’s children to determine where they will attend school, it should be good enough for the adults in our county. The commission should pass an ordinance now for such a committee for the next update in a decade.




Martin County Latest News From The November 7, 2021 Edition




Chapter 2 of the comprehensive plan was discussed in public comment.


On November 16th, the commission will be discussing the plan. In our News & Views Section of this edition, County Administrator Kryzda goes into detail as to why this is occurring. I urge you to read her statement if you have not already. There is a brief synopsis of the changes here


It was an interesting meeting if you believe the job of a county commissioner is to spend tax “mucho” dollars.


Apparently, the Stuart Air Show, a private enterprise, needs another $23,000 of county funds to pay for additional fire protection. That is in addition to $25,000 already allocated from the county. The money will come from the airport enterprise fund.


Smith and Ciampi, who never turned down an appeal if taxpayers are paying, told us it was a wise investment. They spoke about the usual reasons including “heads in beds” and full restaurants. The number of county residents who own a hotel or restaurant in the county is extremely limited. If what they claim is true, they are still taking money from the residents and subsidizing businesses. Remember 93% of sales tax collected goes to the state not to the county.


Heard noted that over the years the county has given generously to the Stuart Air Show. There is no audit of the activity. No agreement…no deliverables… in short no accountability.


Ciampi made the motion to give the additional funds. It was seconded by Jenkins. It passed 4-1 with Heard dissenting.




The slush fund known as District Funds is an MSTU collected by levying a tax on unincorporated taxpayers in each commission district. The commissioner for the district can allocate those funds pretty much as he/she sees fit. The system works well if it used as intended. Hetherington and especially Jenkins use that money conservatively. Ciampi spends it freely, but the projects are usually related to infrastructure.


Smith is very liberal with his allocated funds. It was no surprise that he would spend $200,000 toward installation and a base with a water feature to display a donated $300,000 Geoffrey Smith sculpture. It is being donated by an individual through the Community Foundation. It will be in Indian Riverside Park.


From his district funds so far this year, Smith has spent nearly $40,000 for a bar top for the beach café and $200,000 for a better-looking roof for a new fire station. There have been other expenditures also.

I am sure the work of art will be beautiful. I could even see spending taxpayer money on a marble or stone base and installation for the sculpture. That would cost about $60,000. Commissioner Smith has chosen to use taxpayer dollars to create a work of art for the work of art.


The vote was 4-1 with Heard dissenting.


The Fire/Rescue Department is applying for a SAFER Grant that will help defer the costs of hiring an additional 40 FTEs. The grant will partially pay for the first three years of costs, and the county will pay a little less than half the costs for those employees for that period. The reason for the increase bodies is to offset the increase calls for service.

The department has already added 5 additional ambulances which have to be staffed. Because of that, they are currently paying $3 million in overtime. The Fire Chief indicated that the additional FTEs would eliminate the overtime. At current rates in three years after the SAFER Grant ends, those 40 personnel will add $4 about million per year to the fire MSTU.


How many more employees can the county absorb? There needs to be someone looking outside the box to find a solution. We are adding employees faster than residents. A solution is not going to be found by hiring consultants who are retired from fire/rescue departments. When the commission will need super majorities to raise taxes, then what will happen?


The agenda item is here


The vote was 4-1 with Heard dissenting.



Martin County Latest News From The October 24, 2021 Edition




At this meeting, the commission was asked to buy land.


The first parcel of 2.2 acres is on Willoughby next to another 1.7-acre parcel that the county already owns. The intent is to construct a new wellness center for county employees which will serve as their own clinic facility. It is estimated that the current center will run out of capacity within the next few years.


The Gehring Group, the county’s benefit consultant, believes that the county will save $1 million per year after design and building out the facility. Their recommendation is for the facility to be county-owned but operated by a third party. Why this site and not on property the county currently owns?

Commissioner Smith kept speaking about property owned behind the current county building. That should be a possibility if feasible. Staff did not address it in their presentation.


Ciampi believes it is an expensive endeavor to do on their own. He mentioned that equipment and technology are changing constantly. He also added that maybe they should partner with Palm Beach County and have more than one place for employees to go.


Heard believes the wellness center is a success and has outgrown its space. She made a motion to go ahead with staff’s recommendation. Jenkins seconded. However, the other three were not quite ready to pull the pin on this specific site, and I think in Ciampi, and Hetherington questioned how to proceed with the operation. The motion failed 3-2 with Smith, Ciampi, and Hetherington voting no.


Smith made a motion for staff to continue studying whether to have a separate facility and where to place it. It was seconded by Heard and passed 5-0. The wellness contract with the current provider is up next year.


According to Assistant County Administrator Stokus, the property can be purchased using ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds. That is an incentive to buy a new property. Will the funds be spent for something else? The answer is probably but it does add a dimension to the project.


While the wellness center was new, where to place the public works complex was not. This has been going on for some time and has gathered steam since 2019. There is $6 million in dedicated funding to make the move from the airport property which currently hosts public works.


The department needs between 25-30 acres. They have narrowed it down to two sites. One is Newfield and the other is Gateway. The Newfield property would require $2.8 million in improvements because there is a need for a major lift station. The Gateway site comes in at $1.6 million for their improvements.

Staff is recommending Gateway. Smith liked the idea and moved staff recommendation. Hetherington believes that independent construction management should be used, and staff agreed. Heard seconded the motion and it passed 5-0.


Staff assures the commission that this amount of land is all they will need well into the future. I am not so sure. I think it would be prudent to have double that amount to allow for growth in the future…even if the future is 40 years from now. As the county runs out of available property, it will not be so easy to have 50- to 60-acre parcels. If the property is never used it can always be sold off to another user.


To see the presentation, go here




Assistant County Administrator George Stokus unveiled the new career center to be launched at the airport in Building 17.

The $1.4 million update to that building will be paid with ARPA Funds. These funds are to be used for those that were affected by the economic problems caused by Covid. The unemployed and underemployed will be able to train for jobs in the aero and marine industries. The targeted population for the training is 51% low to moderate income.


Once launched, the programs will be managed and funded by IRSC with Career Source and the school district. It is something that has been a long time coming. Will it meet the needs of our employers in those industries and others that will benefit from an enhanced workforce? Only time will tell.

Commissioner Smith wanted to add a spot for SPAM Robotics. Stokus said that would be discussed in Phase 2. A motion was made by Ciampi and seconded by Jenkins. It passed 5-0 to go ahead with the renovation and training program.


There was a long discussion about the landscaping on Kanner Highway south of the Veterans Memorial Bridge. At issue was where the money was going to come from and how much planting is necessary. Staff suggested that it come from deferring neighborhood enhancements which was clearly not the choice of any of the commissioners.


There is $300,000 for maintenance of railroad crossings in the budget. All the crossings are or will be brand new so the thought was that those funds would not be needed for that purpose and could be transferred to this project. The plantings the commission chose would cost $250,000. They have decided presently not to plant around the retention ponds which would add to the cost.


Commissioner Heard was against taking the money from the crossings. She felt that the railroad could still ask for maintenance funds. The motion was approved 4-1 with Heard dissenting.


Occasionally, a member of the public will come to the meetings and speak about county finances. There is nothing wrong with that. Citizen input is vital, especially on the local level. However, that input should be informed so that it helps the commission and staff to do a better job.


Unfortunately, that is not how the public comment goes from some folks. It usually begins with how much money is being spent “secretly” and hidden in the consent agenda. It is important to note that any commissioner can pull any item from the consent and add it to the regular agenda to be presented during the meeting. The commissioners often do that if they feel there was something that needed to be discussed.


Second, most things on the consent agenda are routine expenditures such as paying for supplies. While at times the amounts will look high, they are still routine, already part of the approved budget, and by statute must have commission approval. When I see something that looks amiss, I go on the county’s website and look it up.


Martin County has one of the most transparent financial ones in the state. If I still have a question, I send an email and staff usually gets back to me within 24 hours with the answer and backup material.


I think it is incumbent on any member of the public who is going to address the BOCC on these matters to have the facts. It may take someone a few months to delve into the minutia. It is only fair to the commission and staff to make comments not on instinct but on facts.


When a road is opening in a neighborhood, there is a fact. A road that has always been closed is opening. Simple and direct. When it comes to finances or the law, please take the time to be knowledgeable and not shoot from the hip. This will lead to being effective.



Martin County Latest News From The October 10, 2021 Edition



This meeting was a bit inconsistent in its approach to taxes.

The first part was about collecting more revenue in the form of sales tax. Last year, the thought was that our property values would take a Covid beating. Instead, the real estate market took off.


This led to a discussion about acquiring environmentally sensitive lands. There is a misunderstanding by some that the county by acquiring this type of property in IRL South or Pal Mar would take developable land off the tax rolls. For the most part that is not true. These lands are predominantly wetlands. They can’t be developed. And Pal Mar is a series of small lots making consolidation difficult. Acquisition will give Martin County flow ways which are critical to preventing flooding and to our ecology.


Both Smith and Heard would like to see a program developed to fund the acquisition of these lands. Is it a good idea…if we can keep the program dedicated for just that and not have any other projects such as for non-profits as part of the referendum. That is what happened a few years ago and it went down to deserved defeat.


For some reason at another point in the meeting, Commissioner Smith wanted everyone to know that the golf course was coming along splendidly. That paeon to socialized government business was going to be something that Republican Martin County would be proud to own. Now keep that in mind as we go to the next and final part of the meeting.

We have reported on the budget process for the past 6 months. All along, Commissioner Heard has voted no on parts of the budget. She does this so regularly that her fellow commissioners no longer pay her much mind. However, throughout the process Commissioner Hetherington has also made her opposition known to some of the budget items.


During both the capital and operating “discussions,” there were very little discussion happening from the three gentlemen commissioners, Campi, Jenkins, and Smith. Just “laissez les bons temps rouler” as they say in New Orleans. Because of the nature of the law, in some cases there needed to be a super majority vote to raise some of the tax rates. But Hetherington and Heard stood in the way.


Here are a few budgetary facts. 34% of the Martin County budget is allocated to the sheriff. While the county commission supposedly controls the money, who is going to tell the sheriff no? Another 8% are other constitutional offices. The other 58% of the budget is allocated to Martin County employees and programs that the BOCC control.


Yet 21% of that is for Fire/Rescue. For every commissioner but Heard, there is no challenge to the revenue requested by Fire/Rescue. Public safety takes up 55% of taxpayer and other dollars collected. That is primarily what government is all about. My contention is there is never a critical examination of these departments’ requests for political reasons.

So, at 5:05 pm when it came time to vote and a super majority (4 votes) was not going to happen, Commissioner Ciampi began asking departments to take haircuts. After a budget process of many months where commissioners did not seem interested, it was time to create a budget that could be passed. Each department under the BOCC, except of course Fire/Rescue, volunteered cuts.


The cuts were made in capital projects and not operations which was a smart thing to do. This is not the way budgets should be made nor tax rates decided. The deliberative process failed because commissioners were not listening to each other.


The list of those projects cut can be found here


There is not any one project in what the county is calling deferred that is devastating. They are solid improvements for the most part to our parks and roads. Even the $500,000 that is being cut from the golf course improvements is not the much-vaunted clubhouse or “Top Golf,” but rather money allocated to the removal of exotics.


We should expect more from the commission than on-the-fly cuts. All year round, the commissioners cannot wait to vote for cafés or the running of restaurants with little regard for the real needs of their constituents like everyday parks, roads, and storm water.


The commission succeeded in not needing a super majority this year. They even had a few tax rates that were lessened. What happens next year and the year after? More seat of the pants tax policy creation?




There was some good news for the county from Tallahassee. Martin County was awarded $10 million for septic to sewer conversion. Staff should be given a big pat on the back for that.


While Sewall’s Point is acting as if it is a punishment to have the ability to hook-up to sewers, the rest of the county is working hard to be able to do so. Governor DeSantis has made it abundantly clear that his goal is to eliminate septic systems as much as possible. Places like Sewall’s Point are in his cross hairs in that regard.


There were two housing developments that were approved. One was the Pulte/Christ Fellowship development which I believe is a mistake and have written about how it contributes to sprawl. This is purely a political decision on the commission’s part which seems to feel it cannot buck a politically connected church.

The second development is more in keeping with the existing neighboring developments. It is on Cove Road and Willoughby and will have a PAMP with 84% open space. The development which is being built adjacent to Summerfield will have the same feel.


At 5:05 pm the commission passed the final budget for 2021/2022. Nothing was changed from the first budget meeting. As a taxpayer, I am no happier than I was after the first meeting which I detailed earlier in this edition of the newsletter. The allocation of hundreds of millions of dollars deserved more respect than what was accorded those numbers.




Martin County Latest News From The September 5, 2021 Edition




Several months ago, this newsletter more than once wrote about the county’s bidding process for a new trash hauling contract. After 30 years, it seemed like a good idea to see other options.


The newsletter analyzed the bids and stated that the present waste hauler, Waste Management, was the most expensive of the three bids. The staff was split on which company to choose. The county commission ignored the bidding process and instructed staff to come up with a contract with Waste Management which then put aside the other bids.

It is true that the information in the bidding documents did not reflect the extras that Waste Management performs, and that the customer expects. Yet if those extras were so important, why were they not contained in the bidding documents so that all bidders had a level playing field. It was gross mismanagement of the entire process.


At a county commission meeting, many businesses, nonprofits, and even some individuals spoke in favor of retaining the company. There was no secret that their contract called for a 24% residential increase on October 1st.  A few individuals protested and the only organization that opposed retaining Waste Management was the Martin County Taxpayers Association whose president, Kevin Powers, spoke during public comment.


While the meeting was reported in other local press including the Stuart News at the time the decision to retain Waste Management was made, it was only in this newsletter that many articles were written following this story. Then why was there no public outcry? Because besides our readers, residents and taxpayers were just not aware.


The commission behaved badly in this matter. They clearly wanted to keep Waste Management and the public RFP process be damned. The only no vote was Commissioner Hetherington who stated that the integrity of the process was compromised. Every other commissioner ignored doing the right thing.


The reason that the Waste Management bid was higher was the company knows that Martin County does not follow the provisions of the contract. They put out much more bulk waste than what was called for in the RFP. It is common to have people put out more vegetation waste per household that is allowed. Certain gated communities require that their containers be picked up from their garages or doors. And those communities pay extra to Waste Management.


How were the other two companies supposed to know the special deals? I haven’t the slightest idea. They were damned if they did and certainly lost when they did not.


Now the TRIM Notices are going out and everyone in the county except the City of Stuart, which has its own sanitation utility, will receive a 24% increase. However where were these taxpayers during the hearing process? It was not a secret.


This newsletter was reporting on it in real time. The items were prominently displayed on the county’s website.


Citizens need to be involved. They need to read the BOCC agenda and speak with their commissioners. They need to gather information by reading this newsletter, the newspaper, the county website. And hold the commissioners responsible by making sure they have opponents and voting for the candidate that represents your interest.

Except for Hetherington, the commission let down their constituents. There was nothing nefarious…it was just as my columnist Tom Pine would say, “the good ole boys are in charge.”


Now the time has come to vote the increase in the MSBU to support the negotiated 24% increase with Waste Management. The contract is signed. Remember almost everyone who spoke at the commission meeting agreed with paying more to Waste Management. All agreed except Hetherington.


The motion was made by Heard seconded by Smith to increase the MSBU by 24%. It passed 4-1 with Hetherington dissenting.



Ed Ciampi has championed changing the depth that someone can mine his property from 20 feet to 40 feet. In Martin County when a property owner is mining the owner is not digging shafts to go deep into the bowels of the earth. They are excavating and creating a pit.


The applicant wants to change Article 4 of the LDRs. He has been trying to do so since at least 2019. By writing his own changes, he does not need to rely on staff to do so. This tactic is not that unusual. He wants to sell sand and 20 feet deeper to mine will be worth much more to him.


While Ciampi may want to proceed, the other commissioners are a bit more cautious. Staff said it does not have the expertise to know whether the proposed changes would affect the aquafers or not. Usually, the county would hire its own outside consultant paid for by the applicant which is included in the development procedures. In this case, since the applicant is the change agent and there is no specific project, there is no money to do so.


In his motion to move forward, Smith incorporated a provision for the applicant to pay up to $10,000 for the county’s expert. Ciampi was perfectly willing to have the applicant’s expert work for the county also. The other commissioners did not think that was a good idea.


Smith did not see the reason for it to go back through the process including the LPA. Heard, Hetherington, and Jenkins thought it should. The LPA had rejected unanimously the application.


The commission voted 5-0 to move forward with the county expert on board, and if staff decides there is a need, it should go to the LPA again. The applicant’s presentation can be found here here




The county is on board with leasing the land to Indian River State College (IRSC) to build a public charter high school in Indiantown. It will be operated in a manner similar to Clarke Advanced Learning on the Chastain Campus.


There is already a substantial anonymous donor who will be contributing millions to make this come true. It will have a strong Career and Technical Education (CTE) component. During the day, instruction will be geared to high school students, and there is talk about evening classes for adults.

It will encompass 25 acres of the 107 acres on the fairgrounds site. The fairground board appears to be ok with the use. Even if they are not, I believe that the project should move forward with the county now being the prime mover of everything out there. It is a great location and why not make the property more economically vibrant.


The commission has asked staff to come back with a MOU to lease the property and get another high school started.




When I was in business, employees would come to me and ask for a more prestigious title. Most times, as long as the title accurately reflected the work being done, I would agree. When they asked if a raise went with it, I more times than not said no.


In some regards, that is partially how I feel about raises for the county administrator and attorney. There is no better title, so the commission is forced to talk about money. As a taxpayer I feel the pain of spending additional dollars. But let’s consider why raising salaries are the right thing to do.

Taryn Kryzda has over a half billion-dollar budget plus 1000 employees. That is big business, and it is not only one business. The county is more like a conglomerate. Utilities, public works, fire/rescue, and many more disparate operations that she is required to oversee. She is also responsible for liaising with the constitutional officers including the sheriff whose staff is almost as large as the county’s.


If this were the private sector, Kryzda would be in line to make more than $219,000. That is only part of her compensation. During discussion, there was no mention of her total compensation package including deferred compensation of $39,000 (think about it as stock options in the private sector), retirement medical, and car allowance.


Smith was right when he said that being the CEO of a government is much different that in private industry. It requires a different skill set. Kryzda is retiring in less than a year. This will be the opening salvo in negotiations with her probable successor, Don Donaldson.

Everything I said applies to Sarah Woods who is running a law firm in essence. Her increase to $202,000 is not exorbitant. She returned to this position after retiring from it. This also may be setting the stage for the next attorney.


A motion was made by Ciampi and seconded by Smith to accept staff recommendation. It passed 4-1 with Heard dissenting.


The compensation survey can be found HERE




Martin County Latest News From The August 22, 2021 Edition



Waste Management, which is contractually obligated to begin single stream recycling in October, made a presentation to the commission.

Waste Management does an excellent job on fulfilling their obligations. They are ready to go with this part of the new contract. There will be new compressed natural gas trucks and a need for fewer employees on each truck since the new 64-gallon containers will use an automatic claw to grab the can and empty the container contents directly into the truck.  This is how the City of Stuart’s recycling has been for at least the last decade.


You can see the presentation here


The Board was asked to rezone a property on Federal Highway and Ridgeway to General Commercial. The 1.38-acre parcel has never had anything built on it and currently there is no plan to do so. According to the applicant “Though the future land use designations have not changed, the Preserve Areas surrounding the property (controlled by a Preserve Area Management Plan) will not permit residential development, consistent with the assigned future land use designations.”


As you can see from the photo this is far from anything. If the owner can possibly use his land for something, then it would be appropriate to re-zone. It passed 4-1 with Heard dissenting.



The above discussion and vote brought up the new law from the “Lords of Tallahassee” which now requires a new element to comp plans regarding private property rights.

The law mandates that all counties and municipalities must amend their plans to incorporate such an element. It may not seem like much but imagine the staff and consultant time to do this. The new element must be sent to the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) for approval.


Considering that the rights that are required to be incorporated into the plans are already either statutory and/or have court decisions affirming them, what was the point? It is just a way to interfere in local government once again but also to make local taxpayers spend money on needless revisions. There can be no local plan amendments filed until this is fully adopted.


The commission instructed staff to immediately begin work on this. You can read staff report here



The new Humane Society contract was approved. It is a ten-year agreement beginning October 1, 2021.


The last time they went out to bid in 2017, no other organization bid. The county must have a place to take these animals by state law. The only other alternative would be for the county to set up its own shelter.


The Martin County Taxpayers Association did a paper on this contract a few months ago. They came to the same conclusion. The Humane Society did have problems a few years ago that they have since corrected. Martin County just does not have the facility or personnel to staff such an undertaking. This is the most cost effective and “humane” solution.


You can read the Taxpayers’ paper here here


You can find the entire contract between the county and Humane Society here


The county signed a new labor contract with the Teamsters Union. It is a rather straight forward and fair agreement. Some of the employees represented by the Teamsters make less than $15 per hour. This contract will bring them up to a minimum wage of that amount when it goes into effect.


The raises are on page 72 of the contract:


Section 1. Bargaining Unit employees will receive either a wage increase of 2% semi-annually or a wage increase of $1.00 per hour annually, whichever is greater, for Fiscal Years 2022, 2023 and 2024. The 2% wage increase will be issued semi-annually on the first full pay period in October and April of each fiscal year. The $1.00 per hour wage increase will be issued annually on the first full pay period in October of each fiscal year. Bargaining Unit employees’ wages will be evaluated annually on September 30th to determine the appropriate wage increase for the upcoming Fiscal Year.


On the face of it no one is going to argue with the 2% raise twice a year. However according to discussion on the presentation and confirmation by staff, this contract’s wage terms also apply to all non-fire/rescue personnel (who are covered by a different union agreement.) It includes management as well as the rank and file. While I think the county administration staff deserve appropriate compensation, a separate item should have been presented to the commission outlining who receives increases and how much.


It seems a bit disingenuous and not transparent to do it this way.


The entire contract can be found here




Martin County Latest News From The August 8, 2021 Edition


The next commission meeting will be August 10, 2021.

Martin County Latest News From The July 25, 2021 Edition




Commissioner Jenkins has received inquiries from his constituents about the Harmony litigation.


Harmony is a proposed development in western Hobe Sound. The property owners are suing the county for not agreeing to their development plan. The commission turned down the submission 5-0. That was a good decision for the county overall. When Smith and Heard both vote no on the same project, I need say no more.

The developers took the county to court. After recent rulings that were favorable to the BOCC, the county was ready for trial. One of those rulings held each party responsible for paying their own legal fees, so the landowners have now requested an extension of time. The judge granted that request.


Everyone should know the county is ready to go as soon as possible.




If you remember almost a year ago, the commission unanimously approved a new contract with Waste Management. There were two other bidders at lower prices, but the commission unanimously chose Martin County’s long-time hauler. During the process, the commissioners went to great lengths to justify their positions.


I do not need to go over the reasons that this newsletter and the Martin County Taxpayers Association were opposed. (If interested, you can read the taxpayers’ article here

And the newsletter here


Homeowners will receive a 19% increase in the first year. Commissioner Hetherington pulled the item from the consent agenda. She wanted to know if the amount could be phased in. At this point, the answer is no. The contract is signed. This is just a formality.


It is like the ridiculousness of raising the debt ceiling by Congress. Congress acts as if by not doing so they are being fiscally prudent. That is ludicrous since Congress has already appropriated and spent the money. Raising the debt ceiling is only paying the bills you voted to incur.

Hetherington is not being cynical as they are in Washington. I am going to cut her some slack. But at this point after more than two years, she should now understand what the implications are of her votes. Sticking taxpayers with a 19% increase that could have been avoided is the outcome.


Ciampi made a motion to move ahead with the increase that was seconded by Smith. It passed 3-1 with Heard absent and Hetherington voting no. Voting no on this is like voting no on the debt ceiling…too late.




There are an incredible number of unpaved roads in the county. And once again the staff is looking for direction on what to do. They prepared a presentation outlining where the roads are and who presently maintains them.


It was agreed to lower the number of parcel owners along a road needed to move ahead and assess the property owners to paved roads from 67% to 51%. Reaching the higher number becomes problematic especially on roads that have only a few property owners.

Contrary to the publicity and propaganda, Martin County wants to believe it is rural but actually wants all the services of a city. From offering municipal services such as fire to trash collection, we have become a very urban county.


That is true even in places out west. The BOCC decided that all services must be equally provided to all residents. While that may sound egalitarian, the more that residents are separated from each other by space, the more expensive it is to provide “urban” services resulting in the more urban residents subsidizing the rural ones.


The commission tasked the staff to come back with a plan to spend a million dollars more a year on these roads for ten years. You can see the presentation here


Fire Chief Chad Cianciulli has determined that he needs an additional five dispatchers to manage fire/rescue calls. Five dispatchers are the equivalent of an additional person on duty 24 hours a day seven days per week. Last year calls increased 4.6%. The chief is also claiming the new hires will reduce overtime.

I do not know whether new employees are needed or not. What I do know is nowhere in the backup material were any costs outlined. Not one commissioner asked how much this will cost the taxpayers. Commissioner Hetherington, will you vote no later to allocate the funds after the new people are trained? It is going to be hundreds of thousands of dollars more in expense.


When Fire/Rescue calls for more of anything, all the commissioners except Heard vote yes. No questions are asked. Ciampi stated it makes perfect sense and made a motion to hire. Smith seconded the motion. The vote was 4-0 with Heard absent.




In a little more than two hours, the board approved the 2021/22 budget for Martin County.

In truth, there was truly little to do. Most of the increases were driven by an additional 5% for health insurance, a Tallahassee mandated increase in the retirement plan, and salary adjustments. Commissioner Heard noted that she was troubled by the growth in the budget.


The General Fund is increasing from 6.7618 to 6.9275. That is the rate that all Martin County Taxpayers are charged. The MSTUs go from 3.5152 to 3.5161. This is the tax that only unincorporated residents pay. And of course, do not forget the district funds that all unincorporated taxpayers will be charged. The amount depends in which commission district you reside.


The sheriff’s budget jumped by 6.5% to $79 million. That is an increase to nearly $500 for each resident of Martin County wherever the citizen resides. His deputies’ labor contract has a “me too” clause that their pay will be a similar increase as any raise negotiated by the firefighters. Which means, like so many things, this too can go up even more than anticipated.


I knew that Heard was going to vote against the budget, but I did not think that Hetherington would. She had voted yes on almost all the individual department budgets. Hetherington said something about some of the FTE positions could be eliminated. She did not elaborate.


A motion was made by Smith and seconded by Jenkins to vote for the tentative budget of $530 million and millage rate. The vote was 3-2 with Hetherington and Heard voting no. You can see the 2021/2022 budget here




Martin County Latest News From The July 11, 2021 Edition


The next meeting will be July 13, 2021

Martin County Latest News From The June 27, 2021 Edition




Remember months back when a big deal was made over passing ordinances to regulate the sale of tobacco products and to make sure that no one under the age of 21 could buy these products?


At the time I was opposed because I thought an age limit of 21 was ridiculous given that you could join the army, get married, sign contracts and every other thing but drink and smoke. I also said that Tallahassee would probably get around to preempting localities sooner than later. Tallahassee has. A county resolution needed to be passed to rescind the licensing of tobacco and vaping vendors. I wonder how much was spent in staff time to pass the original resolution and now its rescission.


The board also changed what is required to have permission to mine or excavate on your property. Many of us think that mining is only about what we see on tv about miners going down to dark caves. Martin County is more about excavating.


This change to the LDRs was asked by a landowner who wants a ten-year term with two five-year renewals. Commissioner Smith wanted to allow a longer time frame to mine without re-applying. The rest of the board was more in keeping with staff recommendations which were five years and two five-year term renewals.


Commissioner Heard made the motion to accept staff recommendation. It was seconded by Commissioner Jenkins. It passed 4-1 with Smith dissenting.



         Courtesy of the White House

This is a federal program in response to the COVID pandemic. Its aim is to help replace revenue to economic sectors that have been impacted by the disease. Martin County will receive $31.2 million over 2 years. Let the games begin!


This is one of those things where hundreds of billions of dollars are going to every community in the country. Every village and city are getting their own stash of money. And there are billions more in grants for airports, public transit and you name it.


The important thing is how will we spend it? I think Martin County is being very practical on using about 60% for capital programs mainly water and sewer projects. The rest will go to nonprofits, tourism, mental health, economic development, and a host of other programs. At least the sheriff will have his mental health program funded.


Assistant Administrator Stokus laid out a spending course that shows that he is sensitive to the politics but understands that you should not waste a good opportunity. I don’t see how some of the money can be spent in social and capital programs given the timelines.


Commissioner Ciampi said it has the vibe of a Christmas tree. That the young will be stuck with the bill for this spending. He wants to see more go toward the social programs.


Stokus asked that the commission vote on the following:


Move that the BCC authorize the expenditure of ARP funds for Tourism/Business Assistance per the attached plan that has been previously approved by the Tourist Development Council.

  • $2.6MM


Move that the BCC authorize the expenditure of ARP funds for Library Assistance Programs.

  • $750,000


Move that the Board authorize the expenditure of ARP funds for the Food and Sundries Assistance Program.

  • $3.2MM


Move that the Board authorize the expenditure of ARP funds for the Nonprofit –Operations Assistance Program.

  • $1.25MM


Move that the Board authorize the expenditure of ARP funds for the Nonprofit –Programs Assistance Program.

  • $2.5MM


Move that the Board authorize the expenditure of ARP funds for the Mental Health Assistance Program.

  • $2.5MM


Move that the BCC authorize staff to set aside ARP funds for future Economic Development Assistance Programs.

  • $3.5 MM


Move that the BCC authorize staff to set aside ARP funds for future Broadband Projects.

  • $1.0MM


Move that the Board authorize the expenditure of ARP funds for the Capital Sewer/Stormwater Assistance Program.

  • $13MM


The last three items Stokus wants to come back and receive more guidance from the board on where to spend the funds.


Smith moved staff recommendation. It was seconded by Jenkins. The motion passed 4-1 with Ciampi dissenting.


You can see the presentation  here


Stokus’ biggest problem will be spending the money in time not to lose it.


It is funny that the county is eager to operate golf courses, water parks, and restaurants but has a problem being entrepreneurial enough to run its public utilities with that same private sector mentality. They should have had the designs for the sewer expansion done by now. This money is coming as no surprise to anyone. I hope they will use private companies to do the design work to speed up completion. 

                         Bored Panda

This is a great opportunity to go a long way to finish these water projects. They are within the federal guidelines. These funds can be used as leverage to secure other grants. A once in a lifetime opportunity. 





Martin County Latest News From The June 13, 2021 Edition




The meeting only lasted for 1.5 hours. City of Stuart and Village of Indiantown please take note. Less is more!


A couple of things stood out to me. The board’s fiscal conservative, Commissioner Heard, was pleased with the Stuart Beach renovations. They are spectacular. My surprise came when she said that she couldn’t wait for the Sand Dune Café to open once the labor shortage was over.

                        Sarah Heard

For those who believe there is a labor shortage, they are wrong. There is a shortage of applicants willing to work for the wages being offered. It the employees of the café were being offered comparable pay with those in the private sector; they would apply at the county owned and operated facility. At $11 per hour with a no tipping policy, the jobs aren’t attracting many people.


Why is the county running restaurants? They should be leasing them to the private sector. This is another example of the commission’s socialism in action.


They approved several new fire stations one of which (Station 14) is in Commissioner Smith’s district. That project will receive an additional $200,000 of his district funds for enhanced architectural details. That is in addition to the base building price of over $4 million. What is the purpose? No ordinary station for District One will do.


A brief discussion was held pertaining to Indiantown’s counter for fire/rescue. The commission is standing firm with its last offer. They can either take it or leave it. Mr. Brown’s letter with the counteroffer can be found here




It appeared to me that the main purpose of this meeting was to discuss the two restaurants the county operates at Jensen and Stuart Beaches. There was very little else on this agenda to report.


The BOCC is perplexed over why the county cannot find workers for their restaurants. Is it the extended and enlarged unemployment benefits? Commissioner Ciampi believes it is. Vice Chair Smith, who presided over the meeting, thinks an agenda item should be brought back to discuss why there are so few applicants.


He cited the fact that no tipping is allowed at the venues. The no tipping policy in and of itself (not to mention the $11 per hour wage) would not induce many to work there. Ciampi volunteered to man the counter since he is food safety certified. Is this a new qualification we should look for in a commissioner?


For Mother’s Day, the Jensen Beach café served 400 brunches we were told by staff. The commissioners were giving kudos for the sales number. And by the way the Stuart café at this same meeting needed an additional appropriation of $136,000 for overages. (You can see the budget amendment here )

To make up for the cost over runs Stuart café will have to sell a lot of brunches.


This needs to stop! County government should not be operating restaurants. This is the purview of private industry. The commission and staff are going to claim that the café at Stuart Beach was operated for years by a private party, and the facility deteriorated to the point that it had to be torn down. The correct operating agreement and, even more importantly, enforcement and oversight of the terms of the agreement would have prevented that problem from occurring.


All non-governmental functions should be given to the private sector to manage for this department or any department. This should be a money-making opportunity for the county. What happened to common sense? Are some commissioners so invested in building empires at the expense of taxpayers that they no longer have good government as their goal? It is too bad.



Martin County Latest News From The May 23, 2021 Edition




After Commissioner Jenkins asked the question regarding ending mandatory wearing of masks, Administrator Kryzda provided the answer.


The policy of mandatory mask wearing will end in county buildings on June 1st. She said that will give everyone regardless of age the opportunity to be vaccinated and have the additional two weeks for the full immunity needed. This deadline will also apply to the Emergency Family Leave that was extended to this date.




Sheriff Snyder gave a presentation on what his department has seen regarding the mental health of our citizens.

There have been 2,358 calls regarding a person with mental problems from January 2019 to April 30, 2021. In 2019 there were 776 people that were involuntarily placed in custody using the Baker Act. During 2020, 711 people were. Deputies responded to 186 overdoses in 2019 and 224 in 2020. There were 8 suicides in 2019 and 18 in 2020. Those are staggering statistics for a county our size.


Within the jail complex, there has been a 21.8% increase in mental health incidents year over year. In 2020 there were 964 as compared to 1174 this year. There is a 67% increase in psychotropic medication prescribed over the same period for inmates. This statistic is for inmates with new prescriptions not those that were already on medication before they entered the system.


This is not something unique to Martin County. We see this throughout the nation. The U.S. has relegated the mentally ill to the penal system for care. This has placed our law enforcement in the precarious position of dealing with a population, but they have had little training in this area. We continue to see the results of this societal failure in police shootings and civilian deaths.


Sheriff Snyder is searching for answers. He has instituted crisis intervention training and case management. There is a full-time mental health councilor on staff. He is formulating an alternative response unit.


It has been found that people in uniforms with all their equipment could add to the stress of a mentally ill person. At the same time, even if a trained civilian responds to a call, the mental health professional would still need law enforcement to be with them. After 40 years of closing institutions, we know that leaving the mentally ill and their families to deal with this illness on their own has not worked.


I would imagine that MCSO’s solution is to spend law enforcement dollars on something that the health care system should be doing. A police officer or deputy is an expensive and not remarkably successful resource for doing so. We need to let law enforcement deal with crime and not turn illness into criminal behavior.




A few months ago, the CRA and Growth Management departments brought an amendment allowing that in the zoning classification of Marine Waterfront Commercial, there should be a way to have residential development and public access. Both does not seem hard to accomplish.


At the present within that classification, you could have restaurants, marinas, boat yards, offices, retail, and everything else including hotels but not a residential development. This residential prohibition applies to both condos and single-family homes.


The change proposed would be to allow residential development within this zoning classification. There will also be a requirement that the public be given access to the waterfront much like what Stuart has done with their boardwalk system.


You would think this would be a no brainer…not in Martin County. Heard and Smith expressed fright that the small marinas may disappear. Heard also spoke about the shoreline setbacks. John Yudin, representing the Maritime Industries Association, said he was not in favor of the change because it may affect his members.


Decades ago, the commission placed this protection in the code because they were afraid that residential growth would overtake smaller industries. Apparently even with protections, there has been no growth in opening more working marinas and boat yards in the CRAs. That tells me that more of these uses within this area probably will not occur.


Government trying to protect certain industries happens all the time. It happens in places like New York, where for years they have tried to keep garment manufacturing through zoning prohibitions alive and well in Midtown Manhattan, to no avail. You can almost forgive an anti-free market Democratic city from thinking it knows best. What is Republican Martin County’s excuse for ignoring market trends?


Smith, but to a lesser extent some other commissioners, spoke about visioning sessions in CRAs that occurred more than 20 years ago as if the people then are the same as those living there today. Markets change and trying to create a vision that is 20 years old is economic and socially irresponsible. Ciampi asked if you could still operate or open a marine business. The answer was yes.


Even with the new loosening of allowing residential building, it would still need to be a mixed-use project.  While it is better than no residential at all, it still requires an unnecessary element instead of allowing the market to decide. Within the CRAs, all projects are infill. There is no pristine habitat being sacrificed. It should be purely market driven. It appears the market wants more residences on the water with docks.


All the wringing of hands by some was just show. Smith made the motion to accept, and it was seconded by Jenkins who does not wring his hands. It passed 4-1 with Heard dissenting.


To see the presentation, go here




Martin County Latest News From The May 9, 2021 Edition




Commissioner Jenkins began his comments by trying to preserve

the relationship between Fire/Rescue and Indiantown. He had met with senior staff prior to the meeting and suggested offering Indiantown $300,000 a year for five years for “economic development” which would come from the federal funds earmarked for Martin County. In exchange, the village and county would sign a separate 5-year agreement to provide the service and charge the MSTU.


Is that a concession to reduce the MSTU’s full impact on the village? Sounds like it to me. Jenkins said most Indiantown folks that he has spoken with do not want the village to go to a hybrid system. That is probably true, but should the rest of the people in the system absorb that cost?


There is an ordinance preventing doing anything but charging the MSTU. Perhaps that is why it necessitates having two different agreements. One for the 5-year term for Fire/Rescue and then one giving the $1,500,000. Does that constitute a quid pro quo.


Smith wants to narrow the parameters of the offer to improving hydrants and water flow from their utility. That may make some sense. Ciampi said there is a fractured relationship. He believes the council wants to settle it.


Heard wants to know where the $1.5 million is coming from. Kryzda explained that the total federal allocation in Covid relief to Martin is $31.5 million. Indiantown, as its own government, will receive another $3 million. Heard believes they are creating an exception and it does not meet the intent of the funding.


Kryzda heard from Hetherington, Ciampi, and Jenkins that they want to do what they can to keep Fire/Rescue there. Heard answered that you cannot do something that is a detriment to the other county residents. Ciampi said he didn’t care. He would appropriate strictly county resources if necessary. It is not a giveaway but a negotiation and that it is a reasonable amount.

That is a politician’s view of things! The vote was 4-1 to have staff offer this up. Heard dissented.




Approval for 284 single family Pulte homes on the Christ Fellowship property was granted. It was a few less that I thought would be built on the site but that does not make it a good deal or good planning. And that is too bad since this was the time to show that the western part of the county would not succumb to the sprawl of South Florida.


Imagine taking 321 acres and having a 20-acre site for a nonprofit and the rest to build 284 houses. Imagine the number of impervious surfaces this project consumes. There is no center or community here. There is not a store in the project. There is not a park within the project. There will be 600 plus cars driving on the roads to go to school, work, restaurants, and stores. When the church campus was approved it was not for this, but I guess it was inevitable that it would politically end up here.


This is a project that could have been built 70 years ago and will look it. It is meant to house people with very little connection to each other. Perhaps those close to Southfork will be able to walk to school but I would not count on it. The same goes when you want to attend a church service at Christ Fellowship. How many families do you think will be strolling to services?


A motion was made to approve by Smith and seconded by Ciampi. It passed 4-1 with Heard dissenting.


You can see the presentation here






Martin County Latest News From The April 25, 2021 Edition




County Administrator Taryn Kryzda presented the Indiantown item to the commission.

The item in question was Indiantown’s creation of a fire/rescue department. This came about because Indiantown Mayor Hernandez sent a letter to the commission chair asking whether there will be any negotiation over the price of fire service. The letter is attached HERE


Kryzda went on to explain what a MSTU is and what it pays for.  Currently 88% of county residents have Martin County Fire/Rescue as their provider which includes Ocean Breeze and Indiantown. It is paid for through the MSTU with some services such as the 911 call center and the lifeguards through the general fund.


There are 11 stations plus administration that go into the department. The MSTU is the same throughout the county and is based on taxable value. Wherever you live within the fire district, you will pay an amount based on the assessed value of your property. Therefore FPL pays so much more than anyone else.


95% of Indiantown’s MSTU is paid by the industrial sector with only 5% being paid by the residents. This starkly illustrates what the county has been saying all along that the cost of the department is not per capita but as explained above. It is impossible to calculate based on per parcel cost without making the payment excessive for those least able to afford to pay for the service.


Station 24 in Indiantown always has a complement of 7 staff with two ambulances instead of the other stations which have 5 and one ambulance. According to industry standards, response to a structure fire should be 15 personnel, 2 engines and a ladder truck. There is no way Indiantown, on its own, could muster that response. That would affect Indiantown’s ISO rating which is used to calculate insurance premium rates.


There is a 1997 Ordinance which prohibits shifting the expense to the detriment of others in the MSTU. The service must be charged equally across the board. Therefore, to make a deal with Indiantown is prohibited by the ordinance. You can see the ordinance HERE


It was also mentioned by the village that Indiantown is a rural setting. It is in Martin County’s rural part, but the village itself is urban in nature. There are few fires in a year, (Brown mentioned one house fire and three brush fires in 2019), and the rest of the calls are medical. There is at least one call per day on average in Indianwood.


The village claims they did not receive the information they requested from the county regarding calls. However, Kryzda stated those statistics do not exist because currently they do not break down costs or calls per station. She also stated that Indiantown’s numbers of collectable taxes and the rebate to FPL were wrong. The numbers she is citing, which I believe to be correct since they are verifiable through public records, prove that Option 4 of the Village’s choices is not cheaper than remaining with the county. In fact, none of the options are.


Hernandez said they have the right to sever ties with the county which is correct. She also made it seem that they pay the county for fire services which is not true. Each individual parcel owner currently does the same as they would if they were still unincorporated. She also made it seem as if there was a racial element to the quality of service which there is not and has never been.

There was some mention about Booker Park station, but it was always the intention of the county to only have it be used for recreational purposes and as a community center. Most of these arguments are covered in earlier newsletters which the reader can view on this website and in the Indiantown section below.


Ciampi spoke and said he was a supporter of incorporation. He has not made any statements about this until now because it was Indiantown’s business. But when it comes to public safety, he will do so. He knows for a fact that Indianwood wants to keep things as they are. He was the one that originally spent his district funds to have Booker Park Station be a community center even before incorporation.

He is against privatization equating it to replacing the sheriff with security guards. How do you protect the industrial base out there? What about auto accidents? It is not a good idea.


Hetherington agrees 100%. She, as an Indiantown native, has had many conversations with people and not one has expressed a desire to leave Martin County. She said in the past, Indiantown perhaps did not have the county’s full attention, but no resident was ever given unequal treatment.


Jenkins tried to do everything that could be done. He has had Zoom meetings with council members with Kryzda to explain the facts. There is no way that he could possibly explain to a resident in Hobe Sound that they should pay more than an Indiantown resident.


Smith said he spent 18 months on the incorporation in Tallahassee. There was zero support in the legislature. Martin County has the best service now why mess with that. He is disappointed. He believes that Martin County will pick up the pieces in a few years when this fails. I agree with Doug 100%. It will be left to the county to do that.


You can see the entire presentation here HERE




Going against Christ Fellowship’s development of their property sometimes feels as if you are going against the will of a higher power. I must remind myself that this project is anything but heavenly. It is sprawl and nothing more.

Even though it was sure to pass, this is a great example of failed mid-20th century planning. There are no services, stores or community associated with any of it. Just a bunch of rooftops connected by roads.


It is a way to develop that property that was zoned especially for the church for a religious purpose. They now want to disregard the original reasons for allowing Christ Fellowship to build and have a home there and now make as much money as possible.


There was originally to be a campus created, an integrated community with the church as its center. It does not matter that the church is trying to assuage the county by giving a dozen acres of the 321 acres to a charity for veterans.


Their subsequent request to reduce the lot size from one-acre to ½ acre (or less) makes the project even more objectionable. If that action were for clustering to preserve open space, I could understand and maybe even endorse. In this case, it is to allow more rooftops not a better community.


However, the motion was made by Smith for both approval of the project and then the text amendment and seconded by Ciampi. It passed 4-1 with Heard dissenting. You can see the entire presentation HERE


The Palm City Costco fiasco is over.


I wrote extensively about it last week. A small section of Palm City residents showed “them” what for. Now without a voice of dissension in the chamber, the project known as Palm Heights Crossing was approved.

Phase 1 will be a Wawa with six-thousand-foot convenience store/fast food restaurant with 8 pumps/16 slots and a Tractor Supply. Phase 2 later will be a car wash. Phase 3 an Aldi supermarket and Phase 4 a possible hotel.


That was sure a hard-fought victory for the anti-Costco folks so that they would not have a box store. They have all the same things only broken up into different businesses. Congratulations.


You can see the presentation HERE


At the end of the meeting, the 2022 CIP plans were presented. Each department presented their plans. I was in many of these presentations at a staff level as a member of the Martin County Taxpayers Association, so I was familiar with the details and there were no changes.


The commission asked their questions and except for Commissioner Heard who voted against some of the departmental plans, they passed without opposition. An overview can be found HERE





Martin County Latest News From The April 11, 2021 Edition


The next commission meeting will  be April 13, 2021


Martin County Latest News From The March 28, 2021 Edition




The marine industries are an important part of Martin County. A working waterfront is integral to having a place for a portion of the marine industries to be productive and service clients.


One of Martin County’s assets is the waterfront. I do not believe there is anywhere else in Florida where as many people can live on a body water like here. It is much more affordable to do so than down south or in many towns further north.


There is a balance between the two. What we saw at this meeting was whether it is the government’s determination or the market’s decision as to how much should be permanently devoted to that purpose. Sometimes the commission is good with concepts but then has a problem when it bucks up against reality and friendships.


The CRA staff was getting ready to send a comp plan amendment to the state to have definitions conform in the CRA chapter with those in the rest of the plan. One thing the change would do would be to change marine service classification to allow for residential development with approval. Currently, in that category you can have anything from boat yards to marinas and even hotels and office buildings but no homes.


That may prove problematic for a Rio development being proposed and moving through the process. Commissioner Smith was trying to not have that category changed. He brought up what happened with Hinckley’s expansion in Rocky Point and how key that was. He mentioned the commercial dock that the county owns and how the entire neighborhood has boat yards next to residences.


Except for Commissioner Heard who understood what was happening, the other three stood mostly silent during Smith’s interrogation of staff. Commissioner Jenkins motioned to move ahead with transmittal to the state and work out the language difficulties between now and second reading.


Commissioner Heard asked why would the commission transmit something that is going to be changed? I agree. The only public speaker, Marcela Camblor, a planner, said if the use can have hotels and offices, then why isn’t having people live there acceptable? I agree again.


So, for our local elected officials, markets are convenient when they dovetail with what they are trying to accomplish. If for some reason the concept of markets stands in the way of a friend, then we need to make sure that the market doesn’t dictate use. When it comes to development, even if I do not agree with her, Heard is the most consistent. She is right to ask the question why not fix the language prior to sending to the state.


The vote was 4-1 with Heard dissenting.



The last infill project in Jensen Beach has been approved. It is a 36.2-acre site off Savannah Road which will have access through Cedar Street. There will be 68 single family homes with 2.31 units per acre. It abuts Leilani Heights. There is preserve area with a PAMP.


It was approved 5-0. To see the site plan and presentation go here


Clyde Dulin of the Growth Management Department made a presentation using the new planning tool. He ran through several scenarios.


One of the more fascinating ones was regarding changing the Treasure Coast Mall from retail to residential. Planners are fairly certain that malls like that are obsolete, and at some point, within this decade, these tertiary retail malls will close. The question is how do you repurpose them.


This new interactive planning tool helps greatly in this regard. With the need for fewer and fewer retail stores, planners need to have tools to evaluate what impact different subsequent development will have on government services. It turns out even with as many as 800 units at this site, there will be little impact on roads, schools, and even the need for more grocery stores.


There are other scenarios included in the presentation including for Newfield. You can find the presentation here




As my regular readers know, I am not a fan of the BDB.


In the 2021 budget, the Business Development Board received $450,000 from the county which actually means from the taxpayer. The attached report paints a great picture but how much of the good news is directly tied to their efforts? I reached out to the board president twice to find out, but I received no return call.


Just because you happen to be in the room does not mean you were the proximate cause of something occurring. But never worry! Local government is enthralled, and some commissioners even get to sit at the “cool” BDB table by being on the board. The hundreds of thousands in subsidies for their friends with your money will continue. As my friend, Tom Pine would say, the “Good Ole Boys” win another.


To see the presentation, go here





Martin County Latest News From The March 14, 2021 Edition




You can look at the ascension of Chad Michael Cianciulli as the new Martin County Fire/Rescue Chief in a couple of ways.

He is a 25-year veteran of the department where he started as an EMT. For five of those years (2013-2018), he was president of the union that negotiated some generous contracts with the county. Cianciulli certainly knows the ways of the department and the rank and file he now leads.


The rank and file have been instrumental in the elections of Commissioners Smith and Ciampi and to a lesser extent Hetherington and Jenkins. Is this appointment a payback for that political help and campaign funds? Another question to ask is whether a union leader can now negotiate from the other side?


I have been a union member and even an organizer earlier in my life. I have been in management and have owned businesses that were unionized. Whatever position I was in, I tried to do a good job wearing the hat assigned. I think we need to assume that Cianciulli will do the same thing.


That does not mean that citizens and taxpayers will not be keeping a keen eye on this arrangement especially around contract negotiations. I also think we need to keep that keen eye on the four commissioners who rely on the rank and file for money and campaign workers during elections.


You cannot blame the union for doing everything legal to gain a good contract for its members. That is the union’s responsibility. It is the responsibility of Cianciulli and his boss, Administrator Taryn Kryzda, to be fair to the membership but to watch our side of the equation. Most of all, it is the job of the county commissioners to make sure that happens and not put their political fortunes ahead of our pocketbooks.




The Guardians of Martin County and the Treasured Lands Foundation made a presentation to the commission like the one that had been made earlier to the Jupiter Island Commission. The Loxa-Lucie Headwater’s Project is seeking to buy lands from Bridge Road south to preserve the headwaters of both the Loxahatchee and St Lucie basin. The Conservation Fund is the lead non-profit.

They were seeking a letter of support from the BOCC. Instead, they got a whole lot more. Every commissioner jumped on the band wagon. Ciampi started it off with a motion to give $1 million a year for 10 years. And it grew from there.


For the most part, no one thought that would be enough…so the organizations would not be able to acquire the lands needed in Martin County to make the dream come true. Smith began with intimating a sales tax. Heard thought the number was $75 million. I later heard numbers from experts of $100 million to $250 million.


Can little old Martin County accomplish something like this? If a sales tax were proposed and it was narrowed specifically for this purpose, I think I could support it. If it were the commission Christmas tree that the last sales tax referendum looked like, then I would find it difficult to support it. I remember Sail Fish Splash Park and do not wish to repeat it.


As to those who say it would take land off the tax rolls, that notion is sort of ingenious. It is producing no taxes now and never will because it is a wetland and cannot be built upon. It would be good to have the lands under conservation for all of us.


Yet those commissioners have a way to go before I would trust them with a pot money. Their history has been that the voters think the pot was for a specific purpose, and suddenly, the tax appropriated is for everything else.


To see the presentation, go  here




How do you get a density bonus? You put in affordable housing. 30% of this project will be workforce housing. Of the 177 units, 49 will be “affordable.”


So, it looks like a good thing and the applications for those units will be submitted to the county along with a yearly report. The units will not be identified (a good idea), and how many must be three-bedrooms or other specific sizes will be left to the market. The developer will make the determination how he meets his obligation of having 49 “affordable” units.

It looks to me like the development, located in Hobe Sound bordered on Federal Highway and Dixie Highway fronting Eagle Street, will be simply fine with the present owner and developer. I think they probably would comply. A new owner…maybe not so much.


After a few years if compliance falls by the wayside, it will be a code violation. The legal department may seek a court remedy. It all hinges on county staff remembering the intricacies of the agreement. A daunting prospect in perpetuity.


I guess this is one way to have denser projects. To me, it is a good thing since we do not have enough apartments in the county. And the 177 units will hardly be dense at 13 units to the acre.


Heard does have a point about tracking the affordability apartments. While Stuart has a formula baked into their approvals, such as 80% of the AMI, it seems the county’s standard is based on how the state defines affordability and not spelled out in the developer’s agreement.


And 49 apartments are a drop in the bucket in the scheme of things. We shouldn’t expect the county and private developers to do this. This is really a federal and state responsibility. A better way to accomplish the same thing is through vouchers but not with a program that overregulates the owners. It is just the best way to do this.


To see the presentation, go here




Martin County Latest News From The February 28, 2021 Edition




There are only a few items worth mentioning.


There was a thorough presentation regarding discharges and coral reefs. The presentation was a joint effort by the Florida DEP, the county, NOAA, and Harbor Branch. It is amazing how everything is interconnected…the Lake and discharges, the reefs, and the lagoon. To see the presentation, go here


There is no secret that Commissioner Ciampi has been a champion of the Equine Rescue & Adoption Center (ERAF) located in Palm City. It is their mission to save horses whose owners are not caring or cannot care for them. They have received money from the county before. This is a more formal way of becoming a vendor like the Humane Society and the Wildlife Rescue.

It appears Ciampi worked closely with staff to move this RFQ along. It would be the place where animal control would drop off horses, cattle and other livestock including pigs to be cared for. The sheriff has used their services in the past but not in the past several years. It was intimated by ERAF’s director that the sheriff strongly recommends that the livestock owner contact the organization so enforcement proceeding wouldn’t be needed.


By state law, the county must have an agreement with someone for personal animals. In Martin County, it is the Humane Society. Martin County is a bit more unusual in that it helps fund the medical needs of wildlife when they are hurt by using the Wildlife Rescue organization. Ciampi’s argument is what about horses and livestock?

He was in the minority on this one. Chair Hetherington couldn’t buy it especially when it came to pigs. Commissioner Smith had always opposed the spending of tax money as has Commissioner Heard on this matter. Ciampi made a motion to fund to the tune of $100,000. It died for lack of a second.


It seems the commission’s action was justified given the fact that the county spends nothing on providing shelter to the homeless. Is a pig or horse more important than a man or woman? Why are tax dollars being used to mend the wing of a bird instead of having a dry place for a kid to sleep? The same can be said for a dog or a cat, I guess.


Priorities are important. In Martin County, dogs and cats are worth tax dollars along with egrets and hawks if they should be hurt. All other living things have no place to be cared for here. I am not so sure I agree but given our limited resources, it probably was the correct decision.



Martin County Latest News From The February 14, 2021 Edition




There was not much in the way of substance at this meeting, but it gave me an opportunity to understand commissioners’ motives on what they deem important.


After one more round of public comment from the usuals such as Riverkeeper Mike Connor and Florida Sportsman publisher Blair Wickstrom on how unfair the closing of the Jensen Beach bridges is to fishermen without boats, the commission sort of relented on the closings.

Smith reiterated his position that the place is a mess and has been for a long time. He said that people would never tolerate users leaving such a mess in any park. While Commissioner Heard felt they should have an agenda item to discuss this further, Ciampi and the rest felt that enough had been said. He wants these “volunteers” to speak with the sheriff, FDOT, and other government agencies to see if a program can be worked out with the fishing groups.


While county officials have said FDOT would only allow the bridge to be cleaned by county staff if the county took over all the maintenance, that is not correct. FDOT would sign an agreement to allow the county to clean the bridge and not take over maintaining the infrastructure. Why should local tax dollars be used for this cleaning so that at most a hundred or so people can be irresponsible.


A motion was made by Smith and seconded by Ciampi for the administrator to assign a staff person to be lead on this initiative with the other parties named above. It passed 5-0.


Duane De Freese, the Executive Director of the Indian River Lagoon Council, gave a presentation to the board. The NEP was just reauthorized with an increase in funding to $700,000 for 2022. He stated that Martin County is a leader in septic to sewer. It was a remarkably interesting and detailed report. For those that are interested they can go here


Almost at every meeting, a commissioner will announce (as they are required) that he/she will be using “my district funds” for a project or organization to pay for something not in the budget. This meeting, Smith announced that he was using his district fund to pay for an upgrade to the bar top being installed at Stuart Beach’s Sand Dune Café in the amount of $37,386.95.


In each commissioner’s district, there is a special MSTU that is collected from taxpayers that becomes those district funds. They are to be used at the district commissioner’s discretion in the locale where the funds were collected. That MSTU is not paid by those county residents that live within a municipality and none of those funds can be used for a project within the municipality.


Will the use of those district funds make that government-owned, operated, and built bar more beautiful? Without a doubt it will. I just wonder how many taxpayers within Smith’s district would think the bar at the new Sand Dune Café is worth their $37,386.95 in paid tax dollars. You can find the change order and specifics here


Maybe there needs to be better parameters around what and how these funds can be spent. I can understand a road issue or a drainage problem. Even an amenity like sidewalks or to pay for a pilot program at a park. It is always tough to decide when the expenditure is more a whim than a necessity. I doubt any commissioner will step on the toes of another in this regard. So, if there needs to be a more restrictive policy how would it be accomplished? 



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Martin County Latest News From The January 24, 2021 Edition



The commission finished doing a switch of future land uses on a parcel of 500 acres bordered by SW 96th St and the St. Lucie Canal and Kanner Highway.


At first, it appears to be a good deal for those people living along 96th Street. It removes the possibility of industrial and commercial development along there by switching the zoning to agricultural. At the same time, an equal amount of acreage on the parcel’s Kanner Highway side will be zoned for industrial. The project is known as KL Waterside.


The Kanner rezone will have no warehouse building larger than 1,050,000 sq feet. More than one building can be placed on the parcel. The only limiting factor is there can’t be more than 950 vehicle trips per day. The applicant stated that they are working with someone to have a 500,000 sq. ft. warehouse.

While the land goes back to agricultural, everyone knows there is no agricultural use of any nearby property currently. My objection, like Commissioner Heard, is that it creates a free-standing USB outside the current limits. While the rezoned agricultural property has the designation of 20-acre ranchettes, I would suspect that soon the owners will be asking for either an extension of industrial using Kanner as the access point or new homes will go there.


I have no problem with development. We need more people and jobs to pay for the Martin County lifestyle. What we do not need is this continued piecemealing. That 500 acres is going to be developed. Agriculture is never going to reappear there. Let’s just stop pretending about what is going on.


The commission owes Martin County a coordinated plan on how we develop. What we are getting now is development that is not in our overall best interest. Leapfrogging the USB and then creating free standing ones is wrong. What we need is some structure and integration so that we can maintain open spaces. At the same time, the county should encourage development that has all the elements of good planning. What we have now is neither.


There were three separate hearings and votes on this. All three were 4-1 with Heard dissenting. The presentations can be found here




There were two presentations that should be briefly discussed.


The first one covered the county’s legislative priorities. Kloee Ciuperger, the legislative coordinator, gave a rundown of Martin County’s wish list for Tallahassee. It is much the same as every year. The monetary ask is $4 million to continue septic to sewer conversion. I doubt that any of these individual appropriations will be funded this year. You can find the presentation here


Utilities & Solid Waste Director Sam Amerson gave his presentation on the septic to sewer program. Martin County is making progress in converting. It is important that it continue but I don’t know how much Tallahassee will be funding those projects this year. At some point, I believe that the state is going to mandate hookups especially in urban areas. Martin County should be ready.


To see his presentation, go here



After strenuous negotiations, the county was able keep the price that had been proposed in the original RFP for residential customers. As outlined in an earlier edition of Friends & Neighbors, Waste Management was the most expensive proposal but a favorite company of many. At times, commissioners seemed as if they were wooing Waste Management as a mate instead of picking a garbage collector.


Negotiation of pricing for business customers resulted in a negligible monthly price reduction over the contract price. All the trucks will be new and operate on natural gas as their fuel. There will be more routes added. The county will go to single stream waste and new 65-gallon carts will be distributed by next October.


Waste Management should give their government liaison employee, Jeff Sabin, a huge bonus for pulling this off. He would deserve every penny. In all fairness, he is an upstanding generous person for our community, as is Waste Management. Waste Management’s lobbyist, former State Senator Pruitt, should be given a bonus also for securing the higher fee.


The vote was 5-0 with every commissioner expressing undying affection. The staff presentation can be found here


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Martin County Latest News From The January 10, 2021 Edition




This was a meeting that was short and focused on Parks & Recreation.


During public comment Mike Connor, the executive director of Riverkeeper, spoke about how Florida Department of Transportation had placed signs forbidding fishing from the Jensen Beach Causeway bridges. He asked how could FDOT just do that without consulting the county?


The reason it was done was because for years, people who fish off the bridges leave their debris behind. Debris that includes dead fish and fish parts, bait, lines, hooks, beer bottles and more. Connor said his group would be more than willing to help clean the bridge and educate the users. He wanted a trial period.

Commissioner Smith said the area had been a pig style for 20 years. He has walked the bridge extensively and seen it firsthand day after day. This is a longstanding problem not of just a few fishermen but the many that use it. Smith went on to say that in the past, volunteers had cleaned up for a couple of months and then the bridge went back to the deplorable condition. Commissioner Ciampi said that these are adults not kids and by just going behind them to clean up their mess solves nothing.


Both Smith and Ciampi are correct here. This has been a long-standing problem that anyone can see with their own eyes and at times detect with their nostrils. FDOT is responsible for the maintenance of the bridge including the cleanup. They are tired of having to hear from countless residents about the mess and having to remind people to take personal responsibility for taking their trash and debris with them.


Connor stated that FDOT told him that if the county took over maintaining the bridge, they could then allow fishing. But that will cost Martin County taxpayers money because maintenance means more than cleaning up. It entails maintaining the bridge which is expensive. I suspect the commissioners knew that and that is why they will probably take a hands-off approach going forward.

I sit on the Martin County Parks & Recreation Advisory Board. This issue has come to our attention and we have quizzed the sheriff’s deputies about this. It isn’t only the bridge but there are fishing piers attached that do come under Parks & Recreation. We were concerned about enforcement.


The members of this board care about Parks & Recreation. They have come up with good suggestions and are knowledgeable. The staff we work with also tries to give us the information and take our suggestions seriously. However, there is a disconnect.


If the county is going to have this advisory board, it needs to have it perform like the LPA. There needs to be a presentation of plans, budgets and issues affecting the parks and then the board should make motions to either recommend those plans, budgets, or issues to the commission or not. The BOCC are the elected representatives and should have the final say. But a formal process should exist to make sure the commission has the recommendations of their advisory board.


The second Parks matter at the meeting was Kevin Abate, the department’s director, presenting the capital plan for replacement of boat ramps. The systematic plan is to replace the aging boat ramps at several launch areas throughout the county within the next few years. The first one will be at Sandsprit Park.


The commission wants to have all the planning and permitting done now. That way if funding is found the replacements can happen sooner. It makes sense and could ultimately save money by trying to use a similar plan modified for each ramp.


The presentation with which ramps will be replaced can be found here  




Newfield, the Kiplinger new town being built in Palm City, had three agenda items.

The first was the development agreement that, in essence, is outlining how impact fees are going to be used and what credits the developer is entitled to have to make the improvements. The second item was the first of many site plans and the two PAMPS to be built. Last was the Community Development District being formed to allow for the infrastructure improvements to be paid for by the development itself.


In my opinion, the comp plan, code of ordinances, and LDRs have never been as much in sync with a project as with Newfield. In fact, Kiplinger and his consultants sat with staff and wrote Chapter 11 of the LDRs specifically for this project. That was the hard work for it introduced something known as Form Based Code to Martin County.


According to Form-Based Codes Institute at Smart Growth America, a Washington non-profit that advocates for these type codes, the definition is:


“A form-based code is a land development regulation that fosters predictable built results and a high-quality public realm by using physical form (rather than separation of uses) as the organizing principle for the code. A form-based code is a regulation, not a mere guideline, adopted into city, town, or county law. A form-based code offers a powerful alternative to conventional zoning regulation.”


That type of code is ideal when you want to have continuity of planning for a particular neighborhood or area. You know what you are going to get. It makes it impossible for a developer to build something completely out of character with the surrounding neighborhood. Form-based code is ideal for an urban setting where different uses are to be integrated.


In some instances, it is better to have a PUD to develop a piece of property. Not all development is the same. The county’s CRAs should have a code that identifies their unique characteristics. In shaping the so-called Creek Arts District, Stuart needs to institute a form-based code for that neighborhood. The city should also do it as they contemplate the future of the U.S. 1 corridor and the Gateway area.


The development agreement is attached here


The motion to accept was approved 4-1 with Heard dissenting


The site plan and PAMPS were the second item on the agenda. The Crossroads Neighborhood is comprised of 139 acres and can have up to 1257 units. It also has a mix of retail, office, and commercial space. It will be the densest of the over 3300 acres within the development.

Commissioner Heard kept saying over and over that there would be no transparency because the commission would not get to approve every home etc. She either doesn’t still understand what the commission approved with Chapter 11 or she is using it as an excuse to never approve new projects.


As of right, Kiplinger could have just sold off his property to developers and then we would have had more of the Martin County magic of either single family home developments or 5-acre ranchettes. In both cases, that type of development is nothing but sprawl. Knight Kiplinger, or his inheritors, will make more money eventually by building his town. By Kiplinger being able to do so, the people of Martin County will have planned growth and much less south Florida sprawl. It is a win for all of us now and far into the future.


That passed 4-1 with Heard dissenting.


You can find the documentation and presentation here


Finally, the BOCC approved Newfield’s own CDD (Community Development District). What that does is make the new “town” pay for its own development. They will be permitted to tax themselves. Every parcel owner will be assessed an amount. This will give Newfield the opportunity to bond projects to build sewers and roads and for the owners to pay the costs instead of all Martin County taxpayers.


I am a proponent of this type of development. 70% of the land will be kept open. People will be able to walk to stores, schools, and restaurants. Stuart with all its supposed density is still a city where people get into their cars to do all of that. When I first met with Kiplinger years ago, I recognized that it would be beneficial for every resident not just those that eventually end up living there.


I hope that at some point Newfield will incorporate and become its own municipality. It is off to a good start and I would love to remove the quote marks from around “town”.


The vote to allow the CDD was 4-1 with Heard dissenting.


You can find the CDD presentation here




More than two years ago, the BOCC wanted a better way to forecast growth and to see how much and what type of land is available for that growth. Staff has been working on this since and I believe they have come up with a great product.


David Farmer of Metro Forecasting Models, which only has local governments for clients, demonstrated what they have put together so far. If the county goes through with procuring their services, it will be a great planning tool.


The county will have to commit to using them on an ongoing basis. The information in the program must be updated periodically for it to be of use. If the county is going to spend money on a consultant, this will be money well spent if the BOCC and staff use the information the program will deliver.


Included in the package is not only unincorporated Martin County but also the municipalities. It is important that they be included especially Indiantown and Stuart. If a buyer were looking for available industrial properties or where new ones should be located, the entire county should be considered.


I was a little perplexed when the commissioners were speaking as if the municipalities should pay to be included. This is wrong especially if the payment to the company is coming from the general fund to which all taxpayers contribute tax dollars. If the municipalities want to purchase additional services not being provided to the county, then that is a different matter.


The BOCC gave staff the go ahead to proceed. That is a good outcome. The presentations can be found here



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Martin County Latest News From The December 13, 2020 Edition




By BOCC Chair Stacey Hetherington

As the season changes, my resolve to keep our community safe and informed does not. We’ve weathered spring and summer with COVID-19 and extreme rainfall. Now, as we move toward the upcoming holiday season, one certainty is that Martin County remains strong and resilient. I’m thankful for the commitment of our citizens in continuing to wear facial coverings and following health guidelines that slow the spread of COVID-19.


During the BOCC’s reorganization meeting I received the honor of being elected unanimously to represent the board as its chairwoman.  I’m extremely grateful for the confidence my colleagues have entrusted it me. 


This year I will focus on the uncertainty of how the coronavirus pandemic will affect the county budget and the local economy in the coming year. My priorities will continue to focus on communications and transparency with residents, restoring the health of the Indian Riv