Stuart Latest News From The June 25, 2023 Edition




The city has come to terms after years of pending litigation with a manufacturer of PFOA which contaminated the city’s drinking wells. This necessitated spending millions to correct the  problem.

On Friday June 23rd the city commission in executive session reviewed the settlement offer and accepted. The details have not yet been made public. But it is definitely in the millions. How the city can and will use the proceeds is not known at this time.


As more of the details are made public, we will give you a more in-depth report. As of Friday, it is all still full of unknowns. Keep an eye on our Facebook page for more details as they unfold.




After almost two years, the Kanner PUD lawsuit is finally coming to an end.


Last week after publishing an article about a possible settlement, I was asked by the developer’s representative to take it down. They were afraid that it would prevent a settlement since the article pointed out that the proposed settlement was identical to the original approved plan from August of 2021. I took it down. You can see it here

We have all heard of the fairy tale, “The Emperor Has No Clothes.” In this case, the person who instituted the administrative hearing, Robin Cartwright, had nothing ultimately although the administrative law judge found several points in her favor. She was reversed on all substantive matters by the Governor’s Council. She then put in a “Notice of Appeal” to the Council’s decision in the Fourth District Court of Appeal.


In the interim, the Florida Legislature passed the Live Local Act which in effect gave the developer the right to build many more units than what the current plan calls for on that parcel. The developer was sitting in the catbird seat. But for two reasons, the developer decided that a settlement was in his interest.


The first was the original plan is probably the nicest one that Stuart has ever seen. Why try to reinvent everything because of a time delay. At the same time, a further delay of 6 months to a year could chase away Costco. I can see them not wanting to hang around forever.


With that said, what could they give Cartwright?  A promise. The promise was to build the original site plan and not withdraw it in favor of much more intense development available under the Live Local Act. Call it whatever you want, but the only thing that was given up was time.


We can’t make light of time. The developer was making mortgage payments and paying taxes for two years without income. He was able to clear the property and do some sitework. It cost him legal fees. It also cost the city of Stuart increased tax money and utility fees…you and me.


Nothing was accomplished except delays. And we can’t forget the level of disharmony that was rampant in Stuart and Martin County about this development project. What a grand waste of resources. We all deserved better.


At least we all realized that the self-crowned emperor had no clothes.


As Appeared in Martin Moments




Both the Business Development Board and Main Street made presentations to the commission.


Joan Goodrich from the BDB went through how the board has enhanced business over the past year. I have never been a fan of the organization, but under Goodrich it is trying to have more of an impact. You can see the presentation here


Candace Callahan, the Executive Director of Stuart Main Street, also made a presentation. It was full of facts that are unverifiable including that more than $11 million in private investment is occurring Downtown. It was as if she had reached into the air and pulled that number down.

The presentation was full of the unknowable. Even if the $11 million number is true, how is it tied to anything Stuart Main Street did?  I was not even going to comment on this presentation until Ms. Callahan stated that only 13% of Main Street’s budget came from government sources.


If that were true, it is something to be celebrated. I didn’t think it was, but I wanted to give her an opportunity to provide the data that led to that number. She refused to do so. I then reached out to the president of their board, Joe Flanagan, for verification. He refused to confirm it. I gave them every opportunity to prove what they claimed was true or to admit that they made a mistake.


How much can their information be trusted if they remain non-transparent about how they derived those numbers? They are a private non-profit which receives a small fortune from the taxpayers of Stuart. Their protectors, the commission, have placed that organization’s interest over that of the citizens. When is enough…enough? Hold your commissioners responsible for their actions and the absurd use of your tax dollars.


See the following in-depth story on Stuart Main Street, an organization that has its own facts and refuses to share information with the public. The very same public that is funding and housing the organization. A refusal of an explanation for a statement made at an open meeting while supposedly informing the city on their programs and financials.  It stands to reason that they would want to get out a good news story, but only if it were verifiable truth.


Our own Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch has served one term on the board of the South Florida Water Management District. She was re-appointed by Governor DeSantis, but the Florida Senate would not schedule a hearing to vote on her nomination. We don’t know why and are not likely to ever know the reason.


It is more than fitting that the Stuart Commission sends a letter that urges that she remain on the board. What was not fitting was Commissioner Collins calling out Senator Harrell, the senate president, and governor for this as well as the loss of funding for a sewer project, the Live Local Act, and a prejudice against single family homeowners. Collins was so proud of himself that he put the entire colloque on his Facebook page.


That was a mistake. Harrell has been a main stay in Stuart for more than 50 years. She has been a teacher, a partner with her late husband in his medical practice, a patron of the arts, and a successfully elected state representative and senator. Harrell is entitled to respect. I have disagreed with her stance on some things, but I consider her a capable public servant.

What many newer pols fail to see is that an opponent today could be an ally tomorrow. On the national level, any civility shown is considered a weakness or fault. The reason that a pol votes for or against a bill or appropriation is sometimes because that vote will allow their priority bills and appropriations to make it through the pipeline.


I believe Collins is overlooking the complexities of being in political office. He is making enemies when he should be making friends. And none of his actions will result in Jacqui being confirmed or aid in bringing needed money for Stuart projects. It may make him feel better, but it is not better for his community.


The Waterfront, which is the successor to Mulligans, is seeking reimbursement of $750,000 for repairs to the premises for structural and other items. It was decided to send it to the CRA for further action.


A brief discussion ensued regarding the new city attorney position. But the commission was quickly swayed in another direction by interim attorney Paul Nicoletti saying that before creating criteria for hiring an attorney, Mortell would have to be formally offered the permanent manager position. The commission wanted to immediately offer him the position. Mortell and Nicoletti both said that it needs to wait until a noticed item can come back. The commission did instruct Nicoletti to negotiate a contract with Mortell.


It is not clear why looking for a permanent city attorney needs to wait until Mortell is permanent manager. It is true that if Mortell is not approved as the next city manager, then he would return to his old job as attorney. But the commission can still discuss the next steps for hiring a new city attorney now. They just shouldn’t hire one until Mortell is formally voted upon. This is one easily swayed commission.


The mayor’s discussion of moving city hall to the Wells Fargo building was equally brief. I don’t believe the commission has a good understanding of the financing or consequences of this move. This is a momentous occasion that will have a far-reaching impact on Downtown including answering the question of what happens to the current city hall?


It is my understanding that they would need the money generated from the sale of our iconic building to pay for the extensive renovations of the bank building. Do the residents want the current city hall to be demolished and turned into a hotel or apartments? If they need the money for renovations, then a sale must be made which requires a referendum.

In the meantime, the different departments relocating to Wells Fargo continues without an end plan. There are no estimates of cost or what the eventual outcome will be. It is the moment to stop further movement until all of that is studied more. I haven’t even mentioned that Tim Hernandez, one of the developers of Azul, is slated to build apartments on other portions of the Wells Fargo property as part of the deal.


I have asked for records on the Wells Fargo financing so that it can be more fully analyzed. Commissioners need to slow down before the city spends millions and decides a move is not in anyone’s interest.




I don’t quite understand why Stuart Main Street decided to be less than truthful when they made their presentation to the Stuart City Commission.

They could have just used their usual puffery. Instead, they mentioned that they receive only 13% of their funding from government sources. I didn’t believe it was a true and accurate statement.


I contacted Candace Callahan by email for an explanation:


From: Thomas Campenni <>
Sent: Tuesday, June 13, 2023 8:07 AM
To: Candace Callahan <>




During your presentation you quoted 13% of your budget comes from the government. Could you please let me know how you derived that number.


Also I would love to have your current income and expense numbers. Thanks.


Her response:


Hi Tom,


It was a pleasure to see you last night. And thank you for taking more of an interest in Stuart Main Street. Pursuant of Florida Statutes Chapter 119, please direct your records request to the City of Stuart.



Candace Callahan, Executive Director

Stuart Main Street | The Flagler of Stuart | Market on Main | Rock’n Riverwalk

201 SW Flagler Ave. Stuart, FL. 34994

e | p | 772-286-2848 w|


I don’t know why asking for clarification on a statement made in a public meeting elicits a mention of a public record. She made the reference, and I was trying to have some insight into it. If it is a true statement, I think it would be remarkable and she would want to tell the world.


Chapter 119 has to do with Public Records. Is Stuart Main Street required to keep a public record? They are a “private” organization, but it looks to me like it is almost completely dependent on the City of Stuart for its financial support with both direct and indirect subsidies. The only things they are required to provide the city with as per agreement are their yearly budgets and financials.

To give the organization every chance to defend Callahan’s statement of 13%, I contacted President Joe Flanigan. Flanigan spun the web in every way possible except to verify the number. He said he could not. If he has any information that would verify his executive director’s statement, he should love to give it out. Instead, it is treated as a state secret.


Since I could not receive any information from secretive Stuart Main Street, I made a public records request from the city. In return I received the 2021 and 2022 budgets and the Flagler lease. Those records showed inconsistencies.


According to a budget submitted to the city from Stuart Main Street, they received from the city $70,000 in 2021. There was also a line item for $2500 for grants. There is no explanation of what the grant was for or where the funds came from.


The total income number is just as vexing. What was presented was not a total budget. If the budget I received is what Main Street gave the city, then they did not accurately report. They did not fulfill the terms of their agreement. Nothing in this budget states anything about Flagler Center now called The Flagler.


There are obviously pieces missing. Entire columns have disappeared. For example, the General Administration Column is M on their budget document. Beginning with column N, the other columns do not appear until column AB (14 columns are gone). The secrecy of Main Street continues.


You can see the 2021 budget here

The 2022 budget has gross entries and individual entries. It is a more accurate portrait of Main Street’s overall year than 2021. It received $70,000 from the City of Stuart. There is also an entry of $8000 labeled CRA proceeds. Another one is for “Grants” for $50,000.


For Flagler events, which looks to me is a subcategory of the budget, Main Street took in $188,000 in total. That includes allocating $35,000 of income or half of the city’s $70,000 contribution. They also paid the city $33,000 for the year as rent for Flagler Center. The entire idea of the below market rent was to allow the organization the ability to stand on their own two feet and not take any direct subsidy from the city. Instead, it has worked out to be one more subsidy for secretive Main Street.


You can see the 2022 budget here


Instead of working with me, secretive Main Street left me to find the information on my own. I went to their tax returns. I found inconsistencies with their budget.


Their tax return for 2021 showed income of $222,000 and the income in the budget $101,000. Expenses were $227,000 on the return and about $30,000 according to the budget after adding and subtracting bottom lines from the various categories. 2021 should be chalked up as indecipherable with the information in our possession.


The tax return for 2022 has not been loaded onto the GuideStar website yet. You can look at the 2021 return here


Why is it so difficult to get information out of a taxpayer-supported nonprofit group that has as its mission the preservation of Downtown? Is it because their real mission is to preserve themselves? According to their website, there are nine board members and three ex-officio members.


Why has the city entrusted The Flagler, an asset worth millions of dollars, and tax supported funds of close to $100,000 to a board without much of a stake in Downtown? Where is the oversight? As a taxpayer I am outraged. As a good government advocate, I am saddened.


Secretive Main Street is not elected. There are no qualifications for being on the board such as owning a business Downtown or being a Stuart resident. I would venture to guess that half or more of the current board members do not meet either of those criteria. Yet they supposedly are guiding Downtown’s future.


And they refuse to give basic information to the Stuart public. Is there any reason why residents believe that government is nonresponsive to the public. Don’t ask secretive Stuart Main Street because they will not answer.





Stuart Latest News From The June 11, 2023 Edition


The next commission meeting will be June 12th.




It is no secret that Brightline is coming to the Treasure Coast.


During the decade that this has been brewing, many of us have protested, denied, fought, accepted, and now have some anticipation (especially if Stuart has a station) for the inevitable. A few are still at the fighting stage of the process ignoring the fact that Martin County settled the matter with the railroad several years ago.


Instead of working collaboratively to solve this important problem facing Stuart and Martin County, our state and federal officials have carried on their opposition to inter-city passenger rail going through the Treasure Coast as it travels from Orlando to Miami. Is there a sinister plot with the residents of Martin County as the pawns in this fight?


The choke point for Brightline has always been the Stuart Railroad Bridge. It is old and creaky. Further it only has 6 feet of clearance. Most boats cannot go under it. Given that the passenger line wants to run 32 trips a day using that bridge, it is a major bone of contention between the boating industry and the railroad. But it doesn’t only concern Brightline. FECR’s freight business more seriously impacts those tracks.


Anyone who has ever sat in their car at a crossing waiting for the miles-long freight train to pass at 30 MPH understands how just a few minutes can tie up traffic and bring Stuart to a standstill. While all the attention has been focused on Brightline, the Achilles heel to the operation has been the freight line. We are about to see how much this will affect us.


For years, the marine industries and pleasure boaters have been forced to wait to traverse the St. Lucie in Downtown Stuart. There is just no way to get to the inlet from Palm City, Indiantown, and western Martin County when the bridge is down. As annoying as it is for the public, it can be real money for the boat builders, a private industry, that are tied up waiting for the bridge.


That is why a suit was brought by them against the Coast Guard to demand the bridge be opened at least for half the time. Congressman Brian Mast has championed that same action for years. He has lambasted the Army Corps and Coast Guard in congressional committee hearings.


The Coast Guard has now responded by giving Mast and the marine industries much of what they want. Beginning June 21st they have issued an interim rule here that states the following :

  • Open the drawbridge every quarter and three-quarter hour to allow boat traffic to pass but no longer than 15 minutes.
  • If a train is in the circuit at the designated opening time, then the opening can be delayed for 5 minutes then remain open until all boats have cleared but the opening can be no more than 15 minutes.
  • Always have a drawbridge tender on site (there has not been one in over fifty years)
  • The old Roosevelt Bridge will open on the same schedule. Now it stays closed during peak traffic times.


There are other points that you can see in the order. It doesn’t matter whether there is a boat in sight, the bridge will be open. It will happen at 2:15 am and at 2:15 pm. In typical bureaucratic fashion, there is no deviation from this deviation order.


I have used Brightline a half dozen times from West Palm Beach to Miami. It isn’t cheap but (at least for my wife and I) it sure beats the traffic. It is fantastic to park your car at West Palm station and go to Miami or Miami Beach for the weekend and not have to worry about traffic or paying for hotel parking. You never use your car once you arrive anyway, so it works out about the same financially only without the stress.


With that said, if Brightline were to go away tomorrow, my life and that of the people in Martin County would not be any different. I have come to believe if Stuart ever does have a stop, it would be an economic boost to our economy. Not a big one but a measurable one.


While the boaters and marine industry are pleased, this “temporary” rule could cause havoc for the rest of us. Freight trains are running through the county now. They are miles long and if they are stopped half the time because the bridge is up, where do you think they will be stopped? A typical freight train that is halted in Downtown will block every crossing in the city of Stuart south of the bridge (St. Lucie Avenue, Confusion Corner, MLK, Florida St., Dixie Highway, and Monterey Road).


FECR thinks crossings will be closed 8 times a day going north and 8 times going south from 30 minutes to an hour. If you have a heart attack and live on the other side of the track from the hospital, you are dead. The dreaded fire and the town will burn. Police emergency not a chance.


The bridge is the choke point and always has been. For most of the time Brightline has been coming, that has always been a problem. There have been at least two bridge concepts that have been explored. Washington has hundreds of millions of dollars for infrastructure project grants.

The one missing figure in moving forward with a new bridge is Brian Mast. Any entity can apply for the money but without the local congressman endorsing the bid, it will fail. So far Mast has not been willing to champion the cause.



He has said that the railroad is a private company and therefore should pay for it themselves. And if it was for their rolling stock I would agree. The state and more so the federal government spend billions every year to build and upgrade airports, highways, and ports. But there are no public airlines, truckers, or shipping companies as they are all owned privately or by their shareholders. We spend those billions and billions of dollars on the infrastructure that allow those private companies to operate for our economy and for our people. It is in the local, state, and federal governments’ interest to do so.


Mast is not shy about requesting and receiving federal money. He is in the top ten of congressional representatives for bringing money home for projects. In the 2024 budget year, Roll Call has the congressman ranked 4th for earmarks at $337.3 million. I applaud him for that since it is money for Florida and mostly his district. Mast does represent Stuart and Martin County.


Working to make sure that pleasure boaters and the marine industries can thrive here is vital also. So, it is an achievement for Mast having the Coast Guard do his bidding. He represented those constituents brilliantly.


Brightline is not scheduled to begin service until Labor Day. For the next two months, nothing will have changed on the ground except the new opening times commencing June 21st. If havoc ensues for residents, businesses, and drivers, will Mast then represent all our interests and bring home the money for a new bridge?


The new rail bridge would allow at least 80% of boaters to pass underneath without opening. Occasionally it will need to open to have that large sailboat or yacht maneuver through. We should be working together to solve this problem, not playing politics with the lives and businesses of our area.





Back in 2016 when I was still a Stuart city commissioner, we were made aware of PFAS in our water supply. The commission, on the advice of staff, then approved remedial action. At another meeting, we voted to be added to a class action suit against the makers of the chemicals.

For almost two decades, Stuart’s Fire Department used fire-retardant foam to practice fighting chemical fires. 3M was Stuart’s supplier. It leached into the ground water and eventually the water supply became contaminated. Though the chemical concentration was higher than the government-recommended amounts of 70 parts per trillion, Stuart is no Flint, Michigan or Jackson, Mississippi. Two hundred million Americans have the chemical in their bloodstream.


Stuart was picked by both sides as the lead plaintiff in the class action lawsuit. The trial has thousands of plaintiffs and is being held in Charleston S.C. Last week the other three companies implicated in the PFAS suit settled for almost $1.2 billion. And now the Stuart/3M trial is on hold as possible settlement talks continue.


It almost seems as if the judge in the case wants to force a settlement. If it goes to trial and Stuart and the other plaintiffs win, the jury could award a judgement that could seriously impact the viability of 3M as a company. 3M has set aside billions for payouts. If the final number is within that amount, all is well. However, juries are unpredictable, and I am sure that is weighing on the judge’s decision for at least a 21 day postponement as of June 5th.


But Stuart isn’t the only fire department in Martin County. While you hear about the city’s involvement in the lawsuit, the county has been mysteriously silent. They are responsible for the airport which is much more likely to have this type of fire than the city and is the location where they have practiced with foam. I don’t know whether they are a party in this or any other lawsuit.


In the meantime, do not fall for all the doomsday chatter and stories you may read and hear. If you are a city resident, the water is safe. We don’t really know about any contamination in Martin Count’s water supply, but the water they produce for their customers is constantly tested as is the water from SMRU and Indiantown.


PFAS is not only found in water supplies but in cleaning products, dental floss, tents, rain jackets, grease resistant paper and containers, nail polish, makeup, stain resistant fabrics, and hundreds of other products.


Stuart did the right thing by taking the actions it did. Let’s not go into American panic mode. I am sure soon we will hear of people that claim they became ill because of it. Another miracle of modern life through science that went a bit wrong.




I have taken heat by some people for writing in favor of the Costco PUD.


There is a reasoned argument about some of the aspects of the project. And I believe that people can disagree on whether it is a good project. What I do know is the nearly 50-acre site was not pristine Florida woodland no matter who wants to claim that it was.

From the very beginning, the developer/owner and their contractors have found old cars, boats, old machinery, abandoned and previously unknown structures, unpermitted irrigation ditches, old appliances, tires, garbage mounds, and everything else that a well-appointed dump could have. Even the purported wetlands have been declared non-existent by the EPA.


Since site clearing work has begun, the cornucopia of all the above has not only been discovered at ground level but been uncovered when the land has been cleared. It seems previous owners had used the property for more than farming. It was anything but a natural woodland and unadorned wetland.


Making believe that the property was and is something other than an overgrown mess is misleading. The development argument has been lost. With “Live Local” now Florida law, what the property can be used for is much denser than what was approved initially. Even environmentally (as has been borne out by the EPA, SFWMD, FWC, and others) the development of the property is not having any adverse effects ecologically.


If anyone has any doubts regarding what was on the property these photos should put that to rest.







Stuart Latest News From The May 28, 2023 Edition


If Mike Mortell is chosen by the commission as city manager, then before too much longer, a permanent city attorney will be needed.


The duties of the city attorney can be found in Sec. 3.06 of the city charter. It reads as follows:


The city attorney shall be admitted to the practice of law in the State of Florida, and shall be the legal advisor to and attorney for the city. The city attorney shall prosecute and defend all suits, complaints, and controversies for and on behalf of the city, unless otherwise directed by the commission, and shall review all contracts, bonds and other instruments in writing in which the city is to be a party, and shall endorse on each approval as to form and legality. The city attorney shall be appointed on merit and fitness alone and without regard to political beliefs.


A city attorney is appointed by and reports to the city commission. Yet it clearly states that the city attorney is Stuart’s attorney and not the commissions. While the job description as outlined in the charter is short, it is comprehensive.


Sometimes commissioners seem to forget that the city attorney is not their attorney. The client is Stuart and not themselves. The attorney’s responsibility is meeting and advising the commissioners, but the attorney should be available to meet with Citizen John Doe also. The attorney is doing the job on behalf of the citizens of Stuart.


It becomes difficult at times because the board appoints the attorney. All sorts of things can happen if commissioners forget what the attorney’s real responsibilities are and to whom he is accountable.

That is why it was so naïve when one of the commissioners told me that the interim city attorney was communicating with him by email when the attorney was away for several weeks. What about the citizen who just wants to speak to their city attorney. Without regular office hours and the ability to sit down with staff, service providers, and regular citizens aren’t we being shortchanged.


The bulk of the job is everyday lawyering. Things like drafting and reading contracts. Looking at development orders and making sure that orders are filed. A city attorney spends much more time reading agenda items than legal briefs or reading insurance and labor contracts rather than preparing for upcoming litigation.


Stuart has been lucky for the past decade because its city attorney is a certified civil litigator who is not afraid to go all the way instead of settling as would probably happen if outside council had been used. Remember the city wasn’t paying Mortell by the hour, and therefore could hang tough instead of settling. Most times, the government settles because of the cost of winning.


Going forward, the person in that position will seldom if ever go into court. They will do what most city attorneys do…counsel and go to meetings. There isn’t enough time to be in court and perform the city attorney’s regular duties. If the commission believes for just a second that the next city attorney could possibly litigate environmental claims against the Feds, then that would be a big mistake.




During commissioner comments, Campbell Rich wanted to discuss hiring a legal firm to determine in an opinion whether there is any cause of action for litigation regarding the river. The discussion then evolved into what type of city attorney they should be looking to hire. Surprisingly, Chris Collins said it doesn’t necessarily have to be an environmental lawyer but someone that has some litigation experience.

I never thought I would say this, but Collins made sense. Any city attorney should have some litigation experience under their belt. What Rich wants also makes sense. There needs to be some finalization about what the city’s options really are in this regard. Mortell will bring back a plan for an environmental law firm to give an opinion, and about hiring a permanent city attorney. The latter is the important one.


Public comment was all about the money. One group that wants to lay claim to the $500,000 ARPA funds still available is Family Promise. There were several speakers that told compelling stories about the homeless families that the money would help.


Cher Fisher, the Director of Development and Community Engagement, spoke first. I asked and she provided her prepared remarks:


Family Promise of Martin gets calls daily from families, elderly, single parents, etc. needing housing. 


We are unable to assist with all the many requests.  Even with other nonprofits helping certain segments of the homeless –Mary’s Home for unwed mothers, Compassion House for moms with children (boys only if 12 and under) and SafeSpace (women experiencing domestic abuse), Martin County simply can’t keep up with the demand. 


Granting of the ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) $$$ to Family Promise of Martin County will help us assist more families and allow us to partner with other nonprofits working with the homeless segment.  We have a property in mind (10 units) and the owners are working with us to help us achieve our goal of offering housing to those in need.  We offer a hand-up, not a hand-out, to families in our program.  They rotate from congregation to congregation with shelter, and with extensive case management, are able to “graduate” from our program and enter into transitional housing—housing in which we assist with monthly rental payments—they pay a percentage of their salary, and we cover the rest.  This is the housing we plan to offer with the ARPA grant and the property we are considering.


To receive a first-hand understanding of the issues we face, I invite you to spend some time at our family center and answer the phones. You may receive a phone call like I did last week from a 24 year old single mother of a six year old. She’s making $2000 a month and she and her child are sleeping on her bosses couch. She has no vehicle and no home and no hope.


Or you might answer a call from a woman in her early 70s like I did a month ago who was just been evicted from her rental home of over eight years. The property had been sold to an investor and the rent doubled   With a trembling voice, she asked me what she could do. I told her our nonprofit currently only worked with children and their families experiencing homelessness, and there was nothing for her in our county as an elderly individual needing housing. LAHIA could offer her food and shower and laundry facilities and maybe give her a tent. The Kane center would have some options, but not for housing. 


This solution we propose won’t resolve the issue of homelessness in Stuart and Martin County, but it will be a very real solution for ten families at a time!


That’s the real world for many of our citizens and it’s heartbreaking. 


Every speaker had a compelling narrative. And if I thought with my heart and not my head, I too could believe that this was a good way to use those funds. My head tells me it is a dumb idea.


So, the premise is the City of Stuart should hand over a half million dollars to an organization to house ten families. That favored nonprofit will pay one private owner that has gone through no bidding or vetting process. And this is their plan! It is once again a way to funnel tax money to friends or friends of friends.


Are the families even from Stuart? What happens when the funds run out in a few years? Are whatever families that are living there thrown into the street?


If the money was going to purchase or help purchase a brick-and-mortar building, then I would feel differently. Does the government have an obligation toward providing shelter? I believe the answer is yes. The state and federal governments do but not a city of 17,000. Stuart should be using these federal funds to help the city fund long needed infrastructure projects or programs that benefit the entire population.


Florida has just passed a massive housing bill with hundreds of millions of dollars in funds for affordable housing. And though the “Live Local Act” does strip some local control from the commission, it also has the promise to bring more attainable housing that will be built by developers using the provisions of the act. Here is where groups like Family Promise and the Housing Coalition should be teaming up with  the private sector to provide long term relief not a handout similar to giving  a beggar on a street corner.


Everything on the agenda was on consent until Collins pulled three items. One was the interlocal agreement between the city and Treasure Coast Planning Council. It authorizes staff to spend up to $30,000 in any one year for the council’s help.


This continuing services agreement states that the Council will help finish up the code for the Creek and East Stuart. I thought we had already and if there was any tweaking left to be done, staff could do it.


Collins pulled the item having to do with a transportation grant for the trams. He took exception to the fact that the elected and appointed boards need to disclose their members sex and race. I agree with him that it is more federal silliness even though there is not a thing that can be done.


More interestingly the agenda item led me to believe a policy with this information needed to be implemented before a grant could be received. The city already received a grant, but this policy was needed for the audit of a past grant. There was nothing attached to the agenda item with any information about the audit. How much was the grant originally? The commission passed the policy that was lacking a complete explanation on a 4-1 vote with Collins voting no.

I hope Mortell can get his hands around all this nebulous stuff floating around Stuart government. The items being presented have less and less full substantiation.


Lastly, they were going to renew Main Street’s agreement for the green market for a year. Instead, the commission did it for 3 years and four months. No RFP, no need to involve the citizens. Another sop given to a favorite charity that isn’t a charity.


The contract for the Flagler with below market rent and Main Street’s $70,000 welfare payment will come up for renewal October 1st. It looks to me like they will continue to give away tax dollars. As a resident of Stuart and a taxpayer, I really resent that this is paid out.


Stuart Main Street uses a paid private vendor to run every event it puts on. There is a little-known department in the city called Community Services. Why aren’t they doing these things instead of paying Main Street who then pays an event planner. Because it is the government and nobody, including the commission, cares about tax dollars.


At the last meeting, the commission voted unanimously to spend $1600 of tax dollars so that the commission could buy a table at a Main Street shindig. The commission can spend taxpayer money for them to have a good time. How many of us could afford to have that good time at $200 a pop for a dance at the Flagler.


One item and one item only that stayed on the original consent agenda was approval of increasing the interim attorney’s work schedule from 40 hours a month to 108 hours. At $200 per hour, he is now receiving $21,600 per month, nearly $260,000 per year. No need to pull and discuss that amount. I wonder if this will be paid to him during another vacation period later in June.


Mortell was earning $185,000 per year and was doing most of the litigation. He worked an average of 50 hours per week and some weeks more. More and more in my mind the fiscal judgement of the commission is in question.


It shouldn’t be whether you like a person, or he is a friend but rather are the taxpayers receiving value for their investment by paying taxes in the city. I don’t care why you elected a commissioner but if they are cavalier with the use of the city’s funds then you voted for the wrong person. Every city expenditure should be treated as if the money were coming out of a commissioner’s own pocket. This commission is not doing this.


And maybe they aren’t because there is no downside. It is up to the taxpayer to provide the downside…how you vote.






Stuart Latest News From The May 14, 2023 Edition




The city commission authorized the city manager to sign a contract to buy the Willie Gary Property on MLK for $1.6 million. The CRA (I am a member) authorized the city manager to spend up to $50,000 to perform due diligence on the site that includes an old gas station.


If the sale goes through, then the city is contracting with Indian River State College to build a Stuart Training and Entrepreneur Center which will include teaching trades to adults. Locating it in the East Stuart neighborhood, the center will be where many residents can walk to attend. The funds are being secured by a grant from the state.


That plaza has been an eyesore for more than a decade. Once the Speedy Mart closed, there was no economic activity though the NAACP has their local office located on the premises. The college is expected to sign a long-term lease.


The vote of the commission to authorize signing the contract was 5-0. The vote to expend the $50,000 in CRA funding for the due diligence was 6-0 with one member absent.




For well over a decade, the health of the St. Lucie River has periodically been the reason that has propelled the city to be in a crisis mode.


A column by TC Palm’s Ed Killer is the impetus this time along with the fact that if Mortell becomes the city manager, there will need to be a new city attorney. In addition, there are two new commissioners. Though there are currently no discharges spewing anything into the river, it doesn’t really matter. If you can stir the pot and new commissioners are eager to think they can be the hero that slew the dragon a/k/a The Army Corps of Engineers.

Relations with the Corps have come a long way, most of it due to former Commissioner Merritt Matheson, county employee, Ecosystem Restoration and Management Manager John Maehl and SFWMD Board Member Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch. They took the time to speak with patience and respect. While the Corps is not going to roll over and not do what they believe is best for carrying out their entire mission, at least they listen… for now.


When Matheson was first elected, he came under the spell of a handful of people that could only think of suing the Corps as if they could possibly win. But in a relatively short time, he saw that was an impossible approach given Stuart’s lack of standing to sue and the millions of dollars it would take to do so.


Campbell Rich at first was mesmerized by the siren call of the lawsuit but then speaking not only to staff but other environmental groups, he understood how fruitless that approach would be. Now he has taken up Matheson’s mantle and is working with the Corps, the county, environmental groups, and others to try and cut the best deals possible.


Unfortunately, Chris Collins has not learned that once elected, you need to govern and not continue the campaign. His desire to plunge Stuart into a war that is unwinnable doesn’t matter to him. Collins is rather naïve in his understanding of his responsibilities to the taxpayers of Stuart.


What he says at every meeting during comments is he wants to hire a city attorney who will pursue federal lawsuits against the Corps. Just believing this is a good strategy shows his naiveté. Not only doesn’t he understand the law…he doesn’t have any idea what a city attorney does.

Stuart’s City Attorney, Mike Mortell, happens to be a civil litigator. For the past decade while still doing most of Stuart’s litigation, he also had to render legal opinions on the day-to-day operation of government. He didn’t come unprepared for this task since he had been involved in Stuart for years as a board member, commissioner, and mayor.


Mortell further has acquired valuable expertise on land use, zoning, and codes. He would be the first to tell you that environmental law is not his specialty. An environmental lawyer could not, in all probability, perform most of the day-to-day functions of a city attorney.


Virtually any attorney who has ever tried a case would advise that Stuart does not have “standing” to even bring a lawsuit against the Corps. To have standing, Stuart would need to show that it suffered damages of some sort. What are Stuart’s damages that might have been caused by any discharges? Florida is the owner of the waters and riverbed. Regulation of the waterway by law rests with the EPA, SFWMD and the Corps. Even the land by the shore that people use to build docks is managed by the EPA’s Division of State Lands. Stuart owns nothing.


A lawsuit filed years ago by individual landowners was dismissed by the courts for timeliness and standing. The proof Stuart does not have standing (or for that matter can show any damages) is that no law firm of any sort has ever approached the city to take the case on a contingency basis. If the city is willing to pay a few million, then they could hire a firm to bring suit. Though any reputable firm would make sure that the client understood that it would be fruitless.


The idea that a single attorney (who if he were truly a top-notch environmental litigator would not be making a city attorney’s salary) and a paralegal could possibly take on the Corps and the thousands of lawyers they would have, is again naïve. And to think that court filings would get the Corps to sit down shows that those advocating such a position have never been slammed with subpoenas to produce millions of pages of records and requests for depositions.


Stuart has already been deprived of funding in the amount of $500,000 for sewer conversion because of impolitic Facebook posts. Now the same commissioner wants to show how tough he is by going toe to toe with the Feds.


In a 4-1 vote, the commission gave the city manager authorization to negotiate a lease with a car wash for the two-acre parcel on Federal Highway next to the Haney Creek Preserve. If a triple net lease is signed, the several million dollars in rent will be used to fund the upkeep of the preserve.


The 2011 referendum which was approved by 76% of the voters included the requirement that the parcel pay for the upkeep. All the commissioners want the 2011 outcome to stand, but Collins feels another referendum is warranted since Stuart has changed so much in the past decade as he mentioned repeatedly during the meeting.


He wouldn’t let other commissioners speak and kept interrupting them. Finally, Mayor McDonald suspended further discussion, and a vote was taken. The vote was 4-1 with Collins voting no.


Once each commissioner has expressed an opinion, it is time to take a vote and move on. As an example, at a CRA meeting last month I was against spending $40,000 on an enhanced parking enforcement tool. In this case, Collins and I agreed on the issue. I said what I thought and then cast my vote.


I knew I did not have the votes to prevail. You cannot change another board member’s mind by saying the same thing over and over. In fact, it usually just makes the other party dig in. In this instance Collins and I were outvoted 5-2 Commissioner Collins needs to learn when to move on.




It is no secret that the members of the city commission are not in synch with each other.


Since Commissioner Collins has been sworn in, the level of civility on the commission is different from what it had been previously. It isn’t about whether they agree on the issues, it is how they respect their fellow colleagues in the meeting. By that measurement, there has been a near total collapse.


Campbell Rich, who came on the commission the same time as Collins, agreed with Collins on many issues such as development, but Rich had a different way of assimilating as a member of that body. While Collins believes he can brow-beat his fellow commissioners to agreeing, Rich states his position and then moves on. It took Rich a couple of meetings to meld with the others, but he has.

Rich at the last meeting made remarks touching on this point. The following are those remarks:


I was both disappointed and encouraged over the last two weeks with

peoples’ response to the misconduct on display at our last meeting.

Disappointed that a clear lack of decorum took place, but encouraged

that so many people care and that they expect more of us. As well they



A little refresher on Roberts Rules of Order is called for. In the City’s

Ordinances, Sec 2-54 under Parliamentary Rules it states simply that,

The City Commission shall follow Roberts’ Rules of Order for the

conduct of its meeting.’ That’s it. No changes, accommodations or

amendments. I understand the desire to sometimes run a more informal

meeting, but that has led us to where we ended up last week. An inch has

been given, but a mile has been taken.


The number one rule is the Chair controls the floor. Not the one who

yells the loudest or is the pushiest, it is the Chair. And no member may

speak until recognized by the Chair.


Also, no member may speak more than twice to each motion. This rule

has been laxly enforced, but Mr. Mayor, I would suggest we adhere to

this more strictly going forward. Also, Commissioners should be

recognized in Order with no Commissioner allowed to speak twice on a

motion before all others who wish to speak on a matter have been heard



We are a deliberative body. We have to be concerned with the rights of

each member to be heard but also with the obligation of the Commission

to make a decision and move on. As the Mayor so eloquently put it, “you

win some, you lose some.” This can only be done if we all agree on a

procedure that maintains decorum and ensures courtesy for all.


But we shouldn’t view this as a means just to, ‘keep order’. Rather it is

an opportunity to demonstrate that our discussions can proceed

smoothly, fairly and respectfully even when decisions are contentious

ones. That we can provide all parties a full opportunity to present their

case. And that when the vote is cast, we must gracefully accept that

decision and recognize the action as that of the entire commission.

That’s the basis of any democracy. 


Very well put commissioner.


The meeting was nothing but presentations and one discussion item. One presentation was regarding the strategic plan. The commission spent a day giving their suggestions which were written on a whiteboard by the facilitator, Alex Karas. At this meeting, he informed them of the next steps.


I attended the strategic planning session for an hour and didn’t hear anything from the commission on concrete solutions to what should be part of their future planning. No one is in much agreement. The real problem is that no one has identified sources of money that could be tapped to fund any new initiatives.

During Karas’ presentation, he suggested that a charette would cost about $100,000. At an earlier meeting, Mortell told the commissioners that they didn’t have the funds to finish Memorial Park or Fire Station 3. Those are absolutes that need to be done. I am going to christen this commission the “Dream Commission.”


They are oblivious to what responsibilities they have in sitting on the dais. As an example, the commission authorized the city to spend $1600 to buy a table for a Main Street event. The motion was made by Clarke and seconded by Collins and passed 5-0. Now this is not the first time that commissioners, instead of paying for parties from their $20,000 plus salaries, decided to foist the bill on the taxpayers.


In this case, the commission subsidizes Main Street to the tune of $70,000 per year already plus allowing a much-reduced rent at the Flagler. That $1600 allocated is in addition to the hundreds already spent in this budget year for individual commissioners to go to other events. The “Dream Commission” reminds me of Marie Antoinette and the let them eat cake philosophy. Remember the people sent her out the door with her head in her hands.


We see this commission with all types of ideas to make our lives better. But a municipality exists to provide public safety, parks, and public works. In Stuart’s case, there are also utilities for water and trash that are billed separately. Overall, they do those core functions quite well. All the rest is fluff.


That is what your strategic plan and the budget should consist of. The commission needs to stop raiding the cookie jar for the money to have a good time and benefit themselves politically.


You can find the strategic plan presentation here


The discussion item was the Live Local Act which may profoundly affect how new developments are built in the city as well as the county. It eliminates the need for developers to come before boards and commissions for project approvals. This was passed by every Florida Senator and all but 6 House Members voted yes. That took the first day of the session to accomplish.


The very idea of stopping development is over. Because of this legislation, the role of commissioner took a big step toward irrelevance. If they believe they can tweak the LDRs to stop things, the legislature next year will make commissioners truly irrelevant.

There are some code mechanisms to explore to make sure that what is built and the tax breaks that were mandated are correctly interpreted and enforced. The staff will be bringing back those recommendations in the latter part of June.


The next time a four-story building goes up next to your home, there is a good chance that the commission will have no input into the project. If you think this forfeiture of local control was bad, please call your state senator and house representative to complain. You can see the presentation with a complete copy of the bill here





Stuart Latest News From The Apr 23, 2023 Edition




This was Mike Mortell’s first meeting as city manager.

It appeared to me that he did a good job. That really should come as no surprise since he was city attorney for the past decade as well as mayor and a city commissioner before that. He kept some of the duties of the city attorney by reading all the proclamations, ordinances, and resolutions. The acting city attorney was on Zoom and spoke once during the meeting.


Many times, the commission shoots itself in the foot. They did so at the last two meetings because when they gave their consent to entertain a proposal for a dog café conceptually at the dog park on Central Parkway, there was no site plan, particulars, or lease to discuss.


In a 5-0 decision at the meeting last month, they decided that the park was a great thing to have…unfortunately the neighbors, those who sail their model boats in the same area, and those that use the dog park itself were anything but enthusiastic. At the last meeting, many members of the public spoke against the café causing the commission, in a 5-0 vote, to decide to reconsider the idea at this meeting.


At the last minute, the “applicant” (if you could call someone without any application) decided to pull the request. He had been asked to do so for the entire week prior to the meeting but waited until right before the meeting to do so in an email. Of course, once again the chamber was packed with the public wanting to speak in opposition.


The commission needs to ask people to work with staff prior to presenting a new plan or idea. Once an idea or a concept becomes a solid proposal that staff believes is ready, they will bring it to the commission. Until then, there is nothing really to talk about and nothing for the public to become incensed about.


The last item was a “Discussion & Deliberation” item regarding the fate of the 2-acre parcel on Federal Highway that was supposed to be an income producing property to pay for the maintenance of Haney Creek Preserve.


A referendum was held in 2011 that authorized the proceeds from the use of the parcel for the preservation of Haney Creek. It passed with 76%. The key was that the parcel was supposed to be a money generator…it never has been. A hotel proposal and other possible projects never happened.


Even the affordable housing deal fizzled, and it would have been for less than market value for the property. Could the city make a less than market rate deal and still be following the terms of the referendum? The referendum clearly stated that the City of Stuart would not use any tax money to maintain the preserve. Unfortunately, that has never been true.


If I had been asked whether the idea of cutting out this parcel from the rest of the preserve was a good idea, I would have said no. It was the kind of cockamamie idea that only commissioners with no practical real estate experience would like. The proof is it has sat idle for the past dozen years. The entire maintenance issue should have been negotiated where the county and city split the cost of maintenance.


Should there be another referendum to incorporate the parcel into the preserve? Collins would like to see the site used for parking and a trailhead. When McDonald said there is no trail there to have a trailhead for, Collins really didn’t have an answer.


Collins is also worried about the non-city residents across Federal Highway who do not want to see development let alone the proposed fast-food franchises. Of course, since they don’t pay city taxes or vote, their opinions should be given all the weight they deserve…which is not much.


Collins’s experience regarding Haney Creek Preserve is literally that of Aristotle’s person whose mind is a “tabula rasa” or blank slate in this regard. McDonald and Clarke were around, and they remembered the promises made. Bruner thought that the promise of it being income producing should be honored. Rich echoed that sentiment because to not pursue a lease meant handing the city taxpayers a bill for $7 million plus in the rent they would not collect.


At the end, Collins once again stood alone. His argument was this is a different Stuart than 2011 when the referendum passed. It is a different Stuart, but then in many aspects it is the same. Clarke said one commission needs to honor the commitment another commission made such as the promise of not spending tax dollars on the maintenance of the preserve.


It appears that Manager Mortell had consensus to move ahead with bringing a lease to the commission for the property. I am not so sure this is a done deal. We have seen the commissioners swing in the wind when there is any opposition as there is sure to be from Palm Lake Park across Federal. I hope the staff are not wasting their time and the lease applicant’s time as well.


You can see the city attorney’s memo here




Some of you may believe I have been too critical of the commissioners and the interim city attorney in the past few issues. I don’t think I have.


When I first heard that Nicoletti was going to take the job in the short term, I believed it was the right choice. It would have been except that he is going to be away for a good part of the time. Is the arrangement where he listens on Zoom while on a cruise fair to the city?


Until the internet, working from somewhere other than an office was unthinkable. For many it may now be doable. But there are still certain functions that require the person’s physical presence. A city attorney needs to meet with staff about projects. Applicants have questions about their submissions. He needs to give his legal opinion and at least initially represent the city in court proceedings. Those things cannot be done if the person is thousands of miles away.


The commission made a mistake. Even though Nicoletti who is on a cruise was participating by Zoom at this meeting, I don’t know how much he was aware of what was going on. He only uttered a sentence or two and that was on the last item. Are the taxpayers getting their money’s worth? This taxpayer doesn’t believe he is.


Going through with this even after learning he would be away for weeks; it appears that the commission is more interested in helping a friend make a buck than safeguarding Stuart. It is wrong and needs to be corrected.


There are two chartered officers that the commission hires. One is the city manager. It looks like Mortell will be a good choice. At some point, they will have to select the next city attorney, the other direct report the commission has. From what I see in the interim selection, I am not so sure they can do it.


The optics of keeping Nicoletti are bad. It is also not in the best interest as the commission are fiduciaries for our tax dollars. Perhaps they like looking at the empty chair on the dais and playing the game ‘Where in The World Is Paul Nicoletti?”  The commission owes us more than this arrangement.


A version of the City Attorney was published earlier in Martin Moments



Stuart Latest News From The Apr 9, 2023 Edition




Stuart Commissioner Campbell Rich, Sewall’s Point Commissioner Kaija Mayfield, Indiantown Mayor Susan Gibbs-Thomas, and Mayor Karen Ostrand will explain how Tallahassee is removing your rights from determining what goes on where you live.


I will moderate the event. Come and learn what you need to understand.




The alley in the CRA between Joan Jefferson Way and West Ocean Blvd was beautifully redone and was named for recently deceased local historian, Alice Luckhardt. The motion passed 5-0.

Alice Luckhardt

When it was discussed at the CRB meeting, I said I hoped we could find something more appropriate for Alice. I guess the staff could not. That is too bad. While the alley is nice…it still is an alley.


The “Sign Up & Save Program” is back beginning April 1, 2023, to March 31, 2024. The program allows Stuart residents the opportunity to sign up for sewer hook-up at reduced rates. If a resident signs up during the year, the price is $8,000 which is financed for several years on their utility bill instead of the usual $10,000. Residents may also pay $7000 up front which would allow them to receive a total discount of $3000 off the price.


There is also a discount for small businesses. The motion passed 5-0.


In a 5-0 vote, the Stuart City Commission decided to hire Paul Nicoletti as their interim city attorney even though he will be out of town for about half the initial contract period. They will pay him $200 per hour. There is a clause in the agreement obligating the city to pay its share of payroll taxes. He also will participate in other benefits including the health center while he is employed. Though not stated in the contract, he is being treated as a part-time employee.


When hiring him, the commission made much of the fact that what he billed was less than others would charge. The Human Resources Department even presented a chart purporting to show what a great deal the city made. The chart can be found here


And the contract here


During discussion, it was amazing how the commissioners were thrilled with this arrangement. And there would be nothing wrong with the arrangement if Nicoletti were going to be present in the office or at least in Martin County…but he isn’t. The commission made a big deal out of the chart. However, it doesn’t give a true picture of costs. It is comparing apples to oranges.

Paul Nicoletti

Did staff telephone any of the possible other attorneys who could have done the job and ask what they would charge? They apparently called some friendly HR people in other cities and gathered some incomplete data to bolster the narrative that the commission wanted.


Rich even asked Mike Mortell about not being in Stuart for most of June. Mortell, without specifying why, said he had planned to be working remotely and would be available by Zoom for the meetings. Mortell said now because of being interim manager, he would need to attend meetings in person.


In fact, Mortell will be out of the office for most of June because, as the city’s attorney, he will be representing Stuart in a trial regarding the pollution of our drinking wells with PFOA. The trial is scheduled from June 4th to June 28th in Charleston S.C. If successful, the city will receive millions of dollars as part of a comprehensive national settlement. Because of the complicated nature of the litigation, Mortell will still represent the city but fly back and forth between Charleston and Stuart. He is representing the city even though he is no longer the city attorney because of his knowledge regarding the case.


The list really is no comparison because Nicoletti is an employee of the city. The fees listed don’t differentiate between employees and outside attorneys. As an employee he is not using his own office where he pays expenses or has employees. Yet there is a cost involved to the city beyond his hourly wage for benefits and office expense that is completely being overlooked.


It isn’t Paul Nicoletti’s fault in trying to get the most he can receive for his effort. Would the city commission be so cavalier if they were spending their own money? Hiring Nicoletti was an easy out requiring no thought…and that is what they gave it.


A smile and a wink, and a “good ole boy” handshake. That is what the commission did here. Collins is supposedly the guy who claims to look after the taxpayer and is always speaking about the ROI. In most of his actions, Rich has spoken about fairness, but in this case, there is no fairness to the taxpayer. The other three (McDonald, Bruner, and Clarke) perhaps have been commissioners too long or believe that they are part of the network of insiders who can do things that we residents will ignore.


There has not been something so egregious since the commission decided to give themselves a huge raise a few years ago without any public input. They used the same methodology of a chart from HR showing how underpaid they were, which turned out to be incorrect. They should repudiate their actions, or the voters may do it for them at next year’s election and the one after that.


On another note, years ago the almost two-acre city owned parcel on Federal Highway north of the Roosevelt Bridge was carved out of the Haney Creek Preserve. It has been vacant since 2011. There was a referendum in 2012 where over 80% of the voters gave the city the authority to rent the property and use the proceeds to maintain the rest of the preserve.


An unsolicited offer to place two restaurants on the site has brought this to the forefront. At one point, a hotel operator was interested, but it did not proceed. Gas stations are prohibited on the site.


It was a faulty strategy to begin with that hasn’t gotten better over time. It is much too small for any proper development and too large to sit there. A couple of years ago, a nonprofit wanted to build affordable housing but could never muster the where-with-all to get the project off the ground. And if that were not bad enough, Stuart is responsible for all the maintenance of the preserve, but Martin County is also involved. Stuart has placed their part of the preserve in conservation, but the county has yet to do so.


Current City Attorney Mortell believes a referendum is in order if the commission wishes to place the piece into conservation. He said half-jokingly that Nicoletti would spend at least his first 10 hours figuring that out. The commission is not up to making any decisions including renting to fast food restaurants that will inflame the non-city residents of North River Shores.


The decision on the offer was tabled until research was done on the referendum status and whether one or two were needed. If there are two, then the cost would be about $50,000. Earlier bad decisions have a way of rearing their ugly heads.


The commission now needed to decide on the half unit controversy.


Every commissioner except Campbell Rich should never utter the words “affordable housing” and their desire to see it happen again. By their actions at this meeting, they have consigned development of this type of housing by the private sector to never being built without using the recently passed pre-emption known as Senate Bill 102 or the “Live Local Act”.


I agreed with the aims of the code being more transparent when it came to the definition of half units. And I agreed with making those half units smaller in order to qualify for the designation. What is totally perplexing is increasing the amount of parking needed to build those units. By doing so, the city commission has added thousands of dollars to the cost of each unit.

Chris Collins spearheaded the effort in his mission to see only single-family housing built in the city. I don’t agree with Collins philosophically on this issue, but I understand where he is coming from…Stuart for rich people. His is an idealized small-town vision that is more Disney Main Street than the homes of working people and young professionals just starting out.


I understand Campbell Rich’s motivation for trying to incentivize building housing for young people, working people such as waitresses and retail clerks, and those who need a good place to live that is affordable. What I don’t understand are the motivations of Bruner, Clarke, and McDonald. They didn’t seem to be consistent with what they say about keeping Stuart affordable for everyday folks.


The commission lessened the square footage that was required to be called a half unit from 900 sq. ft. to 500 sq ft. and for a 3/4 unit from 1100 sq. ft. to 700 sq. ft. I do believe those size reductions are appropriate. They also put a cap of 45 units per acre which also makes sense. What doesn’t make sense is the increased parking requirements…1.25 spaces per 1⁄2 unit, 1.5 spaces per 3/4 unit, and 2 spaces over 700 sq. ft.

It appears to me that more land will be needed for parking than for living which makes the rents skyrocket for the very people who can least afford it. Say goodbye to anything that is affordable. Any professional planner…whether in Martin County, Florida, the US, or the world…is looking to reduce parking requirements. Here in good old 1950s Stuart, we want to make sure more valuable land is set aside for that purpose.


In a vote of 4-1 with Rich dissenting, the Stuart City Commission decided not to build for a diversity of residents. And for this classification of housing, they decided to make parking restrictions even more stringent than for other types of multi-family housing. Good job in making the city even less attractive to anyone but those with money who can afford more than one car.




Stuart Latest News From The Mar 26, 2023 Edition




Since COVID how and where many people work has changed dramatically.


Some can now work one or two days a week from home. In some positions, employees never have to go into an office at all. The Stuart Commissioners have really embraced the concept for one of the two employees who report to them…the interim city attorney.


Paul Nicoletti, an excellent past city attorney and manager, has been offered the interim position at $200 an hour for up to 10 hours per week ($2000 a week). He also will have the commission’s permission to work remotely. And we know he will be doing so because he will be out of town from April 9th through May 8th and June 22nd through July 8th. For most of that time, I was told, he will be on a cruise somewhere in the Pacific Ocean.

Even in today’s world of instantaneous communication, trying to get an internet connection on a ship halfway around the world is challenging. Because of the time difference, how is Nicoletti supposed to be available during the city’s working hours? The only way he would be available at commission meetings would be via zoom if at all. Is this any way for Stuart to be governed? This would be an absurdist play worthy of Beckett or a Moliere farce.


While Nicoletti would be an excellent choice under normal circumstances, the travel schedule the commissioners are agreeing to is anything but normal. It isn’t as if there is a shortage of qualified attorneys and firms that specialize and are performing this exact work for other Martin County governments.


Indiantown and Sewall’s Point are represented by two different firms where the attorneys actually are present and in person at the meetings. I was told that they charge the same amount per hour as this proposed contract with Nicoletti does. For decades, Ocean Breeze has had Rick Crary from Crary Buchanan who goes to their meetings and does their legal work. Both Tony George and Tyson Waters represent the school board and have done so admirably for many years.


So how did Nicoletti become the one and only? Most of it could be pure inertia by the commission. I understand that Nicoletti telephoned all of them to lobby for the position before the last meeting. Politicians being politicians, they just don’t know how to say no even when confronted with a fact like your attorney isn’t going to be in Martin County or even in Florida for most of the interim period.


This demonstrates to me how arrogant elected officials can be. They may claim to be guardians of taxpayer dollars but have no problem spending thousands on a favored friend. Nicoletti is not charging anything less than the others would to be at least in the same county with their client. Is the commission inept and incompetent? They sure are showing signs of that with this decision!


One cannot blame either the incoming or outgoing managers for this debacle. At the meeting, Mortell (interim city manager) said that there was no rush to find an interim attorney. Staff could put together a procedure for finding an attorney and bring it back to the commission.


Mortell has been city attorney for more than a decade. He knows what it takes to do the job from his own experience. But the commission instructed Mortell and Dyess to come back with a contract for Nicoletti in a 5-0 vote. That wink and a nod for an insider “Good Old Boy” is still strong.


As a Stuart taxpayer, I am incensed at this. As someone who cares about good government, I am disappointed by the action. And as a voter, I will remember that they put aside the public good to sign such a ridiculous contract.


The commission is scheduled to vote on this Monday night. You can see the proposed contract here




A presentation was made detailing the next phase of Memorial Park’s makeover.


It is in the budget for this year. The project began in 2009 and has been phased in since approved. This section is known as Phase 4. It has been planned by Lucido & Associates.

Phase 4 consists of building an amphitheater where there is currently a concrete platform. It is in the corner of the park next to the courthouse. Lucido envisions a place to hold concerts and other outdoor events. It will soon go out to RFP.


You can see the presentation here


Nathan Ritchey, a local resident, has approached the city with an unsolicited offer to lease a portion of the dog park on Central Parkway for a Dog Park Café. It will be separate from the rest of the park but will encompass one of the pavilions.


It will serve beer and wine, other beverages, snacks, breakfast items and have a place for a food truck. The place will be members only. The presentation states that it will be a market lease amount. Astroturf will be used, and Ritchey stated there will be a vinegar solution to clean the turf.


There was no professional site plan attached to better see the area only renderings and photos of mostly other Florida establishments. The commission authorized 5-0 for staff to negotiate a lease for the commission’s approval. You can see the presentation here


Sailfish Cay, the 60-unit, fee simple, townhome development was before the commission on 2nd reading.


There were several conditions of approval:


  • They would match dollar for dollar up to $32,000 for improvements to the dog park.


  • The HOA or developer, after turnover, will provide easements for licensed cable services.


  • The HOA, once formed, upon request the City will submit a report to the City, signed and sealed by a professional engineer certifying that the on-site storm water management system is maintained and functioning as designed.


  • The HOA, once formed, will require in its declaration that all homeowners who purchase from the Developer are prohibited for two consecutive years, from the date of purchase, from renting the purchased unit.


A motion was made by Clarke and seconded by Rich. The vote was 3-2 with Bruner and Collins voting no. You can see the presentation here


East Stuart’s Thanksgiving Homicide Solved. Justice For A Community

When people say Stuart is a small town, that is an understatement.

And if it is East Stuart, then it becomes even smaller. Most people who live there belong to families that have resided in the community for generations. After a hundred or more years, it isn’t surprising that many residents are related in some fashion. Being called “auntie” by a child could be because you are related or as a sign of respect for an older person or, in many instances, both.


Most people in East Stuart are religious and law abiding. They keep their heads down and work hard to make a go of it. Mattie Jones was just such a person. She retired from the school system where she worked as a cook. Mattie was a wife, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. She was an active member of “Seven Olives Evangelistic Pentecostal Church” in Fort Pierce. Mattie Jones was murdered by a stray bullet on Thanksgiving Eve while watching TV in her home on East 10th Street.


The African American communities of East Stuart, Port Salerno, Indiantown, and Fort Pierce are also interrelated. Sometimes people from Indiantown will attend church in East Stuart and residents from East Stuart attend a church in Fort Pierce. What also is not unusual is for a member of an Indiantown gang to come to East Stuart to settle a beef about a woman or drugs.


Lonnie B. Smalls III, age 19, of Indiantown was in East Stuart last Thanksgiving Eve. He had a semi-automatic Glock handgun that had been altered to be a fully automatic weapon. This “machine pistol” was used to shoot many, many rounds at three people sitting in a car on 10th Street. Two were wounded. Mattie Jones, eating in her recliner and watching TV, ended up dead.


It is a well-known fact to Stuart PD that fewer than 10 people create most of the crime in East Stuart. Our gangs are different from what citizens know from the news. The arguments that lead to violence still may be about drugs and control of territory, but the ferocity of these crews is not what a city such as Chicago experiences. Smalls wanted to be a big “gangsta” in a tiny place.


Within a few hours, law enforcement knew that Smalls was their man. They locked him up on a parole violation. Stuart PD, in cooperation with the Martin County Sheriff’s office, executed a warrant that found the gun in Smalls’ house in Indiantown. Law enforcement knew the perpetrator of the crime almost instantly.


Unlike cop shows on television, analyzing DNA and obtaining a ballistics report is not accomplished in a few hours. In this case, it took 6–8 weeks and that was much faster than a normal case. There is one crime lab in Fort Pierce for the entire 19th Judicial Circuit which covers the Treasure Coast including Okeechobee County. This can slow things down considerably.


Also, unlike television, putting together a search warrant and having a judge sign it isn’t done without writing a lot of information down on paper. In a matter of importance like a murder case, before a judge even gets the warrant, the State Attorney’s Office must approve. There are roughly 15–20 individual search warrants in a major case. No one wants a case thrown out due to a technicality.


Going back to 1995, there are currently 6 unsolved homicides in Stuart. That doesn’t mean the cops don’t know who did the shooting. They just cannot prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. The police can lock up a suspect if there is probable cause. In a criminal case, the level of certainty before a conviction is increased to proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Prosecutors are not going to charge a defendant unless the evidence meets that standard.


In most cases, the suspects all belong to that small group of bad people who commit most of the crime. Individuals fall in and out of the group depending on death and imprisonment. Unfortunately, there are others available to take their places…including their children.


To gain a conviction, the best evidence is from people who saw the crime coming forward…or better yet were the actual victims of the crime. This seldom ever happens in East Stuart. Most of the victims are not like Ms. Jones who was an innocent bystander. They are usually criminals or their girlfriends hanging out with them.


A victim giving up the shooter to the police is not how scores are settled. The victim’s “honor” demands that they take care of it personally. The only thing that stops more people from dying is that most of the shooters are such bad shots. Unlike law enforcement, these guys don’t spend hours at the range.

Stuart’s Chief of Police, Joseph Tumminelli, expressed his willingness to investigate all of Stuart’s unsolved homicides. Stuart Pd just posted information on their Facebook page (HERE)

regarding the Jerome Hutchinson 2009 murder. Tumminelli is asking for people to come forward if they have information on any unsolved homicide and you can remain anonymous.


Chief Tumminelli’s willingness to discuss the Smalls case and other matters with me demonstrates the transparency of his department’s efforts to make the City of Stuart a safer place. I appreciate his candor and availability.


Sir Robert Peel is credited with being the father of “Modern Policing.” In 1829, he was tasked with setting up the first modern police department in London. There are nine Peelian Policing Principles that can be summed up in two of his most famous quotes: “The police are the public and the public are the police.” And: “Whether the police are effective is not measured on the number of arrests, but on the lack of crime.”


Most people in East Stuart, like those throughout the city and county, are law abiding citizens who think law enforcement is not the enemy. Then there are a distinct few, like Smalls, who have no respect for their neighbors and are willing to shoot even if an innocent great-grandmother becomes a victim. Lonnie B. Smalls III and his ilk need to be removed from society.


As Published In Martin County Moments








Stuart Latest News From The Mar 12, 2023 Edition




The Governor’s Cabinet’s attorney has sent to the city’s and Ms. Cartwright’s attorneys the proposed order that decides the Kanner CPUD (Costco) in favor of Stuart.

The order was given to both attorneys for comment before the cabinet convenes next Monday where Governor DeSantis is expected to sign the document.


The 27-page order goes through the administrative judge’s decision and answers every objection. However, on the 2nd page the order clearly states that Stuart rightly decided on the FLUM amendment which was the basis of the proceeding.


“This Commission concludes that Florida law favors the City on the first question: because there was professionally acceptable evidence on both sides regarding the condition of the Property’s wetlands, and because the City’s buildout analysis used a professionally acceptable methodology, it is at least “fairly debatable” that the FLUM Amendment complied with statutory requirements. As such, the remaining issues do not affect the outcome of this dispute and need not be resolved.”


Though there was no need to go further the order does so refuting much of the administrative law judge’s decision. Mr. Grasso, Ms. Cartwright’s attorney, may try to object to parts of the order. Since it finds that the city was correct with the FLUM determination all the rest doesn’t matter in this instance.


Ms. Cartwright may appeal to the appellant courts. In the other 25 pages of the order the Governor’s attorney substantially ruled in the city’s favor. That would make any appeal very hard to succeed.


This story was originally published on our Facebook page the day of the ruling. For important breaking news on Martin County, you should look on our Facebook page at


You can find the proposed order here




Both Mayor McDonald and Commissioner Rich spoke about SB 102. That is the current legislative bill that strips home rule from local government when it comes to building attainable housing. Density, height restrictions, and zoning will go by the wayside if this bill is passed and signed into law as currently drafted.


I believe that they will probably strip everything out of the bill except the ability to build that type of housing irrespective of zoning. The legislature is looking at the problem of attainable housing and is attempting to solve it. Unfortunately, their solution is a one size fits all approach that may be fine for Miami but not here.

Frustrated white-haired woman shaking her finger at you to scold you

Every time a commission or even one commissioner ignores their own municipality’s codes to vote no on projects, then the legislature feels it needs to get involved to take away home rule authority. The state has said that with 850 to 1000 people moving to Florida every day, they need to live and work somewhere. And Tallahassee expects that every municipality and county must contribute to being part of the solution.


Annexation of a third of an acre will allow the entire Auto Vault piece, which fronts Monterey and Willoughby, to be developed. It is already B-4 zoning which is limited business/manufacturing zoning. There is not the possibility of residential use. Office use could be a component for the flex warehouse space. The units will be condos.


Dr. Collins was worried about the users making offices out of them and then the parking requirements would be greater. It is true that office use requires more parking spaces. However, even if the users did make offices and parking became an issue, how does that affect anyone but the project? It is self- contained so that any problems would not have an impact on anyone else.


Collins often argues that he wants to have commercial and industrial space and then when someone wants to develop a commercial project, he looks for ways to stop it. Mayor McDonald doesn’t see a problem. Collins again brought up his parking “study” which he debuted during the moratorium to further restrict development.  The other commissioners did not think it had much merit. McDonald said that out loud.


The vote was 5-0. You can see the presentation here


Sailfish Cay is a project that will be located on Central Parkway. For the project to move forward, the zoning needs to be changed. It is currently an empty 4.88 acres next to Towne Park Condominiums.


This is a parcel that has been vacant for the past 15 years since a church on the site was demolished. All this time, it has been zoned commercial and no one has developed it. In fact, it was part of the proposed Towne Park residential development in 1982 that never was built.


According to the traffic engineer, there will be 11,151 fewer trips than if developed as a commercial property. One of the attorneys for the developer stated that there were no multi-family parcels left in the city. According to statute she pointed out that the city must have a few vacant parcels for multi-family.


Once again Dr. Collins began a debate with the developer’s other attorney, Bob Raynes, regarding how much potable water Stuart has available in its plan instead of asking questions. Raynes shot back that it should be approved because of the competent substantial evidence that was in the presentation.

For this project, Collins said that he wants to retain the commercial zoning so that people could start businesses. With the Stuart Auto Vault project above, he thought there would not be enough parking and was hesitant. This project has been waiting 15 years for a commercial developer…that in and of itself speaks volumes.


The vote to change the land use was 3-2 with Bruner and Collins dissenting.


The site plan for the development is for 60 Townhomes. They are fee simple. They each come with a two-car garage and there are 37 parking spaces for guests. The prices begin in the $400k range.


The Towne Park community’s board has sent a letter approving the package. They should have been called attached single-family homes as they would be in other parts of the country. Each property will come with a deed and the HOA will take care of the common elements.


Dr. Collins again is against them. He is saying that all he wants to see are single-family homes. I guess these don’t count because they do not conform to his idea of what a single-family home should be. Mayor McDonald inserted that the home must be owned for two years prior to making it available for rent.


A motion was made to approve by Clarke and seconded by Rich. It passed 4-1 with Collins dissenting.




This special meeting was called to decide what steps to take to find David Dyess’s replacement as city manager.


Dyess opened the meeting by spelling out the commission’s choices. They could appoint an interim while they do a search. The search could either be local or broader. Or they could appoint an internal candidate.


Commissioner Rich asked if they could appoint an internal candidate and do a search in case it didn’t work out. I don’t know too many people that would take a position as an interim that was looking to keep the job and want to have a search go on for the position at the same time.


Mayor McDonald thought the most successful managers are those that know the community. Mike Mortell who is presently the city attorney has been interested in the position. Project Manager Michele Berger also expressed an interest.


Commissioner Clarke seemed all over the place but finally rested on the notion that she agreed with McDonald. Commissioner Collins had always favored Mortell. He made a motion to make Mortell the interim manager for six months with a discussion after three months whether to go ahead or not on negotiating a permanent contract. The motion was seconded by Rich and passed unanimously.

Mortell as interim will continue to work under his contract as city attorney and if he is not appointed permanently, he would revert to being city attorney. During the trial period he will still have to represent the city in several cases that are coming up for trial in the upcoming months.


As interim attorney, Paul Nicoletti expressed interest. Clarke made a motion to appoint him, and it was seconded by Bruner. Dyess and Mortell will negotiate the terms of the appointment. It passed 5-0. Nicoletti was previously city attorney and city manager.


In addition to city attorney Mortell was a City of Stuart commissioner and mayor. He has lived in the city since childhood and currently does. Mortell has extensive knowledge of the city and Martin County. He will be an asset to the city.


I believe that Mortell will be a strong advocate for the city as he has always been. He is quite knowledgeable about the city’s strengths and problems. His long involvement also means he knows whom to call when things do occur to have a fast resolution. Unless many people are wrong, Mortell will be the right choice.






Stuart Latest News From The Feb 26, 2023 Edition




It is apparent that Commissioners Collins and Rich both want the mantle of the “water commissioner.” Former Commissioner Matheson had been deeply involved in the issue.

They both have taken opposite views of obtaining the title. Rich has emersed himself in going to various conferences and seminars to dive deep into the issue of clean water. He has spoken with various groups and has learned the water lingo.


Collins appears to have spoken to a person or two who sees the hope of cleaner water by forcing the federal government to enter a consent decree of some sort through litigation. While it worked for the Miccosukee Tribe in the Everglades, the fact pattern is different from the city’s or, for that matter, Martin County’s.


I don’t know what the cause of action would be. I think it would be a big waste of tax dollars because the city is unlikely to prevail. If it were that easy to win, the entire 156 miles of the Indian River Lagoon would have sued by now.

The fresh-water releases from Lake Okeechobee that the commissioners are decrying are actually fairly clean fresh water. At this point, it isn’t water quality but water salinity that is at issue, and from the data, salinity hasn’t been drastically affected so far.


I don’t really think the city needs a river commissioner. If one had to be chosen, it should be the one spending the time in at least becoming knowledgeable about different water issues by speaking to the ecological experts and not gathering information by speaking with an attorney or two.


All politics are local even when discussing projects using federal funds. The city has put aside $1 million in ARPA funds for nonprofits. The only organization that has asked for the money so far is SafeSpace, a domestic abuse nonprofit. Their grant request is for $500,000 the maximum allowable for any organization under the city’s rules.


The money would only be spent in their Martin County operation. Last year domestic abuse went up by 54% in the county. Members of the SafeSpace board were there including Tom Bakkedahl, the State Attorney, for the 19th Circuit. A motion was made by Clarke and seconded by Bruner to approve the grant.


Collins wanted to know when the funds had to be distributed.  According to the manager  they must be allocated by 2024 and spent by 2026. He didn’t understand what the rush was. The money and the program have been around for over a year without any other applicants. He would like to get others to apply. What is the outreach by staff? He suggested that perhaps there was “a church that needs a roof.”


Rich took a tour of the SafeSpace facility and was impressed. A local attorney who has lived in Palm City Farms her entire life spoke during public comment noting that she had been abused and that the victims are not “white trash.” She broke down in tears. Pastor Gore from East Stuart also spoke and stated that we need a place like SafeSpace to give shelter and keep the cases confidential.


The vote ended up being 5-0. State Attorney Bakkedahl said that the money given will save lives. He is right.


The commission voted to create a new advisory committee named the East Stuart Historical Advisory Committee. They will meet quarterly and advise on cultural, art, and historical matters in East Stuart. The committee will be composed of 7 members being appointed by each of the CRA members. The terms are for one year. The vote was 5-0


It was finally time to approve the “Form Based Codes” for East Stuart and the Creek District on second reading. The writing of the codes and the community outreach has been going on for almost two years. There did not seem to be a problem with anything except Collins not liking the ADU (accessory dwelling unit) concept for East Stuart.


An ADU can only be built on a single-family lot. It is limited to no more than 700 sq feet and either the ADU or the home must be occupied by the property owner. ADUs can be built now in East Stuart and throughout the city.


Collins is obsessed with keeping only single-family homes in the city. He continually asked questions of Jessica Seymour from the Treasure Coast Planning Council who worked on the code. Unfortunately, he kept interrupting her as she answered.

Regulations book. Law, rules and regulations concept. 3d illustration

These units make perfect sense. An owner must occupy one of the units. Collins believes that there is no way that the city will really know who is occupying the units. He is right about that.


All cities, including Stuart, have many codes that are hard to enforce. And nobody will be going door to door to ask for “papers” to see whether an owner lives in one of the units. It does allow for code enforcement to use home ownership as a tool if there is a problem at the site.


Collins voted with the rest of the commission to approve the codes. Questions are good if they have a point. He needs to refine his style and really listen to the answers. Many of those question should be done with staff before the meeting.


This meeting was over four hours long. Is there some reason that they need to take this amount of time?





Stuart Latest News From The Feb 12, 2023 Edition




Stuart City Manager David Dyess has been chosen to be the new manager of tony Juno Beach, home to FPL.

Dyess has spent the last 33 years working for the City of Stuart. He climbed the ranks from patrol officer to chief of police and then city manager five years ago. He took the helm at a chaotic point in the city’s history with the termination of David Ross, an outside hire, six months earlier.


Dyess came at a time when department heads had left, and there were other claims of employment irregularities. He immediately went to work restoring confidence in the city’s government. His tenure has been marked with a professionalism in the day-to-day operations of Stuart.


Dave could have spent the rest of his career at Stuart. Because of the quirky rules of the Florida Retirement System, he could take home almost as much pay as a retired employee as he would have if he continued working. This brought on his leaving. The same thing was true of County Administrator Taryn Kryzda’ s early retirement at the county. After a six-month period, she was eligible to go back to work within the FRS system, which she did and is now working for Indiantown.


Juno is not a member of the Florida Retirement System. Dyess can work there and collect his pension at the same time without interruption.


Dyess now will negotiate a contract with Juno. I have been told that their current manager can stay until June 1st, so there will be no mad rushes for the door.


In my opinion, David Dyess will be a hard act to follow. The hometown boy that grew up on Manor Drive in Stuart, attended the Methodist Church, local public schools, and Florida colleges is irreplaceable. As a police officer, he saw the worst but also the best in people. The years at SPD made him a known commodity to most residents of the city. I have even seen people he had arrested come up to him and say thanks for straightening out their lives.

Stuart, like Martin County, is unique. Florida laws can be daunting and a trap for the uninitiated especially when it comes to public records and “sunshine.” I believe that the next manager should be a local who knows and understands the city, county, and Florida. And it will be helpful if the residents, taxpayers, and business owners know the proposed manager. I hope my commissioners agree.


As a friend of both David and his wife, Karen, I am very happy as David embarks on a new adventure. As a resident and taxpayer, I am sad to see him go. Thank you for everything.




Stuart Latest News From The Jan.29, 2023 Edition




After two years the commission finally approved a form-based code for the Creek District and East Stuart on the first reading.


The initial idea for the form-based code was former Commissioner Mike Meier’s. It was to be tried out in these two places and then expanded throughout Stuart. With Meier gone I don’t see much hope for that happening.


The definition from the “Formed Base Code Institute” 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.”


The code that was adopted on first reading was far from a true one. It should produce predictability, and this goes a long way to doing just that. A person building a project should be able to seamlessly look at the code and know what can be done. However, instead of the code being the last word, Stuart’s will still have the commission making decisions. That means it will be easy to deviate.


I am glad it was passed but many projects will still come before the commission which means there will be a multitude of uses that will be exceptions to the code. Better than the current system but not free of the political. I am still glad they passed it.


You can find the code here





This meeting was similar to the time that the commission was played like a fiddle by Linda and Paul Daily regarding their lease at the Pelican Café.


At the time, the Dailys were seeking an extension of their lease for the waterfront restaurant, now Hudson’s, which is owned by the city. The lease was not even close to its expiration date. The manager and attorney did not want to entertain an extension at the time, so the owners went directly to the commission. When the commission was debating whether to extend or not, the Dailys packed the chamber with ardent fans…75% of whom did not live in the city and some not even in Martin County.


The same scenario played out at this meeting regarding whether to have an invocation. Once again, the chamber was packed with out-of-city residents expressing their opinion on the subject. What was especially galling to me as a city resident was that three elected officials from other jurisdictions spoke who are not residents of Stuart, School Board Members Amy Pritchett and Mike DiTerlizzi, and Ocean Breeze Council Member Gina Kent.

Helen McBride spoke and said something very pertinent on this subject. As a Stuart and Martin County voter, resident, and taxpayer, she has a perfect right to speak and express her opinions at school board and county commission meetings. Those from outside the city do not pay Stuart taxes or reside here and cannot vote in the elections for city commissioner.


Interestingly, only one pastor from East Stuart spoke though he lives in St. Lucie County. There was no one else from any of the churches in that community. There was no rabbi, imam, Roman Catholic, or Episcopal priest though Father Anderson from St. Mary’s had been there and spoke about a skate park earlier. Likewise, none of the non-evangelical Protestant pastors were there either. Does that mean they don’t believe in the power of prayer?


Of the 14 actual city residents that did speak, more than half spoke against having an invocation. The other 65% from outside the city spoke in favor except for 2. And their comments should have been listened to politely by the commission and then given a much lesser weight than the comments from actual voters and residents.

The idea about whether to pray or not became a symbol for the struggle about the literal soul of the commission. Again Mrs. McBride stated it best when she said since one member became a commissioner, she had never seen such disharmony. Though forbidden by the rules to say whom she meant, there was no doubt that it was Dr. Collins.


Commissioner Rich also had a deeply held belief against having an invocation. I don’t doubt that Collins was sincere in his beliefs when this began, but it became a power play of his against the rest.


Speaker after speaker said a variation on the same words that America is a Christian nation with Christian values, and we are all Christians. America does have a Christian-Judeo foundation as does Canada, France, the U.K., and many other nations. We are not unique in that regard. That does not mean that we are a Christian nation or that everyone is a Christian.


Collins made the motion to adopt the ordinance that was seconded by Bruner. It passed 3-2 with McDonald and Rich dissenting. The implementing resolution passed 4-1 with Rich dissenting.


The politically inept commissioners were rolled over once again by outsiders trying to dictate the fate of the city. The Dailys did receive a long lease extension that night. They promptly sold it to the owners of the now Hudson’s for a considerable sum while the city must live with below-market rent for a prime property that was leased to the Dailys under false pretenses.

The commission should have done what the school board did when asked by DiTerlizzi for an invocation…which was just to immediately agree to have an invocation. As city resident Joe Hartowski stated, it is performative. For in the end, an invocation only means as much or as little as a person’s own thoughts as the words are spoken.


You can find the ordinance and resolution here





Stuart Latest News From The Jan.15, 2023 Edition





The most interesting part of this workshop was the presentation made by Manager Dyess. Unfortunately, the commissioners didn’t seem very interested.


There was no discussion about the Future Land Use Map (FLUM) which was Dyess’ presentation. And yet that is the crux of where and what the city can still develop. A startling fact is that there are no multi-family parcels available at all. The Special Neighborhood District zoning classification has 3 parcels consisting of 4 acres total. Low Density Residential zoning classification (basically single family) has 48 parcels in 15.69 acres. The city’s 6 sq. miles of land is closed for residential development under current zoning. What we still have are 37 parcels on 138.7 total acres for commercial.

This is the vacant inventory in those classifications. The reason why landowners choose to change a land use is because the zoned use is no longer practical. The state has said that local governments must give landowners a mechanism to do just that.


Commercial has a disproportionate amount of the available vacant space within the City of Stuart boundaries. Much of it has been sitting idle for years. In the past two decades, the need for office and retail use has been drastically reduced because of changes in society. A good part of that commercial classified space should be zoned for residential use.


The commercial land is situated along major arteries. It would be fine for multi-family, but it is far from ideal for any single-family use. Rezoning or whether it should be done did not seem to interest the commissioners at all.


Then came the discussion about affordable housing. If there is no land currently zoned for multi-family residential, where would any new housing go except by changing land use? Commissioner Clarke suggested creating another city board or task force to explore possibilities but then said there wasn’t much in the way of possibilities. It was decided that the current private non-profit already established for this purpose where the city has a board seat would give a presentation regarding their plans.


The FLUM presentation can be found here


Dr. Collins made his own presentation on housing. Most of his desires would be very orthodox if this were 1960, but it is not. He used his Facebook page to solicit responses to this post:

City of Stuart residents!

Please comment with a few words, phrases or photos that describe what you think makes Stuart special.

What kind of development, look and feel best characterizes our charming seaside town?

I am working on a presentation for our next Zoning In Progress workshop in January.

Thank you!


There were 27 comments with most expressing support for that small town feel. Who could say no to that? The first comment was from someone who doesn’t live in Stuart. I don’t know how many others of those who liked, shared, or commented are residents.


Dr. Collins is using his Facebook page as a way to inform, solicit, and communicate with voters, constituents, and residents. As such it becomes a public record. Where is it being preserved?


His presentation had three points:


  • Fair Share Parking
  • Remove ½ Unit Calculation
  • Develop Maximum Buildout


Fair Share Parking:  In his opinion there should be no deviation from the current parking standards. Twenty-five years ago, the Stuart codes were written to make it almost impossible for any multi-residential property to build as of right. The prevailing sentiment was that all such development should come to the commission to be haggled over. Therefore, things like parking were made more severe so that a commissioner could extract something from the developer in return for an exception. It is idiotic but that is the system.


Dr. Collins may like it because it would stop projects. At some point because of setbacks, wetlands, height restrictions and requiring too much parking, developments don’t move forward because the restrictions create too many obstacles for many developers.


Collins would like to see the developer pay into a fund to build a parking garage. When I first heard it, I was against the proposal because unless the building is close to the garage the supposed problem hasn’t been solved. We have just made the project more expensive.


That only works if we have development which the FLUM would tell us is not possible when you have zero land available for apartments. If you have more reasonable parking requirements and the developer still cannot meet code, paying into a fund is a public benefit for the entire city.


But, if the reason we have parking requirements is for each development to be self-parked so that overflow does not happen, then this does not solve the problem. In my mind if there is a problem with a resident not being able to park his car, the apartments won’t be easily rented. That is letting the free market decide. Using parking as a determinant is an outdated planning concept.


Remove ½ Unit Calculation:  That is terrible terminology. Why we even count units to tell us about density is absurd. We should do away with units per acre. Any building with setbacks, wetlands, uplands, and a maximum of 4 stories already has limitations on maximum capacity.


The tiny units should be for either a single person or a couple just starting out. Therefore, encouraging the use by giving a bonus to the developer makes sense. Except for the ½ unit all current units over 900 square feet are counted as one. If the city limits the square footage to no more than 500 square feet, there would be validity for the bonus and to help make apartments more affordable to our younger citizens.


Once over the 500 feet it no longer is a tiny apartment. It doesn’t matter whether it is a one-, two-, three- or four-bedroom apartment it is counted as one unit in the density calculation. Obviously, the more bedrooms the more people will live in the apartment usually. That is the absurdity of units equating to density.


Develop Maximum Buildout:  That too is dependent on what our FLUM looks like. It just doesn’t seem possible that given height, setback, and other restrictions within the approximately 6 square miles of dry land in Stuart that much can be built. However, given our current population of less than 17,000 and, even for argument’s sake, to agree with Collins that if everything planned is built, the result would increase Stuart’s population by 10,000. Stuart would then still be considered a small city by the state and would be half the size of Fort Pierce today.


Collins mentioned 30,000 people as a maximum buildout number. If it is the right number, Stuart should plan for it going forward.


Some of his conclusions are illogical.  For example, Collins suggested we should only have high end homes being constructed because our median home price is low. The mean sales price today is 2.5 times higher than the mean price used by the property appraiser. The difference is $250,000 (mean price used by property appraiser) and over $600,000 (current sales price). Those who have been in their home longest are assessed lowest. That has nothing to do with how much it costs someone to buy a home today.


Collins came to skewed conclusions on road use by taking random numbers from FDOT counts.  He claims that the increase in traffic is caused by Stuart residents. The numbers he cites are before any project approved has even been built. If the premises are wrong, the conclusions drawn will be wrong. His presentation can be found here


After his long presentation was over, the other commissioners went onto the next item without comment. The subject was the half unit or, as I prefer to call it, a tiny unit.


I agree with Mayor McDonald and to a lesser extent Dr. Collins that there is a bit of the disingenuousness in calling 900 sq. feet a ½ unit. The commission instructed staff to come back with making tiny units no more than 500 square feet with 1.25 parking spaces and restricting where they should be in the CRA.


The only thing I would disagree with is the parking at 1.25. According to a developer I spoke with who was in the audience, that will add about $100 a month to the rent. This would be our affordable housing. Why make it artificially more expensive?

Mayor McDonald, to an extent, let the meeting get away from him. Collins kept interrupting the others and challenging what they said. Dr. Collins champions small town virtue and then acts in a way that would make New Yorkers blush. But many New Yorkers would tell him where to go. The other Stuart commissioners are maybe too “small town” and polite for that.


What has come out of the two ZIPs is that the tiny unit classification will be a maximum of 500 feet. Couldn’t have this been accomplished without the commission making the city spend thousands of dollars for hundreds of man hours resulting in unproductive meetings? What a waste.





Dr. Collins promised to fill the chamber with his prayer supporters, and he did.


During public comment, speaker after speaker described the reasons to have an invocation. They read from scripture, invoked the name of God, and had personal testimony as to the power of prayer. After 2 hours, was it enough to change any other commissioner’s mind?


From the beginning, I had no problem with having an invocation. Prayer in this setting in my opinion is not giving it the sanctity it deserves. It just is not worth the political capital and disruption trying to prevent it entails. Prayer should be a unifying element not one that leads to disunion.


History is replete with supposed followers of Christ killing in his name. Dr. Collins and his fellow followers have not threatened death to heathens but will brook no dissent in this area. Like so many things in the culture wars of today, it is more important to have the show than the substance.


And ultimately that is what this is for most people who attend meetings. They are sincere words uttered by a preacher at a podium for most people not paying much attention. Yet for some it gives comfort.


Mayor McDonald did his best to chair a meeting and give every speaker his 3 minutes uninterrupted. McDonald tried to do the same for each commissioner, but Dr. Collins was incapable of allowing anyone else to speak without his constant interruptions. Collins is a warrior Christian more like the Grand Inquisitor of the Spanish Inquisition Tomas de Torquemada than Jesus.


Collins made his motion to bring back the prayer ordinance at the next commission meeting which was seconded by Bruner. It passed 5-0. I wonder if the “rack” of public comment persuaded two other commissioners.


One of the ZIPs came to an end when the commissioners voted 4-1 with Collins dissenting to end the ZIP having to do with PUDs. Collins couldn’t believe that his fellow commissioners didn’t agree with his rather inaccurate presentation at the workshop. Once again, he believes berating commissioners is the best way to win. Where is Dale Carnegie?


The city was awarded a grant for $4.8 million to buy and rehabilitate the Gary property on Martin Luther King Blvd. It will become a business incubator and vocational center. The property will cost $1.6 million and cost another $2 million for renovation. The city would then lease it to another entity for the programming. The grant calls for creating 50 new jobs during the 5 years after completion. Both Boys and Girls Club and IRSC have expressed an interest.


McDonald believes it would be great for spurring economic development on M.L.K. There is definitely a public benefit. Rich wholeheartedly agreed with him. Dr. Collins wanted to know why the city should be involved and what is the economic benefit. “What is the ROI,” he asked.


Commissioner Clarke quoted Dr. King that “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” Collins brand of helping people is apparently different than the rest of the commission. East Stuart as well as other young people in the city would benefit from a career training center. Isn’t that the function of government to do the things that are needed and not being done?


There is no downside for Stuart since all the expenses are covered by grant money. It is being awarded to help a blighted area, and the Gary property is certainly blighted. The residents and our businesses can use trained trades people. The ROI can be immense.


The consensus was to make this an agenda item.




Stuart Latest News From The Dec.18, 2022 Edition




Troy McDonald was elected mayor and Beckie Bruner vice-mayor unanimously. Congratulations to both.


There was a presentation by Kevin Crowder of BusinessFlair on the city’s industrial space.

There currently is 1.1 million sq. feet of such space within the city. That is 25% of the total in the county. Most of that space is older and in logistical industries. There is little turnover of tenants.


Stuart’s best course of action regarding these industries is to continue working with Martin County with the Innovation Hub on Commerce Drive in South Stuart. The more that Stuart and Martin County can do to have infrastructure in place the more that can be accomplished in keeping and attracting industrial industries.


The city is less than 7 square miles which is about 1% of Martin County’s total area. Stuart has fallen into the trap of thinking that it needs to be everything for business, industry, and population. The city cannot.


Years ago, any opportunity to be larger through annexation was stopped, and so Stuart did not develop into a population center. Where the city was once the center of the county, it is now an afterthought with only a little over 10% of Martin County’s population. In years to come, Indiantown will probably be larger. Pineland Prairie could also be.


And where would this expanded work force live if Stuart did attract it? Unless the city goes vertical and builds more housing, no new employer is going to locate here. Cleveland Clinic has or will hire 600 new employees…they have nowhere to live according to their CEO.


Thousands already come to Stuart every day to work, shop, and eat. The crowded roads that people complain about are the result of commuting not new residents. Most of the building approved has not happened yet. Those who fear building anything, but single-family residences go against all good planning principles. Besides, the city doesn’t have enough zoned and vacant property to build enough single-family homes to have the occupants of those homes even fill the Blake Library auditorium.


You can see the presentation here


It appears that some commissioners had a change of heart over the invocation issue.

Before the item was introduced, Vice-Mayor Bruner stated that she had changed her mind about mandating an invocation. Bruner is, in fact, an ardent believer and I know she attends the church where her son is a pastor.


Commissioner Clarke who had seconded the motion to bring back an ordinance for an invocation also said that she couldn’t support it after speaking to constituents. Commissioner Clarke is also a believer and attends St. Monica’s. I have worshipped with Clarke at the church and have seen her devotion.


McDonald and Rich had been no votes from the beginning. When Dr. Collins made a motion to pass the ordinance, it quickly died for lack of a second. Collins then stated all the things he had said before regarding constitutionality and how Stuart is not in keeping with the school board or the BOCC.


It is true that there is no constitutional prohibition about having a prayer. Both the school board and county do have an invocation by a clergyman prior to their meetings. Yet the school board had stopped having an invocation many years ago and only recently reinstated it. Except for Indiantown, no other Martin County municipality has one.


Prayer and beliefs are very personal and should be kept that way. During the moment of silence an attendee could pray, contemplate, or just think about dinner. And the commissioners were quite right to reject the mandating of something that belongs in your heart not for public consumption.





Stuart Latest News From The Dec. 4, 2022 Edition




Imagine that Tropicana wanted to place orange juice stands on city property and pay nothing in rent. Tropicana stated it provided a benefit to the citizens by allowing them to buy fresh orange juice. The company also claimed that it was an incentive for Stuart’s tourist visitors because everyone associates orange juice with Florida. At the end of the ten-year agreement, the benefit for the city would be they became the owner of the stands for a dollar.

NILES, IL – DECEMBER 1: Cartons of Tropicana orange juice (Photo by Tim Boyle/Getty Images)

Would that be a good deal for Stuart? Just substitute EV charging stations for juice stands, and you will have the deal the commission cut with FPL. You can put a pretty bow on it by saying that electric vehicles are good for the environment (the jury may still be out on that) or people will stop while their vehicle is charging and buy a cup of coffee or eat lunch adding to sales revenue.


In their quest to be green, the city commission has decided to mess with the free market. Is there a reason to do so? The answer resoundingly is no. Would the city entertain putting an Exxon-Mobile gas pump to be fair to most drivers? Of course, the answer is no.


This is the Looney Tune stuff the City of Stuart now deals with instead of substantive policy. I get it that development is dead. What is a poor commission to do? I know…go where no commission has gone before and think up things.


Commissioner Collins was the only person that sort of got it. You don’t give away something for nothing. I don’t know whether he believes in government staying out of markets because in the next agenda item he wanted to influence markets by manipulation of fees. But he was right to challenge FPL here.


Too bad the other commissioners are willing to allow our infrastructure to be used for trendy things and not for the purpose it was intended.


You can see the presentation here


Dr. Collins, in his quest to bring Stuart back to the 1950s, wanted to manipulate the new impact fee schedule to favor single-family dwellings. The fee schedule was derived by the city’s consultants. In many cases, fees are going down. And the thing to remember is that fees are only paid on lots where nothing was built previously.

For example, if a home of 2500 sq. feet existed on a lot and was torn down to build a new home of 2500 sq. feet, then no fee is charged. If it is now a 3000 sq. foot home, the fee would only be on 500 sq. feet.


Collins main concern was that any newly annexed properties into the city be encouraged to build single-family homes instead of multi-family. The manger burst that bubble when he said he had never heard of a developer considering the difference in impact fees when deciding on what to build. He also stated there are no new tracts to annex. The city no longer has any place to become larger.


Impact fees are supposed to consider what it costs to provide new infrastructure. If you place 4 families on the same lot, then you don’t have to provide 4 times the roads or sewer connections. The impact doesn’t go up proportionately.


That is why I say Dr. Collins may not really believe in markets determining what to do. He would rather that he determines what is to be built. I think it will be interesting to see what the county ends up doing regarding development in the next ten years. I think they are poised to do many infill projects which will make anything the city has done look small.


Perhaps Dr. Collins will get his way of a 1950s village surrounded by a 21st century unincorporated Martin County. Our tax dollars will shrink so services will have to do so also. But traffic through the city will only increase since Stuart is incapable of returning to a medieval 12th century market town with a drawbridge and moat.


Then came the battle over prayer.


Dr. Collins wanted to have an invocation before the meeting. Commissioner Rich was adamantly against. All the usual arguments were made pro and con. Rich wanted people to sit during the prayer so that those not participating would feel no obligation to do so. Collins said people needed to stand.

I think most people are like me. Usually when an invocation is given at this type of meeting, my mind is not on the words but wandering somewhere else. If some believe that God will look kindly on the meeting beginning with a prayer, then that is fine. I am of the “no harm no foul” side of this.

It is not unconstitutional or a problem because of separation of church and state. There is nothing about this anywhere in the constitution. The entire idea of prayer is sort of meaningless in this context. It cheapens the power of prayer. If Collins needs to have a prayer said out loud prior to a commission meeting, so be it.


The vote was 3-2 with Rich and McDonald dissenting.







Stuart Latest News From The Nov. 20, 2022 Edition




I left the meeting after 5.5 hours. It was still going on. Except in extraordinary circumstances, no meeting should be that long.


The commission did not hear several other items that had also been included in the agenda but were deferred. The new codes had not yet been presented to the LPA so could not go forward. They were for the Creek and East Stuart Form Based Codes.


Those two items alone deserve to be for two separate special meetings where they can be adequately explained by staff, give the public an opportunity to speak, and have enough discussion by the commission. This tendency to put so much on an agenda “to get it out of the way” does not do justice to a deliberative and informed commission making decisions.


At this meeting, there were many proclamations. Some of them were for things that had already occurred. Two of them had no one present to accept the proclamation. One had the acceptors giving speeches for what seemed an interminably long time…pages and pages of prepared text were read.


I have often complained that the business of government doesn’t happen until two hours into the meeting. The county has their proclamations done in about ten minutes. There is something to be learned by that.


When new commissioners begin, there is a learning curve. Some realize that the best course of action for a period is to learn procedure and not play “gotcha” with staff and other commissioners. Others jump into the fray without knowing all the unintended consequences of their actions.


Commissioner Collins has acted that way in past meetings, especially with the Zippy controversy. He seems to have learned from his past actions based on the way he acted at this meeting. Commissioner Rich, unfortunately, has not yet caught on.


During commissioner comments, Rich began by trying to have the commission place on an upcoming agenda a discussion to withdraw from the Kanner CPUD appeal which is currently awaiting the decision by the Governor’s Council. The decision is all but certain to be rendered at their December 13th meeting.

There are several things that are objectionable by trying to do that at this late date. First the commission (when Matheson & Meier were members) voted 5-0 to have Attorney Mike Mortell defend the city at the administrative level and then they voted again 5-0 to have Mortell do so at the Governor’s Council. Because of the commission’s decision, the applicant relied on the city to defend the commission’s unanimous approval of the project in August 2021. By trying to change the course of action now the applicant will have his rights seriously impaired.


We all know and understand that Commissioner Rich would not have voted in favor of the original approval or would he want the city to defend that decision through this process. Commissioner Collins would not have voted for it either. What they would have done is immaterial to what was done. Once a decision is made by a previous commission, it must be relied on otherwise there is no legitimacy to any decision. The city gave the applicant their word to defend that decision.


Commissioner Rich read from a memo sent by the attorney representing the other side outlining his arguments. It is my understanding that every commissioner received the same memo. What is lost in this is there is pending litigation between Ms. Cartwright, the litigant, and the city. The commissioners are the city. I always thought that an attorney for one side could not speak without going through the other attorney.


And I would ask why Ms. Cartwright is contacting commissioners about pending litigation where she is suing the city. I don’t understand why the commissioners would speak with her. That doesn’t mean they can’t speak with her about other matters…just not on the pending litigation.


Rich went on to cite how badly he believed staff had screwed up in this matter. He grilled no one in particular and seemed to be on the cusp of belligerency. That isn’t the best way to ingratiate yourself with the very people that could be instrumental to you being a success as a commissioner.


During the discussion, Commissioner Rich showed exactly what he was trying to do when he said that once the council rules against Cartwright then the city will have to live with the development. This was a pretext to stop a project he doesn’t believe in by settling a case when a ruling is eminent.


That is the crux of the matter. Rich wants to overturn a decision that was made by an earlier commission because he disagrees. Going forward, it is on Rich’s watch, but he cannot reverse what happened before he was a commissioner.


Rich made the motion to place it on the next agenda. It was seconded by Collins. Rich and Collins voted yes, and McDonald and Bruner voted no. It failed. Commissioner Clarke was absent.


Besides the discussion was had with every point brought up by Rich during his comments. Mortell refuted his assertions and stated the city’s position. It was thoroughly aired. Rich is not a lone wolf but now a member of Stuart city government. It is not he against the city. He is the city. When the present commission decides on a land use, he would expect staff to make sure it is carried out and not reverse it.


Commissioner Rich your campaign is over. Now it is time to get to the governing part. That old phrase we have met the enemy and it is us would be apropos in this instance.


The Flagler lease with Main Street was up for renewal.

The city and Main Street have three different agreements. A service agreement, the green market agreement, and this lease. They all have different start and end dates. So how these agreements and what they cost the city are never placed in context.


The service agreement pays Main Street $70,000 per year. Originally when negotiated in 2019, it was to be reduced over the 3 years to zero. It still is at the original amount. The below market lease is for $2700 per month. It was given to the organization at the reduced rent so income from rentals would be able to sustain Main Street when the subsidy went away. Everyone seems to have forgotten that fact.


The organization subsequently took on the green market. One of the provisions was that they would pay the city 20% of the profit after expenses including management. Last year, the city earned $5600 according to Main Street. It means that Main Street made $28,000 after expenses. And after paying the city, Main Street netted $22,400.


The service agreement calls for Main Street to have “Rockin Riverwalk.” That program has been going on for years. It originally was done to bring people downtown so that the merchants would open their stores on Sunday. Stores have now been open for years. I don’t know how much the concerts influences those stores to be open but, at this point, why should taxpayers be subsidizing those downtown businesses in the form of providing entertainment?


Regarding all the other events that Main Street puts on, the organization hires an event planner to do them all. I don’t have a problem with Main Street as an organization but at what point does it not depend on tax money from the guy living on Akron Street to sustain itself? Where is the fairness to the rest of us? Main Street has become another racket that is taking money from the government.


Regarding Flagler Center…one of two things should happen to it. It should go out to RFP or the city should take it back and use the office space that currently is there for themselves and build more offices in the smaller venue across the court yard. They can keep the big meeting room as is for city events or for use by other groups.


It seemed only Commissioner Collins was concerned with the city’s obvious cronyism with a group of special people (many of whom are not even residents). He asked the right question and did it in the right tone.


Commissioner Rich interrogated the board and staff. It seemed he also got it but then after making all the right assumptions that the lease should not be renewed, he turned around and voted for the three-year extension. His brusque interrogation won him no friends from Main Street, and they will remember that and not his yes vote.


The lease can be found here


This was a missed opportunity to place this relationship back on track. Unfortunately, the commission chose cronyism over being watchdogs of the taxpayer dollar. I was not sympathetic to Collins in the last newsletter. He was right on the money with this vote of no. The motion for the extension passed 3-1.


After being pushed off several times, DogsWorld Kennel and Daycare’s conditional use application was being heard.

The applicant proposed taking the old Construction Journal building and turning it into that use instead of an office building. It is my understanding that there is a glut of office space on the market, and this would be an adaptive re-use. Is this the right location for this use?


The CRB (I am a member) placed several conditions on saying yes to this use. One was that the wall around the two outside areas be 6 feet and have planting around and atop the wall. The outside area would also have to have a waste system like the dog day care in North Stuart, and according to the noise study provided at the time of application, there be no more than 5 dogs per outside area. Also, the pickup and drop off would occur via Colorado Avenue to mitigate driving through the adjacent residential neighborhood.


The applicant did a new noise study and requested that the industry standard of one small dog per 40 sq feet and a large dog of 100 sq feet should be used. The small dog area is 2300 sq feet and the large dog area is 6750 sq ft. Using their metrics, they would be allowed to have 57 small dogs and 67 large dogs. They kept saying they would never have that many but never gave an upward limit except to use the standard.


Commissioner Collins was fixated on the compound to disinfect the outside areas. If they use the collector system that was recommended by the CRB, they could have used any number of toxic chemicals and it wouldn’t matter because any runoff would automatically be captured. While they agreed to use the system, neither staff or the applicant bothered to say that.


While I did vote yes with the recommendations to move it to the commission for determination, as a commissioner I would have voted no. The applicant completely ignored the CRB recommendations and then did a new study to increase the number of dogs. In my mind, this made it completely unacceptable.


I never thought it was a great use for the location, but if done with all the safeguards, it conceivably would be acceptable. It appeared that the safeguards were gone entirely by the time it reached the commission. Every neighbor spoke against the use. And one even brought up the fact that kennels were not permitted in the Creek District except in the industrial area. The Creek District begins one block over.


This was a quasi-judicial hearing. As such, strict protocols must be followed. The mayor conducting the meeting goes through a check list to make sure all the “I’s are dotted and the T’s crossed.” In the LDRs 11.01.11 Section G (7) having to do with a Major Conditional Use states that:


The determination of the city commission or community redevelopment board shall be to either find the application:

a.”In compliance” – In the event of a determination of in compliance, the plan shall be deemed approved;

b.”In compliance subject to stated conditions or modifications” – In the event of a determination of in compliance subject to stated conditions or modifications, the applicant may submit a revised application with supporting documentation to the department within 45 working days which complies with said conditions and modifications. The development director shall review the plan for a finding of in compliance; or

c.”Not in compliance” – In the event of a determination of not in compliance, the application shall be rejected and the specific reasons for such determination with reference to the requirements of this Code shall be stated in the resolution.


Under 11.03.07 Section B (13)-(16) which is the way a quasi-judicial hearing should be conducted:


  1. Mayor: Requests direction in the form of a motion.
  2. Mayor: Repeats or clarifies the motion for the record and asks the commissioners to deliberate the motion. Commissioners are encouraged to discuss the motion and their respective positions.
  3. Mayor: Upon conclusion of the deliberation, the mayor calls for a recorded vote of the commission.
  4. Clerk: Records the vote by roll call. The clerk shall randomize the voting order.


This order was passed by the commission in 2021 under Ordinance 2467-2021.

It is my contention that the commission is obligated to respond to the applicant’s submission in 1 of 3 ways: approve, approve with conditions, or deny with the reasons. In this case, no vote was taken. A motion needed to be made to deny with the reasons stated. Not voting is just not permitted under the current code as I read it.


Both the planning director and the planning consultant asked the attorney and manager whether a vote was necessary. They said from the dais the answer was no. I guess the planning director and consultant read the LDRs and resolution the same as I did.


If I am wrong in my interpretation, I would be glad to know how and I will print it in the next edition. Otherwise, this either needs to come back for a vote or the applicant needs to withdraw the application. Can the applicant bring it back for another hearing? How many other applications were denied by no motion being made? I don’t know.


Ordinance 2467-2021 can be found here


And applicant and staff presentation can be found here





Stuart Latest News From The Nov. 13, 2022 Edition


You go away for a couple of weeks, and the Stuart City Commission becomes consumed with its own fumbles.


Dr. Christopher Collins decided to gin up enthusiasm for the Zoning-In-Progress meeting by posting a photo of “Zippy the Chimp” from the old “Ed Sullivan Show.” (Dr. Collins wasn’t even born by the time the Sullivan show went off the air, so it is a mystery why Zippy was chosen.) In the photo, Zippy was wearing a tee shirt emblazoned with the word Zip. Some residents of the city, especially in East Stuart, thought it was a racist trope.

A quick apology and taking down the post would have sufficed when it almost immediately became apparent to him that it was offensive. Instead, Dr. Collins dug in his heels and refused to take it down. The controversy just got bigger and bigger with his obstinance.


In an attempt to tamp down the fire he had started, he agreed to appear on local blogger Althea Wiley Stoudemire’s show. For an hour and fifteen minutes, he backed himself more and more into a corner by saying that he was sorry it caused offense but was unwilling to do more. Dr. Collins is someone who interrupts others when they speak, and he continuously did so to Stoudemire.


The Facebook Live conversation was taking place at the Blue Door Coffee House. His interruptions of Stoudemire and continued belligerence made a stranger sitting at another table join the conversation. The lady took exception to his assertions and was deeply disappointed in his behavior. At one point, Dr. Collins even said that he didn’t care how Stoudemire or anyone else felt.


Is Collins a racist? I can’t answer that because I do not know what is in his heart. He has demonstrated he is uncaring and has no understanding and empathy for others.


Dr. Collins is someone who has proven himself to be dogmatic and uncompromising. While he makes a big show out of being a “Christian”, the example he sends to the community could not be further from that of Christ’s inclusive teachings. Too often today, hiding yourself in sanctimony is supposed to make everything else alright.


Dr. Collins professes little knowledge of government, claims he isn’t a politician, and has lived a sheltered life with very little community involvement. There is insufficient data to call him a racist, but he does have elitist tendencies borne out by his statements on the dais. If you want to hear the Facebook Live post, you can do so here


On Sept 29th Commissioner Bruner did an interview on YouTube with Joe Catrambone, CEO of the Stuart Martin Chamber. Was Bruner speaking for the city or herself? After watching the show, it would decidedly be for herself. If you believed that she was somehow representing the commission, you would have to conclude that Collins was also representing Stuart when he spoke to Wiley. In both cases, that would be wrong.


Unless specifically tasked with representing the entire commission by other commissioners then there is no representation. Neither Collins or Bruner intimated or stated that they spoke for anyone but themselves.


Some of Bruner’s conversation with Catrambone centered around the Costco development and what are obviously her beliefs. Robin Cartwright, who happens to be a litigant against the city regarding Costco, is the prime mover on trying to have an investigation of Bruner’s statements.

Bruner (City Of Stuart)

Cartwright wants to have an investigation to punish Bruner for those statements. (She has said nothing about Collins.) Bruner made several incorrect statements regarding the Costco project. I am sure if Bruner had stated how bad the Kanner PUD was then Cartwright would be applauding her and others would demonize Commissioner Bruner.


The threat of an investigation for such frivolous reasons is a threat to local government. If we continue down this path, then we won’t have anyone run for office.


It is not like we do not have remedies now. Any citizen can file a complaint with the Florida Ethics Commission. If enough voters feel that a commissioner has done something wrong, they may also initiate a recall. Finally, there is the next election. I remind you that Bruner had no opposition last year.


Since the Catrambone video first aired on September 29th, there have been 548 views as of November 6th when I viewed it. That is far from overwhelming. You can see it here


In my opinion Dr. Collins’ and Commissioner Bruner’s actions do not rise to any level of misfeasance or malfeasance. They are politicians doing rather dumb things. If we start an investigation every time a politician makes a statement, they will not speak to the press, put anything on Facebook, use social media, or communicate with the residents and voters.


For the sake of Stuart and Martin County, this needs to stop. At the November 2nd Workshop, Pastor Gore, President Jimmy Smith of the NAACP, and others spoke against Collins’ post in a civilized and rational manner that attested to their acting as adults. It did finally result in an apology by Dr. Collins and removal of the post Wednesday night. We need more of that behavior and less grandstanding.




The commission unanimously approved an ordinance to have a minor FLUM change to be able to build a third fire house in North Stuart. It has been a long time coming.


They also approved two vertical garages for Johnson Honda on US 1 in South Stuart. In both cases, this is a better option than having the cars spread out on even pervious pavement. It also was approved unanimously. The applicant pointed out the dealership was spending roughly $30 million dollars on the improvements.


Wallace Volvo also requested a waiver. They are building a new showroom and auxiliary building. The waiver was for interior landscaping. That too was approved unanimously.




Almost at the beginning of the meeting, Dr. Collins stated he was sorry for his “Zip the Chimp” post. Others spoke during public comment about it. You can see a more in-depth report above.


Attorney Mortell gave an overview of the law and the comp plan. It was concise and very much to the point. The new development director gave a brief overview of the ½ unit ordinance and the PUD process. It was elemental but informative and perhaps helpful since there are new commissioners.

Regulations book. Law, rules and regulations concept. 3d illustration

What came as a surprise to commissioners was that state statute requires the city to have density. It was also painfully obvious that the newer commissioners have no idea that they cannot mandate that a developer include below market housing as part of the approval process unless they are compensated by the city.


It has always been surprising how naïve commissioners and the public are about property rights. The commission is not empowered with some magical power to stop development. They can have reasonable rules, but the state has increasingly limited local government’s ability to be too restrictive.


Urban sprawl is not acceptable in state statute. Mortell stated that Tallahassee does not expect a bunch of single-family homes being built from Stuart to Indiantown. We should be thankful for that.


Except for Collins, it seems there is a consensus by the other four to keep the concept of half units but only reduce the number of square feet. From the beginning, Mayor McDonald has said he wasn’t against the concept only the way it was presented in the LDRs. Commissioner Rich agreed this could be a tool for more affordable housing.


It seemed that only Dr. Collins was speaking about “down zoning” and other concepts he researched in northern cities. If he had done further research, he would have found that reducing density by that use would almost always be in violation of the constitution and Florida Statute. He also mentioned doing away with conditional use approvals.


The staff will come back with an inventory of available land. No change to the PUD process, and keeping the ½ units but reducing the number of square feet.


Dr. Collins then asked a strange question about what would happen if they ignored state statute. It was so out of left field that the only one to respond was Mayor McDonald. He said that they were courting pre-emption of local government’s ability to make these decisions if they did. Collins kept asking if pre-emption meant that the state would come in and remove the commission or other penalties.


It was obvious that he had no idea what pre-emption meant. Pre-emption is when the state passes an ordinance to take away home rule in a specific instance for all local governments. It isn’t anything to do with the governor removing a commissioner for malfeasance. Though if a commissioner breaks the law, it would be justified.


Commissioners swear an oath to obey the laws and not to break them, which is what McDonald was saying. Collins wanted continue discussion about Stuart going its own way. McDonald adjourned the meeting.


McDonald had this meeting under control. He needs to keep it that way.


You can have the Florida Statute Summary  here


The development department presentation can be found here





Stuart Latest News From The Oct. 16, 2022 Edition




Mayor McDonald usually runs a good meeting. He is usually very fair, collegial, and on point. None of that was evident at this meeting.

Mayor McDonald should have stopped Frank McChrystal when he spoke during public comment. McChrystal should have never been allowed to personally name commissioners that he claims he helped defeat. He also said the only reason that Commissioner Clarke was re-elected was because the city is full of liberal Democrats. Taking a supposed victory lap is not what public comment is about. Neither is denigrating anyone from the podium.


McChrystal writes for this publication, and I have never censored anything he has contributed. It is not appropriate at a commission meeting and should have been stopped by the mayor. I hope the mayor and Frank remember this in the future.


There were two Zoning in Progress items on the agenda. The first ZIP was to stop new applications for UPUDs regarding density and parking. This is the infamous allowing ½ units if less than 900 sq ft. The two new commissioners, Dr. Collins and Mr. Rich, want to limit density.  In this case, the issue at hand is also about transparency.


If the UPUD zoning allows 15 units per acre, if the units are under 900 sq ft, 30 units would be allowed. While I am in favor of allowing the 30 units in the appropriate place, the city should make sure the public understands the parameters of this change. There needs to be a debate on the subject.


The second ZIP has to do with allowing more units than by right without commission approval. The ZIPs are for the next three months and can be extended for an additional three months. Both passed unanimously.


The collapse of a condo building in Surfside last year has resulted in a state law being passed that will now require co-ops and condos of three stories or greater to be inspected by an engineer if they are 30 years or older and those that are within 3 miles of the ocean must be inspected at 25 years.


Why aren’t all buildings over three stories included? Perhaps the legislature feels the private sector will take care of their properties. On the other hand, condo boards have consistently inadequately funded the reserves used for these purposes. This bill requires that those reserves be funded. If you want to delve further into the law or see the buildings that are affected, you can go here


I have been through many presentations as a citizen, commissioner, and someone who now covers these type meetings. From start to finish, this was not a good night for the developer.


The approval of Sailfish Cay should have been a no-brainer. Unfortunately, what stood in the way was that it needed a FLUM. The property of almost 5 acres had originally been zoned residential. It did have a church on it that was demolished in 2007. About 15 years ago, the then owner asked that it be zoned commercial. It has never been developed which tells us there is no market need for commercial in that location.

Regulations book. Law, rules and regulations concept. 3d illustration

The current owner is looking have it go back to being residential. There are no wetlands or conservation area on the property. The residential condo next door is supportive of the change.


If the FLUM had been approved, the site plan would have allowed for 60 townhouses with two car garages. This is anything but dense development. The applicant decided to be the one to make the presentation to the commission. His attorney should have been the one doing so. The presentation was a wandering journey without a central focus.


Commissioner Bruner has said over and over that she is not going to vote for any FLUM changes. She has gone from being a commissioner that always said yes to one that has proclaimed she never will again. This position will certainly make it difficult for her to ever say again that she has an open mind during a quasi-judicial hearing. I know I would challenge her if I were a developer.


Finally, Mr. Raynes, the applicant’s attorney, took to the podium to answer questions. Dr. Collins continuously interrupted the answers. Again, Mayor McDonald should have stopped that behavior.


I understand that Dr. Collins believes that the city should only have single-family homes for housing, but unfortunately not everyone wants or can afford one. However, this was not the project for the guy working at Publix. These townhouses would have been $500,000 and up.

Given the new commission’s positions, the city will never have affordable housing. Whether you believe in the market theory that more new units will make older units cheaper or that affordable units should be built and subsidized, this commission is looking to put a “need not apply” sign on the city. It is an elitist point of view.


Commissioner Clarke made a motion to accept the FLUM that died for lack of a second. Dr. Collins with Commissioner Clarke seconding moved to table the item. That passed 5-0.






Stuart Latest News From The Oct. 9, 2022 Edition




Years ago, I worked on Mario Cuomo’s campaigns for mayor of NYC and governor of New York. He was no pushover but, generally, a nice and caring person. One of his favorite sayings was, “You campaign in poetry but govern in prose.” Many a politician, once elected, must come to terms with their election rhetoric and the hard choices in making policy.


Commissioner Campbell Rich is now learning that lesson. It is easy to deplore density but sometimes hard not to accept if it is necessary for the greater good. That was on display at this meeting.

Rich promised to fill the chamber with people to speak about the need for affordable/attainable/workforce housing during public comment. It can always bring a tear to an eye when the working poor speak about not being able to afford an apartment. The same goes for the non-profit leadership speaking about the need but offering no solution except “government needs to do something.”


Then during commissioner comments, Rich requested that a discussion item be added to relocate the public works garage to a location near the water plant. He wanted to devote what would be an empty site to some sort of affordable/attainable/workforce housing. The goodness of such an action can be poetically justified. Then comes the prose part which would need to be expressed in financial terms…who is going to do build it and how many units there would be. There was nothing about that.


For instance, if the 3+ acres of that site were fully utilized, under current code, about 100 units could be built at a cost of roughly $16 million at best. That would be one of the densest projects in the city. It would be contrary to everything Rich campaigned on. If fewer units were built, then would it be financially feasible because of the low return on such housing?


Does Rich propose giving away the land to someone? It is a valuable piece of property in the middle of Stuart. Is it fair to the taxpayers? I know I would not like it.


McDonald was against it because the garbage trucks and other vehicles would need to move to a lot adjacent to a single-family residential neighborhood. How many people want garbage trucks beeping at 5:30 am? He also cited the cost of $6 million which is the net for the relocation after construction.

Collins had a more philosophical approach. He asked what is the role of the City of Stuart? He does not like multi-family housing, but I don’t believe that was his overriding reason to be against the measure. He may be the last adherent to the free market on the commission…except if the market wants to build housing.


I agree that Stuart has no place trying to be in the housing business. We are not New York or any big city which does have public housing and even they cannot adequately maintain their properties. Stuart needs to take care of the streets, parks, and the safety of its residents.


Rich made the motion to have a reconsideration of this move at the next meeting. It died for a lack of a second. There was poetry in the gesture, but it was not matched by any way to do so in practical prose.


The commission had a lengthy presentation regarding form-based code for East Stuart and the Creek District from Jessica Seymour of the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council. This has been going on for a couple of years now. The new commissioners have spent time going through the proposed codes.


There were some minor comments, but it seems everyone is on board…so far. The next steps are a community meeting at 10th Street and then back to the LPA and the commission for final adoption. You can see the presentations for the Creek District here


And East Stuart here


The commission approved giving FPL 4 parking spots exclusively for EV charging stations in downtown. That was the same day that Hertz, in conjunction with BP Oil, announced that they would place 340,000 charging stations at their facilities including opening many to the public. In addition, one of the largest makers of charging stations in the past few months has made deals with grocery and big box stores throughout the country to place super-fast EV charging stations in their parking lots.

Wawa has installed fast charging stations. We will see more gas stations do so to keep customers of EV cars, which are clearly gaining market share, coming into their convenience stores. It appears the commission is trying, and in my opinion doing so badly, to compete with the private sector. Commissioner Collins was the only one to vote no on another hairbrained foray into the private market that the government of Stuart is so good at doing and then receiving little to no benefit from financially.


I can only hope that the lease for ten years will go away sooner because FPL decides it is not worth it to compete with other vendors in the EV charging market.


Another thing that is near and dear to Collins and Rich is to put an end to additional residential multifamily in the city. The first step is to initiate a ZIP (Zoning in Progress) to forestall any other building applications. City Attorney Mortell began by giving a few statistics. As it stands right now, there are two acres of vacant land currently in the city zoned for multi-family.


Collins stated that people do not want to live in rentals or condos because they all want houses. If nothing but single-family homes were built, then the average home in the city would be well over a million dollars due to construction, permit and impact fees, and the cost of land. How many people can afford that? Talk about unaffordable housing!


Collins said he thinks we should go with the Duany Plan that was done in 1988 for Stuart. Duany, a noted architect and adherent to New Urbanism, is not exactly in sync with private one-family homes being the dominant residential form. The architect believes that cars and parking should be reduced to an even greater extent than Stuart currently does. His buildings would be at least three stories in most instances with retail on the ground floor and the dreaded apartments above. They are built close to the adjacent sidewalk. A good example would be seen on Osceola in downtown Stuart.


The only thing that made sense to me was McDonald’s criticism of the half unit in the urban area as not being transparent. It is not necessarily that he wants to have fewer units allowed, he just wants to have the number of units to be known to everyone. That is a good call.


After about 45 minutes of discussion, Mortell said he had enough input for bringing back a ZIP to the commission for the next meeting. I am glad he knows what they all said because I wasn’t so sure. You can find his memo on what a ZIP is  here





Stuart Latest News From The Sept. 18, 2022 Edition




The election is over, and the three commissioners were sworn into office for their new terms. Rich, Collins, and Clarke assumed their positions on the dais. Vice-Mayor McDonald became mayor and a number of presentations followed.


Collins pushed for a discussion item being entertained in October about a city-wide ZIP. McDonald wanted to have it in a workshop forum, but Collins insisted that it be in a regular meeting. The mayor was attempting to expedite Collins’ request because that item will inevitably result in a broader discussion that will probably entail a workshop.


I don’t believe what Collins wants can be done. To have a Zoning-in-Progress, the commission must be actively working on changing a particular section of code and has a limited time to accomplish it. That must be all agreed upon and stand up to any court challenges. Collins’ reasoning that “We need a break” is not a reason.

Every controversial development approval I have been involved with has been because of the landowner or developer has asked for more than they are entitled to under the code. In those circumstances if the commissioner doesn’t believe it is good policy to grant the exception, then they vote no. There needs to be no ZIP in place.


Currently, I have heard of no change in code that Collins wants to accomplish that can be studied under a ZIP. Before just coming out with ideas at meetings in response to something he may have heard, he should work with staff to see if they can help him articulate his vision in a way that will work within the government parameters.


Jacqui May, grants coordinator, gave a wonderful presentation. In the past five years, the city has been awarded over $5 million in grants. You can see her presentation here


The budget, millage and fire assessment passed 5-0. You can view the budget here


City Attorney Mike Mortell gave a history on the Kanner PUD. It was concise and brief and outlined everything to date. The appeal of the administrative law judge’s decision was heard by the Governor’s Cabinet at the end of August. Their decision will be announced at the next cabinet meeting in December. You can see his presentation here

There was a rather cut and dry conditional use item. A Pain Management Practitioner was moving from her current location to a different one three blocks away. She is a board-certified specialist in pain management and is part of the Cleveland Clinic network.


At one point about a decade ago, pain management meant pill mills. There were addicts in parking lots. It was an unsavory business. The state and the medical profession cleaned this up, and it is now a recognized specialty. The county and city did their part by writing regulations that curtailed the abuses such as hours of operations, parking, and location. In the 10 years she has been in business in her present location, there has not been any complaints or code violations according to the city attorney.


The business qualifies under the code. Both Collins and Rich asked questions that were not germane to the approval process. The doctor was naïve enough to engage in answering medical questions. The mayor should have closed that down as inappropriate. It is not a debate about medicine but rather whether the use complies to Stuart’s code.


The commission’s role here was to make sure that the boxes were checked and, looking at staff’s presentation, it clearly does. The vote was 4-1 with Collins dissenting. Staff’s presentation was here here






Stuart Latest News From The Sept. 4, 2022 Edition




And just like that, the Stuart Commission has changed.


Elections are funny because they immediately not only tell us who will sit on the commission but also the state of the city for the residents, taxpayers, and businesses. Voters decided that a no-growth commission is what they wanted.


Since the “Great Recession,” Stuart has been climbing out of the recession hole. It is only in the last two years that Stuart has been collecting the same amount of ad valorem taxes as it did in 2008. That does not include an adjustment for inflation. Until about 2014, Stuart suffered deep cuts to the budget including to police and fire.


There has been a lot of hubbub suggesting that Stuart’s population has grown, but in fact it has grown very little over the last decade. Most of the projects that have been approved have not even been opened yet. It is true that if everything that is slated does get built, Stuart will see an increase in population, but it will still be below the Florida norm since 2000.


Mike Meier was an advocate for more housing. If population was going to grow, it should be within an urban area where the services can be provided in a relatively compact geographical district. With Mike leaving, his successor, Campbell Rich, has called for a moratorium on new building. And that in and of itself is fine depending on the timeline and what that means.


Rich beat Mark Brechbill for the simple reason that he knocked on hundreds of Stuart voters’ doors.  In forums, Brechbill was more polished than Rich. However, Rich had much more government experience having served on the LPA and had a better understanding of Stuart’s needs. And as TC Palm noted, Brechbill owes massive debt and had filed bankruptcy.

Mark Brechbill had an opportunity to state his case for his financial difficulties and anything else he wanted in the newsletter. Several emails were sent, and he never responded.


Merritt Matheson had become synonymous with water issues as the river advocate for the city. He had relationships with not only the Army Corps of Engineers, but other environmental groups, governments, and influential people who respected his knowledge and opinion. Going forward, Stuart is not likely to play such a prominent role in broad conversations related to water issues.


Chris Collins ran a sharp-elbowed social media campaign that was exceptional. He had quiet help from Republicans in this non-partisan race. Chris is firmly no-growth. It appeared in the campaign that he doesn’t want any new multifamily housing in the city.


How his ideals now must deal with the realities of codes, land uses, and the comp plan is yet to be seen. Collins appears to be a fast learner. He will need to be. Only about 15% of a commissioner’s time is taken up by development matters. The rest is ceremonial and advocating for people with the different city departments. I hope Collins factored in the time it will take away from his family and business to successfully fulfill the role.


“Old Faithful” Eula Clarke has once again been returned to office. She did so with a little less than 7% of the votes cast against a virtually unknown opponent, William Laughlin. Clarke has been in office for a decade and the city has changed in that time. I don’t consider Clarke either pro or anti anything. She has a degree in planning beside being a practicing attorney.

Eula Clarke

For the city it was a change election.




There was nothing of any substance on this agenda.

Yet it was still a bittersweet meeting because this was Mike Meier’s last on the dais. There were nice things said by the commissioners, staff, and public. Because people realize he will be missed. He is stepping down after a brief short 4 years. That is a rarity for politicians.


Meier was a calming influence and consensus builder on the commission. That is not seen with any regularity at Stuart or any other place. The commission that adjourned at the end f the meeting was the most cohesive and non-contentious elected body that I have witnessed. I only hope the next commission will act in the same spirit.





Stuart Latest News From The Aug 21, 2022 Edition




The Marine Resource Council gave a presentation on low impact development.

It is not an anti-anything but a proactive way to have more of an environmental approach to new and existing development.  Stormwater held on the premises helps the river and lagoon. The more pervious a site is the better. Before anything is ever built, the entire site is pervious.


The challenge is, after development, making sure the lot continues to have as much pervious surface as possible. The key is not to stop new home or commercial formation but rather to institute codes and policies that will hold the storm water accumulation on site to percolate down without runoff.


There are many ways to do this, and the Marine Resource Council would like to help places develop these strategies. There is a conference in October that I hope staff and commissioners attend. You can see the presentation here


City staff member Ben Hogarth provided a recap of the legislative session. It sounded as if it was the worst session ever. And make no mistake…pre-emption of local authority is high on the list of the governor and legislature. Yet a recap should tell the commissioners what did change not the bills that never saw the light of day.


It is true that if a detrimental bill came close to passage, then that may spell a trend that could be coming. If a bill died without committee hearings or did not have a co-sponsor in the other chamber, then that was no threat.


I am going to hate to see Commissioner Meier go because he recognized the wheat from the chaff. He is not an alarmist and could explain the intricacies of what a bill meant. Meier did an admirable job as the city’s advocate.

One bill that did pass was the ability of local governments to regulate smoking in public parks. That certainly should be up to us to decide. Interestingly cigars were exempt from the legislation because one legislator smokes cigars, and I was told (but have not been able to confirm it) that he owns an interest in a cigar company. Tallahassee is a corrupting place.


You can see the presentation here


It is likely the Governor’s Council will decide the Kanner PUD appeal on August 23rd in Tallahassee. This is an appeal of the administrative judge’s decision. The docket is not out yet, but Mortell explained that he was told to expect it would be on the docket. If either side does not like the outcome, the next step would be to go to court for further adjudication.


Up to this point contrary to the babble on Facebook, the city has not paid another law firm or consultant to litigate this matter. Remember it was the city that was taken to the administrative court not the other way around. Mike Mortell has done an admirable job in pursuing Stuart’s interest.


Waterblasting Technologies PUD off Commerce Street wants to build an additional 28,000 sq feet of facility at their current location. This will bring jobs to the area that are now in Palm Beach County. The commission approved on first reading and asked that the applicant return with a plan to have more pervious area. They seemed more than willing to accomplish that.




The numbers were not the big talking point of the meeting.


It was the new budget software that had all the commissioner questions, wonder and delight. If it will be truly as interactive as the demonstration at the meeting led us to believe, then transparency will be greatly increased for the citizens. That will only work if the public has access to the enhanced system which was not made clear.


Martin County has nearly the same system, but there is no interactivity with the public. When analyzing their data, though it is all there, it requires either printing out the pages you want to analyze or opening the budget on multiple browsers. Stuart’s map is GIS-driven which allows staff (and hopefully the public) the ability to drill down by address. That can be quite helpful when trying to analyze neighborhood data.

The commissioners said that their questions on the budget had been answered in one-on-one conversations with the manager. I was surprised that public explanations were not provided for this $85 million budget. I did not hear a peep about how it compares to the 2022 budget.


The graphs were listed, and it showed how you could look at the different years with the new software. However, there was no verbal comparisons with other years. I walked out of there and had no idea how much the budget grew from 2022. The manager did mention that there would be a 5% COLA plus 2% merit raises for employees (excluding the uniformed employees whose contracts are still being negotiated).


As each of the department heads took turns on the “hot seat”, the commissioners commented about how well everything was running, but the public had no idea what was going on in the departments. It looks to me like there are 7 or 8 new positions including 4 police officers.


How much does a police officer cost with benefits, gear, and car? They are establishing a 5th patrol zone but there was no explanation about why the additional zone is being created. The city is not physically bigger, and though we anticipate more residents, they have not materialized yet.


But good planning would tell us to begin hiring now in anticipation of the need. I am not against increasing the force. I think there should have been a better narrative to support the request. That goes across the board. Stuart’s budget is no longer rinky dink. Taxpayers shouldn’t have to be budget analysts to know where their money is going.


Instead of the show focusing on the Scenery (new software), the manager should have put on a show about the numbers…not a line-by-line analysis but an explanation of the “puts and calls.” Where the city is up and where it is down. A show with not only the commissioners as the audience but the entire city.


You can look at the budget here





Stuart 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.


Group 1 Mark Brechbill


Mark Brechbill did not respond


Group 1 Campbell Rich



Whoever called it “running for office” never sought election in a small, local race. There is no running. But, there is a great deal of walking through neighborhoods and knocking on doors. This time of the year, that is the worst part of campaigning.


It is also the best part of campaigning because you go door-to-door and talk to the people who live in our town. People care a lot about what is happening in Stuart and they take the time to talk about it. Everyone I speak with says that the growth is too much, too fast leading to way too much traffic. They are right.


Here’s why. In 2019, the City prepared the 10-year Evaluation and Assessment Report which describes how the City has done in the past years and where the City thinks we will be in ten years. In 2020, this report was published and stated that by 2035 Stuart would have 2,560 new residents. The City currently has 2,717 units that have been approved to be built over the next two to three years. Many of these are coming available now. Being conservative, that would imply that we will have over 5,000 new residents by 2025. Almost twice as many as anticipated, ten years earlier than we thought. We need to acknowledge this huge growth spurt and figure out how to deal with it.


I am calling for a pause in new residential approvals that require a Comprehensive Plan change or a zoning change. This is called zoning-in-progress. This is not a moratorium. Property owners can build what their current zoning allows them to build. But they cannot come before the City and ask for a change until the City has considered the impacts of what has already been approved and has the time to make changes to the Comprehensive Plan and zoning code, after full public hearings.


My wife Heidi Rich and I have lived in Martin County for 40 years and in Stuart for 28 years. We both worked here and have retired here. We raised our family here. Our adult son lives and works in Stuart. My sister lives and works in Stuart. I have served on the Stuart Local Planning Agency since 2018. When people say that Stuart is changing in big ways, I get it. I also want to do everything I can to help Stuart keep its unique charm in the face of all the changes our little piece of paradise will be confronting.  That’s why I’m “running for office.”


Group 3 Christopher “Doc” Collins


My name is Christopher Collins and I’m running for Stuart City Commission Group 3, because I feel like it’s now or never for Stuart. We see the high density apartments going up everywhere and it’s feeling less and less like home. Traffic is crazy, especially for off-season. I got the official math from the city recently and it makes sense why. Stuart has a population of 16,000 people. Since my opponent took office nearly 4 years ago, commissioners have approved more than 3000 dwelling units, many of which are 1/1 apartments. I’m not happy and most of you aren’t either. If we don’t protect what makes Stuart special, we are going to lose it.


One July 2020 policy change I find particularly disastrous is counting dwelling units under 900 sq ft as .5 units of density. With this math and an RPUD rezone, developers can be approved for almost quadruple the density. They can walk away with a green light for nearly 60 units per acre, even though City zoning only allows for a maximum of 29 units per acre under Planned Urban Development (RPUD). And just like that the rubber stamp approves a project that would otherwise be rejected, angry neighbors at the meeting are averted and the best part is the developer pays the impact fees on 29 units. This amendment to the comprehensive plan was approved by the entire Stuart City Commission including my opponent 4-0…incredible. This needs to be undone immediately.


It ultimately comes down to what kind of a Stuart we want to live in and leave for our kids. Do we want future development to look more like traditional single family homes or high density apartment projects?


About me, I graduated from Martin County High School in 2002. I’m married with 3 little kiddos and we have our single family piece of the pie on Flamingo Avenue. I love where I live and I’m not leaving. I’ve owned and operated a chiropractic practice in downtown Stuart for more than 10 years. As a small business owner I hope to bring a private sector level of efficiency and professionalism to the City Commission. At meetings I am consistently impressed with the quality of City of Stuart staff and look forward to serving along side them. Thank you for your consideration.


Group 3 Merritt Matheson (incumbent)


My platform as a candidate and public servant is clear: honesty, transparency, and commitment. I believe in hands-on governance and community engagement.  I do my research on every issue and thoughtfully consider the limitations and possible outcomes of each decision. I make myself accessible to the public and seek out feedback from residents on a regular basis. I actively support our staff and outside organizations who are working toward the betterment of our city. Importantly, I am an ardent and steadfast advocate for the restoration of the St. Lucie River estuary.


I began doing my research about the City Commission years before I decided to run for office. What I found was a municipality full of dedicated, hard-working professionals—that had hit a rough patch. There was an ultimately unsuccessful search for a replacement City Manager that was costly to taxpayers and resulted in the loss of several top-level City staff. There was uncharacteristic turmoil on the City Commission. The City was on the brink of selling the Sailfish Ball Fields for private development. It was apparent that there was an opportunity to steer the City Commission toward a more engaged, forward-thinking leadership role in the community.


After being elected in 2018, I kept the promises I made during my campaign at the forefront. As anyone can see, the Sailfish Ball Fields are still public land and in active use. We hired a City Manager who brought decades of experience serving the City.


One promise I am most proud of is adopting term limits for City Commissioners. I pushed hard to get such a referendum on the ballot in 2020 and educated voters about it. The referendum passed handily. Beginning this term, commissioners now serve four-year terms with a maximum limit of 12 years. Imagine if every level of government had term limits.


My platform will always include water advocacy. I pushed for the City to add a full-time River Advocate to the staff, and my fellow commissioners appointed me the point person to speak on behalf of the City about our stance on water issues. The City took an active role in the new strategic plan for how the ACOE* will manage Lake Okeechobee. The City has also hosted multiple officials from the SFWMD* and the ACOE, including the U.S. Army Commanding General for the South Atlantic Division, on immersive boat tours of the St. Lucie River. These tours offered decision-makers first-hand experience of our natural ecosystem and gave the City and other river advocates a platform for showing the vital importance of stopping the discharges.


This spring, I was able to spearhead a Residential Street Tree Program, offering mature, native shade trees to residents to shade public areas adjacent to their property. The first round of 14 trees were planted and we plan to cycle the program through different neighborhoods in the City, focusing on areas that lack shade.


I welcome anyone who would like to learn more about my record to visit my website or contact me. There are always new issues facing our city that require careful consideration, an open mind, and open communication. If there is one takeaway, I hope you remember about me it’s that I’m all in, all the time. Representing my fellow City residents is an honor I don’t take for granted, and I will always do my best to serve the needs of the people first before all else.


Thank you,


Group 5 Eula R. Clarke (incumbent)


Eula Clarke

As a long time Stuart resident since 1988, I am committed to continuing to serve the residents of Stuart as the Group V Seat Commissioner for the next four years. Serving as a City Commissioner, including several terms as Mayor, since January 2011 has provided me a tremendous opportunity to “give back” to this great community. Recognizing all of the challenges we will continue to face, it is my commitment to maximize all available resources for the betterment of our city. With “Unity in the Community”, we can work to enhance our vibrant City where we live, work, and play in our parks, waterways and  neighborhoods.


What does Eula Clarke stand for:


>Transparency and Integrity in Government which are highly essential to successful leadership.

>Maintaining our Police and Fire Departments as an integral part of our municipal government.

>Advocating for Infill Redevelopment and Neighborhood Revitalization using my background in Urban Planning (MSP-FSU) and Law (JD-UF).

>Supporting the efforts to recognize the cultural and historic assets within the East Stuart Community which will  bring vibrancy to East Stuart and provide opportunities for community reinvestment and economic development.

>My goal is to achieve economic success through Strategic Planning. Together we can work to maintain our small-town charm and balance new development within our community through “zoning in progress” and other planning tools.

>Stuart is truly special and the Arts, Culture and Ecotourism are great assets which makes our “small town” stand out. I will continue to support opportunities for the “Arts” in our community.   An ardent supporter of the Arts Council since its inception in 1988, I have served as a Board Member of Martin Arts.


>As we move forward, there is full awareness that maintaining our “small town charm” has to be balanced with the need for affordable, work force housing, responding to homelessness and utilizing opportunities for economic development. Complex housing solutions may require partnering with the private sector and grant agencies and we can work together to overcome these challenges.

> As your Commissioner, I will maintain an open door policy and listen well to residents to ensure successful leadership.


“Stuart on the St. Lucie” is a place of awesome Charm and Beauty and   advocating for Clean Water/ Stop Toxic Discharges and “Adjust the Flow” of Water to the South will be a top priority as your commissioner. Some current community activities include: Board Member- Martin Audobon Inc., and Martin County Boys & Girls Club; Member- Soroptimist, Woman’s Club of Stuart, Stuart Heritage and Stuart Main Street.


“Sincere Service and Passionate Advocacy” is what I stand for … Vote for Eula Clarke for Stuart City Commission on August 23, 2022  -Non-Partisan City Elections!!.


Group 5 William Laughlin


Aside from laughing, the first thought I had when asked to run for a political office was to say, “Yea, NO!”. However, those asking were good people, the kind of people I’ve seen give away their most valuable asset, time, helping our community. They’ve spent countless hours away from their own family and children while helping others. These are the kind of people I feel comfortable calling my friends. They asked not for themselves, but for our community we love. They asked because they knew I had knowledge of what was driving the narrative that would see the charming Stuart brought to an end and turned into just another stop in the narrative’s idealistic urban jungle. For those who have seen enough and would like Stuart to preserve its iconic charm, I am your huckleberry.


It was 1993 when I moved to the Stuart area, accepting a call to teach at Redeemer Lutheran Church and School, moving inside the Stuart city boundary in 1994. It was a combination of great people, small city charm and great fishing that lured and have kept me here.


Stuart had hooked me. Despite some long commutes as I sought to better understand our education system at destinations with the Department of Juvenile Justice and our own public school system, in Stuart I stayed. Having majored in Secondary Education and History, along with a minor in Biology, I’ve always sought answers. Curious to get a better understanding of what drives the events impacting our lives I began studying financial markets in 1994 and in 2009 started an asset management company which I currently manage. The skillset I have developed over these years enables me to see through the narrative disguised in virtue yet intent to see small towns across America wither away and die or if in a strategic location, like Stuart, turned into densely packed urban areas.


The Stuart commissioners have bought into this narrative. Their plan involves building high-density residential projects. We’ve only seen the beginning of their plan for high- density development. The past two years along with their recommended changes to zoning in the Stuart Comprehensive Plan indicate their future intentions. In other words, they intend to bring more of the same. Enough is enough!


For the first time ever, I gave thought of moving. But there are good people here, on both sides of the bridge. There is reason to make a stand. So, I have agreed to run. I do not intend to see our small town shot out from under us. Have you seen enough? If so, let’s make a stand together right here, right now!


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




Martin County, Stuart, and our residents have had a long, torturous history with Witham Field.


Would you build Chicago’s Midway Airport, which stands in the middle of a city in its location today? Probably not. The same can be said for Witham Field in the middle of Stuart. I would imagine that the largest number of resident complaints have their origin in the noise from the airport. It appears to me that, during season from Thursday evening until Monday morning, a large number of flights pass over the top of my house.


But like Midway, Witham isn’t going anywhere. While there are no general commercial flights from the airport, the number of charters and private planes are nothing to sneeze at. For the county’s coffers and the convenience of our more affluent residents, Witham is an attraction that keeps them happy. And that is not to mention the benefits of Customs and Immigration that makes it easier to clear Bahama boat and air passengers.


The county began the study regarding airport noise back in 2004. The presentation by Airport Manager Sam Carver, Assistant County Administrator George Stokus and their consultant had to do with what is called an update on “Part 150-Noise Exposure.” The FAA uses a DNL metric which is the Day-Night average sound level that a person is exposed to in a 24-hour period. The city uses a 65 dB contour while the county uses a 60 dB contour.


The county wants the city to accept a lower rate. If they do, the county will then provide the homes that would be eligible with improved sound proofing. That would occur in the last phase of the county’s plan in about 5 or 6 years. So, what is holding this up?


As I said in the past, the city has lost entire streets of homes to the wrecking ball over the airport. There is skepticism over what could happen. The last thing they want is for more homes to be gone. The county is not saying that will occur but perhaps has not given the guarantees necessary to assuage the commission. As Mortell said, “there are lots of moving parts.” However, this will be brought back for perhaps further action.


You can see the presentation here


Stuart Main Street will continue to have another year of subsidies by the city. The organization will receive an additional $70,000, a below-market lease on Flagler Place, and will run the green market (which is a real misnomer) all for putting on events that are really done by an event company which the city could hire and cut out the middleman. The entire point of the Flagler Place discounted lease was for Main Street to be able rent out the event space and be a vehicle for them to pay their own way. Not in Stuart where the grift goes on…at the taxpayer’s expense. The motion passed 5-0.


The commission must have a fixation regarding EV stations. FPL wants to install them, and they have looked at several locations in the downtown area including Sailfish parking lot, the Wells Fargo building, and Kiwanis lot. The question is why.


Electric Vehicles (EVs) will make up 20% of Florida vehicles soon. There will be a great need for level 3 charging stations which fully charge a vehicle in about 20-25 minutes. These stations require transformers besides the dedicated parking spaces for chargers. The spaces cannot be used for just parking.


At a time when the same commission is crying about the lack of downtown parking, they want to take away parking. They will sign a contract to do so for the next 10 years with FPL. Again, the question is why.


If 120 years ago, someone had said that we needed to set up gas pumps on government property for these new motor vehicles, they would have been laughed at and told to rent or buy land and do just that. Today if a food truck vendor came into town and said he/she wanted to take up 6 parking spaces and keep the truck there for 10 years, they too would be laughed at. Yet here the city is doing the same thing with EV charging stations.


Make no mistake, the country will have a preponderance of electric vehicles within the next two decades. Ford, GM, and Volvo are committed to having all electric fleets. The private sector opened gas stations throughout the country when the newest mode of transportation was powered by the internal combustion engine. They will do so again to accommodate EVs.


There will be numbers of current gas stations that will be happy to sell both electric and gas. They will need to do it to stay in business. The City of Stuart doesn’t need to try and do what the private sector is quite capable of doing. Government can hardly do what governments should do. They don’t need to infringe on the free market.






Stuart Latest News From The July 24, 2022 Edition




The city has been fortunate to be able to have the funds to construct its alternate water supply project.

Over the past several years, Senator Harrell and Representative Overdorf have been pivotal in having the state appropriate $2,250,000 for the use including $500,000 this past legislative session. Representative Snyder will begin representing Stuart next year as districts have shifted. He also helped in this year’s appropriation.


This project is critical to Stuart’s water utility which not only serves city residents but also a good number of Martin County citizens. This is anything but pork barrel spending. This appropriation is what our legislators should be key in bringing to their constituents…clean drinking water. Thank you to Overdorf, Harrell, Snyder, and Jordan Connors, the city’s Tallahassee consultant, for the great work on this.


Brightline gave a presentation to the commission. It was the same one that was given last month to the Martin County Commission. What a difference between the two bodies.


Martin County asked no questions and there were few, if any, comments. It was rather a quick one and done sort of thing. That is just the opposite of what happened in Stuart.


Maybe it was because Brightline had one of the downtown crossings closed. Maybe it was because of Florida Street having been worked on and being completed. Both bodies recognize how powerless they are when it comes to influencing the railroad. It is in how their approaches differ that the commissions are distinct.


The railway owns their tracks and the land underneath. That property is worth hundreds of millions of dollars and runs through the most densely populated areas of the county. The railroad, perhaps rightly, believes that they were there first, and they recognize no reason to do more than they must.


Stuart Commissioners know of their almost total inability to alter the course of events from the number of trains running through the city to the quality of the bridge over the St. Lucie. People spoke out against Brightline and the city especially because of the Florida Street crossing without acknowledging that the city manager was able to get concessions on the configuration of that crossing.

The commissioners reiterated that people cross at places where there is no fence. Yes, people shouldn’t do it, but they do. It is extremely dangerous and going at the speeds the passenger trains will be travelling, which is well over 100 miles per hour, a person can be killed in a matter of seconds.


If the railroad was being built today it would have to be a sealed corridor. But the Federal Railroad Administration hasn’t required that. People will be killed. Most will be suicide, some will be stupidity, and a few will be because they were just dumb kids. Is the railroad culpable? Is the city?


Legally and to some extent morally, Brightline is right when they argue that people are trespassing. It would be like someone climbing an FPL pole and trying to use the transmission cables as a zip line. The same logic applies to the city’s position. The FPL analogy is very apt in that case as well.


People should be careful about commenting about how dangerous those crossings are. If I were the city or the railroad, I might just close the crossing since no one wants to be blamed for anyone’s death.


Whether we get a new bridge or not will not be up to Brightline or any local government. It will hinge on Tallahassee and Washington coming up with the money. Although working with all parties involved, Brightline is not going to spend its own money here. They will rehabilitate, change parts, and talk to all. Everything but spend hundreds of millions of dollars to build a new bridge.


There needs to be a lobbying effort for our congress person, state representative, and senator to bring that money home. You can see the Brightline presentation here


The lease on the community garden between the city and House of Hope in East Stuart was renewed by a vote of 4-0 with Meier abstaining because he is employed by House of Hope.






Stuart Latest News From The July 10, 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.


Group 1 Mark Brechbill


Mark Brechbill did not respond


Group 1 Campbell Rich

Whoever called it “running for office” never sought election in a small, local race. There is no running. But, there is a great deal of walking through neighborhoods and knocking on doors. This time of the year, that is the worst part of campaigning.


It is also the best part of campaigning because you go door-to-door and talk to the people who live in our town. People care a lot about what is happening in Stuart and they take the time to talk about it. Everyone I speak with says that the growth is too much, too fast leading to way too much traffic. They are right.


Here’s why. In 2019, the City prepared the 10-year Evaluation and Assessment Report which describes how the City has done in the past years and where the City thinks we will be in ten years. In 2020, this report was published and stated that by 2035 Stuart would have 2,560 new residents. The City currently has 2,717 units that have been approved to be built over the next two to three years. Many of these are coming available now. Being conservative, that would imply that we will have over 5,000 new residents by 2025. Almost twice as many as anticipated, ten years earlier than we thought. We need to acknowledge this huge growth spurt and figure out how to deal with it.


I am calling for a pause in new residential approvals that require a Comprehensive Plan change or a zoning change. This is called zoning-in-progress. This is not a moratorium. Property owners can build what their current zoning allows them to build. But they cannot come before the City and ask for a change until the City has considered the impacts of what has already been approved and has the time to make changes to the Comprehensive Plan and zoning code, after full public hearings.


My wife Heidi Rich and I have lived in Martin County for 40 years and in Stuart for 28 years. We both worked here and have retired here. We raised our family here. Our adult son lives and works in Stuart. My sister lives and works in Stuart. I have served on the Stuart Local Planning Agency since 2018. When people say that Stuart is changing in big ways, I get it. I also want to do everything I can to help Stuart keep its unique charm in the face of all the changes our little piece of paradise will be confronting.  That’s why I’m “running for office.”


Group 3 Christopher “Doc” Collins


My name is Christopher Collins and I’m running for Stuart City Commission Group 3, because I feel like it’s now or never for Stuart. We see the high density apartments going up everywhere and it’s feeling less and less like home. Traffic is crazy, especially for off-season. I got the official math from the city recently and it makes sense why. Stuart has a population of 16,000 people. Since my opponent took office nearly 4 years ago, commissioners have approved more than 3000 dwelling units, many of which are 1/1 apartments. I’m not happy and most of you aren’t either. If we don’t protect what makes Stuart special, we are going to lose it.


One July 2020 policy change I find particularly disastrous is counting dwelling units under 900 sq ft as .5 units of density. With this math and an RPUD rezone, developers can be approved for almost quadruple the density. They can walk away with a green light for nearly 60 units per acre, even though City zoning only allows for a maximum of 29 units per acre under Planned Urban Development (RPUD). And just like that the rubber stamp approves a project that would otherwise be rejected, angry neighbors at the meeting are averted and the best part is the developer pays the impact fees on 29 units. This amendment to the comprehensive plan was approved by the entire Stuart City Commission including my opponent 4-0…incredible. This needs to be undone immediately.


It ultimately comes down to what kind of a Stuart we want to live in and leave for our kids. Do we want future development to look more like traditional single family homes or high density apartment projects?


About me, I graduated from Martin County High School in 2002. I’m married with 3 little kiddos and we have our single family piece of the pie on Flamingo Avenue. I love where I live and I’m not leaving. I’ve owned and operated a chiropractic practice in downtown Stuart for more than 10 years. As a small business owner I hope to bring a private sector level of efficiency and professionalism to the City Commission. At meetings I am consistently impressed with the quality of City of Stuart staff and look forward to serving along side them. Thank you for your consideration.


Group 3 Merritt Matheson (incumbent)



My platform as a candidate and public servant is clear: honesty, transparency, and commitment. I believe in hands-on governance and community engagement.  I do my research on every issue and thoughtfully consider the limitations and possible outcomes of each decision. I make myself accessible to the public and seek out feedback from residents on a regular basis. I actively support our staff and outside organizations who are working toward the betterment of our city. Importantly, I am an ardent and steadfast advocate for the restoration of the St. Lucie River estuary.


I began doing my research about the City Commission years before I decided to run for office. What I found was a municipality full of dedicated, hard-working professionals—that had hit a rough patch. There was an ultimately unsuccessful search for a replacement City Manager that was costly to taxpayers and resulted in the loss of several top-level City staff. There was uncharacteristic turmoil on the City Commission. The City was on the brink of selling the Sailfish Ball Fields for private development. It was apparent that there was an opportunity to steer the City Commission toward a more engaged, forward-thinking leadership role in the community.


After being elected in 2018, I kept the promises I made during my campaign at the forefront. As anyone can see, the Sailfish Ball Fields are still public land and in active use. We hired a City Manager who brought decades of experience serving the City.


One promise I am most proud of is adopting term limits for City Commissioners. I pushed hard to get such a referendum on the ballot in 2020 and educated voters about it. The referendum passed handily. Beginning this term, commissioners now serve four-year terms with a maximum limit of 12 years. Imagine if every level of government had term limits.


My platform will always include water advocacy. I pushed for the City to add a full-time River Advocate to the staff, and my fellow commissioners appointed me the point person to speak on behalf of the City about our stance on water issues. The City took an active role in the new strategic plan for how the ACOE* will manage Lake Okeechobee. The City has also hosted multiple officials from the SFWMD* and the ACOE, including the U.S. Army Commanding General for the South Atlantic Division, on immersive boat tours of the St. Lucie River. These tours offered decision-makers first-hand experience of our natural ecosystem and gave the City and other river advocates a platform for showing the vital importance of stopping the discharges.


This spring, I was able to spearhead a Residential Street Tree Program, offering mature, native shade trees to residents to shade public areas adjacent to their property. The first round of 14 trees were planted and we plan to cycle the program through different neighborhoods in the City, focusing on areas that lack shade.


I welcome anyone who would like to learn more about my record to visit my website or contact me. There are always new issues facing our city that require careful consideration, an open mind, and open communication. If there is one takeaway, I hope you remember about me it’s that I’m all in, all the time. Representing my fellow City residents is an honor I don’t take for granted, and I will always do my best to serve the needs of the people first before all else.


Thank you,


Group 5 Eula R. Clarke (incumbent)


As a long time Stuart resident since 1988, I am committed to continuing to serve the residents of Stuart as the Group V Seat Commissioner for the next four years. Serving as a City Commissioner, including several terms as Mayor, since January 2011 has provided me a tremendous opportunity to “give back” to this great community. Recognizing all of the challenges we will continue to face, it is my commitment to maximize all available resources for the betterment of our city. With “Unity in the Community”, we can work to enhance our vibrant City where we live, work, and play in our parks, waterways and  neighborhoods.


What does Eula Clarke stand for:


>Transparency and Integrity in Government which are highly essential to successful leadership.

>Maintaining our Police and Fire Departments as an integral part of our municipal government.

>Advocating for Infill Redevelopment and Neighborhood Revitalization using my background in Urban Planning (MSP-FSU) and Law (JD-UF).

>Supporting the efforts to recognize the cultural and historic assets within the East Stuart Community which will  bring vibrancy to East Stuart and provide opportunities for community reinvestment and economic development.

>My goal is to achieve economic success through Strategic Planning. Together we can work to maintain our small-town charm and balance new development within our community through “zoning in progress” and other planning tools.

>Stuart is truly special and the Arts, Culture and Ecotourism are great assets which makes our “small town” stand out. I will continue to support opportunities for the “Arts” in our community.   An ardent supporter of the Arts Council since its inception in 1988, I have served as a Board Member of Martin Arts.




>As we move forward, there is full awareness that maintaining our “small town charm” has to be balanced with the need for affordable,  work force housing, responding to homelessness and utilizing opportunities for economic development. Complex housing solutions may require partnering with the private sector and grant agencies and we can work together to overcome these challenges.

> As your Commissioner, I will maintain an open door policy and listen well to residents to ensure successful leadership.


“Stuart on the St. Lucie” is a place of awesome Charm and Beauty and   advocating for Clean Water/ Stop Toxic Discharges and “Adjust the Flow” of Water to the South will be a top priority as your commissioner. Some current community activities include: Board Member- Martin Audobon Inc., and Martin County Boys & Girls Club; Member- Soroptimist, Woman’s Club of Stuart, Stuart Heritage and Stuart Main Street.


“Sincere Service and Passionate Advocacy” is what I stand for … Vote for Eula Clarke for Stuart City Commission on August 23, 2022  -Non-Partisan City Elections!!.


Group 5 William Laughlin


Aside from laughing, the first thought I had when asked to run for a political office was to say, “Yea, NO!”. However, those asking were good people, the kind of people I’ve seen give away their most valuable asset, time, helping our community. They’ve spent countless hours away from their own family and children while helping others. These are the kind of people I feel comfortable calling my friends. They asked not for themselves, but for our community we love. They asked because they knew I had knowledge of what was driving the narrative that would see the charming Stuart brought to an end and turned into just another stop in the narrative’s idealistic urban jungle. For those who have seen enough and would like Stuart to preserve its iconic charm, I am your huckleberry.


It was 1993 when I moved to the Stuart area, accepting a call to teach at Redeemer Lutheran Church and School, moving inside the Stuart city boundary in 1994. It was a combination of great people, small city charm and great fishing that lured and have kept me here.


Stuart had hooked me. Despite some long commutes as I sought to better understand our education system at destinations with the Department of Juvenile Justice and our own public school system, in Stuart I stayed. Having majored in Secondary Education and History, along with a minor in Biology, I’ve always sought answers. Curious to get a better understanding of what drives the events impacting our lives I began studying financial markets in 1994 and in 2009 started an asset management company which I currently manage. The skillset I have developed over these years enables me to see through the narrative disguised in virtue yet intent to see small towns across America wither away and die or if in a strategic location, like Stuart, turned into densely packed urban areas.


The Stuart commissioners have bought into this narrative. Their plan involves building high-density residential projects. We’ve only seen the beginning of their plan for high- density development. The past two years along with their recommended changes to zoning in the Stuart Comprehensive Plan indicate their future intentions. In other words, they intend to bring more of the same. Enough is enough!


For the first time ever, I gave thought of moving. But there are good people here, on both sides of the bridge. There is reason to make a stand. So, I have agreed to run. I do not intend to see our small town shot out from under us. Have you seen enough? If so, let’s make a stand together right here, right now!


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




Project Manager Michele Berger gave a presentation on the 2013 strategic plan’s progress.


The plan’s goals and objectives are substantially completed two years ahead of schedule. The commission asked that staff begin work on a new plan. You can find the presentation here


For the third time, the tree ordinance that was not previously written clearly enough was passed. During public comment, there was some chatter that it was not tough enough. In practice, this ordinance will make the few projects that remove trees slated to remain end up paying dearly.


People may not realize that most development is done through a PUD agreement. Removing trees that should not be removed is a breach of the PUD agreement. The ordinance makes the penalties clear and substantial including planting replacements and paying into the city’s tree fund for additional trees in other locations.


The city cannot halt the project because of a failure to comply with the tree ordinance.  Unless the taxpayers are ready to pay huge sums of money for depriving the developer of their property rights, then this is the correct remedy. If it is serious enough, like what happened earlier this year in North Stuart, that would cost the developer several hundred thousand dollars.


In an earlier meeting that afternoon, the CRA approved implementation of the valet parking program for December through April on the weekends. It will cost $5.00 per car. A row of spaces in front of City Hall will be the staging area after 5 pm. The lot behind the feed store will be exclusively for the valet’s use.





Stuart Latest News From The June 26, 2022 Edition




This morning I ascertained that Governor DeSantis yesterday awarded $28.4 million in funding for economic growth and resiliency to 23 communities throughout the state.

The City of Stuart was awarded $4,791,000 as a Community Development Block Grant. Stuart had applied for the grant in order to open a vocational training and business incubator center. The original concept was to buy Gary Plaza on Martin Luther King Blvd for that purpose and reconfigure the buildings to accommodate the use.


When I spoke with David Dyess, the city manager, the city had not yet been aware of Stuart receiving the award. Stuart though has for some time been working on this project with a consultant in Tallahassee.


When I asked for a statement from Dyes, he sent me the following:


“This is a huge opportunity for the city and the community. If we are successful in securing the property, the $4,791,000 will bring a much needed adult trades training and business incubator center into the heart of Stuart. We have multiple public amenity projects in the pipeline for construction next year, but by far this one is the one that I have looked to achieve since my days as the police chief and looking for ways to increase opportunities to bring people out of poverty. We plan to partner with others that have expertise to develop a row of startup incubator businesses in one section of the property while having a trades training area to educate those that want to earn a livable wage in the other section of the property.”


Dyes has championed this for a number of years as has Mayor Matheson and the entire current commission. If East Stuart is ever going to prosper it must be a hub for business incubation and training in the trades. The entire purpose of the grant is for lower income communities to improve economically.


This was published in Friends & Neighbors Facebook Page June 22nd




Department heads presented their capital budgets much of which had already been established and known to the commissioners. Capital budgets are done in five-year spans. The only year that really counts is the next budget year. All other years can be (and usually are) changed every budget year.


For 2023, the Utilities & Engineering department have large expenses. Much of that is tied to sewer and drinking water projects. As Stuart builds new wells that require deeper drilling than earlier wells, it becomes quite expensive. Unfortunately, the utility only has so many customers to base their rates to meet expenses.


Years ago, the city made a conscious decision not to expand utilities up to the geographical limit permitted by law. In the interim, Martin County hedged in the city’s ability to expand to the 5-mile area outside the municipal boundary that state law allows. Now it is stuck with very limited growth. That means rate payers will have greater expense in the future since there will not be as many of them as there could have been. There will be a new rate study next year to determine rates for the next 5 years.


You can find the capital budget presentation here


The city is migrating to a new platform for finances and other functions. That is one reason why they are a bit behind this year. It is a system like the county’s which, in my opinion, is fairly good. It is interactive and, unlike the city’s present system, one more in line with today’s needs. In other words, much more transparent.

This presentation was not made available for the public to view as the capital improvement presentation was. I was told that it was not downloaded because it is in beta mode. While the city is quite transparent in what you can receive if asked, it has miles to go in making information available online for the public to peruse.


I can go to Martin County’s site and see every e-mail written to an administrator or commissioner. The city does not post their email. While the new financial software is a step forward, municipalities in general, are behind the county in the amount of information provided online.




The Elizabeth, a new mixed-use project across from the courthouse, had its second reading.


The only change was the more than 13,000 feet of pervious concrete will now be impervious pavers. Everything else stays the same. The vote was 4-0 to approve with Meier absent.


The city attorney is working on drafting rules for knowing where 5g infrastructure is located. State and Federal regulators have severely limited what localities can do to regulate these providers. Communication companies have the right to place their antenna and towers anywhere they want within the right-of-way. They often don’t even notify the local government that they are working in that right-of-way.


There was some push back from several communication companies as to what the draft included and excluded. According to Mortell, most of the pushback was because the state statute language was not included. It would seem to me that could be easily rectified by stating that the city recognizes and incorporates the state statute and cite the statute.


Mortell just wants the city to know what is happening on their property. The city wants to make sure after the communication companies dig up the sidewalk or street or the grass in the right-of-way in front of a home, any damage will be repaired by the company that created the damage. It really says something about how broken our system is when city hall cannot prevent a tower from being erected on city-owned property…which is the people’s property.


The motion passed 4-0 with Meier absent.


Lastly, there was a discussion item about placing EV charging stations in city parking spaces. FPL has made an offer to do so downtown but the 6 spaces must be together. Under state statute if you aren’t actively charging a car, you can’t be parked in the space. It also requires a multiyear commitment by the city. That would mean those spaces would be dedicated to EV charging alone.


It seems McDonald was leading the charge on this. He believes that there is a source of money by companies paying the city for the spaces. McDonald would like to see them in different locations including downtown. The other locations would be adjacent to or in parks.

Adam Smith (Pinterest)

Why do the city commissioners want to compete with the private sector? If the goal is to encourage an expansion of EV use, then a reliable, dependable, and faster means of charging must be developed. That would require not treating the technology as a novelty but not hindering development of this type of “fuel” by the private sector. The city is not in the gasoline business and there is no shortage of gas stations because the market provides ample opportunity.


EV is just about ready for prime time. Let the market develop so that owners that buy these vehicles know that they can “fill up” at 5 different stations when they get off the highway and pay to do so just like you would with gasoline. The market is what will ultimately guarantee the success of EV. Stuart and all governments just need to get out of the way.


You can see the staff presentation and FPL offer here






Stuart Latest News From The June 12, 2022 Edition




My favorite discussion item was back…traffic on Palm City Road.

What nobody wants to admit is that Palm City Road is not a local neighborhood road. It is a vital artery connecting Port St. Lucie, Palm City, and places north through the city. Most of the traffic on Palm City Road is because of development outside of Stuart.


Since I have been watching this for more than the past decade, I have seen stop signs, speed bumps, speed humps, tables, flashing lights, and I cannot remember what else to slow and control traffic flow. The city lowered the speed limit to 25 miles per hour. It is a speed that is not only hard for a driver to maintain but seldom are drivers doing so.


The newest iteration of control was supposedly going to be a four-way stop at Manor Drive. Staff stated that because of a raised cross walk installed a couple of years ago right before the intersection, the stop sign could be dangerous. They suggested putting a four way stop at Indian Groves. McDonald moved for that and for removal of the raised cross walk and then installation of a four way stop at Manor. He wanted to tie it in with having the money appropriated at budget time. It died for lack of a second.


Stop signs are not meant for traffic control. Dazzling lights at crosswalks to alert motorists are not traffic control. All of this is not traffic control. Like McDonald, Meier, and Matheson, I live off Palm City Road. I am on that road several times each day. Sometimes, it takes a very long time to be able to turn onto the Palm City Road from a side street. I understand people’s frustrations.


The only way to make Palm City Road more neighborhood friendly is to have a complete street program. Landscaping, roundabouts, and a road diet will reduce speed. Once again, removing speed bumps and then trying something else only is a waste of taxpayer dollars.


Perhaps because there was no second to the motion and as Bruner said she was tired of spending taxpayer dollars on one scheme after another, the commission may be getting it. Enforcement for speeding is a deterrent. The city manager and the commission need to get the police to buy in to that premise.


Do you wonder sometimes why developers make their own lives hard? I know I do. The Atlantic Marina project was perfect. It had all the elements of success.


Commissioners and the public loved it. There was just one thing that would have prevented its passage and that was the addition of an 83-foot tower being added masquerading as an art piece. I know the developer was told by commissioners they would not approve the tower. Then why stubbornly keep it in the proposal?


Hubris or ego come to mind. I thought the point was to get something approved. The tower was not central to the project. By cutting it out, nothing was lost.

When after a long presentation by the director of development, the applicant then began his presentation. For some odd reason instead of leading with the good news the tower was not included, the applicant waited until halfway in his presentation to do just that. I just wish the developer would have done it prior to the meeting so that the people who came just to speak against that one thing could have saved a trip.


The motion to approve without the tower was made by Clarke and seconded by Bruner. It passed 5-0. The presentations can be found here





Stuart Latest News From The May 22, 2022 Edition




I usually agree with Mayor Matheson. But a suggestion that he made during commissioner comments was self-serving. He wanted to use city funds to help pay for his tuition for the Stuart/Martin County Chamber of Commerce leadership program.

I am a graduate of that nearly year-long program. It brings together current and future leaders in Martin County to explore and learn about many county institutions. For many, it is a way to forge bonds with others that they will encounter throughout their careers. I paid my own way even though I was a commissioner at the time. I continue to participate by volunteering for the program.


Commissioner McDonald graduated a few years ago. He also paid his own way. When he heard the ask, it appeared that if a vote were to be taken, he was not on board. Commissioner Clarke said she wanted to go but couldn’t afford it. Meier said nothing perhaps not wanting to rock the boat but I can’t believe he would be a yes. Bruner had no idea what the program was and did not look to be persuaded to spend the money.


Dyess, who would normally authorize commissioner expenses, would not do so here without a commission vote. The program begins in August, more than halfway through Matheson’s term as mayor.


While it is true that travel and tuition for things like the mandated ethics course and advocating for the city in Tallahassee are re-imbursed to commissioners, this would be a first. It is $1300 which is expensive. The question is where would reimbursements end? Is it acceptable to pay tuition for college and graduate courses for commissioners? Who determines what is job-related or required?


I believe that being a commissioner is different than being a government employee. Stuart city commissioners, technically employees, are paid $18,000 per year plus receive retirement and medical benefits. In my estimation it is unjustifiable for part time elected officials to earn that amount of money. If the city begins to pay other expenses as they do for employees, why? Isn’t being a commissioner a public service and not a civil service job.


Being a local elected official whether city, county, or school board is a privilege that should be embraced the same way as serving on a non-profit board or volunteering at a school or church. It should be of limited duration (term limits) for at most a stipend (a few hundred dollars.) We see in Martin County, as well as elsewhere, the reluctance of elected officials to step away after a term or two. They become used to being called commissioner, council member or mayor and the deference that is due the office and not necessarily the person.


The commissioners said they wanted to study the matter. Matheson should not bring it up again and let it die the death it deserves. Sometimes even good people can have lousy ideas.


On Indian Street and Willoughby, there will be a new self-storage facility with one 3-story building of 135,000 feet and 8 single story buildings. The property was an old nursery and has mature tree plantings that the developer will transplant on the property. They will also keep all the storm water runoff onsite.

The site is already zoned for self-storage. They are requesting a waiver for setbacks, parking, and the 8-foot sidewalk. The setback should be 30 feet, but they will provide almost 21 feet. The neighboring parcel is an office so there is no residential. They are required to have 23 parking spaces; they will provide 21. Lastly, 8-foot sidewalks are in the code. Willoughby and Indian are county roads, and the existing sidewalks are 6 feet. The county is not going to allow for a stretch of their right of way to be used for that purpose.


Interestingly, I find the relationship between advisory boards and the commission a strange one. I believe advisory boards can serve important purposes. Unfortunately, most members do not understand what their duty is. In this case the LPA voted against the project. It was simply because they didn’t like self-storage. By code and by law, not liking the project is not a reason to vote no.


Self-storage is clearly stated in the current land use. So, for a board member to vote no because they don’t like the use is an abrogation of their responsibility. What the LPA should have done was to place conditions for approval and then send it to the commission. It is not up to the board to tell a property owner they cannot do something that is clearly within the current land use.


When board members operate that way, they are of no use to the commissioners. If the board had told the property owner that he needed to come up with another parking space or recommended better landscaping, they would have given the commissioners constructive ideas on how to make a project better. Instead, they used their subjective opinions, did nothing to help the project be better for the public, and were ignored by the commission. Not a good outcome by anyone.


McDonald made a motion to accept which was seconded by Bruner, it passed 5-0. The city manager, attorney, and development director need to do a much better job in educating the board members on their responsibilities. Commissioners should appoint representatives to boards that are in line with their philosophies. It would then become harder for commissioners to ignore the votes of those boards.


You can find the presentation here


For the first time, the site plan adoption and a FLUM change were separated for the Atlantic Point Marina project. That means that the commission is not looking at what was given to the CRB to be voted earlier but only the FLUM for the parcel for the Atlantic Point Marina. The LPA approved the land use change earlier. The commission voted 5-0 to allow development of the marina. They will vote on the site plan at their next meeting.


The CRB (I am a member) voted 5-2 to proceed with the marina and its current plan including a structure that is 83 feet high. That structure is being touted as an art piece. It will have no practical use for the operation of the marina. There are other art pieces throughout the site.


The site is located on the old Evinrude property. The project is really something that Stuart should be glad to have. It will bring jobs, needed boat slips, boat repair, and even a nice place for people to walk and view the river.

Unfortunately, I could not vote in favor of the project because I firmly believe that we need to adhere to the height limit of 45 feet (4 stories). It is something that keeps Stuart and Martin County different than the rest of South Florida. Because the tower is an art piece, technically the height limit does not apply.


Yet because I believe that the spirit of the height limit is what should be adhered to, I thought it was a subterfuge so that the marina could use it as a marketing tool. With nothing taller, it will be seen for miles. It is a slippery slope.


There was one other member who felt the same as I did. Not having this “art piece” in no way will affect the project. The restaurant, slips, and boat barn will be just fine. It is important that a technicality should not be used to alter Stuart’s character. I would urge the commission to strip out the tower and let the project proceed. The commission should also later discuss changing the code to not allow any structure to be taller than what a residential structure can be exceptions can be made for church steeples and other real special exemptions. This does not fall under that heading.


You can find the presentation here





Stuart Latest News From The May 1, 2022 Edition




The finance director gave a mid-year report on the city’s budget.


Expenses are less than budgeted and income is more. That is the way that it should be. The director pointed out that overtime is higher but that is due to a lack of employees. Like everywhere else, filling positions has become increasingly difficult.


The city wisely budgeted $4.00 per gallon for gas which gives them the cushion necessary to not be way over budget in this category. Gas prices will hit next year’s budget much harder. You can look at his presentation HERE


Oak Classical Academy, a hybrid home schooling model, was approved last year for twenty-five students. It is located at St. Mary’s Church on East Ocean Boulevard. The school now wants to have ninety students and operate classes to 8th grade. The students learn at home three days a week. The other two days a week, the children come to the academy and have a classroom experience.


This will have no impact on the church or the surrounding neighborhoods. A motion was made by McDonald and seconded by Clarke. It passed 5-0. You can see the presentation HERE





Stuart Latest News From The April 17, 2022 Edition





During Commissioner Comments, Meier mentioned that the valet stationed outside of Hudson’s is telling people that valet parking is for the restaurant only. The agreement was for the valet not even to ask that question but to park any car that comes up to the stand. When it was approved, the valet was to have a sign that said free for anyone.


Meier also asked about the open space that was supposed to be built for the public as part of the patio portion of the restaurant. So far, we are long on promises but short on delivering. He asked staff to be on top of both problems. And I want Mike Meier to be on top of staff to make sure that these “special agreements” are honored.


A member of the public inquired about the money that the Taylor property in East Stuart received to take down trees. The city forgave the code enforcement fines and then gave the owners additional money for this work. Why is the city continuously bending over backward for one property owner? Why should the rest of us pick up the cost of that property’s maintenance?


The commission had a deliberation and discussion regarding how to hold land use hearings in the future. The city attorney will be filing objections to the administrative law judge’s order on the Kanner CPUD. The original discussion was supposed to be on the Avonlea PUD and their preserve and wetlands. But with the Kanner CPUD fresh in everyone’s mind, the most time was spent on that in a very broad way.


It looks like it is the will of the commission to have individual hearings on land use and site plans. That would mean the type of project that will be going on the property won’t be discussed when the land use is being decided. For the most part, the county has its hearings in this way. It does make for a cleaner vote on what is being approved.





Stuart Latest News From The April 3, 2022 Edition




What is Stuart to do when the antiquated rail bridge across the St. Lucie is not going to be replaced.

Of course, the answer for the commission is to write letters to state and federal officials supporting their meager efforts to try and minimize the worse of the consequences. I noticed in this instance that the City of Stuart doesn’t even bother to send anything to the governor and our legislators knowing full well that they will do nothing.


Congressman Brian Mast has had a proposed amendment introduced regarding the operation of the bridge similar to what the railroad must do in Fort Lauderdale with the New Bridge. The bridge will have to be up 30 minutes out of every hour so that boat traffic is not significantly impaired.


That is better than nothing, but it will not solve the bigger problem of the need for a new bridge. And the only way that will be done is by federal funding for the replacement of the 95-year-old single track span there now. In order for the appropriation to be past, Mast will have to carry it through Congress and gives his wholehearted support.


In the meantime, the city will hope and pray that the decrepit bridge will not break down too often. The incredible disengaged county commission will not become involved and work to try and secure funding even though thousands of their residents are boaters. Their staff is more than proficient to do much of the heavy lifting with Brightline and the Feds. They just need the go ahead.


City Manager Dyes tried to get the marine industry involved but, like so many of the interest groups in Martin County, they are basically ineffective. The railroad could do more, but they do not have the millions needed to build a new bridge. In the meantime, the occasional letter will go out from the commission to show that they are still engaged.


You can find the letter here


Silverthorne is a development that has bad timing. If it had been proposed at any other moment, it probably would have been a winner.

Meritage Homes, the builder of Silverthorne, presented an excellent plan for 77 town homes being built for sale where commercial and residential meet. The zoning was for commercial, and the builder needed to have the use changed to residential. It is too bad he could not build this project as of right.


Martin County and the City of Stuart are not dynamic places. Change comes slowly. The old adage, “two steps forward one step back” applies here in spades. We are seeing that now with the aversion people have to more homes being built. That is happening in the city, and it will happen in the county especially with the debacle of the introduction of the Rural Lifestyle use.


The county actually wanted this development to occur. The county commission and staff have done nothing but rake the city over the coals for approving so much housing. That is despite their list of approved projects that dwarfs Stuart’s and many of those projects are the very definition of sprawl.


Meritage was willing to pay for road improvements that the county wanted to see in addition to the county road impact fees. Those county fees are generally parsimoniously spent within Stuart city limits.


Meritage was loudly denied approval at the LPA meeting in November. They went back to the drawing boards and completely redid their plan. In my opinion, it should have gone back to them before proceeding to the commission as it was such a different project.  Meritage encompassed many of the LPA recommendations. I can’t say what transpired during staff and commissioner meetings with the applicant, but I cannot believe their positions were not made clear.


Over the past six months each commissioner has said that they were not in favor of approving any more housing outside of the CRA for at least a year. The only one that did not make that pledge was Meier. The vote reflects the commissioners’ public statements from the dais. It is nice to see that they each kept their word to the public.


The vote was 4-1 to not approve the project with Meier in opposition. (By the way motions are usually not made to deny but rather no motion is made at all) You can see the excellent presentation here


However, there were many recent residents of Meritage projects that spoke in favor of this one. It seemed the speakers were not longtime residents of the city, and they had not yet been infected with NIMBY. At the same time, two longtime critics spoke out in opposition to the project…Linda K. Richards, not a resident of the city, and Robin Cartwright who is a resident. They both seem to believe that no new buildings should ever be built, property rights be damned.


In an abundance of caution, the commissioners want to see what happens when some of the approved projects come online. No doubt the national housing trend will be true here as well…. they will find that more housing is needed not less. The commissioners gave their word to wait, and I am happy to see that they will keep it. Isn’t that refreshing to see in a politician?





Stuart Latest News From The March 20, 2022 Edition




It was a quiet meeting. The arts moment, proclamations, employee recognitions, and a presentation took up the bulk of time.


There was a presentation explaining the public benefit derived from the Avonlea project which is north of the bridge. Avonlea began a quarter of a century ago. Until about 2014 it was mostly a commercial project. Then great hopes happened. It seemed it was going to be a mini-Newfield. Mixed use with an adopted code.

That didn’t last long. It soon seemed the property was being developed without a vision. Every parcel was a separate entity. There was no more integration. And that was fine since an owner has a right to develop his property. We need to remember the owner was the one who originally wanted a walkable neighborhood with everything within the community.


As to public benefit, it wasn’t clear even after the presentation. There is upland preserve and wetlands there though no integration between parcels. What has happened is every parcel has or is being developed as separate pieces of property. So much for a concept or idea or a neighborhood.


You can see the presentation here


Hudson’s (on the site of the old Pelican at the end of the peninsula) has had a soft opening. It is not the same place. It will be a huge benefit to our community and should be income-producing for our city sometime in the future when they begin paying rent.


However, parking would be an issue. The city and Hudson’s will be looking into a valet agreement which will set aside 33 spaces. It is a free valet and non-customers could take advantage of the service. For example, patrons of Flagler Center could use the valet as well.


It is a trial and could be tweaked. I have a feeling that this valet will be successful as opposed to other ventures in the past.





Stuart Latest News From The March 6, 2022 Edition




It is not often that both the LPA (in a unanimous vote) and staff recommend outright denial of a project. Silverthorne has that distinction.

The parcel is 9 ½ acres bordered by US 1 and Commerce Avenue. The developer, Meritage Homes, wants to change the land use from commercial to residential. They propose 86 townhouses which will be for sale. A good project? Perhaps, but the commission has no desire to add any more housing units outside the CRA.


With commercial zoning, the commercial parcel can have a variety of users. If this rezoning is denied (and it probably will be), I have heard there is another self-storage place ready to go.


If this project had come in a year ago, I believe it would have been approved. Perhaps if they waited another 12 to 18 months, it would be approved. Who knows? Until already-approved projects are built, and their impacts can be examined, no new projects should be approved. The commission has said they are not interested in any other residential development unless it is as of right outside the CRA.


It is not clear why the applicant wants a month’s extension. I would be very surprised if there are three votes to support this project and it could be a unanimous no.


Clarke made a motion to postpone this item until the March 22nd meeting. It was seconded by Bruner and passed 5-0.


The commission also approved a “tree ordinance” that if trees are removed by a developer without a permit or the removal was not in the approved plan, there is a three to one ratio penalty. The fine will be paid into the tree fund with preference given to restoration of the property. The penalty is calculated by the circumference of the tree removed.


There needs to be more than just this, however. What about destruction of preserve areas. That is what happened which precipitated the tree ordinance. In a preserve, there are other plants beside trees that would need to be replaced.


The vote was 5-0 to adopt.


You can view the ordinance here



Stuart Latest News From The February 20, 2022 Edition




I do not usually cover fluff. I keep it to what the commission is discussing and approving.


Once a month in Stuart there are employee recognitions. At this meeting there was a recognition of the 40th anniversary of employment for Milton Leggett who is the public works director. He became a part-time city employee in 1980 even before he graduated high school. Leggett found a home and never left.

In 1982 he became a full-time employee and began to climb the ranks. He did brief sprints in the parks department but ended up in public works where he was steadily promoted. By October 2020 Milton became the public works director for the city.


Now having 40 years on the job is a feat. But that is not why I am writing this. I am writing it because even after 40 years Milton still loves his job. Even though today I am no longer a commissioner if I send him a text or give him a call, he responds immediately…and that includes nights and weekends. That is dedication.


Many public employees are thought of as uninspired. Milton Leggett is not one of them. And that is why I wish him another 40 years on the job.


One of Leggett’s responsibilities is to keep the city’s ponds which are really storm water retention areas clear of weeds. The commission has voted not to use glyphosate. Milton put together a pilot program to see whether the city can use least caustic chemicals and other means.


The Hospital Pond, which is approximately two acres, is where the pilot program is taking place. Mayor Matheson has enlisted the services of ORCA to monitor the program. You can find the presentation here


If you really want to get involved in the nitty gritty you can read further about integrated control here




A few weeks ago, the commission voted to increase parking for the buildings at Monterey Medical Center.


The commission allowed the applicant to do so but they insisted that they keep the 30 off site spaces located in the garage next door. With the increased parking on site that they are building the applicant had enough spaces on the property to meet the parking requirement. It is against code to require the applicant to keep those off-site spaces.


The applicant’s attorney threatened legal action if the commission did not rescind the requirement. The commission did and avoided the lawsuit.


During the entire procedure beginning with the application, I thought that the commission was not given all the facts from their staff regarding what was permissible and what was not. It should have never come down to this. At least it appears to not have turned into a lawsuit.




Stuart Latest News From The February 6, 2022 Edition




The only thing on the agenda was a presentation of the conceptual design for Guy Davis/10th Street Park.


The design is by Calvin Giordano, and they have put much work into it, but there is still a long way to go. The $5 million reboot will have expanded fields, passive area, parking, children’s playground with a splash pad, and restrooms. The board and audience members gave their comments as to improvements and some questioned whether to do the work or not.

The presentation became a discussion. However, this is only the first glimpse of the planning. There will be other community and stakeholder meetings. Though individual board members waded in with what they would like to see, I thought it was too early in the process.


Though there were many comments on the design and mission. There needs to be much more in the consultation process. This is the only active sports park in Stuart, so it is important that all stakeholders have a say. There should be two meetings at the park itself and then one at city hall.


Last night was the beginning of the design process, not the end. You can see the presentation here




During commissioner comments, Troy McDonald brought up the fact that he believes the city should have its own fire dispatch service. He understands that it will add a cost but that to be a “complete” department, Stuart should not be relying on Martin County.


Quite possibly much of the expense for Stuart to operate the dispatch system could be offset. Currently, dispatch services are paid for by the county’s general fund which is paid by all county residents. Stuart is the only other department that uses the service. If Stuart, no longer does then the cost could no longer be paid by that fund. It would have to go into the Fire MSTU in all probability. The reduction in taxes for city residents could pay for the cost of Stuart’s having its dispatch. This is something to explore.


The city is applying for a grant with the Indian River Lagoon Council to build a pilot project on the river and Illinois Avenue. It will be a living shoreline proposal. They are asking the council for $85,000 and the city will match another $85,000.

You can see the presentation here





Stuart Latest News From The January 23, 2022 Edition




There was an excellent presentation from Fire Chief Felicione.

He outlined the past and the future. The good and the bad. It was very informative.


Now that a new Inter Local Agreement has been signed with the county (one I understand that the county prepared), there should be no doubt which agency is responsible for which territory. It should be a rare occurrence when Stuart is asked by the county to respond or for the city to ask the county to respond.


The head of the fire union was present and praised the chief and city staff for working together with the rank and file on a common goal. In the next few months, there will be increased tension between the city and county departments. The county is actively trying to poach city department members.


Does the county pay more? Absolutely, but the city personnel in my opinion have a better opportunity for advancement and easier method of having their grievances heard because of the smaller size of the department. And normally I would say that the market would decide. Yet the county has individually called Stuart’s employees to entice them with goodies. A sad commentary in my opinion on the county.


The city is committed to building a third house north of the bridge to service that area. Currently, there is a rescue vehicle on city land with a tricked-out camper to act as their home. Once a new station is built it well, be fully staffed with an engine and a compliment of firefighters.


My worry is that the city manager and commission are allowing political pressures to delay the building of a station. They need to pick a spot and ignore the inevitable NIMBY protests and do what is best for the welfare of all the city’s citizens and taxpayers.


The chief’s presentation can be found here




My understanding of this agenda item took a complete turn from the time I walked into the meeting to when I left.


I completely misunderstood what this agenda item was about. I am not so sure four of the commissioners had any better understanding either. I looked at it as if it was a PUD amendment which would open up questions of parking and whether that open space should be made into parking which would have allowed the commission to negotiate with the applicant.  However, it was not a PUD amendment.


From day one, the Monterey building never had adequate parking. It has been a nightmare for the tenants, their patients, and anyone trying to go inside for an appointment. So, when they were requesting to take open space for parking, I was all for denying it until they did something more than add a few spaces.

My understanding of what the commission was being asked to decide was dead wrong. There was no maneuverability available to the commission to trade off this for that.


The sole question before the board was whether what the applicant wanted to do complied with code. Because of the way the city’s code is written, the only thing the city commission must determine is whether the code is being followed. It is the same as an application for a permit…if it complies, then the answer is yes.


What was not before the commission was a negotiation for more parking or whether to allow cutting down trees. I was right with Clark and Matheson (who voted no) to deny the applicant what he wanted to do for environmental and parking reasons. But a commissioner cannot vote no if it complies with the law because of the way the item was added to the agenda and presented.


I started to understand what was required when the city attorney was trying to make the commission understand what was being asked of them. Unfortunately, Mortell was shut down by the commissioners. Commissioner Meier cited 11.01.02 of the code as to what the commission was voting on. It is a simple yes or no. Meier understood. Because storm water element was opened by the applicant perhaps something with that technology would have been appropriate for the commissioners to discuss.

I am not privy to any conversations that the commissioners had with the city manager, city attorney, or the development director. To me it would have been a simple conversation to have with each prior to the meeting. Since the commissioners are not the experts, they must rely on staff to tell them what their obligations are. It doesn’t appear that was done or, if it was attempted, that it was clearly explained to them.


If I had been a commissioner when I walked into that meeting with the understanding I had, I would have voted no. By the time, the agenda item was over, there could only be one way to vote and that was yes to follow the law. A memo to the commission by the city attorney/development director/city manager outlining this before the meeting would have gone a long way. Then each commissioner could have explained why they were voting yes even though wanting to vote no.


If the commissioners were told what they were obligated to do under the state statute and city code then decided to do what they wanted, the resulting legal action would have been on them. Staff sometimes must be insistent before the meeting.


The motion placed a condition that they must keep 30 spaces at Truist Bank building or some other off premise area, a plan to maintain the parking area, and a nutrient reduction plan that equates to the same as the dry retention. The vote was 3-2 with Matheson and Clarke voting no.


The city’s presentation can be found here




Stuart Latest News From The January 9. 2022 Edition


The next commission meeting will be January 10, 2022.




In 2022, the commission will be settling into a wait-and-see position.


They approved projects in 2020 and 2021 that have placed the city in a good position with respect to tax revenue and to be the economic growth engine of Martin County. The commissioners have said that until the approved projects come online, they are going to take a wait and see approach for projects outside the CRA. It appears that unless a project can be built as of right without commission approval, it will not move forward. There are no large parcels within the CRA so any projects for approval will be on smaller infill lots.


The city commissioners must not fall into the fiscal practices of the county commissioners and take their eyes off the budget. If they continue to operate as they have been, the city will be in good economic shape. The new fire rescue MOU with Martin County requires each entity to answer calls within their jurisdiction. Stuart is to build a third station north of the Roosevelt Bridge.


So far, the commission and city manager have caved to pressure and not been able to settle on a location. It is imperative that they find a location and begin construction. The city should build and begin operation of a new station in North Stuart by the end of 2022. They should also spend the money to have their own dispatch system.


The city needs to act as a full-service municipality. It is not or should act as a stepchild to county government.





Stuart Latest News From The December 19, 2021 Edition



Merritt Matheson was elected mayor by the commission. Matheson made a short speech about what I am hoping will be an ongoing policy. The names of the public speakers will now be called by the clerk as well as monitoring speaker times. City Manager Dyess did an excellent job in keeping the speakers to their time limit.


The new Vice-Mayor will be Troy McDonald.


Commissioner Clarke did a good job as mayor. She was at times exuberant, but she handled the job with aplomb. For the most part, she kept the meetings moving. At times she was too accommodating but that is Clarke’s nature.


There was a minor amendment to the Savanah Place PUD. Savanah place will be a development in front of Helping People Succeed. When the PUD was approved, there was to be five oak trees planted on HPS property in addition to the buffer. Helping People Succeed has now determined that they do not want the trees.


A motion was made by Bruner and seconded by Clarke to accept the amendment. It passed 4-1 with Matheson dissenting.


The commission approved the advisory board appointments for 2022. It will be the same as last year except for Werner Bols as a new member on the board of adjustment. The appointments passed unanimously.


The new property rights element that is now required in the comprehensive plan was approved for inclusion.


All in all, it was a very productive and relatively fast-moving meeting. Congratulations to Mayor Matheson on a first meeting.





Stuart Latest News From The December 5, 2021 Edition




Jessie Seymour, of the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council, made a presentation to the commission about the meaning of a form-based code.


The last time Stuart’s code was updated was in 2004-2006. Her presentation touched on what is right and what is wrong with the current code. Ms. Seymour went into what urban design means.


Most of us have a misunderstanding of what is meant by urban when it comes to planning. Urban planning means that there is a multi-disciplinary process in the design of towns and cities. The key to understanding is not to think of the word urban in the context as being something to do with density. Rather, it is the design of buildings and infrastructure for any rural, suburban, or big city and how each project interacts with the other.

According to the Form Based Code Institute “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.”


As Seymour explained, it gives predictable built results. Developers and residents know what can go within the neighborhood envelope. Conventional code is site specific. In that case, every project looks to itself and not how it can fit into a neighborhood with cohesion.


With a form-based code there is more graphics than pages of written code. Conventional code is the micromanagement of every site to a particular outcome. Form-based code uses can vary from each other and over time, but there is a set of guiding principles such as having the building line at the streetscape regardless of if the project is residential or commercial


If a form-based code is adopted for the Creek District and East Stuart, then the biggest way it could fail would be for the commission to then make PUD exceptions. Friend “A” of Commissioner “B” wants to not have two stories where that is what the code requires.


Though Colorado Avenue is not form-based code, there was the “Duany” Plan. That plan envisioned Colorado as a walkable mixed-use area with buildings built to the sidewalk. Instead in the 30 years since the inception of that plan, every project has asked and received from the commission an exception not to follow it. The result is that Colorado Avenue is not an enjoyable walk from Federal Highway to Confusion Corner as it was intended.


I hope the commission does indeed approve a form-based code after public input. Then this current commission and any subsequent ones need to take a hands-off approach for the decades needed for the results to be known.


Seymour’s presentation can be found  here


In their discussion portion of the agenda, the commission was to tackle development issues.

Bruner (City Of Stuart)

Right out of the box, Bruner stated that in the past the commission would approve projects and then most would not be built. Currently, it is different with many already breaking ground. She stated that if someone wanted to use straight zoning that would be fine. Until she saw these units come online and how they affect the city, she would be very hesitant to vote yes for exceptions to the already approved zoning.


City Attorney Mortell explained the differences between a zoning-in-process (ZIP) and a moratorium. The most recent example of a ZIP in the city was when the legislature approved marijuana dispensaries. For several months after the passage of a ZIP, there could be no dispensaries in Stuart. Eventually, the commission decided not to ban them but to follow state guidelines and allow them wherever pharmacies were located. A moratorium is where no applications are processed.


Development Director Freeman gave a short presentation regarding what has been approved. He believes the market land values and market demand are now in equilibrium. Residential and commercial development are cyclical. Currently, Stuart is in the residential phase. At some point, as the units come online there will be a need for commercial space for those residents.


Freeman’s presentation can be found here


Of the one million square feet of commercial space approved in the past half have been for storage space. The comp plan allows under normal zoning 22,526 units within the city and a maximum of 39,563 units. There are under 100 acres of major sites still left. Dyess stated that there is 726 acres of vacant property in the entire city including conservation land.

Troy McDonald

McDonald does not want to see either a ZIP or moratorium. He does not want any land use changes except within the CRA where parcels for redevelopment would be small infill projects. Troy wants to look at storm water sustainability and street flooding.


Matheson wants to also look at storm water. He wants to explore owners holding more water on their lands. He is concerned about schools. Merritt is keenly aware of the capacity of schools and how new development will affect them.


Meier does not want a ZIP. Like his colleagues, he does not want PUDs outside of the CRA for now. He believes the CRA needs to be a priority. He also worried about the word going out that Stuart is closed for business. He is a market-oriented person, but he wants to make sure the city can absorb the growth.

He spoke about creative strategies for traffic. Meier reminded everyone that the perceived increase in traffic is not due to any approved projects since only a handful of new units in the city have come online. Port St. Lucie and, to a lesser extent Martin County, development have increased that traffic through their approval processes of new units.


It would appear the commission is ready to watch and wait before approving new PUDs outside the CRA. Together with enacting form-based codes for specific areas, the city may finally be showing a new attitude toward creating a viable urban area. It will be up to the commission to hold the line until the approved units come online and the effects are known. It is a mature decision.



Stuart Latest News From The November 21, 2021 Edition


Stuart Vice-Mayor Merritt Matheson is the commission’s liaison to the LOSUM process and has been intimately involved. He works closely with both city and county staff to monitor not only Lake Okeechobee but also storm water, wastewater, and our environment. He has contributed the following article that I believe belongs here with Stuart:



By Merritt Matheson


Last Tuesday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers laid the groundwork for how they plan to manage Lake Okeechobee for the next 10 years by announcing the preferred alternative model run and its key characteristics. It has taken roughly three years to reach this significant milestone. This preferred alternative (260467) will be the baseline for Lake Okeechobee System Operations Manual (LOSOM) and will dictate how the Corps and South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) will operate the lake for most likely the next decade.


Through the LOSOM process the various stakeholders worked with the Corps to establish quantifiable performance metrics.  Primary stakeholders are those advocating for lake ecology, southern Everglades, water supply, St. Lucie Estuary and Caloosahatchee Estuary.  Performance metrics varied across stakeholders and their respective goals as well as times of year.  Flows south, east, and west as well as lake height and water use restrictions factored into the creation of metrics.


For Stuart and the St. Lucie Estuary the main performance metric was volume of discharges, with a goal of zero.  Early in the process we worked hard to establish what many in the area know. All regulatory discharges into the St. Lucie from Lake Okeechobee are harmful and we receive zero benefit from them. The current lake management plan we operate under, LORS-08 (fig 1), inaccurately classifies some lake releases into the St. Lucie as beneficial and allows regular discharges with a lake height as low as roughly 12.5 ft. (beneficial use).

So how does the new preferred alternative for LOSOM stack up when compared to the current plan LORS-08?  It is certainly an improvement. The first big takeaway is the success of LOSOM acknowledging that all regulatory lake discharges into the St. Lucie are harmful. Currently, as LOSOM stands, no lake water will flow into the St. Lucie when the lake is below roughly 16.5 ft (fig 2). This is a significant improvement.

The modeled average annual volume of Lake Okeechobee regulatory discharges will be reduced 37%. The frequency of discharges into the St. Lucie will be reduced about 87% of the time, giving our estuary more time to recover. The plan sends more beneficial water south, roughly three times as much. As well, more beneficial water will flow west to the Caloosahatchee.


About a year into the LOSOM process one of the meetings focused on the discussion of balance and what it meant to the various stakeholders. While seeking a new, improved and “balanced” management plan for all is an admirable objective my thoughts on “balance” for the St. Lucie are the same as they were in my written comments to the Corps then.


The adopted LOSOM preferred alternative, run 260467, is certainly an improvement over the current lake management plan but it is not balanced for the St. Lucie.  “Balance” implies a shared benefit that may come with any harm.  For some stakeholders that may be increased beneficial water flows with a reduction in damaging flows, for others the benefits include increased assurances in water supply with less chance of water restrictions.


Unfortunately, for the St. Lucie Estuary we are unnaturally tied to a system from which we receive no benefit. All Lake Okeechobee regulatory discharges into our estuary are harmful, plain and simple.  We remain the second largest overflow valve on the lake and while many may benefit from high lake levels, the St. Lucie will take a hit when Mother Nature sends us too much water.


For the St. Lucie, true “balance” remains a goal separated by infrastructure projects.  Our goal is one in which we are removed from the system, with a plan in which no regulatory discharges are sent our way.




Ben Hogarth made an exhaustive presentation on where the current LOSUM deliberations stand.


The Corps intends to publish the schedule on November 16th. As of now, it looks like the St. Lucie will not receive discharges for most of the year unless the lake is over 17 feet. While not as good as the vaunted CC schedule, if this is the one that the Corps adopts, then it is the next best thing.


If you want to read about the ins and outs of various plans please go here


During commissioner comments, it was clear that the recent LPA meeting was topmost in commissioner’s minds (see my comments in the “News & Views” section of this edition). They want to have one more housing workshop. I think this will be number 6. Is it really needed?


They should tie it in with a workshop on storm water which would go a long way in resolving future development concerns if that issue could be put to bed. In my opinion, the city manager should not have the development director or local planning people involved including the Treasure Coast Planning Council which have presented many times on housing issues.

A fresh perspective is needed and one that does not have any vested interest. Reach out to the academic community for experts in both these disciplines. They will bring a different outside perspective to storm water and housing. The best workshop that I attended was one that was held by the city and was on a Saturday. There was no public comment only the commissioners speaking to each other and the facilitators providing information. Otherwise, it will be one more failure.


The city manager stated that Brightline is doing a scoping study on the bridge. Will a new bridge be built? Without federal funds probably not. They are double tracking through downtown. However, they do not anticipate taking back any of the leased parking spaces.


What do you do when you have a piece of property that makes it nearly impossible to build the house you want on it? Dave Bournique is asking himself that question after this meeting.


Bournique bought a lot on Indian Groves Drive years ago. He claims the development department at the time said it was a full-size buildable lot. Well, that was then this is now. About six months ago, he came before the commission to request variances to build a duplex. The commission was not receptive and did not vote which allowed him to bring back something at this meeting without paying the development fees.


The commission at that time did tell him that they wanted it scaled down etc. Did he do enough scaling down? Apparently for most of the commission, the answer was no.


Except for McDonald, the commission was adamant that the wetland buffers be preserved. They were a little more forgiving on setbacks. He had planned a 1600 sq foot single family house under air with a 500 sq foot garage.


After back and forth discussion, a motion was made by Matheson and seconded by Meier “To approve altering the minimum average width of the upland buffer to 40 ft. and the upland buffer at no point less than 40 ft. for the 2nd requested variance, and in doing so, altering the 3rd requested variance for the construction setback to be included within the 40 ft. buffer and with the condition of approval for those variances for the rear wetland buffers for the side setbacks to be as proposed in the plan, with 10 ft. with the option to fast track it if it’s proposed for a single-family structure, and go right to permitting.”


It passes 4-1 with McDonald dissenting.


You can see the staff presentation here


Stuart Latest News From The November 7, 2021 Edition




During commissioner comments, McDonald brought up Palm City Road. This must be the umpteenth time in the past decade that complaints about the road have had commissioners anxious to do something. But alas the problems are unsolvable.

       Troy McDonald

Palm City Road is owned by the county but maintained by the city. The roughly one-mile stretch connects Federal Highway (with the Roosevelt Bridge a few blocks away) to Monterey Road at the foot of the Palm City Bridge. Years ago, from the Palm City Bridge you could turn left onto Palm City Road legally. Now many people do it illegally as if they were turning into the shopping center but are actually making a U-turn onto Monterey and then a quick right onto Palm City Road.


No matter what the residents (and there are many of them) living there believe, the road is not a neighborhood street. It functions as a way for motorists to go from Stuart and points north to Palm City. If everyone coming off the Roosevelt Bridge went to Kanner and then Monterey to cross the Palm City Bridge, the stacking of cars trying to turn right onto Kanner and then right on Monterey would be monumental.


During the evening rush hour, cars going toward the Palm City Bridge back up quite a bit although the road clears after an hour and a half. In the past couple of years, the stacking at the corner of Palm City Road and Federal has become a problem. I live there and at times it is hard getting out of my neighborhood. I believe that is a problem that could be solved with better traffic control. The light permitting left turns onto Federal is just not long enough at peak times.


McDonald mentioned speeding. The limit is 25 MPH which is too low. One commissioner told me that this person uses cruise control preventing speeding. The limit should be raised. You control speed by making the driver slow down using landscaping, roundabouts, and diets. Unfortunately, that all costs money.


The county will never allow the closure of the road feeding onto the Palm City Bridge, and they are right it would just make Monterey, Kanner and Federal have more traffic. Closing streets is the antithesis of city life.


McDonald asked that the city place their car counters on Palm City Road to know how many are using the road.




Once again, the commission is going to allow the Old Roosevelt Bridge and Dixie Highway to be closed from Albany Avenue in the south to Fern Street in the north from January 11th through January 17th for the Boat Show. That will place additional stress on Federal Highway, and, for many, the traffic will be incredible during peak times.

Forty-eight years ago, when the show began, Stuart was a much smaller place especially North Stuart. That is no longer the case. There are entire communities such as Harborage and its marina that were not there. There are several projects slated to be built along Dixie.


Matheson mentioned they should find a more suitable location. Yet he, like the rest, caved to a special interest group (the marine industries) instead of what should be the commission’s main concern which should be their citizens.


I could justify the closures if it boosted sales tax because of the boats being sold. In this case, the tax does not come to the county from what I have been told. Most people coming for the event will park at the fairgrounds to be bussed in and then out again. Do you really think they are going to drive back to Stuart and have a meal?


Stuart has outgrown this event in this location. It is about time everyone realized it, especially the commission.


The city has continued to pursue a way to buy Gary Plaza on MLK. They have been looking at a CDBG grant to address the effects of Covid on workers and their retraining. This is now the 2nd phase of the process. The first phase happened in February. Stuart is requesting $4.7 million.


The Gary parcel is currently under contract for the third time. However, the city has already proceeded this far, and it was the commission’s decision to continue with the grant process. Stuart will have to pay the consultant $5000 to complete everything. They made the right choice and the present deal for the parcel may once again fall through. It is not clear if they can substitute another parcel if they receive the grant which is far from sure.


You can see the presentation here


Stuart’s 3rd fire station will be located on a site on Windemere Drive that was dedicated to the city by the developer of Windemere and the Pines.


The station will consist of an ambulance and engine with a five-person staff. While the construction of the 2500 sq feet station with two bay garage proceeds, there will be temporary accommodations including a camper.


This station was a long time coming. Two things have necessitated it proceeding now. The first was the agreement with the county for each jurisdiction to primarily answer its own calls. The second was that the growth of North Stuart necessitated the additional station so that the city can provide a high-quality service to all of Stuart’s residents.


Like everything, change is hard for most people to handle. Windemere residents need to understand that they are currently serviced by units that are south of the Roosevelt Bridge. The new station will ensure that community and all residents in the area will have precious time saved from every response.


The entire discussion at the meeting began because the commission received a letter from a Windemere resident. The mayor asked the manager to answer it and address the concerns. You can see the letter and the manager’s answers here here


The sirens will not be turned on until the units are on Federal. And they will not go through Windemere to get to any other communities. The residents of the city will be better served by having a third station.


Greg Braun from the Guardians of Martin County gave a presentation about the Loxa-Lucie headwaters flow way off Bridge Road in the southern part of the county.  I think it is a great project and the entire county should support it. In fact, I believe that the BOCC should pass a dedicated sales tax to buy and preserve as much of this and other critical wetlands in south county.


The BOCC already has given a resolution in support as has Jupiter Island. After a unanimous vote, so has Stuart. The city is just as affected as anyone living around the Indian River Lagoon. The resolution passed 5-0. Braun’s presentation can be found here



At this meeting, Meritage for their Osprey Preserve project in North Stuart was supposed to come up with the final plan so that the stop work order could be lifted.  It was imposed because Meritage plowed over the preserve area they were to maintain.


Meritage has given a two-phase replanting. Phase 1 is all the landscaping (except the promised Buttonwood trees) and begins by November 8th to be completed by Dec 17th. Phase 2, which is the Buttonwoods, is to be completed by Jan 7th. The city would still have the half million-dollar bond and pay the revised tree mitigation number of $55,000 into the city’s tree fund.

That is what was proposed. McDonald led it off stating that he wanted no vertical construction until all the planting was done. While that type of threat may have seemed tough to the audience, I am sure Meritage did not take it the least bit seriously. Fortunately, no other commissioner picked up the theme.


Matheson kept referring to the bond, suggesting that if the planting was not done on time, the city would receive the $500,000. That is not how bonds work. If Meritage walked away from the project, the bonding company would have the option to either send in their own contractor to finish the work or allow the city to hire a contractor to do so and pay them. Bonds are not meant for settling contractual disputes which is what this is. That would be for the courts.


Meier’s idea was the right balance. He said the city should allow for vertical construction while their proposed planting plan and schedule proceed. He wanted a higher payout to the tree fund. Instead of 1.5 as the multiplier, he suggested using 1.75 or 2. That would come to either $84,000 or $114,000.


Meier made a motion for 1.75. Meritage agreed to it on the record which is all important. The motion passed 5-0.


It is important to consider the need to write an ordinance that includes a mechanism to make sure that the miscreant would know his penalty ahead of time if this ever happened again. The money now paid into the tree fund by a developer is based on trees not being able to be replanted on the subject site. A development is supposed to be tree neutral.  In this instance, the replanted area had fewer trees than what were removed. If Meritage had been able to plant all the trees, then nothing would have been owed the tree fund.


Perhaps if this happened again, the manner of developer mitigation could look the same including the payment to the tree fund because replanting tree for tree was not possible. Then you would automatically pay into the fund for the buffer or preserve area destroyed at a 1 to 1 ratio in addition to the above. In this case it would have been substantial being in the many hundreds of thousands of dollars.


That may have given Meritage pause and, for sure, more oversight of their sub-contractors. It is hard to calculate the ecological damage that was done by the destruction of the preserve area. By taking either my idea or a similar one and codifying it, a deterrent would be in place. The commission cannot wait for this to happen again and then do more tough guy posturing. That would be irresponsible.




Stuart Latest News From The October 24, 2021 Edition




The presentation was storm water treatment this afternoon.

The city’s consultant, Joe Capra, led the presentation. There are three parts…conveyance, storage, and discharge. Millions will have to be spent over the next couple of decades. Stuart has a high vulnerability for flooding.


Currently Stuart charges $7 per ERU (Equivalent Residential Unit.) The average in Florida is $7.99. It is not only having the infrastructure to treat and store the water, but another huge component is also maintaining the infrastructure you have. Martin County may be looking to institute a storm water fee instead of using the general fund and an MSTU. A utility fee like Stuart’s is the fairest method.


Meier understands that if property owners limit the amount of water that is released for the city to deal with then it would be the independent property owner who would be responsible. In that case, it would make sense to give the property owner credits toward the amount billed.


You can see the entire presentation here


The meeting didn’t really begin until 2.5 hours after its 4:00 pm start time. There was proclamation upon proclamation. Awards, highlights, arts moments, and everything else you can think of. The BOCC has their meetings in about 3 hours. Stuart’s meeting lengths have once again gotten out of hand.


The purpose of a meeting is to do city business. An occasional proclamation within strict guidelines is fine. All the rest reminds me of an elementary school assembly or high school pep rally. Can Stuart just get down to business and move the meeting along. By 8:00 there was adjournment. That means if you had moved Capra’s storm water presentation to the body of the meeting it was 2 hours. The next thing you know, there will be circus acts and clown cars.




There was a request for a new plat application called Tidewater Court on one acre on St Lucie Blvd. There will be 10 cottage lots and a private street maintained by a homeowner’s association. Trash will be handled by individual bins that will be kept at the entrance. The applicant has agreed to allow the police the right to enforce traffic laws on the private street.

It seems to be the perfect development for Stuart. It will allow for individual homes that are not multi-family. Perhaps the plan should have a turnaround at the end of the street. Emergency vehicles, trucks, and other larger commercial vehicles will have to back up and out. Of course, the development would have ended up with only 8 homes instead of 10, but it would have been a better development.


The second “development” problem was Osprey Preserve in North Stuart that was approved by the commission in 2017. It has gone through a couple of changes since then. It is finally being built. There was a preserve element that the developer decided to completely strip away in direct violation of the development order.


The builder claims it was not on purpose. Maybe it wasn’t, but clearly it is marked as a preserve area on the plans. I have a sneaking suspicion it was not accidental, and by tearing out the preserve area, the public will see the models going up. It also gives Meritage Homes, the developer, the opportunity to plant a more nuanced land scape.


McDonald, Meier, and Matheson struggled to find the balance. Meier caught that the amount that the developer would have to contribute to the tree fund was calculated incorrectly. Meier did like their plan for replanting and Matheson and McDonald were able to have larger trees inserted than what was proposed.


The developer will be placing a $500,000 bond to make sure that the plan will be completed. Of course, the plan will be done. It becomes part of their landscaping. The commission wanted them to plant it before they did vertical construction. They want to do it by the end of January and most of the construction will be under way.


The commission was in a bit of a bind. They could declare the project in breach of the development order or do what they are doing which is making the best of a bad situation. There should be a third alternative having to do with penalties. There doesn’t seem to be anything in the code. The commission should instruct the city attorney to create something which is substantial enough to deter this type of conduct in the future.

In my opinion, the developer knew what was happening. He decided his project was better with a more man-made landscaped buffer. Leaving the site exposed to traffic would create interest and the mitigation expense was worth it.


The city should remember this. I understand there are other developments coming forward from them. BEWARE is all that I can think.


The replacement buffer and information can be found here here


Stuart Latest News From The October 10, 2021 Edition




The commission had its first vote on next year’s budget. There had been two budget workshops previously.


In Stuart and in every government, I see that revenues continue to increase but I do not see a vision for spending the money. We are currently in good times so money is flowing out the door for all kinds of things. This is how governments behave. But the boom times never last forever. When the inevitable bust does come, there should be no surprise that good solid programs are cut but rarely the bad ones of commissioner’s dreams.


In private business, you can develop a plan that takes a decade or more to be realized. If you can remain in business, you can work toward your vision. In government, the people in charge seldom last more than a few years in their positions. Managers come and go.  As a result, they often manage their governments in ways to avoid having any problems only during their tenures. Under the “weak” form of government Florida has, elected officials can only exert so much influence.

Bridge Hunter

In the last newsletter, I reported in detail on a meeting held regarding the railroad bridge but got one thing wrong. I was told by staff that Congressman Mast had been invited but did not attend. Mast was not invited. In my opinion, not issuing him an invitation was a mistake.


I have a further editorial piece in this week’s edition of News & Views. His representative, Stephen Leighton, spoke at this week’s meeting. I have copied the transcript of his remarks from the meeting record. You can find them here




How many of us have tried to go to the medical buildings on the corner of Monterey and Federal to find parking a challenge?


The solution, according to the center’s owners, is to create 51 new parking spaces by building over the retention areas. In South Florida, there always needs to be a place for storm water to go. Their solution is to add something called a Cultec System to deal with storm water and then pave with asphalt over what is now a retention area.


This is not the problem for just the buildings’ owners and their customers. Since the inception of this project more than twenty years ago, the commission has allowed this project to have insufficient parking. In 2009, the buildings received a parking credit of 35 spaces alone. The attitude for this project and others by the commission is that the market will decide. Unfortunately, this is not a market decision alone.


If it were just a strip center and there wasn’t enough parking, then you wouldn’t patronize the stores there. As a medical and surgical center, you do not have the same luxury. Of the many medical businesses that are in those buildings, the only one where the public may have a choice is the urgent care as they could choose to go to a different urgent care center.


In many areas of the city, I think we should do away with parking requirements entirely (e.g., downtown). This is not one of those places. So, should the commission agree with another patch on this parking dilemma? It looks like this commission is trying to get this one right.


They have tabled the matter to October 25th. There was an incomplete packet that did not encompass the resolutions and minutes of the earlier meetings that approved parking and building this development. A management plan for the Cultec System was not included. Captec, the city’s expert for the proposed storm water solution, was to be present and have a thorough review of the system. Lastly, they want to see the applicant’s garage study.


The parking dilemma should be resolved by building a parking garage. The surgical center was originally situated in a very problematic place, and it is only one story. It is understandable that the facility needs to be on one floor, but why did they not build two or three floors of parking with the surgical center on top?


Stuart is an urban environment. Green spaces that exist within the urban footprint are important. It would be a mistake to allow a lessening of green space in this instance. The applicant made a big deal about the corner on which there is an upland area and noted they are not touching it. They can’t without the commission’s ok.


After all these years, Stuart needs to get this right. They need to build a garage that has all the parking required by code, including the spaces for which they received a waiver initially.


You can find the staff and applicant presentations here




The city has two new legal fights on its hands.


The first is an administrative hearing challenging the methodology the commission used in determining the Costco project land use. You will find a full report about it in the “Final Thoughts” section of today’s edition.


The second lawsuit is regarding that perpetual “stinko” project known as Northpoint. Trying to get that piece developed goes back to 2005. The newest challenge was from the developer slated to buy the property before the current one slated to buy the property.


This suit, which is not the first one, is about the city not being able to perform. It will probably not succeed any more than any of the other suits. I just hope that the newest buyers will do something with the property.




Most people do not know that at one point Stuart had its own landfill. Decades ago, Florida passed a statute that all landfills and transfer stations must be under county jurisdiction. Stuart’s land fill was closed, and the city’s waste are now taken to Martin County’s transfer station.


Having an old landfill in the middle of the city with limited use opportunities is not great. The city is the responsible party environmentally, and it costs about $50,000 a year to monitor compliance with the EPA regulations. Over the years, various schemes have been tried including a golf driving range on the property. Currently, there is a storage facility and funeral home that have long term net leases on parts of the area.


For the past two years there has been ongoing negotiating between Goldstein Kite Environmental, LLC and the city. Goldstein Kite has made an unsolicited offer to buy the property. Usually in government parlance, to sell a property, the government must make it available on the market as an RFP. While the offer may be unsolicited and therefore technically legal, I do not understand why the city would not put it on the market as an RFP if it was determined that it was going to be sold.


As to whether it should be sold to Goldstein Kite, Mr. Goldstein who did most of the talking, was quite persuasive why it should be them. They seem to be experts in “brownfields.” If anyone is going to be able to have that large parcel brought back and made economically feasible, they would seem to have the ability to do so. Their website can be found here


If this goes through, they will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars just to determine whether the cleanup would leave room for a profit. There will be millions spent just to make the property ready to be built upon. Mr. Goldstein stated that anything built would probably be done as pier construction which would add considerably to the expense.


They will pay the city a very nominal $100 for the land. The advantage for Stuart is at some point it will be environmentally remediated. The property will be brought back on the tax rolls, and it will become an industrial center that could employ thousands of people.


What is the downside?  There is the potential that it would bring to light an environmental mess, and if the deal doesn’t go through the city will have to deal with the mess. But as several commissioners stated, Stuart already owns the mess now. That is so true.


McDonald made a motion to go forward with some minor conditions that was seconded by Meier. The vote was 5-0.

Troy McDonald

This is a very consequential decision for the city. It will probably be more than a decade before the city sees any upside by industrial development there. Probably none of the current commissioners will be on the dais. Was it the right decision only time will tell?


You can see Goldstein’s presentation here





For some time now, there has been disagreement between the city and the county over fire/rescue calls. For the time being, the matter has been settled.


The city will continue to use the county’s dispatch system which is paid for out of the county’s general fund as are the helicopter evacuation and hazmat parts of fire/rescue.

The main change will be to keep city and county response units in their respective jurisdictions. In the past Stuart, could go all the way out to Cobblestone to answer a call. This will hopefully prevent that. At some point Stuart, will need a third station in North Stuart or it could get very expensive. To see the entire agreement plus charges per call go here


The commission created a sinking fund for potential St. Lucie River litigation. Each year any money left over in the legal professional services category will go into a reserve in case legal action is necessary against the Corps.


A couple of years ago, the city put aside a 2-acre parcel on Federal Highway to build workforce housing so that the Housing Solutions Council could see whether they could find funding to build the project.


The council either found a partner to build the housing or is one step closer in doing so. The commission approved entering a long-term lease to tie up the parcel more formally for that purpose.


Whether or not this ever comes to fruition, it is needed.



Stuart Latest News From The September 5, 2021 Edition




Jessica Seymour of the Treasure Coast Planning Council gave a presentation regarding the area known as the Triangle District.

It was very informative and in general the board liked it sufficiently to ask that it be brought back as a formal resolution for adoption. The area encompasses Federal Highway to Dixie Highway and the streets of California, Camden, and Akron. Within that, the most urgent problem needing attention is the Baptist Church property. It is for sale and would be key to keeping the district in proportion to the historic nature of some of the existing uses.


The board passed the CRA budget for 2022. It is more than $3.5 million. Contrary to what we thought was going to occur with COVID, which was a slow down with tax proceeds and property values being reduced, instead we are still in a very hot market. There are many worthy projects that will benefit from increased funding or new projects. That does not mean the board and commission should waste taxpayer dollars.


Three years ago, the commission made a deal with Stuart Main Street that, in return for a very favorable lease for Flagler Place, Main Street would be weaned from its City of Stuart subsidy of $70,000 per year. It was to occur over three years with funding levels decreasing each year. This is the third budget year, and the organization is still receiving the full $70,000.


That is the problem with government. It can be seen with the county commission, other municipalities, and Stuart. Why is it that this non-profit deserves such government largess year after year? It is simple…political insiders on the board (mostly not even Stuart residents) collecting money from Stuart taxpayers for what purpose?


If asked, they would say they are performing valuable services for the downtown like “Rockin’ Riverwalk,” various craft sales events, and a couple of festivals. How valuable are they to the city? The organizations may say that they bring people to our stores and restaurants. Where is the study by a professional organization that bears that out?


And say that, for argument’s sake, Main Street’s role does result in increased revenue for local businesses. Why then wouldn’t the downtown businesses chip in to fund such a great organization? A review of the membership roster of Main Street would show that it is not composed of downtown business owners but rather an assortment of mostly non-Stuart residents who meet once a month and do what?

If the commission believes that Stuart Main Street should have a $70,000 subsidy, a cheap lease on Flagler Place, and now the Stuart Sunday Market at less than the previous vendor paid, then debate it in public. Don’t hide it in the budget and suggest that fiscal prudence is key. Meier and Matheson have made a little noise about the subsidy but really have not tackled the reasoning for it to continue pass the three-year deadline that was originally agreed upon.


$70,000 can be better spent by the commission within the CRA than providing the Flagler Center clubhouse for select friends. This is the kind of corrupt deal that makes people cringe.




During his comments, Commissioner Matheson called for a discussion about our current wetland regulations. It may be because commissioners have need for mea culpas for their Costco vote.

Matheson said we should look at the county’s rules. The county’s rules cause more problems than the city’s regulations. They also were written for an area many times larger than the city’s seven square miles. What is good for 500 acres does not work for 20 or 1 acre.


Several years ago, before Meier was a commissioner, several parcels came in for approval. I remember then Citizen Meier made an impassioned public comment about how this landowner was asking to mitigate wetlands not on individual parcels but by taking one parcel and placing all the wetland there for the entire project. His solution did not produce a feel-good result of a little here and a little there. What he did was create a real habitat.


At times Meier and especially Matheson have used the PUD process to gain more in the way of concessions than what would have been if just code had been followed. That is a good outcome.


It was obvious to McDonald, and he said so, that Stuart just did an overall comprehensive plan review and did not change its wetland regulations. Stuart has about come to the end of annexation of county properties. There is just not much left.  What the city has are infill areas. Small areas need a different approach than adopting the county’ s wetlands regulations.


The motion to have a workshop was 5-0. Who would vote against mom and apple pie? There have been many workshops on affordable housing, housing, more housing, etc., and the result has always been the same…work for the staff and a finding that the city has had it right all along.




In Stuart in 2008, the first attempt was made to net lease a property known as North Point just north of the old Roosevelt Bridge. Fast forward to 2021 and the commission approved a sale under certain parameters. A public referendum a few years ago gave the city permission to sell the property instead of lease it.


Over the years several, would-be developers took turns attempting to buy or lease the land for boat yards, office buildings and hotels. Yet magically their ideas were more dreams or concepts, but most definitely they never came to fruition.


The latest incarnation of the art of this deal is to buy the property subject to an appraisal. There was no talk at the meeting of what will be built there but probably a restaurant, maybe an office building and perhaps boat slips could be contemplated. After 15 years, I cannot become too enthusiastic about the chances of success.


It passed 5-0.


Then came the second piece of city-owned property for sale. Several years ago, as part of the approval of what is now Osprey Preserve, a developer gave a piece of land (1.78 acres) to the city for a future fire station. The city has determined that the station would not be well situated there.


It received an unsolicited offer for that property with the price subject to an appraisal. There was a little hemming and hawing by Meier regarding whether it should be sold because of the types of trees on the property. When it was discovered that the tree fund had money, but nothing had been set aside for a station McDonald inserted a provision that the proceeds should be allocated to building a fire/rescue station north of the bridge.

Meier was a little hesitant but ultimately relinquished and voted for the sale since it was an isolated piece. It passed 5-0. Since a new fire station will be within the CRA how about diverting the Main Street money to something that needs to be funded.


The Oaks Classical Christian Academy needed conditional use approval to rent a couple of classrooms at St. Mary’s Church on East Ocean for its school. It is conditioned on the 18 students that are currently registered but no more than 25 can be enrolled. A group of moms appeared to plead their case. It is home schooling with a part time classroom component.


I would imagine that after a few years as the children become older and need more sophisticated classes, this will fade away. Until then, the commission voted 5-0 to approve.



Stuart Latest News From The August 22, 2021 Edition




Troy McDonald has won reelection to the Stuart City Commission with 67% of the vote for a new three-year term.

McDonald’s victory for his second consecutive win over Caryn Hall in a low turnout election was not a surprise. He has shown himself to be a capable commissioner. He is at his best when he does not allow his political side to come to the forefront. Pandering is not enduring.


My advice to Troy and every commissioner is to remember that they represent the citizens of Stuart. While they should not ignore those that live outside the city, their constituents live within the 7 square miles of the city’s boundaries. That should never be forgotten.


McDonald is good at forging compromises between his fellow commissioners during deliberations. When he accomplishes this is when he is at his best. It also seems McDonald now has learned the value of not having to comment on every matter and therefore when he does say something it has added significance.


I think these new traits served him well in his re-election and their continuation would serve him well as a commissioner going forward. I congratulate his victory and I believe that he was the right choice for Stuart.




This was the Costco meeting that we have been waiting for.

As public comment began, first on Zoom and then in person, I counted the speakers that were pro and con. There were many more who spoke in opposition. However, from the beginning the emails the commission received were much more in favor. I also counted how many speakers live within the city limits, the overwhelming majority did not.


A couple of speakers, who live in the Florida Club, which is far outside the city boundaries, said that this development would ruin the character of Stuart and would be a degradation of open land. The Florida Club was built on untouched land. It is sprawl built far away from anything. I would imagine there were wetlands that were bulldozed to build those houses. The Costco site is an old farm with “wetlands” that were created by the farmer digging up his property.


In the last newsletter, I criticized Mayor Clarke. This time I am going to praise her for her efforts to keep things moving. She was stronger in the beginning than at the end but most of us were also. She did a good job.


Several speakers, most from outside the city boundaries, complained about traffic impacts. Kanner Highway was not expanded to 6 lanes by the city but rather by the state and with the MPO, a county organization, doing the planning and funding the construction. Those bodies did this because they wanted Kanner to become a major residential and commercial corridor.


There is a bridge to Palm City on the corner of Monterey and Kanner and another bridge to Palm City at Indian Street and Kanner. Costco’s prime shoppers live in Palm City not in St. Lucie County or Stuart. That is the reason they first wanted to locate there. Of course, residents from both the city and a few from St. Lucie County will be their customers also.


One speaker, who lives in Stuart and is a frequent critic of almost everything, is against this too. Ironically, he lives and owns the Stuart building with the greatest density within the city. This project will have 8 units per acre. His has 32 units per acre.


Another speaker claimed that this development would produce a crammed residential neighborhood. That statement is a bit ludicrous given the facts provided in the previous paragraph. As a city resident who lives in a single-family home, I am not anti-single-family home. They have a place within Stuart. This spot is not the place for them.


The silliest statement may be “just because people want to live here doesn’t mean you must accommodate them.” Unless you are a native American, this applies to all of us whether you are a descendant from one of our pioneer families or moved here last week.  There is universal agreement that we do not build over every piece of Martin County. But we need to do so within our urban centers. This is within an urban center.


Jimmy Smith, who is the president of the N.A.A.C.P. of Martin County, made a very compelling argument. We have lost 3000 to 4000 residents because they cannot find jobs or a place to live. These apartments will not provide affordable housing, but the jobs Costco and the other retail enterprises will generate will lift many people out of the minimum wage trap they are in.

Smith went on to mention that many former prison inmates who have paid their debts to society need jobs. Costco has a program to employ these people. Some will undoubtedly return to crime but without a viable path forward including a job, more will do so. If fathers and mothers have a presence in their children’s lives, then the next generation is more apt to be productive members of society.


Jimmy is also a small businessperson. He relies on these types of stores to get his supplies. Several others spoke about the waste of time having to drive to Palm Beach or Fort Pierce to buy what they need for their businesses. They also mentioned that they would rather spend their money where they live including paying sales taxes.


Yet the most common public comment was about how the comp plan was being violated. I go into it quite a bit in the “News & Views” Section above.


Yes, there are tradeoffs. And there were some valid concerns expressed. Unfortunately, we are conditioned to think in terms of black and white. The world and our system are not that but rather grays, and so the commission and staff must deal in grays.



Bob Raynes, the attorney for the developer, had an objection to both intervenors not qualifying under Florida statute. The city tends to give that status to anyone who applies for it and pays the $400 fee. If Raynes ends up appealing any decision in district court, he has made his objection to their status.


Raynes had an objection to Intervenor One, Linda Kay Richards, as well as witnesses that were appearing and testifying by Zoom. He said the reason the hearing was carried over to this date was because these witnesses were not available in person earlier. His reasoning was that it is harder to cross-examine when they are not in person.

His second objection was that since the witnesses were not present and one was not even in Florida, they could not be sworn in. Richards said then if she could not put on her case, then she needed an adjournment which Raynes objected to. Mike Mortell, the city attorney, said that the objection was noted and preserved in the record. The commission voted to proceed with the hearing.


City staff made a brief presentation showing that the applicant had agreed to all the conditions that Commissioner Matheson had requested at the first reading. All tree mitigation will be done on site. There will be storm water monitoring. Glyphosate use will be banned.


Staff mentioned that the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO), which reviewed the comp plan amendment, had no objections but 2 technical comments one being not enough density in the project. The letter can be viewed here


Raynes asked Tom Reitz, the city planner assigned, whether it met the comp plan. He testified it did. The Second Intervenor, Brian DiVentura, asked Reitz about a section of the plan. Unfortunately, DiVentura had no exhibits or a visual slide describing what he was referring to. Any attorney would have placed the question in context so that an answer could be elicited. Just citing code numbers and then expecting answers was not practical.


Raynes repeatedly stated that witnesses had to provide testimony that was competent and substantial. In her opening statement, Richards said that the applicant left out evidence and that the commission was not impartial. No testimony was presented to verify those statements. DiVentura said the comp plan was being violated. Since he had no exhibits, his discussion of the elements of the comp plan that were being violated was unclear and not compelling.


Raynes put on his case and each of his witnesses were very knowledgeable and could cite why the project complied. One of his witnesses, who was in Tallahassee and whose flight was cancelled, drove to Stuart to testify right before the hearing. When the intervenors attempted to cross examine any of the witnesses, it was obvious that they had not gone to law school.


Richards’ first witness, who testified via Zoom, was Patricia Tice PhD. She is a civil engineer. She testified that the project was not in compliance, that the area was rural, and remarkably that Costco would go out of business. The result would be that the apartments would be blighted and that there would be a distribution center there. She offered no corroborating evidence to those statements.


On cross examination, Raynes asked her if she had been to the property. The answer was no. She had used Google Earth. He asked whether she was an economist. Again, the answer was no.


Richards’ next witness would have made a difference if he was at the hearing in person. The digital connection was bad and when it was restored, the chamber could hear and see him, but he had to hear via telephone. Greg Braun came off as a credible scientist. However, he had spent no more than 1.5 hours on the property. While his observations about endangered flora was taken seriously by some commissioners, his description about endangered birds was much less compelling.


The summations were what one would think. Richards gave no compelling argument as to why it should be denied and DiVentura said he could not get anyone to answer his questions. Raynes said that there should be a holistic approach.


Then came time for deliberation and the hearing was closed. Meier, McDonald, and Matheson spoke the most. It was evident that Meier was concerned about the endangered plants. It quickly was incorporated as a condition of approval that the developer would have to move them either on site or incorporate the plants into new plantings around them.


The reasons that the commission voted the way they did was not because they are pawns of the development community. The proposed development project fits the elements of the comp plan. The argument by some speakers and by the intervenors was just not accurate. As I wrote in “News & Views,” commissioners must follow the code and the law.


Most people in our area live in a vacuum. They have no idea what is required for a successful site plan or zoning approval. It is easy to think that not wanting something is the same as having the authority to stop something. The commissioners, with Matheson and Meier in the lead, obtained concession after concession from Joe Marino, the developer.


These concessions will cost Marino a couple of millions of dollars. Mostly, he did not have to agree to the concessions. He was within his right to say that he would not do things like reduce the number of apartments. With a few key things like water and tree mitigation, he could have stood his ground and if the commission had voted no, the court would probably have sided with Marino.


The motion for approval was made by Meier seconded by McDonald to include the flora protection along with nearly 40 other conditions for approval. The vote was 5-0.




I came away from this process with a couple of takeaways.

First is to do away with Zoom comments and especially Zoom testimony. When people fade in and out or worse the technology stops working, staff including the city manager must try to get it going again taking up precious time. It shows how the tail is wagging the dog.


Sure, COVID is back but we need to learn to live with the virus not by shutting down but by carrying on. If it is important enough to someone to voice a point of view, they need to come and say it in person.


And never allow testimony to be given in that way again. It isn’t fair to the commission, the parties, and especially to the public. Commissioners, you are not being more inclusive. It is an idiotic distraction.


The “Not In My Back Yard” movement is still alive and well. Most of the people were not against Costco, or housing or retail. They just do not want anything new next to them. They are all for property rights unless it disturbs them. It was exemplified by people who said things like “We do not want them here.”


The animosity shown toward Joe Marino, as if he was some snake oil salesman, was unconscionable. Although Marino is based in New Jersey, he successfully builds projects all over the U.S. and has been very professional throughout the process.


I have noticed if a developer is a local, the chances of a project ever being built is slim. They may have great ideas but no money or credibility to complete the project. The idea that finance and business are localized is antiquated.


At one time, Seacoast Bank was local. The Hudson family knew the business owners and leant on a handshake. That bank is gone and now it is a regional one. I use Schwab as my bank, and they have no branches. The last project I did a decade ago, the financing came from Switzerland.


Businesspeople have long recognized that to be successful, they cannot just be in their backyard. Projects like Costco and large housing complexes require more than just local money and expertise. Marino has both to succeed.


Development will occur and it is up to us to guide it into our cities and CRAs. Let’s save our open spaces for as long as possible. With a four-story height limit, we will never be Miami, West Palm, or even Delray. You cannot have enough people for that in the allowable space in Martin County. We do need to take our infill sites and make them count. And remember just because a site is void of a building doesn’t mean it is not an infill project.


Lastly the intervenor process is broken. It is not meant to allow for unlimited public comment. To be an intervenor means that you are being affected by the development more than the general public. Clearly DiVentura, who lives more than 5 miles away, is not more affected by the wetlands issues than I am as I live two miles away.


Richards lives in Cabana Point. While she continuously said she was not representing Lychee Tree Nursery and there is nothing in her application that states she is, at this hearing she claimed she was her family’s representative. Raynes immediately objected. If she is only a resident, then according to her own expert, she is one of 12,600 people that reside within one square mile of the property.


That is why I believe that a court would probably throw out their intervenor status if the issue were brought before it.


The city needs to update the application for an intervenor and include the statute on the form as well as a series of questions for the petitioning intervenor to answer stating that he/she has at least one of those legal reasons to intervene. The form should be notarized under penalty of perjury.


The fee for becoming an intervenor should be at least $1500. The staff time alone in this process costs the city thousands of dollars. Once the nonrefundable fee is paid, the intervenor applicant should immediately go before the commission for a hearing to determine whether intervenor status is warranted.


Then if the right to intervene is granted, the intervenor needs to act as any attorney in a court of law would. This is not when opinion, wishes, and pretty pictures are needed. This is serious business and should be conducted that way.


If interested the entire Costco package is  here



Stuart Latest News From The August 8, 2021 Edition




Part of the job for a commissioner is to be a cheerleader for Stuart. Mayor Clarke was certainly that when she enthusiastically embraced the Babe Ruth/Cal Ripken Softball World Series which will be partially played on the Sailfish ball fields of Stuart.


I understand that over the five days of games, there will be 10,000 visitors to Martin County. The bulk of the games will be played in the county not only in Stuart. The other fields such as at Pineapple can accommodate more play than Sailfish.

The ancillary income for restaurants, hotels and shopping is a nice boost to the local economy. Of course, not all visitors will stay five days, and I would imagine most of those meals will be consumed at fast food venues rather than at the Gafford or Pepe & Sale.  The upcoming Softball World Series is not anything to sneeze at…yet we could have done better.


A few years ago, we had the opportunity to develop those fields and have new residents and businesses in the city. If we had done so, Stuart would have substantially more revenue to devote to recreation and parks. The development could have been an economic driver for East Stuart where the fields partially sits. The city would have had an additional $250,000 a year in taxes and user fees. Millions more would have been generated for local businesses. And this would have been ongoing year after year.


The Sailfish fields would have been reproduced at the Stuart Community Center according to the plan. So, there would have been no loss of recreational opportunity. There would still have been a chance to host one of many yearly world series and tournaments that are held throughout the country every year. Stuart decided to leave things be.


Leaving things be is a hallmark of the city commission. Not only this commission but commissions for the past quarter century. There is no future vision…only an incredible longing to keep the past going. Like so much of America, Stuart bumbles forward with its head firmly planted looking backward.


I applaud this one series coming to Stuart. Great job! The commission could have done even a better one.




As we have seen in the past few months, the commission acts as a quasi-judicial court at times. This is what it was doing when it heard the appeal of NiK and Rachel Schroth who are building their home at 623 N.W. Palm Street. It sits next door to the old Reb Oil building on Dixie Highway…or is the address Federal Highway?  As you will see, it makes a difference…read on!


That building has been an eyesore for years. The building owners wanted it to be turned into an indoor facility for the sale of parts and repair of autos. Yet is it an appropriate use under the code? That depends on where the property is located. Before the new Roosevelt Bridge was built 25 years ago, what is now Dixie Highway was Federal Highway.

The development director, relying on his authority under the code, determined that the Reb parcel was still situated on Federal Highway and therefore the use was appropriate. Most of us could not possibly see how that property could be situated on Federal. Yet there is a case that could be made.


There are very technical questions regarding the LDRs and zoning maps that can be argued. Should those arguments have been made before the development director or should it had gone before the CRB and ultimately the commission for determination?


On the question of whether the director had the authority to grant the use requested, Meier made a motion seconded by McDonald to find that he did not. It passed 5-0. A second motion was made by McDonald and seconded by Meier to grant the appeal. That passed 5-0.


Perhaps the business will now go to circuit court to have a judge decide. Perhaps they will now bring it before the CRB and then the commission to decide. Or Reb Oil will do nothing, and that eyesore will sit there for another decade before anything is accomplished.


The staff and Schroth’s presentations can be found here




The 2nd budget meeting was convened to allow the commissioners to hear presentations from the different departments. There was nothing that came as any surprise.


The entire budget is $76,581,155 which includes the enterprise funds. Enterprise funds include water, sewer, storm water, and trash. We tend to concentrate on real estate taxes which is a little over $11 million of the total budget. But as you can see, real estate taxes are only a small amount of the income Stuart collects.


The budget must be in balance. Expenditures must equal income. The city is in flush times, so the commission made no hard choices. They even approved hiring new FTEs in different departments. You can view the entire budget here


All commissioners praised staff and their efforts. This is the part of the process where Stuart becomes the fictional Lake Wobegon where everyone is above average.


It was nice to see that the city’s fire/rescue department will soon be serving all of Stuart as a station will be built north of the Roosevelt Bridge. Finally, Stuart will have the ability to service all its residents just as the police department does.


Though the county will continue to dispatch the units this could be a mistake. The county’s call operators will determine if Stuart has the apparatuses available to answer the calls. This should be Stuart’s decision to make. Since it is a cost to the city for each call that the county responds to, it makes perfect sense for the entity paying to be the deciding party.


The only purpose of the meeting was to vote on the maximum millage rate for next year. Meier made a motion to have it remain the same at 5.0 mills. It was seconded by McDonald and passed 5-0.


While numbers can seem boring, the interesting part is when commissioners begin pushing their pet projects. The first up was Matheson trying to have a way for commissioners’ salaries to increase using a defined metric without what happened a couple years ago when a 55% raise was voted upon and enacted.


There was talk of the COLA and a raise proportionate to what and when other city employees receive one. I do not think there is anything wrong with putting into place a definitive way for commission salaries to increase. Either a COLA or tying it to other employees could be the way to go.

Matheson ( City Of Stuart)

Matheson just needs to flesh out a resolution or ordinance that spells it out. He needs to work with the city attorney to correctly word it and then bring it back for a vote. My suggestion would be for it to begin after the 2022 elections. By doing so, all 5 of the commission seats will have stood for election before any change to compensation occurs.


His second proposal was to create a sinking fund for river defense and add $50,000 a year to the fund. This is a way to put money aside for possible litigation most likely against the Corps or SFWMD. However, it is unlikely to ever accumulate enough money to successfully litigate using such a funding mechanism only.


Let’s put aside whether Stuart has standing in a lawsuit and why it would make little sense to even commence a lawsuit. The Corps is in the process of passing LOSOM. The plan picked, CC, is the most advantageous to Stuart. It will reduce releases from Lake Okeechobee by 65%. That does not count any benefit to the reservoir being constructed south of the lake and what would eventually be done to the north.


Some suggested that having a litigation fund may scare the Corps. If Stuart had $5 million in a reserve, it would not scare the Corps. Matheson will be bringing back a better thought-out plan.


Bruner did bring forward her $50,000 ask for the Arts Council’s design phase for the old high school. At a meeting last month, she also discussed it and was told to bring this topic up at the next budget meeting. (To read what appeared in the last newsletter go here

Bruner (City Of Stuart)

At this meeting, Bruner read a statement of justification prepared by the Martin County Arts Council’s director. You can read it here


Bruner made a motion to include it in the budget. It died for a lack of a second. The other commissioners gave reasons why they couldn’t support it at this point. I guess they did not want to rain on Bruner’s parade. How about just saying this is a terrible idea and waste of Stuart tax dollars.


Lastly there was the perennial discussion about the massive subsidy to the Stuart Main Street organization. Matheson and Meier both had reservations about the $70,000 continuing. Yet the $70,000 is just the cash portion of the subsidy. It does not consider the highly subsidized lease of the city-owned Flagler Center and the Green Market.


Stuart Main Street president, Mark Brechbill, gave a razzle dazzle defense where he threw out numbers about Main Street’s budget that were incorrect. I knew this from my time on their board.


I went online to Stuart Main Street’s website, and there are no budgets listed nor any recent tax returns. I then proceeded to look up their tax return on Guide Star. Their most recent return filed was 2018. You can view it here


I then went on the IRS website where they have filed their 2019 return and an extension of their 2020 return. You can see it here


I find this troubling because the reason the Sunday market was given to Main Street was because the previous operator had not filed tax returns. Commissioners, are you having a double standard? Friends of friends do not have to follow the rules. Now I am wondering whether an insurance certificate was provided by Main Street or is the city on the hook for Flagler Center and the Green Market if something happens? If not tax returns, how about providing audited financials?

Mark Brechbill (Facebook)

I would also like to see a list of their vendors. At one-point Brechbill was their accountant. The 2019 return had a different accountant listed but now that Brechbill is president will he once again be their accountant? Do any of the other vendors have relationships to members of the board? The same goes for the Green Market and Flagler Center? What is the policy of nepotism for the organization?


Besides mouthing platitudes from the dais about looking out for the taxpayers, when do commissioners begin doing so. Or is just saying it enough?




Hands down the most interesting and most meaningful part of the meeting was Cleveland Clinic/ Martin Health System President Rob Lord’s presentation. Lord has been with the institution forever. He will retire in December. Being on the cusp of leaving he pulled no punches in this presentation.

Rob Lord (Cleveland Clinic)

There are currently 78 COVID patients in North Hospital with a total of 141 including Tradition. It is highest at any point since the pandemic began. Average stay with COVID is over 10 days with the longest being 60 days. Over 90% of the patients are unvaccinated. There are no vaccinated patients in either the ICU or on ventilators. The vaccinated patients have pre-existing conditions. There are 13 unvaccinated patients on ventilators.


The hospital system is beginning to cancel elective surgeries. There is no visitation for COVID patients. Other patients are limited to one designated visitor for their stay. Clearly according to the statistics presented, we are much worse off today than we were during the height of the last wave.


The Delta variant is much more infectious than previous known strains. An infected person will spread the virus to 5-9 others. Children are falling ill. There could be as many as five new variants now. Lord believes this could be the new normal indefinitely.


As a child I remember when we had waves of communicable disease. The most vivid memory of my young childhood was when the polio vaccine was finally being given by the NYC Health Department. It was a real game changer. 60 years ago, they labeled measles, German measles (Rubella), chicken pox, and mumps, childhood diseases because you caught them as kids. I was laid up with the mumps for almost a month and had Rubella twice.


People 60 and under have no idea what it was like before vaccination for these and other diseases. Earlier generations than mine had typhoid and smallpox to contend with plus all the others. Most survived having the diseases some did not. You can say the same for COVID that most who catch the virus will survive. Yet why would you want to become ill with something there is no need having.


Carol Ann Vitani from the Health Department gave a presentation with further statistics from the CDC and Florida Health website.  One interesting statistic mentioned is that Martin County is number six in the state with rates of infection and Florida is the number one state in the country for COVID cases.

You can find more statistics here

And here


The rest of the meeting was completely unnecessary. The manager could have instituted what the commission voted upon. It was showmanship at its highest. Mayor Clarke said she was urged to call a special meeting to institute a state of emergency and mask mandate.


First let me say only two members of the public were there and one is running for office. So apparently no great ground swell. Everyone had masks on. Local government is precluded from doing just about anything under Florida Statute 381.000316 except what the board ultimately did. You can find the limiting statute here


Lord and Vitani made attending worthwhile for the information they provided. The rest was theater. After some more needles discussion, Commissioner McDonald wanted to approve the resolution adding that the manager has the authority to rescind and invoke the mask mandate in city owned property depending on circumstances. Commissioner Meier changed Section 1 of the resolution to read indoor not outdoor.


Matheson moved to accept those changes and adopt the resolution. Meier seconded. It passed 5-0.


The manager already had the authority to institute the wearing of masks in city owned properties. But for those who don’t want to wear a mask the city cannot have any penalty. I guess the cops could make you leave but probably not.


You can find the original resolution here





Stuart Latest News From The July 25, 2021 Edition




At almost every meeting, a commissioner asks that something be placed on the city’s website so that the information would be available to the public. And once more, a commissioner asked that something be added at the meeting.


The City of Stuart website is the general store of websites. There is information that is completely irrelevant and some inconsequential. But, when you are looking for information, it is not intuitive where it would be on the catch-all website. Do commissioners really think that by adding more and more items to the website, people are better informed?

Commissioner Meier was awarded the Home Rule Hero designation for the 3rd time. It was presented by Jolien Caraballo the 2nd VP of the Florida League of Cities. Congrats Mike!


Commissioner Matheson was appointed to the School District Boundary Committee. The committee will be making recommendations to the school board regarding changes to the boundaries of the current school district that geographically define which school students will attend. It was thought that as the only commissioner with children in Martin County schools, he would be a good choice.




Then out of the blue without any warning, Commissioner Bruner made an announcement!

                   Old High School

She took a tour of the old high school building and now thinks the city should send $50,000 to the Arts Council to assist in planning for the new arts center. However, it is important to note that the city does not own the property. It is owned by the school district. And the organization is known as the Martin County Arts Council not the Stuart Arts Council.


Let me get my prejudice out of the way. First, I believe that any time you need to spend $10 to $15 million of mostly government money to “save” a building for some purported use that makes no sense, you are making a mistake. These are not my estimates of the cost but were detailed in two stories by the Stuart News (you can read the articles here

and here


I have proposed that the Arts Council be given a 100-year lease for the present city hall when Stuart moves to the Wells Fargo building in a couple of years. For less than a million dollars, the council would have a museum in the heart of downtown where people could visit while shopping, having a drink or a meal without ever getting into a car. The current proposed site is a mile away and is near no other business. The City Hall site would provide interconnectivity which is the life blood of any city. But let us put practicality to the side.


The old high school is a building that was erected in 1922. It has no historical architectural features. The significance is sentimental not historical. People went to high school there until 1964. So, for roughly 40 years it served as the local high school. The current Martin County High School has been our local high school for a longer time. Is it historical?


Martin County has a problem with thinking that old and historical are the same thing. They are not! Unless an architectural historian can verify that this building meets the generally accepted criteria for “historical,” it will continue to be old and that is all.


Spending $50,000 for the planning of this mistake is a serious misappropriation of Stuart taxpayer dollars. The city could use that money for any number of projects from parks to public works to law enforcement to fire/rescue to planting trees on city streets. This is a bad idea that needs to go away.


The next time a city resident is told that there is no money to fix a light or sidewalk, blame Bruner and any commissioner that goes along with this farce.




On 2nd reading, the commission passed 5-0 an ordinance to bring some order to quasi-judicial proceedings. While I do not think it goes nearly far enough, it is better than what was there before. Of course, that assumes the board does behave as judge and jury. I am not so sure that will occur.


However, City Attorney Mortell did an excellent job of setting up ground rules for how the 2nd quasi-judicial hearing of the Costco proceeding will go. Both intervenors and the applicant have stipulated as to form and substance. That is a huge accomplishment.

        Mike Mortell

While it covers the bases, it still leaves politicians in charge of the proceeding. And we have seen how well that works. I hope that Mortell plans to keep order by wrangling his commissioners or some of his good work in this instance will go for naught.


You can read the agreed stipulation here




Stuart Latest News From The July 11, 2021 Edition


There is a city commission race to be held on August 17, 2021. All Stuart registered voters may vote. It is for a three-year term. The two candidates are incumbent Troy McDonald and his opponent Caryn Hall. I offered each an opportunity to contribute a piece on why they are running:




I have lived and voted in Martin County since 1992, being a resident of the city for 16 years.


I have been a nanny, a volunteer with children, and a home tutoring mother for the majority of my adult life here. I am running for Group IV hoping to empower the powerless and energize my fellow residents to get involved, regardless of income or status, age, religion, race, or creed.


Every voice matters!


I have a history of speaking truth to power and standing up to governmental abuse of power in the courts, faithfully defending my city, county, and country’s rule of law, for over a decade without compensation.

I have done and will continue to do what is right, no matter what the cost. I believe accountability from elected officials is of the utmost importance and I have developed friendly relationships with our present commissioners in both the city and county.


I will listen and can represent those who do not vote for me because in the end, being a commissioner is a servant position and is only about doing what is best for our community.


I believe my opponent’s history, during his time on the pro-development Krauskopf commission, resulted in the building regulations being manipulated and therefore we have the nightmare of overdevelopment and very little affordable housing among it.


In addition, my opponent agreed to sue the residents in 2014 for a fire assessment tax that allowed “we the people” no legal recourse. In 2017, Commissioner McDonald voted for a 55% pay raise (more than double the state average) at the final budget hearing after the budget was already set and published.


The majority of his campaign contributions has always been heavy with land-planners and real estate professionals. In fact, public records show that Commissioner McDonald was texting with Martin County Realtors during a city commission meeting in 2017. He also attempted to abandon the city residents for the greener pastures of the Martin County Commission.


I am not a better person than Troy McDonald, just a better person to represent ALL Stuart city residents.




The residents of Stuart have blessed me with the opportunity to serve on the city commission for nine years. Thank you. I’m deeply grateful for your trust and recognize my responsibility to carefully consider how my decisions impact your pocketbook, as well as our economy, environment, and quality of life.


Among the most significant issues facing Stuart are the discharges from Lake Okeechobee into the St. Lucie River. I’m proud to have joined my fellow city commissioners, Congressman Brian Mast, environmental advocates such as Jacqui Thurlow Lippisch of the South Florida Water Management Governing Board, and the leading Business Organizations throughout the Treasure Coast in demanding that the discharges drop to ZERO!


We will continue engaging the Army Corps of Engineers through updates to its Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual (LOSOM) to recognize the concerns of our community and drastically diminish discharges with the goal of discontinuing them entirely outside of extreme emergency flood control measures.


Stuart is a leader in public safety, and I’m committed to ensuring our police and firefighters remain properly funded and trained to uphold the excellent levels of service they provide.


Stuart Police excel at community policing practices, which forge neighborhood relations and enlist citizen support in reducing crime.


Stuart Fire Rescue’s rapid emergency response saves lives and money. The department maintains a vaulted ISO 1 Rating—the highest result possible—which enables every resident in the city to save money on insurance premiums.


As responsible stewards of our natural resources, I’m proud to have helped protect residents’ water by investing in alternative-water supply technology, ensuring ample clean, safe, good-tasting (we have the award to prove it) water well into the future. 


As someone who owned a small business for many years, I also remain committed to strengthening our local economy.


I’m thankful to have helped address these challenges and partner on key solutions. I humbly ask Stuart voters to please consider my track record of consistent prioritization of our community’s most pressing concerns and grant me the chance to continue representing you.


By the way City of Stuart on your website you are still touting the 2020 election with a link. Do you ever remove anything? You can do better than this.




This was the first of several workshops scheduled. The meeting was to provide commissioners with the preliminary numbers. Millage will remain at 5 mills which translates into an Ad Valorem tax being collected of a little over $11 million. Stuart will finally collect as much in Ad Valorem as it did in 2007 which was the year before the Great Recession. Unfortunately, the worth of a 2007 dollar is different from that of a 2022 dollar.


The city’s budget for this year is $29 million. It probably will be north of $30 million next year. As you can see, about 35% of the revenues are based on property taxes. While Stuart’s is only a small fraction of Martin County’s budget, it has most of the same budgeted items as they do.

The items to watch on the expense side would be union negotiations, the impact of the $15 minimum wage, and expansion of fire service. For some time now, the county and city have worked together to provide seamless fire/rescue services. Sometimes, the county will take calls in the city, and at other times, the city will do the same in the county.


The city does not have a station in northern Stuart. It is time that it does. This is one of the proposals in the new budget. Stuart Fire/Rescue needs to service the entire city just as the police do now. That doesn’t mean there should not be assistance across lines, but Stuart with three stations should be available to take care of calls within the city.


McDonald mentioned that he was adamant about the city preserving the department. Others also mentioned the same. Stuart’s department is over 100 years old. It has great people working there and a chief that has brought to Stuart and Sewall’s Point, where Stuart sells fire/rescue service, the highest ISO rating which brings down property insurance premiums.


I agreed with McDonald when I was on the commission, and I still do. I wouldn’t be in favor of starting a department today but believe the one Stuart has is first rate. I am glad that it appears the commission and manager concur.


The budget presentation can be found here




During commissioner comments, McDonald mentioned that during the past few meetings, the selection of commissioners during voting was no longer random. In the past there was no fixed order. Now, there appears to be, and the mayor is always last.


This has the effect of allowing the mayor and the vice-mayor, who is being called 4th to vote, the option of playing politics with their votes. With random voting, the mayor may be called on first or last. Random order makes commissioners vote without as much politics involved.




After the last Costco hearing, I defy anyone to say that meeting wasn’t a mess.


I wrote at the time that I did not blame Mayor Clarke. She is a politician in the position of a judge. It may be too much for any elected official to do. I urged new rules be adopted making the city attorney the presiding officer.

The proposed changes would allow the mayor to seek the city manager or attorney to make rulings. This is better than what is currently being done but still inadequate. It leaves too much discretion to the board to continue struggling while trying a serious matter.


Being an elected commissioner does not make a person an expert in policing, road construction, fire/rescue, or development. They are a policy board. The commission is not there to dive in the weeds. Yet statute confers the authority to act as a jury on complex legal proceedings.


When summoned to jury duty, most people are not experts in the matters to be adjudicated either. They look at the facts presented and come to a decision. The judge sitting on the bench is there to call balls and strikes.


He rules what is admissible and what is not. He determines whether what is being presented by one side or the other is relevant to the case at hand. There is someone well versed in the law and procedure to instruct the jury on how to weigh testimony and evidence in reaching a conclusion. The jury does not decide the pace of the trial or whether something should be objected to by one side or the other.


You can read the entire code change here




Stuart Latest News From The June 27, 2021 Edition




How much should the taxpayers of Stuart give to a special interest?


Make no mistake the latest agreement with the city to lease the farmer’s market to Stuart Main Street is one in a long line of subsidized deals. Now called the “Market on Main,” it takes up a good part of Flagler Park on Sundays and gives the organization a third city-supported stream of revenue.


I was a proponent of having Main Street take over the Flagler Center at a below market rate to create a funding source to sustain the organization. I was even part of the operation for the first several months. The intent was for the city to wean the organization from the $70,000 direct subsidy provided from city coffers over the course of three years. So far that hasn’t occurred and the way most of the commission and manager is acting nothing will change.


Now they have the market for an agreed price lower than the previous operator paid. The agreement calls for the city to receive $1500 per year plus 20% of the net income. Main Street believes that will be $2,236 per year. The Main Street expenses for the year will be $52,000.00 which includes part of the executive director’s salary. Before now the director’s entire salary came out of the Main Street budget. The city will make sure the restrooms are clean and will take care of the costs for trash removal.


Unfortunately, the commission doesn’t appear to want to follow through on weaning the organization from the taxpayers’ coffers. For this third funding source no mention is made on cutting back the subsidies from the Flagler Center or the direct payment from the city. Friendships and the old “you scratch my back and I scratch your back” will continue. What really is disappointing is that not one commissioner pulled this agenda item from the consent agenda to openly discuss this before approval. Proving once again that there is a reluctance to hold anyone accountable in Stuart.


You can find the agreement and financial information here here




For the 4th time in two years, the city commission had a workshop on housing. And for the 4th time in two years, it was a muddle of indecisiveness and contradiction.


Staff was looking for direction on what they could tell developers about this commission’s thoughts on density and housing. After speaking with staff, I know they have no idea what to say. Too much or too little density…where development should occur…or of what type is unknown.

Stuart Density Map

Kev Freeman, the development director summed up the problem by stating what people who live in and out of the city say…there is not enough housing, but they want less density. When you throw in the much-discussed concept of affordability, you can see staff’s dilemma. And the same commissioners holding diverse viewpoints is not helpful.


Freeman’s presentation stated that there were 2,978 units approved between 2017 and 2021. It encompasses 220 acres which is a density of 13.5 units per acre. By right on the same 220 acres, there could have been an additional 2,300 units built for a total of 5,278 units. Of those 2,978 units in the pipeline, only 1052 have been built or are in construction.


There are 23,000 jobs in the city. Nearly all of them (21,730) are held by people who live outside the city. 1,271 live and work in the city. 4,396 live in the city and work outside of the city. Most of those people from other areas who commute into the city pay no taxes and make the bulk of their purchases outside of the city. There is nowhere for these people to live. Even if 10% of those that now commute lived within the city, it would increase the city and business coffers considerably.


Commissioner Meier brought up the subject of inclusionary zoning. “Inclusionary zoning (IZ) requires developers to provide a proportion of units that are affordable to low-and moderate-income households. The number of affordable units required is typically a given percentage of the total number of units developed.” This is the definition given by Freeman.

Meier (City of Stuart)

“Local governments may have an inclusionary zoning mandate but in exchange, must provide incentives to fully offset all the developer’s costs for their affordable housing contribution.” That is also from the presentation. The question is how you pay for those accommodations and then enforce the agreements.


In a small community like ours, the only possible way to do so is by even greater density bonuses. Since no one wants to have 50 units to the acre, it is just not a practical solution. Then the city would need to have an employee to monitor the rents to make sure that the rents complied with the agreement. Expense upon expense.


It seems only Meier is willing to entertain an IZ ordinance. Matheson and other commissioners like the idea of below market apartments but want to negotiate with the developer separately for every deal. That may be good for their egos but does not lead to a cohesive policy nor ultimately very many below market rate apartments.


Matheson is right that density alone will not solve affordability. The commission settled on the idea that if staff could find a developer who specializes in building these types of apartments using low-income tax credits, that would be the way to go. The commission brought up that there are a couple of downsides to that type of development. There is no way to make sure that the people who move into those apartments will be current Stuart or even Martin County residents. The second concern is that such a project would automatically become the one housing the economically disadvantaged. What no one mentioned was that low-income projects pay less in property taxes while consuming more in services.

Matheson ( City Of Stuart)

Matheson kept talking about working for the residents. The people that come and express their opinion at these meetings tend to be more upscale and not even residents of the city. Meier succinctly stated the fact that the residents most impacted by the dearth of low-income housing are the ones who cannot come to these meeting. They are the ones that are likely having 5 people sharing a one-bedroom and earn the least amount of money.

It appears to me that the meeting gave staff no guidance. Nothing was changed. Nothing happened. Everyone spent a lot of time grandstanding.


You can see Freeman’s presentation here




Stuart Latest News From The June 13, 2021 Edition




This was the first time that the commission had the Costco PUD before them. This quasi-judicial hearing was the time for the applicant and the intervenor to make their cases. The applicant, his attorney, planner, and other consultants were there and presented their evidence from qualified experts.


In their presentation, the staff stated why the Commercial Plan Unit Development was the correct zoning and a Neighborhood Special District land use with master site plan approval was correct. Staff said that the project was looking for the commission to grant the following exemptions:


  • Parking requirement for the residential is 722 spaces. They have 700 spaces.
  • “Within a large commercial development which provides shopping carts for use by patrons, one parking space per 25 spaces shall be dedicated for the storage of shopping carts. This storage area shall include fence materials to keep the shopping carts in the space. Required spaces to be dedicated for storage of shopping carts is 24 and the applicant is providing 14 spaces for storage.”
  • Landscaping Code Section 6.04.07C.5 Interior landscaped islands shall be provided between every ten (10) parking spaces. Each interior island shall be not less than six feet in width. Each interior island shall contain not less than one shade tree and a combination of shrubs, ground cover, grass and mulch. The commercial parking areas for Costco building’s parking lot contains 14 rows with more than 10 spaces without a landscaped island.
  • “The applicant is proposing to mitigate existing wetlands per Section 5.03.03 of the Land Development Code as permitted by policy 5.A5.5 D of the City’s Comprehensive Plan.”

Of the four the last was the one that gave a few commissioners pause. It has to do with mitigation due to wetlands. This is key to whether this site can be developed.


Yet for a project of this size, it isn’t much to overcome. The entire area is a bit shy of 50 acres. In most places except Stuart, this would not be a stumbling block. In Port St. Lucie this would have been disposed of in minutes. Here the meeting went from 5:30 pm to after 2 am.


The applicant’s attorney, Bob Raynes, presented his case first. He introduced expert witness after witness to bolster his case. They each were specialists in their field. Are they hired guns? Yes, but that doesn’t take away from their expertise in their subject matter. Further, if a question was asked of one expert and it was not in his/her field, then the expert said they were not the right person to give testimony on that.


The intervenor, Linda Kay Richards, was pretty much on her own. She isn’t an attorney and was out of her depth. Even though the rules of evidence in such a proceeding are relaxed as compared to a court, there is a reason to have representation by an attorney. Her witnesses were not experts and none of them would have been qualified as such by a court. It was all extended public comment and should never have been allowed.


She had an attorney, Ginny Sherlock, make an opening statement but she then retreated leaving the heavy load to Richards. Her cross examination of witnesses proved irrelevant. The entire thing went on for hours for no reason.


Being an intervenor doesn’t mean that for the $400 paid to qualify, opinion is substituted for expert testimony. Presenters need to operate within a legal framework no matter how broad. In the recent past, the only intervenor that did act in that manner was a group of homeowners who hired Attorney David Earle to represent them. They still lost, but at least they made a cogent case.


The City of Stuart needs to stop embarrassing itself when it comes to quasi-judicial hearings. I am not criticizing the mayor. Clarke did as good a job as possible by a politician trying to be a judge. Commissioners are politicians and, in most matters when dealing with the public, allow leeway…sometimes too much. When they act as politicians instead of as judges, they are doing a disservice to both sides in a hearing process.


The city attorney should become the presiding officer (judge) during the quasi-judicial hearing. He can act as the impartial arbiter of what is testimony and what is not. He can then tell applicants, intervenors, and even commissioners when they are out of order. Arbitrariness needs to be removed from the proceedings.


The other thing that needs to be reformed is public comment. Nowhere in statute does it say comment must be allowed after a motion. It can be allowed at any time in the meeting. It doesn’t even have to be during the item, so it can be before or after a motion is made. And, if heard before the motion, it does not then need to be heard after the motion. How public comment is conducted is in Section 286.0114 of the Florida Statutes found here


Martin County has time limits for quasi-judicial hearing presenters. I do not believe that is a good policy. If it takes 4 hours to put on the case, the presenters should be allowed to have the time. However, that means the testimony should be from experts. People who are not experts should speak during public comment of the item when there are time limits.


After many hours, a motion was made by Bruner and seconded by McDonald to approve. Matheson offered the following conditions be added which, for accuracy, I obtained from the city development department:


  1. 5% Density Reduction.
  2. Fertilizer use
  3. Previous Parking
  4. Oaks/Shade trees
  5. Fountains in Lakes
  6. Fence in front of Lake 2 removed
  7. Irregular shape + Littoral planting to Lakes
  8. Roadway not named Costco Blvd
  9. Decorative Roundabout feature
  10. No credit for fill in respect of tree replacement/stormwater
  11. Full breakdown of Tree mitigation
  12. Stormwater function – monitoring/reporting


Bruner became annoyed at Matheson. McDonald became the buffer between the two. He did a good job in getting those needed requirements into the approval. It passed 5-0.


You can find the presentations of all here





By Linda Kay Richards

Land in Stuart is being developed at a record rate, not for those who live here, but for those who might, and it’s happening at our expense.


In 2008, Stuart was anointed “America’s Most Beautiful City” by the national America in Bloom competition. In 2016, Coastal Living Magazine gave Stuart the title of “America’s Happiest Seaside Town.” In 2020, Oprah Winfrey’s magazine listed Stuart as #6 on the list of “60 charming American towns you haven’t heard of but should visit ASAP.”


These honors were not made because we have a plethora of developments and a big box store next to a high school. These honors were bestowed because we, as a community, prioritize preservation over growth simply for growth’s sake.


At least we did.


The Kanner CPUD is leveling all proposed 50 acres of land and clear cutting it, destroying all 8 wetlands, and all native Pine Flatwoods, Upland Scrub, Pine and Hardwoods. There is no attempt to preserve any wetlands or native habitats. This land is a floodplain to the St. Lucie Estuary with the river less than 500 feet away.


Land that was once designated as low-density residential, 5 units per acre, is now requesting an exception to the Future Land Use that maximizes the density on this development. By using the special CPUD zoning, they are using semantics to put 378 apartment units on 14 of the acres, with the Costco, gas pumps, strip mall and fast food consuming the remainder.


The project that was submitted for consideration with the assistance of tax-paid Stuart Development staff is, frankly, a blatant manipulation of the zoning and land use codes. In fact, the idea is well-documented in the many emails between the city staff and the developers. The project is designed to maximize the impact to the land to maximize the profit to the developer.


As I said during my presentation as an intervenor against the Kanner CPUD, I am not one woman, representing one family or one business. I am but one voice of a community that is fighting to preserve our quality of life.


There is a place for a development like this. There is a place for another high-end luxury gated apartment complex. There is a place for a big box store. But this is not the place.


This parcel of land with its natural beauty, wetlands, vegetation, and ability to house endangered animals like gopher tortoises is why Stuart is wonderful and smart, prudent growth with a focus on preservation is important.  This parcel of land should be developed smarter, with more amenities to the community and less impact on the environment.


Yes, there is a place for this kind of development. This parcel isn’t it.


Linda Kay Richards opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Ms. Richards has been leading the fight against this project.



By Joe Marino


Over nearly four decades in real estate investment and construction, there are days when you feel like you’ve been in a boxing ring. I can say with sincerity—having done this in several states—that when it comes to advocating on behalf of their community, Stuart is home to some of the very best.


That goes for city commissioners, city staff, residents and even skeptics and critics of our plan.


At M&M Realty, we deeply respect the passion—and thoughtful, intelligent commentary—of the people in Stuart. Moreover, we appreciate the opportunity to create something they can feel good about, even if at first, they doubted us.


Since working to bring a Costco, upscale apartments, and commercial space to a 49-acre spot on Kanner Highway in Stuart, we’ve gathered an outpouring of input—most of which we’ve incorporated into what will surely benefit the finished product.


Some examples include:


  • Reducing the originally conceptualized 450 apartments to 398 and then—after commission input—down to 378.
  • Relocating the Costco to minimize disturbances to neighboring sites.
  • Reorientating apartment buildings on the northeast corner to prevent shade from impacting the Lychee Tree Farm grow operations.
  • Adding an access road—which is open to the public but we’ll maintain—connecting Kanner Highway and Willoughby Boulevard to reduce traffic.
  • Creating wider sidewalks for increased pedestrian comfort.
  • Enhancing nearby intersections with additional safety features.
  • Outfitting the Costco parking lot with more native shade trees to reduce heat sink.
  • Beautifying the roundabout with an artistic design that captures the public’s appreciation for nature and wildlife.


We’re constructing upscale apartments that will add an important housing option to the market, and hopefully encourage other builders of multifamily communities to provide enhanced amenities.


Certainly, people are excited about Costco. In addition to families and small business looking forward to savings on great products, many eagerly anticipate the job opportunities. With pay starting at $16 an hour and excellent benefits for full- and part-time employees, it’s little surprise that Costco has been chosen the nation’s best employer by Forbes and


My partner, Jack Morris, and I were blessed to call the late Jeff Brotman, cofounder of Costco, a personal friend and mentor. Despite its size, he ran the company like a family business. Jeff once said Costco wanted its people to “have a great life and a great standard of living…and be able to give back to their communities.”


Jeff prioritized people and left an inspiring legacy that we strive to uphold. When you honor people and value their input, what you plan—and create together—can withstand anything, including the test of time.


Joe Marino’s opinions are his own and may not reflect Friends & Neighbors viewpoint.

Mr. Marino of M&M Realty is the developer of the project.



Stuart Latest News From The May 23, 2021 Edition




After the hoopla of proclamations, recognitions, and pats on the back, the real purpose of government began.


Jessica Seymour of the Treasure Coast Planning Council gave a presentation about how to improve the U.S. 1 corridor from St. Lucie Crescent to south of Kanner Highway. It was almost identical to the one given the CRB earlier in the month. The picture painted is one ugly mess that was created without much thought to an overall plan.


As you look at what is there now, you see used car dealers, fast food franchises, vacant lots, and the worst of mid twentieth century retail and office use. The amount of empty store fronts would tell any rational person that we are way over capacity for that use. That goes nicely with the empty parking lots that front the roadway.

                  Publix From Report

Consider the Publix center between Kanner and Palm City Road. Most of the 6 acres are taken up by the parking lot. The stores are set back to almost the property line. From the roadway, you have no idea what stores are there. It just reeks of the bad planning that this report makes amply clear.


At the CRB meeting, one board member made the comment that you cannot dictate to the private sector what should go where. I mostly agree with that sentiment. Yet government, through zoning, can make clear how the city should look. Zoning and LDRs enable the city to push the look and concept of what should be built within a district. Sometimes that is bad (see above results in Martin County) and at other times it can enable redevelopment.


Using modeling, Seymour gave the commission and staff a vision of how the current Publix could be transformed to a mixed-use development with every building having a street forward view. Parking should not be the predominant feature of the property. The city can direct redevelopment to not have empty parking lots on what is the “front door” of Stuart through zoning.


If it were up to Matheson and Meier, changes would be made to reflect this viewpoint. I believe you could bring around McDonald and perhaps Bruner and Clarke. I suspect that this plan, like so many others, will wind up on the shelf. Even if changes were implemented, I do not doubt that the next time someone asks for an exception, the commission would grant it.


A review of the development on Colorado Avenue would show that not one project has been built or altered that conforms with the code in place for that street.


To see the presentation go here




What a surprise that Main Street was chosen as the top choice to operate the greenmarket. And that is after offering $500 less than the current operator.


In the not-too-distant past, Main Street was part of the city’s government administratively though they had an independent board. Their director was a city employee with city benefits. She was housed in a city office using city resources. Then several years ago, it was decided that Main Street should be truly independent, and the director would be a Main Street employee.

Main Street would receive a $70,000 subsidy from the city which was supposed to be reduced over three years to zero. In return, the organization would provide certain services. At the same time the Flagler Center became available for lease and the city offered it to them at a reduced rent. The revenue generated by the event and office space would go toward weaning Main Street off the subsidy. Of course, that hasn’t occurred.


Now they are in negotiation with the city for the greenmarket offering a cheaper price. The empire builds. What is in this for the city? More importantly, what is in it for the taxpayer?


There is nothing wrong with the city giving a break to a private nonprofit entity that is helping the city fulfill a mission such as “Rockin Riverwalk.” They should be compensated for acting as the promoter of a no charge event. At what point do the subsidies outweigh the practicality of the city just doing it themselves?


If having an event space, greenmarket, concerts, and other downtown events have been determined to be in the interest of the city, then why does not the city just do it. It is a dollar and cents matter, a taxpayers’ matter.


Middlemen are expensive and when you cut out the middlemen, you usually save money. Main Street is now a middleman that will continue to use every government provided revenue source to keep the party going. Staff and the commission appear to have no compunction in using taxpayer dollars to do so.

            Merritt Matheson

Matheson broached the subject about lessening the $70,000 direct payment subsidy. No other commissioner said a word to back him up except it wasn’t the right time. When will the right time happen?


I hope Matheson keeps fighting to save the taxpayers money. It seems other commissioners would rather just keep things going along and not upset anyone.




Stuart Latest News From The May 9, 2021 Edition




It was a rather quiet meeting. Perhaps because there was only one item of substance. It probably was a good thing because the Costco War will be on in May.


Mike Meier had several thoughts during commissioner comments. He spoke about alleyways and whether they should be abandoned or not. This is something that has been brought up periodically for years. It is time that alleyways be addressed.


There are city-owned alleys and rights of way throughout the city. Stuart has had these unused passageways since the city has been platted. If they haven’t been used in a hundred years or more, it is not likely that they will start being used now. They should go to the owners of the lots that abut these properties.


Other commissioners in the past believed that whenever an abandonment was requested, the homeowner should pay for that right. I think they should just be given since they were in a sense taken from the individual properties’ years ago for a public purpose that was never used. Stuart should end this fantasy, reduce liability, and give the land back to the rightful owners whose properties abut the alleys and rights of way.


When it was Manager Dyess’s turn to respond, he said staff has been working on it. Maybe we will see the fruits of this labor before another new commissioner brings up the subject in a few years.


Matheson brought up a successful job fair held at the safety complex. It was a combined effort of Stuart, the BDB, and Career Source. There were 167 people with 21 employers. I asked Matheson how many of those people landed jobs as a result.  He could not give me a number. If he finds out, he will provide it.


He also mentioned that during the presentation of development applications, he wanted the applicant to present first with the staff following. He wants to be sold the proposal by the applicant not the city staff. It is to start with the next meeting.


Dyess stated that the idea of a park at the end of Bryant was not doable because there is no turnaround for emergency vehicles which effectively kills an excellent idea for a not quite dead-end street.




On Palm City Road across from the back of the Publix where Halpatiokee begins, there are currently two vacant parcels. The home that was there was taken down around 2016. It has been vacant ever since just waiting for the right developer.

That is the entranceway to my neighborhood. Halpatiokee turns into St. Lucie Crescent. At one point not that long ago, there was a sign outside that torn down home saying baby pigs for sale. Across Halpatiokee there is a two-story apartment building that was in horrific shape 25 years ago when I first glimpsed the block, and it hasn’t gotten better. The generators and truck deliveries of Publix on the other side of Palm City Road only adds more charm to the parcels.


When I heard about new town houses going in, I was incredibly happy. I was sort of wondering what would go in there since someone buying the land and putting up single family homes was not in the cards.


But no development is without people saying no. In this neck of the woods, it is all about density. By right they can have ten units. The owner is asking for thirteen. Commissioner Matheson asked for on-street parking which has been included. There is plenty of trees and shading. They even left several of the old oaks.


There were people who complained at the LPA meeting and many were there at this meeting. But the only people who spoke were those in agreement except for a few that spoke earlier during public comment against all development.


Funny how they are against development in a city but say nothing when the county approves hundreds of homes such as the Pulte/Christ Fellowship development and additional ones at Banyon Bay. There will be sprawl and each home will have a car or four. Yet I heard no one saying anything at the BOCC meeting.


Bruner made a motion to approve seconded by Meier. It passed 5-0.


You can see staff’s presentation here




This was the special Costco meeting.


The chamber was packed (as much as any public space can be in Covid times). A couple of observations about the crowd. A third of the speakers against the project were related to each other plus one more family member who tried to speak using Zoom.

Interestingly, the family so much in opposition were the same people who owned the property at one time. The Lychee Tree Nursery family decided that they would cash in on some of the land they had. A while back they sold it. Now most of what they did sell is being developed.


They claim that when the land was within unincorporated Martin County, it was zoned differently than after it was voluntarily annexed into the City of Stuart. They thought it was going to be used for a subdivision. Of course, the family could have platted the lots and built that subdivision that they thought should go there, but they did not.


Other family speakers decried the traffic the Costco and apartments would bring. They said that Kanner Highway would be inundated. FDOT states that the 6-lane road is only now operating at 1/3rd its capacity. They mentioned the high school as if the cars would be in some maddening rush to get to the store and would mow the kids down.


Two days before the LPA meeting, the BOCC approved nearly the same number of units in two subdivisions being built or expanded on Kanner. These single-family homes will have no store, restaurant, or gas station within walking distance so car transportation will be necessary to get anywhere. Yet apparently that sprawl is ok.


I put in a public records request for the emails sent to the commissioners, manager, and attorney regarding Costco. Nearly 80% of them were in favor of the store. What is going on? It appears that one family that has had a few generations of living in agrarian isolation within an increasingly urban part of Martin County is now seeing what they consider an invasion.


It is an invasion of that isolation that this family has brought upon themselves by selling off property that has now fallen in the hands of a company eager to develop it within Stuart’s urban landscape. The people who are complaining about this project should be bemoaning the Christ Fellowship sprawl of more than 300 acres of Florida habitat (which is 6 times the acreage of this development) located 5 miles away on Kanner Highway. I guess sprawl is fine if you build single-family homes.


The density of the PUD will be 8.1 units per acre which includes Costco and retail space. The applicant’s hydrologist met with Lychee Farm’s hydrologist to assuage their fears that the irrigation pond on their property would not have enough water. They also moved building locations to make sure that the shading would not interfere with their growing.


Bob Raynes, the applicant’s attorney, answered the charge that the property was zoned differently. There was no zoning assigned with annexation and they always meant to come in with a PUD. The parcel did have a county zoning Future Land Use designation and it was low density residential of 5 units per acre.


The very reason it was voluntarily annexed into the city was to allow the parcel to be more valuable to its owner. It was with every expectation that something like this would occur. If you look at the site and where it is located on three major roads, there is no doubt that the project would be very urban in nature.


Some of the LPA board members comments were appropriate such as tree mitigation, parking, and storm water. Others such as building design, neighborhood feeling, and school capacity are not. Overall, they had a difficult job, and they did it well.


They made recommendations incorporating design, parking, tree mitigation, and connectivity in a motion to approve by Mathers and seconded by Strom. It passed 6-0 with Massing absent.


You can see the applicant’s presentation here


Stuart Latest News From The April 25, 2021 Edition




There was a presentation from the financial director on Stuart’s midyear budget and actual numbers.

According to the city, the budget is currently where it should be for both expenditures and receipts. Given everything with Covid, that is a remarkable accomplishment. You can see the presentation HERE


Commissioner McDonald has stated his intention to meet with the city manager and department heads to go through the departments next year’s requests. Commissioners should understand the budget and sitting down with the finance director and city manager is important.


However, if more than one commissioner wants to be a part of staff and go through budget lines, then there should be a budget workshop with staff presenting their preliminary budgets to the entire commission as the county does. Individual commissioners sitting in on meetings with the city manager and department heads is time consuming.


And do not think that staff isn’t putting on a kabuki dance for the commissioner during those private meetings. In the preliminary stages of budgeting, staff should be free to have candid conversations with the manager without politics involved. Once the early stages are completed, then having commissioners ask questions and voice their concerns is a good idea. This should happen at a meeting before the meeting when they must vote.




During comments, Commissioner McDonald brought up the subject of creating a park on a closed street on Bryant.


The street was closed around 2010 “temporarily” for six months. This is a residential neighborhood off Federal Highway and Palm City Road. (It is my neighborhood.) At one time, there was a used car dealer there, and his customers would test drive the cars at excessive speeds in a residential neighborhood. The commission placed the gate there to stop that from happening. A couple of years later, the dealership closed.


The gate, which is just a pole with a lock on it, was installed to allow emergency vehicles to have access. I would be surprised if anyone even knew where the key was. It is time that the closure become permanent.


They have just completed the Cube Smart project which backs up to the street. A little park with curbs and trees instead of the gate would be an enhancement. Add a bench, some planters to be cared for by the neighbors and perhaps a basketball hoop, and the kids would love it.


A motion was made by McDonald for an item to be placed on the agenda and seconded by Matheson. It passed 5-0.


Matheson made a comment about the state of the water. There is an algae bloom by the locks. See Commissioner Matheson’s article in the News & Views Section above.


The city’s leasehold to Mulligan’s on Flagler is being assigned. It seems George Hart, Mulligan’s founder, has decided to franchise this site to two partners from down south. The sweetheart lease with the city runs to 2038. Only government operates on these timelines, and they believe the nonsense that their tenants spew about how they need the time to amortize their expense.

Meier made a motion to see a CV from the new operators and for them to demonstrate their financial ability by Monday before the assignment can go in effect. It was seconded by Matheson. The lease has no personal guarantees. Hart or these new guys could default without liability. They bought a franchise and Mr. Hart he knows business, so he has thoroughly vetted the franchisees.


Nice gesture but it doesn’t really matter since the assignment cannot unreasonably be denied according to the lease. What would happen if the commission said no? There would be a lawsuit. The motion passed 5-0.



When first presented, I did not think the lofts were a very good project. And as I said when it was first reading, I do not know whether I would have voted for it or not. I am still not so sure whether it is a good project, but I would have voted for it on second reading.


The developer knocked off an entire building which brings the number of units to 172. They increased parking to 303 spaces which is still short by 13 spaces. However, it is more spaces than what similar projects that have been approved have had.


There also is more green space around, but it has included amenities such as a pickle ball court and splash pad. With that, there is now enough open space to meet that requirement. They still need a waiver for setbacks.


Here are the good parts of the plan. It is set on a commercial roadway. The road is only now at 13% of capacity during peak hours. During public comment, one member of the public kept saying that the roadway will be an “F”. Under the DOT Quality/Level of Service Handbook an “F” or an “A” are not letter grades. They are a way of explaining the impact that traffic is having. Here is a quote from the manual:


“Misconception 3: LOS (Level of Service) letter A-F grades are comparable to American school letter grades. Truth: Unlike school grades, LOS A is not necessarily a desirable goal and the meaning of A-F is not entirely consistent across modes.”   


For instance, you would not want to spend $50 million on a road that had less than 6 cars per hour during peak times. That would certainly make someone driving on it happy, but the public who was taxed for that roadway could have spent those dollars on a better use.


The project puts parallel parking on Central Parkway. This will slow traffic down which is a concern because presently there is not enough traffic to keep speeds within the limit. They are also putting in a left-hand turn lane which will alleviate the need to make “U” turns.


Though they really do not go anywhere, the streets within the development will not be gated, like Seagate and Villa Bella. There is no place for a gated community with walls within a city. They should not have been approved that way.   


17 apartments or 10% will be rented at 80% of the AMI in perpetuity. The city will monitor the reduced rents by the project sending a list of tenants plus the rents every year to the city. The city will have the authority to monitor the leases. That will be the mechanism the city uses to make sure the owner is adhering to the agreement. Let’s see if it is followed.


The intervenor made a pitch from the heart that the project was against the comp plan. While I was delighted that he had been a Stuart Fire/Rescue employee that had moved from crowded Broward, I know it could not influence the commission in whether to approve a project or not. For after all, it is what is permissible under the code that matters…not any individual’s feelings.

He also showed photos of vistas that now will have buildings of 45 feet plus another 6 or 7 feet for parapet walls. Those structures can be built there as of right. The applicant is applying under an expired PUD. The zoning does not revert to what it had been initially.


He cited the comp plan section: Policy 1.A5.2 : Development on all vacant, un-platted areas

designated as residential should be compatible with any surrounding existing homes. And: Policy 1.A5.3: Whenever possible, medium density residential and recreation/open space areas shoulder serve as buffers between higher and lower intensity residential uses to achieve orderly land use transition.


Compatible does not mean the “same.” There are apartment and town houses already surrounding this project. As to transitional, Meier stated that Seagate was the transitional project from low density to medium.


Planning documents and codes are created to be flexible to accommodate changing economics and societal needs. Beautiful photos and bucolic settings are nice, but Stuart and the county CRAs are urban. This is an infill project. If we are going to try to limit sprawl in Martin County, and 5-acre ranchettes or single-family homes on acre lots even within the urban services boundary are sprawl, then projects of this size must be developed.


Subjectively, I do not find this project appealing. However, the commissioners, the intervenor, or those that are against the project do not own the property. The owner has property rights, and if enough boxes are checked, the project should go forward.


On second reading, I would have voted in favor. Bruner made a motion to approve that was altered several times. McDonald seconded and it passed with the same 3-2 vote as last time with Clarke and Matheson dissenting.


You can see the staff, applicant, and intervenor’s presentation by going HERE






Stuart Latest News From The April 11, 2021 Edition

I am a member of the CRB. We are an advisory board for the city commission on projects within the CRA. At the last meeting, I was incredibly sad to have had to vote against a project that was being presented.


Presenting a project is telling a story. The more convincing the storyteller is, the easier the project moves forward. But the story cannot be fictional. The chapters need to be woven together in a factual narrative. Logic is important and the plot must stand up to scrutiny. It did not in this case.


The project is known as the Sportfish Marina UPUD. There is to be a 37-room hotel of one- and two-bedroom suites. It will have 49 boat slips. There will also be a pool and restaurant with parking under the three-story hotel. There will be a boardwalk along the river.

The number of parking spaces did not fit the narrative they were presenting. Under the code, they need one parking space for every room and two for employees which is a total of 39. They will have 55 spaces. According to their business model as told, their guests will be boating here and mooring at one of the wet slips. Looks great so far.


When going into the meeting, I was under the impression that they would reserve 37 slips for the hotel and the remaining 12 slips could be leased out to the public. What they were selling and what they actually want to do began diverging at this point.


When I asked that a condition be placed on approval that only 15 slips could be leased to the public, the developer’s representative said no. He said the submerged land lease reads they must reserve half the spaces for the public. When I asked to see the lease, he did not have a copy nor did the Development Department…a large disconnect in the narrative being told.


The city has subsequently learned that there is no submerged land lease. The applicant is now saying that he has applied for one. As of this writing he has not supplied the application to the city. How do we know that the state will grant one and how many slips it will be? The parking calculation can be off even more than what I believe.


The only reason this project needs to come before the commission is because their parking is under the building. Under the code, they have enough spaces. In reality, I dispute that because the story is not coming together.


This project is next to Harborage. For nearly 15 years, that was the project from hell that cost the city massive legal fees having to do with parking, slips and live aboard boaters. Though this project is considerably smaller, the same problems can occur again.


When the meeting began, I was ready to vote yes, but the developer’s presentation made me vote no. The only reason that I can see for the developer not to agree to limit outside slip rentals is that his intention is to keep his options open to turn this into something other than the story being told.  


Except for several months in the winter, it may be very hard to fill these rooms. At 37 units on less than an acre, it may work as a hotel but there is no way that it works for a rental or condo.


Every room has at least wall kitchens if not full kitchens. The city has no ordinance that limits hotel occupancy to a set number of days or weeks. Without ever coming back to the commission, this can be turned into permanent and semi-permanent hotel rental housing. If you add in the leasing of 49 slips to the public, 55 parking spaces are not enough.


This isn’t downtown where you can walk places. Cars are necessary whether it is a hotel with marina or apartments. Two bedrooms means at least two people will occupy the suite. The site will also have boat trailer parking. When questioned about the siting of that, the developer said that has not been worked out yet. This could easily become a chapter of the story to be looked at later that may further reduce the number of actual parking spaces to less than 55.


If the submerged land lease were produced and one of the conditions was that half the slips would have to be rented to the general public, I would have been satisfied and asked that the number of slips available to the general public to be that number.


How does the city even know there will be a lease? If someone is asking you for permission to do something with a key element predicated on that fact, wouldn’t you like to read it and make sure? The “not ready for prime-time players” are at work. The city deserves better.


I see the bait, and I know the switch is not far behind. I hope the commission sees the same thing and approves the project only after examining all the documents. I personally have little hope that the commission will do their due diligence and make sure they are not inviting a problem.


This could be an enviable project if it were just 37 apartments with each having a boat slip or even the original concept of a boating-centric hotel. Instead, it is too cute by half. The story has diverged from the opening chapter.


To see the presentation of the applicant, go here



Stuart Latest News From The March 28, 2021 Edition




The commissioners had plenty to bring up during their comments. Commissioners McDonald and Matheson were just chock full of ideas that, in my opinion, were both good and bad.

Before their comments, the Treasure Coast Planning Council had presented an update on two projects that they are working on. That must have gotten the commissioners blood flowing because they were shooting out ideas both fast and furious. There is nothing wrong with ideas if they are focused. The commissioners did have a few focused ones.


For some reason, both McDonald and Matheson are consumed with the “hot right” onto Palm City Road from Federal Highway. They want the MPO to study to eliminate it. That may be a good idea traffic-wise but there are other considerations. What should be studied is Federal Highway from the Roosevelt Bridge to beyond Kanner Highway as a corridor. That study would take in not only how Palm City Road is affected but also the streets that connect the two and the rest of the corridor.


The street where I live, St. Lucie Crescent, is connected to Federal Highway a little north of Palm City Road. Even now when the light changes at Federal and Palm City Road, a backup occurs if not enough cars turn onto that “hot right.” That prevents me from turning onto St. Lucie Crescent going south on Federal Highway. My point is everything is interconnected, and there can be unintended consequences.


A better course of action would be to study the traffic patterns on the entire stretch of Federal Highway from the bridge going south past Kanner including the interconnectivity between the different streets such as Palm City Road and the neighborhood streets. The point is not to create a traffic bottleneck. At the same time, you need to slow down traffic on Federal so that it is more appealing for the businesses, pedestrians, and bicyclists. Now you have a dangerous and physically ugly street for all that use it.


A motion was made by McDonald and seconded by Matheson to bring the “hot right” to the MPO along with the placement of the light poles on Federal Highway. It passed 5-0




The Stuart City Commission is for home rule. They just do not want Tallahassee finding out.

There was another motion by McDonald and seconded by Meier for a resolution in opposition to HB 55 and SB 284 in the Florida legislature. These bills would prevent local government from regulating certain home design features. It is an infringement on home rule for sure.


The bill is being sponsored by Stuart Representative Overdorf in the House. Where exactly this resolution was going was not really spelled out in the motion. I know it was intended to be a feel-good resolution that is innocuous and meant not to anger anyone. That is what happens when the resolution is meant to go nowhere.


Unfortunately, this is a public meeting and either Overdorf was watching, or he had a spy in the room. The anonymity factor went out the window. He was a little upset with the commissioners. Overdorf cannot claim to be for home rule when he is getting resolutions that are against his bills.

Let me tell you a little secret as someone who fought hard when in local government about the home rule concept. The legislature doesn’t really care about what your local commissioners think or want. For the most part, local politicians do not control votes, or campaign contributions, or have foot soldiers to help with door knocking and signs. In other words, they are not much help to legislators in obtaining or keeping their offices.


Legislators get their money from the state party and special interests. They are assured election because districts are drawn to protect one party or the other. The election laws make sure of that.


And here is another secret, local government needs their legislators for appropriations. If they will not sponsor bills to bring home the bacon, then how is Stuart going to pay for its water plant or Sewall’s Point its sewers? If they want a check, then they better be nice and not get in the way of more important concerns than home rule.


To read more about home rule go here






And lastly both Matheson and McDonald decided that a few complaints about the new Cube Smart on Federal and Palm City Road needed to be addressed.


There are some who will dislike anything that is different than before including a low intensity project like a storage site. A Race Trac 24-hour gas station and convenience store had been proposed for the site. That would have caused more disruption to the single-family neighborhood surrounding the parcel than any self-storage facility.

Led by McDonald and Matheson, the commission wants the developer to change the look of the structure which is a structure that was approved by the commission after negotiation. The commission wanted it to appear to be an office building so the design features mirror that. An art feature was also proposed that was accepted.


Now, because they heard a few complaints, they want to change the deal. They realize that any changes would have to voluntarily be made by the business at this point. One of those proposed changes would be to paint a mural using the mural program of the CRA. That is despite the fact they made the company add and paint reliefs on the building to make it look like an office building.


While the latter idea was Matheson’s, McDonald (not to be outdone) proposed having light shows on the building even though there are single family residences on three sides. That of course does not address what happens during the day and at night once the lights are shut off. For both ideas, there was some vague talk of the city not charging the requisite fees for any plan amendments and contributing more than they would to other art projects.


This all needs to be forgotten. When does election season begin and end? This sounds like a few commissioners are running and they believe that doing something about anything is a good idea. It isn’t.


The best politicians can do is have a governing philosophy and stick to it. Then all they need to do is make decisions based on their philosophy. Voters will support a candidate they do not always agree with if the candidate is sincere and consistent. The candidate just needs to be confident in his/her own positions.




The Business Development Board gave a presentation on its programs. It is going to pick up a guaranteed $10,000 from the city no matter what with the possibility of another $15,000 in projects. This is the price of admission to that rarefied club. The county gives hundreds of thousands more and Indiantown is right there with Stuart.


There were many shiny distractions in its presentation. Jobs, metrics, and other things purporting to have results but nowhere during the presentation did they say that they were the ones that brought any specific company to Martin County or Stuart. The only thing they could absolutely claim was 18 videos that they made.


That reminds me of the old adage, “Success has many fathers, but failure is an orphan.” In Martin County there is no failure if you are fortunate enough to be part of the taxpayer supported dole. The contract can be found here


McDonald made the motion to accept the contract for $25,000 and it was seconded by Matheson. It passed 4-0 with Bruner momentarily off the dais.




McDonald made a motion to terminate the current Greenmarket licensee in 60 days as per the contract. It was seconded by Meier. The current operator has yet to show any insurance or completed financials as stipulated in the contract. They pay $2000 per year to the city and charge $35 to $50 per week to each of the vendors.

Armond Pasquale, with whom I seldom agree, spoke and is right on this point. It is currently a flea market and not a green market. So, it was rather amusing that the commissioners were so concerned with the welfare of the vendors instead of that of the patrons. The quality of the merchandise offered has been anything but enticing and the green part is extremely limited and unimaginative.


This was a long time coming for a variety of reasons. Now comes the political intrigue to see who gets to pay practically nothing and collect thousands. My money is on Stuart Main Street…the organization that keeps on getting. Bruner was ready to give it to them immediately.


There will be an RFP going out to see who will be the lucky one. What will happen is different than what should happen. It is time for the city to take control.


There is a couple of hundred thousand dollars on the line. The city is now giving it away and it doesn’t matter much if it is to another greenmarket organizer or Main Street. That is money that should go to the taxpayer to fund programs.


Now the city not only funds Main Street to the tune of $70,000 per year, they also have a reduced lease at the Flagler Center. If the City of Stuart gives them the trifecta of the market, the city is missing a golden chance.


Stuart is now big enough to run the downtown festivals to make the profit instead of outsourcing to Main Street. With all those subsidies gone, the city could hire two people. One would be the greenmarket manager and the other would be an events coordinator. They could do the work now outsourced to Main Street and the green market. It would be much more taxpayer oriented and patron friendly.




Stuart Latest News From The March 14, 2021 Edition




There were two development proposals on the agenda this week.


The first was “Four Winds at St. Lucie.” You would think with a moniker like that it would be some large and elegant development. It was simply a zoning change for five 50-foot lots on the corner of St Lucie Blvd and Four Winds Drive. Currently, it is occupied by two 65-year-old dilapidated homes.

The applicant wanted to change the zoning to R2 from R1 which would allow him to have duplexes. Most of the surrounding area are zoned R3. It seemed to be a no brainer. Except neighbors being neighbors, they were, of course, against it. One even took the position of an intervenor.


An intervenor pays a fee and then becomes a party to the quasi-judicial proceeding. The applicant gave a superb outline and really delved into why the change he asked for was reasonable. In fact, it was oversell. The intervenor put on his case and it was what you would expect from a non-attorney. I didn’t see any of the commissioners being swayed by his arguments.


The applicant then has a chance to rebut the intervenor’s case. As I said, there was not much of a case to begin with. If I were the applicant, I would have said no rebuttal. Instead, he began to impugn the intervenor’s reasons. It seemed petty and made the intervenor sympathetic, but not enough to make the commissioners deny the rezoning. It passed 5-0.


Meier said afterwards that there was too much bad information going around. This was not a site plan hearing. There are more than enough safeguards in the LDRs to protect the integrity of the process. He said it was all in the code that could be read. “I am heartbroken” he said.


The mayor tried valiantly to keep it moving. Clarke does tend to sometimes be too solicitous. She repeats herself and that does add to the length of the meeting. Monday’s meeting was 6 hours long.


There are not enough rules in place to make hearings be coherent and cogent instead of rambling and unfocused. The city should write time limits into presentations. This item took way too long. The intervenor part of the hearing should be run by the city attorney. He can keep the two sides on point and not allow unrelated testimony to become part of the record. Remember the commissioners are not only the deciders, but they are also a party to the hearing.


Public comment time limits at BOCC meetings are enforced by the county administrator. She is good at cutting people off after three minutes. Politicians are not so good at it. At the city, the manager should assume that role. Boards are there to listen to everyone, but some commonsense rules need to be written and then enforced.


You can find the presentations here




Have you ever noticed that sometimes things do not fit? This may be one of those projects.


It is proposed to be a 196-unit project on both sides of Central Parkway. The developer was offering 20 apartments at rents of 80% of the AMI for 10 years. There will be a bike sharing program and a pool and clubhouse. The buildings are mostly 4 story with two that will be three story.

I usually like density in the City. Here, there may be too much for the allotted space. They are asking for 29 units per acre. It cannot meet parking requirements so they will create parking along the street. The setbacks are less than the code. And they have agreed to make provisions for safely crossing the road since the pool and clubhouse are only on one side.


While many of the speakers and the commissioners were concerned with the crossing, I did not think that was much of a problem. None of this would have mattered if the developer had come in as two different projects with one having a pool and clubhouse. After it was built, they could have had an agreement to allow for use by everyone. It never would have been part of the development order.  


Even the setback requirements do not bother me. At some point, the proposed Willoughby Extension will be built. When that happens, the roadway will impact the buildings. If the developer feels setbacks are not a problem, I wouldn’t use that to deny the application.


The project is too intense for the allocated space. I usually don’t care about parking, though in this case I do. The dog park next door already has the overflow parking from Villa Bella Condominiums at night. I think this may add to it.


Meier made a motion to accept on first reading with having the subsidized apartments be in perpetuity and for 8-foot sidewalks. It was seconded by Bruner. It passed 3-2 with Clarke and Matheson voting no. It looked to me that McDonald could easily vote no on final reading. If I were the developer, I would either knock off a building or make it all three floors to allow for less density.


As I mentioned above, providing a lower rent in perpetuity means what? Who is going to monitor that it will happen? Is the city or the county going to create a position to enforce these provisions? No, it will be up to someone to remember what is in the development order. There is a lousy track record of that.


This is a national problem. You are not going to solve affordability this way. It may make a commissioner feel good, but it is PR and not good planning.  




Stuart Latest News From The March 14, 2021 Edition




Because of Covid, the government has brought some innovative programs to the cities. The city’s consultant presented a possible Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) to alleviate economic problems caused by the disease. The grant which does not require any match needs to benefit low to moderate economic communities of under 50,000 people. A minimum of 70% of the grant must be to the benefit of those people who are low to moderate in income.

While it could go for individual assistance, the staff’s plan is to buy Gary Plaza on MLK and turn it into a jobs training facility and business incubator. The city itself would not run programs but partner with qualified entities to do so. One partner that comes to my mind would be Indian River State College. There are others, and it does not have to be just one though it should be organizations that have a track record.


This would be a big undertaking for little Stuart. The city would be doing it right by being a facilitator but not the operator. Sometimes commissioners want to reinvent the wheel and in trying to do so accomplish nothing. Commissioners are politicians and they have a deep desire to never say no.


I hope the commission does not intrude on who should provide the instruction and the mentoring. It needs to be someone that the city manager and his staff can work with. The commission is policy, and the staff is operations. The policy is the decision to seek the grant for this purpose. The operating of city services is up to staff to do.


You can see the presentation here




For as long as I have been involved with Stuart, the Sunday green market has been a problem.


The city receives $2000 a year. The market charges each vendor a minimum of $25.00 per day. There are 40 to 50 vendors per week. So, on a bad week, they pull in $1000.00.

Sure, they have expenses, mostly what is paid to the manager, but what about the rest of the money? According to the license agreement, the city is supposed to see the books. The city was told for years that it was a non-profit. It was not true. With city prodding a couple of years ago, they tried to form a 501(c)3 but were denied because they were not a charity. They ended up being a 501(c)4, which is a social organization.


I can’t quite understand why the city continues with this stuff. If the commission feels they want a green market, then why don’t they just put it out to an RFP or RFQ. Let the person or organization that will pay the city the correct price will win the contract. We know that $2000 a year is not the right price.


A green market should also serve a civic purpose. That can be spelled out in the bid. Last week, according to the current market manager, only one vendor was selling produce out of 45. That needs to change.


Commissioner Bruner envisions a market with many more vendors. I am not so sure that Stuart can accommodate either all the space necessary or that there is business for more than 50 vendors. We just don’t have the population. So, let us have the market decide the location (either current or in the park itself) and which vendor to use.


The commission is comfortable with staff bringing back an RFP.


This reminds me of the county and its insistence that the annual fair can only be run by the self-named Martin County Fair Association. That is just as nonsensical as keeping the so-called Stuart Green Market. There is nothing magic in a name or organization. Both events should go to the organization best able to perform.


You can find a short presentation here




Stuart Latest News From The February 14, 2021 Edition




Commissioners McDonald and Matheson are Stuart’s representatives to the MPO. During commissioner comments, they spoke about two proposed projects that may be done. The first was providing another left-hand turning lane on Kanner Highway onto Federal. That would have resulted in only one remaining lane for going straight or turning right. The project is on hold for now. At some point, there will have to be more right of way provided to accomplish that.

The second project was the doing away of the hot right from Federal Highway onto Palm City Road. While in the past I have not been in favor of that, it may be time to give it another look. Within the entire area, traffic is becoming more and more a problem.


Currently, there is a study being conducted of the Federal Highway corridor by the Treasure Coast Planning Council. Palm City Road, local side streets, Kanner between Monterey and Federal, and Monterey from Kanner to the bridge should be studied. There needs to be a more seamless way of getting from Point A to Point B. The study should also look at a complete street concept including a road diet for Federal Highway.




The second reading of the 18-21 Vaping Ordinance should have been a simple thing.


Instead, it was turned into a problem because it did not mirror the county by having licensing requirements. The city is not the county. While the county will be citing the violators which, eventually, could impair their ability to continue in business. In the city’s case, the fine will be assessed on the owner of the property. Which is better? Both have plusses and minuses.

First let’s remember the age to purchase cigarettes is already 21 throughout Florida and is a Federal law. Nothing there is changing. Last year, the Florida Legislature introduced a bill that would not raise the legal age for purchasing of vaping products from 18 to 21 but did ban flavored ones. This resulted in the governor’s veto. The age to buy these products then remained at 18 even though federal law, which supersedes state law, is 21.


Both Martin County and Stuart decided to step into the breach and raise the age to 21 for vapes. Both ordinances will do that. So why all the fuss? A county commissioner, a lobbyist, and a member of the county attorney’s staff decided to speak by Zoom to the commission to recommend that their ordinance include a license.


The city commissioners began interacting with all three of the speakers. I guess if you are a friend then it is no longer public comment where the commission listens for 3 minutes and take what they hear under advisement. What really irked me was the commission having the county attorney critiquing its own ordinance which had been crafted by their own attorney. The county commission would have never stood for it if the roles were reversed.


McDonald introduced fines of $250 for the first offense, $500 for the second, and $1000 for the third and subsequent ones plus, in all cases, a mandatory $300 magistrate’s appearance fee as part of the ordinance. It would be enforced by Code Enforcement. The motion was seconded by Matheson and passed 5-0.


There was a discussion item regarding single use plastics on city property including parks. After two years of “education,” it is now time to enforce penalties and fines.

I do not know whether the Boat Show violated the ordinance, but the Martin Luther King celebration certainly did. The ordinance calls for progressive fines. The city can keep the security deposit and refuse to give the organization another permit. The fines are levied against the permit holder.


The city is preempted from banning single use plastic in general throughout the city except for plastic straws. At around the same time of the single use plastic ordinance, the city banned the use of straws. Now the time for education is over and there are penalties attached.


In both instances, Stuart stands alone. The county has refused to do the same. If tomorrow, the state (better yet the federal government) was to ban the use of all single use plastic, I would applaud the effort. Several states have already passed bans. With only seven square miles of land, Stuart is trying to be an ecological utopia.


The city and county will spend taxpayer resources to enforce ordinances that most of us find silly. Local government is often preempted because they stray from their governmental lanes. They should stick to things that are truly local in nature such as development and public works.


I predict the state will pass its own vaping law preempting localities as they did with tobacco. I predict that they will preempt locals from banning plastic straws. And at some point, the chamber will fill with businesspeople and residents incensed at the park ban of plastics. That will result in a repeal of that ordinance.   




Utilities & Engineering Director Tim Voelker gave an excellent presentation on the new water system going in over the next few years.


It is very technical, and his presentation can be found here


The nearly $20 million price tag for the pipelines, wells and reverse osmosis system is necessary for the utility. The cost is high and rate payers already feel the burden. My bills for the utility now rival my FPL bills in the winter months when the air conditioning is off. Is there anything that can be done?


I doubt it because the Stuart utility doesn’t have enough rate payers to equally share in these large very necessary capital expenses. Another result of Stuart’s decision to not grow. Being a full-service city is expensive, and there needs to be a large population to support all the services.


Though the city provides water and sewer to a district that is larger than the current city boundaries, the utility is prevented from growing further because Martin County’s utility is everywhere else. At some point within the next decade or so, the city may find that their residents cannot afford the charges. Then what happens? A merge with Martin County utilities will not be out of the question.


There is a cost to the no-growth, little-town philosophy. To have local government costs money…more and more every year. You can spread the cost out over many users, or you must charge more to each user, or you can cut services. The same people that are now complaining about growth will complain when the cost of government increases to them or services cut.



For some time now, America has been dealing with the issue of how a police officer should act when enforcing the law and even which laws to enforce. There has even been questions about whether officers should respond at all to calls when a mentally ill person is involved or domestic disputes. More progressive thought would say social workers and mental health professionals should be involved.


It appears that commissioners in Stuart want its cops to respond to all types of calls even those that have nothing to do with policing.


At this meeting, several commissioners announced officers’ involvement on projects that at best have a very tangential relationship to law enforcement and in one case nothing at all.


We have all heard about having an “undercover cop” to identify the irresponsible fishing folks who leave trash on the Old Roosevelt Bridge. That is one commissioner’s idea. If those that use the bridge as their fishing hole can’t take away their garbage and fish guts, then let an officer go undercover to whip out his ticket book. The city has already placed garbage cans and sends employees to clean up after the offenders.


Why can’t you just prevent fishing if those doing so leave a mess? There is no constitutional right to fish off the bridge. It blocks the sidewalk so that walkers and joggers end up in the road creating a hazard. There is a pier below to allow water access. And cops are expensive. If my kids made a mess, they were obligated to clean it up…not me. Tax dollars can be used for other things. 


Then there is the job fair being held. Originally it was strictly for those seeking information about becoming members of Stuart PD. Commissioner Matheson has now muscled in and made it a job fair for all. The Business Development Board will now assist as part of its $25,000 contract with the city (or as I like to say their welfare check). It will be held at the public safety building on M.L.K. What was once a police initiative has grown a bit.


And, then the attendees learned about Commissioner McDonald’s discussion with two patrol officers about the homeless. When he mentioned he was working with the two officers to come up with a program at the meeting, you could see that the chief (who was present) had not the slightest idea what was going on. Nothing that was discussed at the commission meeting had been vetted by the city manager, police chief, police captains, or even a sergeant.


During public comment, Helen McBride, a citizen activist, spoke about speeding on East Ocean and how the city needs more police and maybe should hire more to do traffic enforcement. Indeed, they will need to hire more if we expand their job descriptions to include programs for the homeless, job counseling, and undercover litter patrol.


Commissioner Meier might just be getting it. He quietly just said Stuart cannot be responsible for some things. In the normal course of his patrol, a cop can give a summons for littering. It isn’t the city’s obligation to provide a place for individuals to fish if they can’t “police” themselves. A cop is not a jobs counselor. So far, there are a few civilian employers signed up for the job fair such as Chipotle and Lowes both of which hire people by online applications.


Even if the BDB brings a dozen more such companies to the fair, all chains use the same process of internet applications to hire people. This is just a flimsy justification to give them that $25,000 dollars of Stuart tax dollars. Career Source has been tapped to assist.


Career Source is specifically funded to help employers and employees find each other and has training programs. It is on Central Parkway. They are open five days per week.  Their number is 772-214-3174 and their information-extensive website can be found here


The homeless is a much more challenging issue. It is not one that can be solved by the City of Stuart. The police must often deal with that population because they are on private property or in our parks. This is a national and state problem. The county does not want nor do they have the funds necessary to have any shelter program. The 7 square miles that encompasses Stuart does not have the resources either.


There needs to be some balance here. The city manager needs to do his job and place some order and procedures in affect. It can’t be every commissioner with an idea trying to execute it. In some municipalities, commissioners can only speak with the manager. Stuart has a more reasonable and relaxed policy.


Commissioners should be able to obtain information from department heads. They should be able to speak to the employees just like any other citizen to see what is going on in the trenches. It is impossible for commissioners to become program coordinators. Like Meier said, Stuart can’t do everything.




The city has begun enforcing the straw ordinance. It seems that the more well-known businesses are complying and not using plastic straws. We have saved the planet. What will come first…the state preempting the city’s ability to have such an ordinance or the state having a statewide ban?


To see who received citations go here


Almost two and half hours into the meeting, the commission finally did something that is in their wheelhouse. They approved a small infill project of 1.36 acres on Kanner Highway abutting property owned by ARC.

The rental property will be 2 stories and consist of 28 apartments. It is a good project for a piece of property where it would be hard to do anything else. The complete presentations with renderings can be found here


For more information on becoming a sponsor, please contact Chriss David at or 561-358-1119. She will explain how you or your business will be featured in the newsletter and on our websites.




Stuart Latest News From The January 24, 2021 Edition




The meeting began at the new time of 4 pm for the first meeting of the month. It went rather smoothly.


I want to thank Mayor Clarke about her kind words regarding the newsletter during her comments. During his comments, Commissioner Matheson mentioned that the board should not rush through agenda items. Commissioner Bruner apologized for doing just that at the last meeting. Both Matheson and Bruner made their points in a graceful way.

Agenda items need not be rushed. Development projects and other approvals coming before the commission need to be thoughtfully weighed. At the same time, there doesn’t need to be belabored points and windy self-serving speeches made from the dais. There is a happy medium.


There were only two matters of any importance. The first was the annexation of 4 city-owned parcels within the county. They are currently adjacent to Haney Creek park and have been zoned with low density uses. The property was bought using grant funds meant for conservation.


Once annexed, the city will designate them to be as conservation and therefore will never be developed. It just makes sense that since the city owns the parcels, it also has legal jurisdiction. Now if there is a law enforcement matter, since the parcels are in the county, the sheriff must be called to handle it instead of Stuart Police Dept which does not have jurisdiction in the county.


The vote was 5-0


Staff’s presentation can be found here


The other matter was the adoption of a tobacco sales ordinance that mirrors the county’s ordinance. It makes sense that both jurisdictions have the same restrictions.

The ordinance can be found here



For more information on becoming a sponsor, please contact Chriss David at or 561-358-1119. She will explain how you or your business will be featured in the newsletter and on our websites.




Stuart Latest News From The January 10, 2021 Edition

In keeping with Friends & Neighbors policy, I asked newly elected Mayor Eula Clarke to tell us about her upcoming year as mayor.

Happy New Year!  It is truly an honor to serve again as Mayor of Stuart. I am honored and humbled and look forward to serving you in 2021.


First, I promise to work with our community members to ensure that our City remains vibrant as we continue to face the challenges to our businesses, churches, schools and homes and especially our non-profit organizations due to the impact of COVID 19.  As a City we will strive to maintain high quality customer service and continue with our community partnerships and collaboration to provide essential services and keep our City functioning.


In 2021, the Referendum which passed in 2019 to go from “two year term” to “four year term” will take effect and going forward Commissioners will serve 4 year terms limited to up to 3 consecutive terms.  This will start in a staggered fashion in the August 2021 Elections.


Our City of Stuart has been a Florida Municipality for 106 years now… and we have much to look forward to.  My goals which I hope our Commission and the entire community will embrace are as follows:


  1. BALANCED DEVELOPMENT: Approve and work on achieving balance development while maintaining and increasing our public green space.


  1. UNITY IN THE COMMUNITY-Working together with nonprofits, individuals, churches, businesses and law enforcement towards a harmonious community.


  1. CLEAN RIVER/CLIMATE CHANGE – Support groups and organizations who are working to help clean up the St. Lucie River and Okeechobee waterway by our stewardship as a City and focused and agile collaboration.


  1. CLEAN STREETS – Having a clean environment is vital to attracting new development and is a sign of positive revitalization. I plan to work with residents in our community to focus on East Stuart and surrounding neighborhoods to clean up trash, plant trees and upgrade homes and yards to increase habitability and community harmony.


  1. CREATING AN ARTS AND CULTURAL DISTRICT FOR EAST STUART -Gathering and using historical information to enhance revitalization in this area by using various street scape designs and creating a Historic Walking Tour/Markers to highlight the iconic history of East Stuart members since its inception in Martin County in 1913.


  1. PRIORITIZING AND IMPLEMENTING OUR STRATEGIC AND SUSTAINABILITY PLAN. We can have Prosperity through Sustainability. We will always strive to be fiscally responsible and transparent.










I am here to listen and learn from you and more importantly to work with you.  Please let me know your concerns.  In addition to working to implement a sustainable development plan, our Community Redevelopment agency has a motto “Preserving our Past while Embracing our Future” and this is truly a code to live by in 2021. Remember, We are a Better, More vibrant Stuart when we collaborate to make Stuart an Awesome Place to Live Work and Play!




Commissioner Eula Clarke was elected unanimously by her peers to be Mayor for the year. Commissioner Matheson was elected Vice-Mayor. I want to congratulate Clarke on her mayoralty. It may prove to be a tough year financially for the city. And I hope she and the other commissioners do not go on quixotic journeys when Stuart will probably need a way to do more with less.

It was a testament to Matheson’s abilities to be able to have Col. Andrew Kelly of the Army Corps come and brief the commission. To me, the best thing that Kelly said was that the Corps was 100% committed to completing the reservoir south of the lake. Given the noise that the new Florida Senate President, Wilton Simpson, was making about cutting the project, Kelly’s words were comforting.


Kelly stated that the release of water would continue through January 9th. The need is to have the Lake down to below 11 feet before the wet season next summer. Though this year’s dry season is off to a wet start.


Matheson asked good hypothetical questions of Kelly that he wasn’t expected to answer such as what does flood control mean? Is it preventing water from entering homes and businesses? Can a watershed be flooded? What does zero releases mean?


To Matheson, any water that is running into the river from canals and the lake is unnatural. Originally, the St. Lucie River was not connected to Lake Okeechobee. It isn’t even a real river because it has no headwaters. In the 1890s, the settlers dug an inlet to the ocean. In the early 1900s, they dug a canal connecting it to the Lake. We have been screwing up the “river” for over 130 years.


To borrow an old, hackneyed phrase, “we have met the enemy and he is us!”




The first part of the meeting that began at 4 pm didn’t get down to enacting resolutions and ordinances for the first three hours. Some of that time was the Army Corps’ presentation. Yet the meeting still was full of an arts moment, employee recognitions, employee of the month, 2021 calendar photo winners, and a completely useless Covid update from the Department of Health.


By the time that Item 17 rolled around, which was the first time they were approving anything that mattered, some commissioners were apparently too tired to allow for discussion. Commissioner Bruner moved Tom Lucido’s project before the title was even announced. I think Bruner was ready to vote right then and there. This went on for the rest of the meeting.


Clarke tried valiantly to stick with meeting protocol, but it was her first meeting as mayor. Michael Mortell, the city attorney, had to chime in that staff and the applicant were speaking without being sworn in. They were supposed to be giving testimony not shooting the bull. By the end of the evening, Manager Dyess had to say that by not even giving a chance to Mortell to read the title of the resolution or ordinance, the commission could be opening themselves up to problems.

Perhaps, it is time for Stuart to emulate the county and start at least one meeting a month even earlier. The commission and manager still need to do some fine tuning on meeting protocol. Since most times, our commissioners are verbose, the manager will need to limit the items on the agenda so that things like Savannah Place are given the discussion they deserve.


Employees are important. But when the commission devotes the same amount of time to an employee of the month recognition or an acoustical guitarist as they do a multimillion-dollar development project, it shows the system is broken.




Tom Lucido, a local planner, has owned a strip of land on Georgia and Osceola for many years. He has decided to build up to 5 cottages. He will be starting with one. It is a great idea but is it the right location?


Stuart has bought the Wells Fargo property which includes the Cancer Center and the small office building adjacent. The bank building will be the new city hall, but while the Cancer Center has a long-term lease, the nearly empty adjacent strip center is ripe for development. The parking lot that is in the rear and to the side of the bank will not stay as a lot. Mr. Lucido’s cottages will be overwhelmed by larger structures.


It may make some sort of sense for him to sell his piece to the city. If those cottages are built, I have a feeling that they will be offices before too long. It is a great idea and in other less dense areas, it would be a great addition. I believe the time has passed for new cottages at that spot.


To see the excellent design power point, go here




Savannah Place was supposed to be built with 10 units of housing priced at 80% of the AMI. That was the deal that was made when the commission approved the project. If my memory serves me right, it was the developers own idea.


Somewhere along the line that developer sold the PUD to another developer. This new company wanted to get out of that obligation. So, staff and the developer came up with a magical, mystical, miraculous formula that would allow him to pay more than $252,000 to the city. It would be paid to a “housing fund” that doesn’t exist and has no rules to be used for something having to do with housing once the fund and the rules are established.


No one ever claimed that commissioners were practical. And this certainly proves it. The magical, mystical, miraculous formula was concocted by the development department and apparently the city’s finance department had nothing whatsoever to do with this. Clarke asked why wasn’t the finance director involved? That was a very cogent observation.


Meier thought it was too much at once and while it was billed as a slight modification it really isn’t. As a small city with limited staff, he thinks Stuart is not capable of administering such a fund. He equated it to a new impact fee.


Matheson did not understand where the math came from. As a Certified Property Manager, Real Estate Broker, and CCIM for 50 years, I know that the outcome derived using formulas is only as good as the assumptions used. He also wanted to know whether this would make the PUD process seem as pay to play.


Then an affordable, attainable, workforce housing group that has yet to do anything more than plan, wanted to get their hands on the money. And that ultimately is the problem with all this type of “do goodism.” The City of Stuart is far too tiny to make much of a difference in the quality of the river or solving a housing shortage for those that need help.


The commission could have done one of two things. First it could have required the developer to abide by the deal that had been made. He bought the PUD knowing the terms. When built, it would have resulted in 10 apartments being available below market.


Or the commission could have said that it needed time to explore this possibility. It could have postponed deciding until it had discussed whether this was a good deal or not. What is the rush?


It appears to me in this instance that the city staff is not serving the commissioners very well. This should have never come to them in this form with none of the details worked out and without the imprimatur of the director of finance. The city manager owes it to his commission to bring items that have been vetted thoroughly.


A motion was made by Bruner and seconded by McDonald to take the money and release the developer from that obligation. It passed 3-2 with Meier and Matheson voting no.


You can see the presentations here including the magical, mystical, miraculous formula here


If you want affordable housing, then build more housing. In economic terms, real estate is a perfect market. Supply and demand really work. The more new units that are built, the less expensive the older units become. Affordable, attainable, workforce housing is usually not the newest units built. Unless federal funds, can be obtained the old type of housing projects are not coming back.


For more information on becoming a sponsor, please contact Chriss David at or 561-358-1119. She will explain how you or your business will be featured in the newsletter and on our websites.




Stuart Latest News From The December 13, 2020 Edition



This was a quiet meeting.


There was some discussion about masks. Stuart, Martin County, and Sewall’s Point now have in place a recommendation that people wear masks in public. There is no enforcement provision since the governor has taken the power to do so away from local government. The Village of Indiantown is more stringent in requiring masks but still has no enforcement provision.


I don’t expect Stuart or any other Martin County government to pass any new mandates. It would be foolish given that the governor has removed the proverbial stick from local government to enforce anything. Governor DeSantis, for better or worse, now owns the mask issue and no local elected officials need do anything more.


The city adopted its legislative priorities for the next session. The big one is that they are looking for a million dollars for their alternate water supply project. Stuart has been successful in the past, but the state is projecting huge budget shortfalls for tax collection. The anticipated shortfall in 2020 is $1.9 billion and in 2021, $3.4 billion. It is not likely that Stuart will receive anything from Tallahassee this or next year.


A handy chart from the Center of Budget & Policy Priorities gives these numbers for all the states. It can be found here

The other outlined priorities are the ones that are adopted every year including sales tax being remitted by online and out of state retailers. Others include coastal resiliency and environmental sustainability priorities and, of course, short-term rentals. There are others, and if they cost money or take away control from Tallahassee, they probably will not pass.


To see all of the priorities go here




Stuart Latest News From The November 22, 2020 Edition


Starting the meeting at 4 pm once a month has been a great idea. The proclamations, awards, and arts moment being done earlier is best for making sure that the commission is not voting on issues of importance at 10 pm. For instance, after all the above was done, several presentations were made, and the public and commissioners made their comments. It took over 2 hours. If that meeting had begun at 5:30, then the “business” portion where the commission votes on items wouldn’t have started until after 7:30. This is much better.


  Dr. Beth Falls from ORCA conducted a study at Shepards Park regarding shoreline quality. The study showed that there was nitrogen and phosphorus going into the water from both the drains and shore. This contributes to the high muck content on the bottom of the river. The muck is responsible for much of the turbidity, and it prevents both plant and animal life from inhabiting the river.

Having shoreline plantings will reduce the levels of nitrogen and phosphorus flowing into the river. There will be a demonstration project at the park to see how much of those elements are reduced. Much of the shoreline in the City of Stuart and Martin County have bulkheads.

If planting certain grasses and bushes along the shoreline can curb the pollutants, then more property owners may get on the band wagon.

You can find the entire presentation here

Next up was Mac Stuckey’s presentation on why the city should have an environmental department with a lawyer to monitor and stop the discharges from the Corps. This is an idea he has been advocating for a number of years. While he is sincere in what he believes, I do not think that this is the right action for the City of Stuart.

Mr. Stuckey has said that you can’t trust Martin County to do anything because the agriculture industry contributes too much to the BOCC election campaigns. But Martin County is doing something, and quite a bit. They have several scientists on staff and 40+ consultants to help in the LORS process and to deal with the Army Corps of Engineers and SFWMD. Their efforts are being paid for by the county’s General Fund which all Martin County taxpayers (including those within the city) pay into.

Stuckey also expressed dissatisfaction with the state and SFWMD. Yet on November 12th SFWMD unanimously approved full funding ($64 million) for the EAA Reservoir Project’s STA which will send more water south when completed. Further the Corps has been much more amenable to listening to the concerns of Martin County in recent years.

Stuart has about 2 miles of shoreline. The St. Lucie flows for miles and miles before Stuart, and it goes on a bit more after leaving the city before reaching the lagoon. Mac mentioned how clean the water was in1956 when he first came here. Stuart then had a population of a little over 3000 people and Martin County had 10,000 overall. It was the county seat of a farming area. Stuart may still be the county seat, but it is only about 10% of Martin County’s population today.

It is still a farming area. Many of our problems are caused by runoff but not just agricultural runoff. There are now thousands of homes with septic systems contributing to the problem. During the recent flooding, Sewall’s Point had the Health Department do a study of the standing water and it found fecal coliform material. This is just not a problem caused by the discharges.

The days of thinking that Stuart can solve the problems of our water are over. The city needs to work with Martin County, our state representatives, the SFWMD and the Corps to solve the extremely complicated problems we face. Mr. Stuckey’s idea that by starting lawsuits, money will flow from others to pay for the legal action is not realistic.

The 16,500 residents of Stuart will never have the financial or technical ability to match the Corps in court. Collaboration is the only way to solve this problem. Commissioners who think spending a couple of hundred thousand dollars on an attorney would be fruitful are wrong. The next steps should be working with our partners rather than turning them into enemies.

Stuckey’s handout to the commission can be found here




Stuart Latest News From The November 20, 2020 Edition



I became an even bigger fan of City Clerk Mary Kindel during this meeting.

She did an excellent presentation about how a meeting should be conducted. For some time, the city’s meetings have come to resemble freewheeling college discussion groups rather than parliamentary governmental meetings. This has caused them to be much longer than necessary and more unproductive.


Public Comment had devolved into Socratic question and answer periods between the commission and the public speaker instead of its intended purpose. It was devised so that the public could let their elected officials know what is on their minds. During general comment, they can speak on any topic if they are civil. The commission is not supposed to respond or answer questions.


When it comes to public comment on a specific topic before a vote on a motion, again the purpose is for the commission to hear from them. Perhaps a member of the public will bring something up that may influence how a commissioner will vote. It is not to rehash or explain either the project or procedure.


The clerk did a great job, and it should be repeated often for the commission and the various volunteer boards.


The presentation can be found here




Stuart is good at winning awards. It is especially good at awards that are predicated on receiving votes by the public…even when the same members of the public can vote repeatedly. Stuart won another award like this.


The “Great Places in Florida People’s Choice Award” is bestowed by the Florida chapter of the American Planning Association. And like the Coastal Living award received in 2016 for “Happiest Seaside Town,” Stuart will add the latest award to its marketing material. Let’s not lose sight that all the awards in the world are not a substitute for being attractive for business.






A problem has occurred regarding building homes on vacant infill lots.


When a new home is being built, the builder sometimes decides to place fill on the lot. This could result in raising the new home where rainwater would runoff to the neighboring properties. Most older homes were built before current regulations requiring storm water management. Once the new home is built, then there is a problem for the neighbors.

Staff wants to have standards requiring the builders to hold the water on site. Using required gutters and French drains, this can be accomplished. There would be another requirement for an engineer create a stormwater lot grading plan.


How much money will an engineer charge for this purpose and add to the cost of development? Is it hundreds or thousands of dollars? By designing such a plan, would the engineer be liable if the neighbor’s property flooded? Would the engineer’s insurance cover that contingency? Will it be one more thing that makes building a house for a middle-class family an impossibility?


A motion was made to approve on 1st reading by McDonald and seconded by Matheson. It passed 5-0. Those questions are to be answered by 2nd reading. The presentation can be found here


Stuart has proposed to reduce setbacks and minimum lot sizes in R 2 and R 3 zoning areas.


It probably is a good idea because, in some cases with current setback requirements, you can’t build a house on a property. This could result in more affordable homes being built in the city. The discussion then went further afield.


Mayor Meier suggested allowing multi-families, but there are plenty of places to do that now without looking in these zones. Cottage lots could be encouraged. The best way to have more affordable housing is to allow small ancillary buildings on lots.


You can create apartments over garages or “Mother-daughter” units in rear yards. Those ancillary units could be limited to one story and 600 square feet. Live/work arrangements limited to certain occupations could be allowed in ancillary buildings. Development that allows for more affordable home ownership is what the city should strive to accomplish.




A few weeks ago, there was a proposal to have scooter rentals in the city. As I wrote at the time, I thought it was just one more bad idea for staff to administer instead of devoting the time needed for economic development.


The city asked Main Street to conduct a survey as to what Main Street stakeholders thought regarding this idea. It was not embraced by most. The survey is attached here


Everything is stated in the survey. It doesn’t look like there is enough consensus to move forward. We are not a place that requires that type of amenity for our visitors. Any resident who wants to use a scooter, whether motorized or not, can certainly do so. All they need to do is buy one and it is certainly a very affordable toy to own. I have never seen anyone using such a device in the city. It’s a cool sounding idea but nothing else.


Stuart Latest News From The October 18, 2020 Edition



This was the first meeting with the new starting time of 4 pm for the first meeting of the month. It was thought that the new time would allow for the Arts Moment, proclamations, and employee recognitions to be done earlier.  In that way, meetings would not have to go on until 10 pm or later. In that respect, it absolutely was a success.


Yet I wonder why the meeting must recess and then resume at 5:30. What is the magic time about that witching hour. There are no more people in the audience to hear the mostly self-serving comments of Commissioners. Or is public comment more relevant then than later? Just let the meeting continue.


Speaking of public comment, the City should take a cue from the County. Public comment is not a question and answer session with the commenter. If a question can be answered briefly, the City Manager or Attorney could address it then or ask that the speaker contact them the next day.


When the chair and the other Commissioners are so solicitous of every speaker, the meeting becomes longer and longer. It is not fair to everyone else at the meeting. Please, Commissioners, bring back procedures that were followed for years. It allowed the public to comment without the colloquy and endless back and forth. The Commission is there to hear from the public…not to discuss issues or answer questions from the dais.


Lake O


I did like the idea that there was an extended discussion period after the proclamations. It gave the Commissioners an opportunity to go into depth. D&D (Discussion & Deliberation) usually occurs at the end of the meeting when people are tired. This is a much better place to have discussion.


During that period, Commissioner Matheson gave an in-depth presentation detailing that the Corps of Engineers will begin releasing 1800 CFS (Cubic Feet Per Second) from the Lake per day which will flow directly into the river. That means 1.16 billion gallons will be released into the river every day that the releases continue at that level.


The lake is currently at 16.1 feet. We went into the wet season at an 11 feet level. We have had record rains this season. Matheson believes there has been a cultural shift by the Corps and South Florida Water Management District in favor of retention. That is good. Matheson and Ben Hogarth, the staff person assigned, have been on the weekly call with the Corps and have been reaching out to a variety of officials.


Mr. Stuckey, a County resident who has advocated for a possible lawsuit against the Corps by the City, will present his ideas for establishing a City department at the first meeting in November. According to Matheson, his presentation will take 20 to 30 minutes. Once hearing the presentation, Ben Hogarth will bring back cost estimates at a later meeting.


Commissioner McDonald wanted to have the Corps there also. But both Matheson and Meier thought that it was not needed for that meeting. I think McDonald is correct to have all there. I would even have the County environmental representative(s) present.


For some reason, the City is acting as if Stuart is not part of Martin County. The County has assembled a formidable team to advocate with both the Corps and SFWMD. The money to pay for those experts comes out of the general fund which all Martin County taxpayers are assessed including Stuart.


The County Commission has voted to put together a board comprised of an elected representative of every municipality to meet and understand how the County is proceeding on our behalf. Both Commissioner Hetherington and Smith that both represent portions of Stuart have not pushed for that Committee to begin operation. They need to do so immediately.


The Stuart Commission needs not to be so parochial. They need to call on County resources to accomplish the City’s goal. Matheson, as the Commission point person, should be knocking on the doors of not only Hetherington and Smith but also the other three County Commissioners. Dyess and Taryn Kryzda, the County Administrator, should be working in tandem on this issue. Stuart’s size, both in area and population, creates distinct disadvantage in moving the discussion forward. Martin County is a much better vehicle for getting things done for stopping the discharges.   


Stuart Latest News From The October 4, 2020 Edition



Last week, there was a workshop on Main Street. I am going to leave others to comment on that organization for the time being since I have just stepped down from being involved. The other part of that same workshop was on the future resiliency in the City. I would imagine much of what is doable is conditioned on the County, Florida, and Washington.


Stuart’s public comment is turning into an “ask the Commissioners” forum. The point is for the Commission to listen to the public commenting which should aid them in their decision making. It is not to answer anyone’s questions nor intended as an information session. If anybody has a question or expects resolution of a problem, they should make a phone call, send an email, or make a visit to City Hall to get an answer.

When anything but public comment occurs, the Mayor should direct the City Manager or a staff person to take the citizen aside to find the answer for the citizen after the meeting or make an appointment to discuss. Commissioners need to be silent. The School Board reads a statement before public comment stating that Board Members will not talk back to the public during their public comment. This is a good rule.


Other business at the meeting included the announcement that the Visiting Nurse Association will not have the Christmas Parade this year due to COVID.


The Commission also wants staff to begin issuing event permits when they think it is appropriate.


With the expiration of the Governor’s order regarding government meetings being allowed to take place electronically, the old rules are now in effect. Boards and the Commission, which never did meet electronically, will be back in the chamber. As a member of a board, I believe it is much more beneficial to see my fellow members and to listen to presentations in person.


Zoom will be continued for those at home and the public may still comment that way.




During his comments, Mayor Meier touched on an issue that was important…what is the role of government regarding historic properties? That entire subject is a conundrum for Stuart. It should be discussed. Yet, I am afraid there are so many well-meaning people who do not understand the meaning of what an historical structure is.

Is the Walton Building, that is supposedly moving from a City lot to a parking lot, truly historical? Stuart residents seem to believe that being old is a qualifier. That is not necessarily true. Over the years, the Walton Building has been so significantly changed that it no longer even possesses the characteristics that would warrant historical preservation. Having a walk-in refrigerator on the back of the 450 sq. foot building, a cooking ventilator system, and modern air conditioning units in plain visible site is a structure that has been changed significantly since built.


The proposed use as a fast-food take-out restaurant will preclude the public from being allowed inside. Just as the outside structure has been brought up to modern standards, the inside bears no resemblance to Walton’s office of the 1920s. There isn’t even a re-creation of that office for the public to look at. For both the interior and exterior of the building, there is nothing architecturally deserving to be preserved.


Lastly, what happened inside the building historically that would warrant preservation? Mr. Walton built several buildings in Stuart in the first half of the 20th century most notably the Lyric Theater. If someone bought the Lyric and wanted to tear it down, I would be the first to condemn the action. Walton’s office in essence was a construction trailer. He probably had a desk, tools, and a telephone. There was nothing of historic significance that transpired there.


I am using that building as an example of what is wrong with confusing historical with old. The owner of that building has every right to move it, put a fast-food restaurant in it or tear it down. While historical preservation should be considered, government should not be the deciding factor in what is and is not historical. Nor should it determine whether a property owner can make alterations to his property or even tear it down.




After thorough discussion on 2nd Reading, the Commission changed the awarding of points for including certain characteristics when developers want to present a PUD. While several things are still listed as aspirational considerations, there is nothing that will now be mandatory. In my opinion, giving points was a bad idea.


Meier seems to want to have projects done under straight zoning as much as possible. In an entity larger than Stuart, that may be desirable. But within the City’s small geographical area, it would prove problematic. For years, I have wrestled with the two concepts for Stuart and, more broadly, Martin County. I have concluded that the PUD process is the way to go.

The PUD process guarantees the public’s ability to become involved when projects are proposed. As an example, Meier was concerned about the storage facility that was going up on Federal Highway. He thought it may be an inappropriate use. Yet though it is comprised of tall structures that will eventually be more pleasing to the eye once finished, it was the best possible use given that it has small single-family residences on two sides.


Would the proposed gas station and convenience store have been a better solution for the neighborhood? What about a Walgreens? Meier mentioned that the gas station was caboshed because of a traffic study and that is true. The real impetus was that the neighborhood came out to oppose the use when it came before the Commission. The traffic study done by the applicant showed no problem. It was the study done by the City, which was ordered after the neighbors complained, that the Commission relied upon. If there was no PUD process, then perhaps that gas station would be there now.


It was also mentioned that certain uses could be prohibited. That is true and, in some cases, would be justified. However, while you and I may not like self-storage units, the market tells us otherwise. In the need for straight zoning, do we ignore the property rights of owners? These are tricky questions that the PUD process addresses.


McDonald moved to approve the ordinance without a point system. It was seconded by Matheson. It passed 4-1 with Meier dissenting.


The presentation can be found here




The Commission discussed the merits of a company coming to Stuart and being given the right to rent electric scooters to the public. This would be done through a phone app using geo-fencing so that the scooters would stay within the designated area allowed.


It appeared the only one that was a full-fledged supporter was Meier. The other Commissioners had reservations about liability, whether they should be allowed downtown, who was the market going to be, and other concerns. The proposal had Stuart receiving no compensation for allowing the use.

In the last newsletter, I wrote how silly this venture seemed to me. Based on our demographic, which skews older both for our residents and visitors, who would rent the scooters? If any residents thought using one was a good idea, they would already own one. From not being allowed downtown to having them parked on Martin Luther King Drive, where you would pick them up, it seems impractical.


Sometimes Stuart forgets how small we are. How all the cool things may be great in Miami but just do not work here. We have tried valet parking. We have a golf cart ordinance that allows for golf carts on City streets after going through an inspection and having insurance. I don’t remember the last time I saw one downtown.


The City Commission needs to stop trying to be cool and instead concentrate on more important things.


Stuart Latest News From The September 20, 2020 Edition



The Commission passed next year’s budget. They will have another and final budget meeting on September 28th.


During public comment, someone bemoaned that our “quaint seaside community” was being developed on its fringes with new apartments. Stuart should not be annexing into the City these tracts of land, she claimed. The commenter does not understand that is exactly why annexation is in Florida statute.


As development occurs, it can be sprawl or it can be what Stuart has done over the past few years. There are 1000 people moving to Florida a day. You cannot put up a fence or close your borders to the rest of America. There are now 330 million Americans and Florida has 21.5 million of them which is 2 million more than New York State.


The only way that Martin County farmland and ranch land can be saved is by more urbanization not less. The idea that the only way to live is in a home on one acre is unsustainable. That promotes sprawl and the destruction of open area for very low density and expensive housing. That is why the only hope not to become Broward is to allow multifamily development in municipalities.


Counties were never meant to provide services like fire, water, garbage collection, or parks. When an area had enough people that supported having those services, it was supposed to become a municipality. On your tax bill in unincorporated Martin County, there are lines for MSTUs which stands for Municipal Service Taxing Units. Taxes to pay for those services are a complete bastardization of our model of government. Unincorporated Martin County should not have condos or multi-family rental housing, it should be contained within municipalities.


When property owners/developers ask to be incorporated into Stuart so that they can build one of those apartment communities, that is what the legislature had designed. In the next three years, we will have a million more Floridians. There can be “sprawl” to accommodate them or a plan for doing so. Without a plan and urbanization, farmland will become tract housing because the land will be too expensive for the owners not to sell out.




Once again, Stuart will be turned into one big traffic jam to accommodate the 47th Stuart Boat Show. Dixie highway will be closed, including the Old Roosevelt Bridge, from January 12th through January 18th.


The show has all the right intentions. They will have police. Buses to take people from the show on closed Dixie Highway to the parking lot at the airport. Martin County does have boat builders and brokers, so it does help the local economy, I guess. But, to what extent is a question I have had for years.


Sales tax collected at the show go to the locality where the boat is registered. Generally, sales taxes that are collected in Martin County and Stuart are sent to Tallahassee which keeps over 90%. The County eventually receives a check for about 8% and Stuart receives about 10% of that amount.


When Meier asked the show’s organizer to give a breakdown about how much money it generates, the organizers could not. Practically speaking, though, if you come to the show located north of the bridge, park at Witham Field and take a bus from there to the show, you are not eating Downtown.


The result is that we will continue to inconvenience residents and businesses for a week and have no idea if it is economically worth it. It is the kind of fuzzy-headed-thinking that Stuart is known for. The government and Commission like the “rah rah” but no analyzing is done to see whether there is a benefit. Of course, it passed unanimously.




For some time now, people have called the old Walton Building historic. And why is that? It was built as the construction office for Sam Walton back in the 1920s. Some of its uses were as a hair salon, take out restaurant, and office supply store. The 450 sq ft building is in horrible shape.


The applicant wants to move the building from a city-owned lot to 209 Albany. He is not proposing to make it look as it did in the 1920s. There will be no museum and the public will not be allowed inside to look at a reproduction of Sam’s office.


The building will look much as it did before the move from where Azul stands now in 2016. It will be a takeout restaurant with a big walk-in freezer off the back. Very modern air conditioning will also be in visible sight. An “architectural gem” reminiscent of a take-out shack anywhere in America whether built in the 1920s or yesterday.


There are no architectural historical features that would warrant saving. It will look nothing like the office that Walton used for his company when he built the Lyric. Stuart has sentimental attachment to the old not the historical. The building is going to be used for a fast-food stand.


It does not conform to the master plan devised for Joan Jefferson Way where the lot will be located. Except for Meier, the Commission did not even mention the plan that the City paid thousands to have done. In fact, nowhere in the staff’s presentation did they even cite the plan or show a drawing of what should be approved.


If you have a plan, it needs to be followed. Colorado Avenue has had a plan for decades and not one project was approved that conforms to that plan. With much fanfare, the City created an arts district known as the Creek. What has changed to make it more of an arts district? The Arts Council wants to relocate to the old high school building which is another example of early 20th century nostalgia but not historic. That building is nowhere near the vaunted arts district.


The Commission approved moving the building to the location 3-2 with Meier and Matheson dissenting.




Bridgeview Apartments was approved on 2nd reading. The Commission did allow for the boardwalk to come back in at no more than 6 feet in width.


The Lone Palm development on Martin Luther King Blvd changed once more from 5 homes, two of which were duplexes, to 6 single family homes. The duplexes which were on MLK would have had 4 units total with two driveways on 75-foot-wide lots. Now there will be three homes with three driveways on 50-foot-wide lots. The developer has that as of right so no change in zoning. It will not be anywhere near as nice but the Hartmans, who are the developers, said that is what the neighbors wanted.


Sailfish Cove on Seminole was approved with a discussion having to do with the streets-cape. The CRA is planning to ask for a grant to redo the entire block. It probably will not happen until after the project is completed. Because they need to have parking to obtain their C/O, the developer must put in 4 parking spaces in front of the building. Without knowing the final City plan, the developer cannot know what to do. A compromise was reached that if the City has not done its work prior to December 2021, then the developer can complete his project without City interference.


All three items passed 5-0.

Stuart Latest News From The September 6, 2020 Edition



Returning Commissioners Meier, Matheson, Clarke, and newly elected Troy McDonald were sworn into their offices following the August 17th election. Congratulations to all on remaining or becoming City Commissioners.


During the CRA Meeting at 4:30, there was a discussion about one of the programs for which the CRA has funds budgeted called “Brush with Kindness.” That program is not administered by the City but rather by Habitat for Humanity. It is Habitat’s rules and procedures that govern its implementation which is to help rehabilitate owner-occupied housing. For the past two years, the program has dispensed no funds because Habitat has not found anyone who meets their criteria.


I cannot tell you how many hours of discussion have been spent on why this has occurred. It is as if Board Members do not understand that it is not up to the City to pick applicants. If the CRA wishes to continue with a program like “Brush with Kindness,” it needs to develop its own program and allocate the same resources to it.


Mayor Meier questioned the continued subsidy to the Main Street organization at the same level of $70,000. He understood the subsidy was to be less every year going forward. He also wants to have a workshop meeting on September 21, 2020 with Main Street to discuss the ongoing support and how it furthers the City’s interests to continue it.


The Commission meeting started at 5:30. After presentations, proclamations and comments that went astray and veered into discussion of items on the agenda, the first commission action item began at 7:15. People should not have to wait hours for their agenda items to be heard while Commissioners and the public prattle on about little.


There needs to be some revision of the meeting schedule. One alternative might be that once a month the meeting would begin at 4 with all the presentations, employee recognitions, and arts moments then. Secondly, move Commissioner comments to the end of the meeting with discussion and deliberation items. Then if the Commissioners need to speechify, they can do so to the empty chamber. The business that they were elected to do can be done before everyone is asleep. I guess that would be too much to hope.




How many parking spaces is in a lot? That is a difficult question to answer if you ask the owner of 209 S. Albany Avenue, Mark Brechbill. During the 15-minute discussion, I heard 33, 32, 3 and 22. The real number is important in determining what is going to be done.


Mark Brechbill owns the 450 square foot building that once sat where part of Azul is located today. The building was originally constructed to be the office of the man who built the Lyric Theater. It has been the home of several different businesses including a beauty salon. The building was last used for a failed hamburger joint named 33 Degrees.


Some consider it historic, so Mr. Brechbill moved it to a City-owned property several years ago to preserve it. It has sat there for the past several years subject to vandalism and deterioration. Mr. Brechbill’s plan calls for it to be placed on the Albany Avenue parking lot and then operated as a takeout food business.


The reason the number of parking spaces is important is because the lot is tied to the office building across the street. The City Attorney stated if this development order were approved as written, then the office building would not be in compliance with the code. Hence the need for accuracy in the number of spaces and how it is approved.


But there are other problems that need variances such as stated in the agenda item:


  1. To allow the building to be set back from the front property line to allow for a brick paver

patio with seating,

  1. For the front building façade to make up less than 80% of the lot width,
  2. To forego the requirement for the minimum building of two stories, and
  3. To forego the requirement for arcades or glazed openings and balconies along the street



There is also a requirement in the CRA to have a public art component for a Major Urban Code Exception or to donate 1% of the construction costs to the City’s public art fund. It is estimated that, in this case, the donation would be $300. Brechbill asked that this be waived.


When it came before the CRB (of which I am a member), I was willing to move this project forward and allow variances for the 4 items. I did so mainly because I did not think it would happen given this applicant’s record of following through. My vote became a no when he refused to comply with the public art requirement of $300. While I would not expect him to have much of an art component in a project this size, the $300 could go to help with the next public mural within the CRA. I thought it was petty of him. It was approved by the CRB 3-2.


I was glad to hear that Mayor Meier was unhappy with granting the variances because it did not conform with the Joan Jefferson Gateway Plan that the Commission has enacted. It was decided that before this can go forward, the parking issue must be resolved. It will come back at the next meeting.




There has been an undeveloped piece of property on Palm Beach Road between Martin Luther King and 6th Street forever. It is .72 acres and was originally platted as 50 foot lots for single family homes. The developer, the Hartman Family, are some of the original developers of homes in East Stuart going back over a hundred years. Using the platted lots, there could be 6 single family homes.

Hartman has proposed a UPUD consisting of two duplexes on 75 foot lots on Martin Luther King Blvd. and 3 single family homes on 6th street. The property is within the CRA. Originally, the UPUD was requesting that the zoning used would be Urban Neighborhood. That zoning applies in the Potsdam area a mile away. Some members of the CRB including myself thought using that designation would be spot zoning.


In my opinion, the project is an attractive and needed infill development. It was suggested that the better zoning to use would be the East Stuart zoning overlay which would allow the development as a UPUD. The overlay stops a block from the parcel. It should have logically extended the boundary to Palm Beach Road.


As with almost any new development, the neighbors are against it. The existing dwellings on Martin Luther King in that area are 75-foot lots and single-family homes. The two duplexes will be on 75-foot lots. The City Commission has been encouraging the building of more than one unit per lot to increase housing in the City. The duplexes have one driveway per building and there is an area where the cars do not stack and can easily turn around.


Florida building codes make new construction costly. The available building lots in the City are scarce and expensive. It is not possible to build homes “reasonably” without having some density. Some fear that the duplexes will have irresponsible renters. Yet when the person buying them is paying around $300,000, I just do not think that is going to occur.


The Commission unanimously approved the project.


To see both staff and applicant’s presentations go here



The property on Seminole Street a few steps from the Boathouse has been a vacant lot for a few years now. There was a previous approved plan for condominiums that were never built. This now has new owners who will be building more apartments on less of a building footprint than the failed project. There is also commercial space that has been added.


The units are less expensive and are rentals which, in my opinion, is a much more doable project. It is attractive and more in line with Stuart than the glitzier version before. I hope they are built but I am not so sure that it will happen in this market. It was approved 5-0.


To see the entire presentation including floor and sit plans go here


Stuart Latest News From The August 23, 2020 Edition



For many years, the Kiplinger family has owned property on both sides of Indian Street between Kanner Highway and the river. Last year, the Commission voted to annex only the part of that parcel that lies on the north side of Indian Street. A few weeks ago, that piece became the site for Bridgeview, an apartment complex.

The reason for the annexation was because the County would allow offices to be built not residential development. When the Commission ultimately agreed to the complex, the terms struck were for a better project that could have been built in the County. (See where it was approved here)


The City should have insisted that the entire parcel be annexed. The southern part of the parcel is next to a County preserve area. At the time, the owner claimed they wanted to keep that property perhaps for future development.


The City could have had some open space in return for making the property being annexed more valuable. Unfortunately, the only Commissioner that saw the benefit to the City was Matheson. He voted against the annexation yet ultimately voted for the complex.


This week Kiplinger donated those several acres to the County…the same County that would not allow him to sell his land to a rental apartment developer, even though the County claims to support the development of less expensive housing. The City will be receiving additional new tax revenue for the development. The County will be receiving much more in the way of taxes and impact fees for the development. They collect taxes and fees on all properties in the county regardless of whether in the unincorporated section or municipalities. Martin County will not however have to provide any additional municipal services to the new residents.


Stuart Commissioners were too afraid that the project would not happen if they pressed the issue. Was it a case of not wanting to irritate a prominent person? There were probable tax benefits to Kiplinger by doing it the way he did.


The County will include this donated portion in the current preserve that is already there. Yet if the City had made annexation of the entire parcel a condition or allowed the partition of the property with a dedication later, the City would have 7 additional acres of preserve on its books. It could still be incorporated with the existing County preserve, but it would be part of Stuart.


The County gets all the benefits of the new complex such as cheaper housing, impact fees, and taxes but none of the headaches such as providing services. At the same time, both Kiplinger and Martin County get to pat each other on the back. Is the City going to benefit? Sure, it will, but it should have benefited more. Unfortunately, only Matheson saw the possibility. That is too bad.     




The City was looking for a way to give density bonuses based on developers providing certain amenities that the City wants to encourage. Incorporating a list of things into the code puts everyone on notice that these are things Stuart wants to recognize as public benefit in approving a PUD. This is a good idea up to a point….and that is a PUD must have 7 points of benefit to be approved.


Real Estate is more of an art than a science. Putting together a successful project requires looking at it in several ways. Each project is unique and has a financial component that could be different. For example, a PUD in East Stuart would be an economic driver regardless of whether any of the proposed things listed were attached. On the other side, a project downtown can afford to have more “extras” to get through the process.


Once you start taking away discretion, unintentional consequences happen. This could result in throwing things in that do not meet the intent while they may satisfy the code. The second is that it narrows the Commission’s discretion. For example, if an East Stuart project does not meet enough of the criteria to make the 7 points, do you then give them a pass but not the guy downtown who can afford some superfluous things to win approval?


I like the idea of the Commission spelling out these preferred things in the code but giving each amenity a certain number of points is unnecessarily complicated. By having them enumerated, staff, boards, and the Commission can judge a project by their incorporation without restricting decisions because of them. My advice is to leave out the points but incorporate the goals. The ordinance with table can be found here



The Commission passed the ordinance on first reading 4-0.  




This was the 2nd reading of Harbor Grove which will be in South Stuart. There was no public comment. Originally, there were some concerns about traffic on US 1, but nothing surfaced this time. It went to Tallahassee for comment because it is over ten acres between the 1st and 2nd readings, and there were none.

Out of the 324 units, Mayor Meier had asked that 5% be set aside for rent at 80% of the AMI at 1st reading.  Subsequently, Matheson spoke with the developer and had him to agree to a nearly 7% set aside (20 apartments) for 10 years. Motion was made by Clarke and seconded by Bruner. It was approved 4-0.  The market will dictate if there is actually a need for these 20 apartments.


The presentation can be found here




The Commission met to discuss the upcoming budget. The presentation can be found here



Given how precarious the Florida and national economies are, it was odd that the Commission did not look to cut any expense going forward. The only hint of a Commissioner wanting to cut a line item was to cut Main Street’s budget by $20,000 to $50,000. Mayor Meier explained that the Commission’s plan was to cut back the subsidy over three years. The other Commissioners stated that they recommend no changes for another year due to COVID hampering the leasing of Flagler Center for events.

Most of the discussion that did take place was about everything but numbers. Everyone received accolades and acknowledgements. Like the County, Stuart is facing an economic bomb that no one wants to admit yet. Many of our residents are already out of a job or will be soon. The official unemployment rate in Martin County has grown 250% since last January.


This could be the last flush budget for a decade. They will most likely be cutting programs and people next year and maybe even this year if all the revenue is not realized as anticipated.


To see the complete $30 million plus budget, go here


Stuart Latest News From The August 9, 2020 Edition



In 2021, the City of Stuart has finally done it. After 14 years, it will be collecting as many dollars in property taxes as it did in 2007. A 2021 dollar is worth 25% less than a 2007 dollar. So, to be truly equal, the $10,850,000 in projected property tax would have to be $13,000,000.


The presentation can be found here


In 2008 and 2009, the City cut services and employees. It has continued to hold the line to a large extent successfully. The entire budget is $29,500,000. Ad valorem or real estate taxes account for 37% of Stuart’s income. This is the one source that is completely controlled by the City Commission. The other large revenue sources, such as Communication Services Tax, are collected and remitted by Tallahassee.


Most people do not realize that the Public Safety part of the budget is about $14,000,000 which far exceeds the real estate taxes collected. Stuart as a municipality can operate with a more entrepreneurial flair. If it were not for the ability to own and lease property or have a CRA, then ad valorem taxes would be higher.


In the past, the Commission has done rollback of the tax rate which means that if property values go up, then the City reduces the rate to collect the same amount of tax as the year before. The trouble with this methodology is that sometimes it can result in property owners receiving a tax increase, and when values go down (such as during the 2007/2008 recession), the City does not have enough income. This may result in higher rates at the worst possible time.


It is better to have any excess collection go into a reserve for those times when values go down. This would prevent raising rates when people can least afford it. Because of the way property tax law in Florida works with caps and exemptions, it could take decades to recover the tax amount. This results in raising the rate to offset the decline. It would be much better to place any excess in a reserve. Then when the lean times come (and they always come), you will not have to raise rates for people at the worst possible time.


The City’s Financial Services Director has written a more technical explanation that you can read in the News & Views Section.




During her comments, Eula Clarke did something unusual. She read the pre-amble to the U.S. Constitution. She did not announce that was what she was going to do. She said she was not going to apologize for what she was about to say. I do not know whether others got a queasy feeling, but I know I did.

Once she began with “We the People of the United States…” I thought we were on safe ground. I was right.


“In Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility. Provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves, and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”


When I asked her afterwards why she chose to read those words, she stated that she thought they had to be said.  Eula was right that no apology was needed.



Formerly The Pelican

Remember a year ago when the chamber was packed with supporters for extending Pelican’s lease? They were all there to excoriate the Commission. Save our Pelican!!!! Stuart would not be Stuart without it were the cries. The Commission caved and gave Paul and Linda Daly a new lease. As we all know, they then turned around and sold it to Mike Matakaetis, owner of the Boathouse and other restaurants.


In the long term, that is a good thing for Stuart. Yet to get to a better outcome it ended up costing the City some money. As it turns out, those hundreds of people that were up in arms were the dupes of the Dalys. In order to keep local tranquility, the City said ok. It took less than a month for Paul and Linda to secure their retirement by selling that lease.


COVID, design, and problems with satisfying the City’s dealings with DEP have delayed Hudson’s, named after Mr. Matakaetis late granddaughter, from a speedy opening. The lease start date has been pushed back from September to next March. It was not unexpected nor unreasonable to do so. It will be a completely new restaurant with a completely new look.


The only thing missing was anyone in the meeting to comment or bemoan the now true death of the Pelican. Without the frenzy of a Facebook page, all those people have disappeared. It was not as if they could do anything. It would have been nice for one of those avid “Pelicans” to say sorry for costing the City’s taxpayers so much money.




The Commission has authorized staff to proceed with borrowing $5,000,000 for the purchase of what is known as the Wells Fargo Building on Ocean across from Memorial Park. The lender is JP Morgan Chase and the interest rate is at 1.295% or less than 2019s CPI. The tenants in possession will more than pay for the interest and principle.

The current plan is to have City Hall move into the building in the future. Buying the properties are the right thing to do. It will move and increase downtown business. The area now, especially in the rear on Osceola, is woefully underutilized. This will be a game changer.


The more the City can develop on its main thoroughfares the better. It not only brings new residents and businesses but allows existing taxpayers not to have increases in their taxes. East Ocean, Federal, and Kanner were meant to have higher density projects. It makes sense.


What to do about the existing City Hall will continue to perplex the Commission. Politicians are not known for possessing much more vision than to the next election. Yet maybe this time things are different. We will see.


As far as the City buying the building, I think they made the right choice. This will not cost the taxpayers any money since it is being purchased and managed through the property management fund and not the general fund. With the surrounding CRA purchases that were already approved, Stuart is ensuring the future by broadening the tax base.




Staff had sent the application to be approved in Tallahassee. It was approved by DEO and it was ready for second reading. There were a few people that spoke against moving forward.


This development of 270 apartments in mostly 4 story buildings has a density of 13.5 units per acre which is less than current code. It also has more open space than what is required. It is located on Federal Highway in South Stuart.


Perhaps in the past it, would have been another strip center or maybe even a car dealer. Those are concepts that no longer work in the world we inhabit. They are sprawl in the worse sense of the word. Stuart and Martin County do not have enough residential housing. If you want to preserve open land in the west, there needs to be infill projects in the cities and CRAs.


Denser development belongs on our major thoroughfares. I live two blocks from Federal Highway in a single-family home. Between my home and Federal are townhomes, an office building, two 4 story condo buildings and a few other single-family homes. Nothing is self-contained. Everyone uses the same street. Guess what? There is no congestion and by about nine at night, there is hardly a car.


Springtree is self-contained. Those living in the apartments will not be going through streets where the single-family homes are. They will share Federal Highway and one or two connector streets. FDOT looked at the project and said there was no congestion.


One of the contentions is that a traffic light is needed even though FDOT says one is not. If the County believes that one is needed, then the County can pay for that or any other perceived traffic improvement with the $2,000,000 (according to the developer) in traffic impact fees it is receiving for the project. The developer is not paying impact fees for a road in western Martin County. The purpose of impact fees is to offset the problems that more building brings to a new project’s surrounding area.


This project will go forth and Martin County will receive the bulk of the fees and taxes being generated. This property could have chosen not to request annexation into Stuart. They did so because under the City’s codes building could be done. The County wants to move ahead with affordable housing such as this if they do not need to approve it themselves. There is a problem with that way of thinking.


The motion to approve was made by Bruner and seconded by Clarke. It passed 4-0


The presentations can be found here


Stuart Latest News From The July 26, 2020 Edition



It is nice to see that East Stuart residents, spearheaded by President Jimmy Smith of the NAACP and Thelma Washington from Gertrude Walden, come to praise the Stuart Police Department for community involvement. In this time of so many communities being torn apart by racial animus, it is great to see brotherhood and solidarity between the police and citizens.

The police should be called out if something is wrong, but then they should also be praised when they do something right. Smith praised both our current Chief, Joe Tumminelli, and former Chief now City Manager, David Dyess.



Which brings me to a complaint of mine. Meetings now are running routinely 5 hours or more. With a starting time of 5:30 that means many of the important agenda items are being discussed to an empty chamber. This is depriving the public of being participants. One of the reason meetings were started at 5:30 was to allow for people to come after work. With 5-hour meetings, you are now asking them to stay past their bedtimes.


At least once a month, the meetings should begin at 3:30 and have the Arts Moment, proclamations, employee recognitions, and non-governmental presentations then. That way important issues can be done when the public will attend, and the Commissioners are not falling asleep.


This current schedule is not working. When I hear a Commissioner asking for a drink jokingly, I know the witching hour is upon us. The Commission, staff, and applicants are tired, and the applicants are spending a fortune on their lawyers and consultants to hang around. I think it is time to try something new.




What could have been a controversial project with neighbor opposition was not.


It is amazing how many people who do not live around the property or are not Stuart residents believe the project is too tall or too dense. At 13.35 units per acre and 4 stories it is neither. When situated next to the Indian Street Bridge, which will tower over it and across from the new Cleveland Clinic facility, it is proportionate to its environment.


To think that buildings of that size alongside of a 70-foot bridge are too tall, then some people have lost a bit of perspective. The 212-unit 2 building complex has set aside double the preserve land that the code specifies. And the PAMP will be part of the PUD documents and require the property to use the same specifications of management as does the City including banning herbicides containing glyphosate.

The developer reached out to neighboring Riverland and created a legal MOU which resulted in the association’s endorsement. There will be extensive plantings and a 10-foot cement wall between the parties. No one spoke in opposition.


This will fill a niche in the County’s housing needs not just the needs of the City of Stuart. It is important to note that if the applicant had constructed the office complex that he could have built by right, it could result in a much larger footprint and nowhere near as much open land. This is smart growth that also provides an absolutely needed product. To build the same number of units as single-family housing, you would have needed several hundred acres of undeveloped land or farms.


It was a good result as an infill project. It is across the street from an employer that has created many new jobs. They are planning on having some residents walk to work. The environmental impact is less than other development would have been.


You can see the entire presentation here

Stuart Latest News From The July 8, 2020 Edition

Next Commission Meeting July 13, 2020

Stuart Latest News From The June 28, 2020 Edition


In the last newsletter I wrote about a project that was approved by the Commission that would use the AMI to determine rent levels. Li Roberts, a member of the City’s Local Planning Agency, thought that my explanation was unclear. She offered this further explanation:




I read your thoughts from June 14, 2020 regarding the First Reading for Harbor Grove Apartments (corner of Commerce and Indian Street).  The information about the Rental Rates seemed a wee bit confusing so I thought I might be able to help you out and offer some clarity.


The federal government and state government use the same terminology when talking about housing, income, and affordability.  The most important of these are:

AMI – Area Median Income, the midpoint of a region’s income distribution (half the households earn more than the AMI, half the households earn less than the AMI.  In our area that number from HUD is $59,500 Annual Income.

AFFORDABLE – Spending no more than 30% of household income on housing


They both then agree on the following household income labels:

EXTREMELY LOW INCOME:  Up to 30% of the AMI; meaning HOUSEHOLD INCOME up to $17,850 and AFFORDABLE up to $466/mth

VERY LOW INCOME:  31% to 50% of the AMI; meaning HOUSEHOLD INCOME $18,445 to $29,750 and AFFORDABLE $461/mth to $744/mth

LOW INCOME:  51% to 80% of the AMI; meaning HOUSEHOLD INCOME $30,345 to $47,600 and AFFORDABLE $759/mth to $1,190/mth

MODERATE INCOME:  81% to 120% of the AMI; meaning HOUSEHOLD INCOME $48,195 to $71,400 and AFFORDABLE $1,205/mth to $1,785/mth


Florida defines WORKFORCE HOUSING as being in close proximity of the workplace and AFFORDABLE (that’s spending no more than 30% of household income on housing) for families within 60% to 140% of the AMI (for a family of four); meaning HOUSEHOLD INCOME $35,700 to $83,300 and AFFORDABLE $892/mth to $2,082/mth.


Both HUD and Florida scale all these numbers for number of people in a household and number of bedrooms. 


The City of Stuart will have their First Reading of the EAR (Evaluation and Appraisal Report) on Monday, June 22nd where they are using the following definitions:

ATTAINABLE:  Very Low to Low Income spending no more than 30% of household income on housing

VERY LOW INCOME:  Below 50% of the AMI; meaning HOUSEHOLD INCOME below $29,750 and ATTAINABLE below $744/mth

LOW INCOME: Greater than 50% and less than 80% of the AMI; meaning HOUSEHOLD INCOME greater than $29,750 and less than $47,600 and ATTAINABLE $744/mth to $1,190/mth

WORKFORCE INCOME:  80% to 100% of the AMI; meaning HOUSEHOLD INCOME $47,600 to $59,500 and ATTAINABLE $1,190/mth to $1,487/mth


Regarding the Harbor Grove Apartments, the recommendation from the Local Planning Agency was a maximum rent of $1,785 – which would be Affordable (at 30% maximum) of 120% of the AMI (with 120% of $59,500 being $71,400 Annual Household Income).   The City Commission’s discussion of a percentage of rents at 80% to 100% would mean $1,190/mth to $1,487/mth.  The true devil is in the details and wordsmithing the language to arrive at this 30% of Household Income as being Affordable or Attainable; then applying the desired percentage to the AMI.  Matters become further complicated if the number was to be scaled for household size or number of bedrooms.


Hope this helps.  If for no other purpose than to understand how the definitions work and boil down to actual monthly numbers.


Christia Li Roberts




There were two meetings prior to this one. The first was the initial budget workshop (see presentation here)

The second was a CRA meeting where the Board voted to buy two lots contiguous to the Wells Fargo Building on Ocean.


The regular meeting began with the Mayor warning that people will be making comments by Zoom so that there was a chance that the incident that happened a few weeks ago could happen again even with the added precautions.


Most governments do not worry about perceptions. For good and bad reasons, Stuart does. You seldom see the County or other municipalities discuss racism or bias in any form. Stuart takes it to heart. Perhaps it is because Stuart Commissioners wear their hearts on their sleeves.


This week, there were two proclamations that showed their caring. One was for Juneteenth and the other for celebrating Pride Month. They can be found here


During Commissioner comments Clarke spoke about a Facebook post on her personal page she recently shared. The post was in poor taste. However, some wanted to make it much more than it was. She took it down, but the damage was done. It was a self-inflicted wound. It could have been construed in several ways. I am going to believe that she did not post it in a mean-spirited way. In this exceedingly difficult time, there are more serious matters to worry about than a Facebook post.

And besides, if she did not represent the people of Stuart well enough, someone would have taken the time to run against her. No one bothered to do that two weeks ago during the qualifying period.




The order of the meeting was changed to bring the discussion to form a Community Relations Committee to deal with racism. After Commission approval of the agenda change, Meier stated that he was going to be more diligent during public comment and keep to the time limit and to subject matter. Last meeting, it was not as orderly as it could have been. Without following the rules for civility and the time limit, meetings can devolve far from the original discussion points.


Dyess took charge and explained that this committee will not be an official advisory board. This would eliminate the need for Sunshine and Public Records. That could promote freer discussion. It will allow members to speak to each other without having a legal issue. Members can have frank discussions without City staff being involved or having an advertised meeting.


Dyess will be the City point person. The board will be comprised of a Commission member, NAACP member, ACES, Concerned Citizens of East Stuart, a Hispanic Organization, Ministerial Alliance and perhaps others.


It was thought that Clarke would be the Commissioner on this committee. For a moment during discussion, I thought no Commissioner would be on the board. In my opinion, that probably would have been best if you wanted to have frank discussions without a political slant. Clarke thought better of being on the board. Bruner volunteered and was chosen.


It passed 4-0.



Another week another acronym. EAR stands for Evaluation and Appraisal Report for the Comprehensive Plan. This is the method for changing the City’s Comprehensive Plan. Every 10 years this should be done, and it goes to Tallahassee for approval.


The goal is to make sure that the LDRs and ordinances are not in contradiction with the comp plan. Over time, conflicts happen. This is one way to bring everything back in line. It also provides an opportunity for the entire City community to have a chance to express their opinions on how they want to see the City develop.


There were several meetings of the public that occurred. The meeting I attended had two City residents and several non-City residents. Without participation from those that live within the municipal boundaries, staff and ultimately the Commission does what it perceives as best.


I think the staff and Commission have done a good job with the EAR. I am attaching staff presentation and the plan itself. If you are a Stuart resident or a business owner, you should look. You will find it interesting.


The plan is here


And the presentation is here




I think we should all be wearing masks in public. This is not a political statement, but as every public health person stated to the County Commission, this is what stops COVID-19 from spreading. It was not an either/or statement. It was absolute.


Under their emergency powers, the County Commission issued an order that includes the entire County both incorporated and unincorporated. The order states that all food service workers must be masked as well as the employees of those establishments where social distancing is not possible. All others are strongly encouraged to wear masks.


While Stuart maybe the spiritual home of many, it has relatively few residents…about 11% of Martin County’s population. Our City Commissioners sometimes forget that Stuart, while important to those that live there, is not really the political presence that Palm City is. Palm City has a population that dwarfs the City.


With those three paragraphs above, Mayor Meier wanted to institute mandatory mask wearing. The argument goes that the police would make sure that people complied. This would be just the kind of emergency order that we are asking our cops to enforce that could lead to a problem.


Every cop knows that he is going to be challenged at some point by a citizen. What we need to do is make sure that the laws that he is asked to enforce are not trivial in nature. Because at some point a citizen is going to say, “I am not going to wear the mask and you cannot make me.” This is setting up a confrontation which can lead to all the things that set off the problems seen in Atlanta or Minneapolis.


Both Dyes and Tumminelli were against passing the ordinance. And for now, so too were the rest of the Commissioners. If our numbers continue to climb, I can see the County stepping in and passing universal masking. Better yet, the governor should do so. It would be the right call. Until that occurs, the Commissioners need to remember their position in the grand scheme and have the restraint to do nothing.


Stuart Latest News From The June 14, 2020 Edition



Most of the 5 plus hour meeting was devoted to the black/white divide in Stuart, Martin County, and the nation. The recent justifiable marches throughout the country regarding George Floyd’s death highlight the problems we still have. The Stuart problem was highlighted because of the racist slurs and graffiti that occurred over 90 seconds in the recent CRB zoom meeting. This was apparently perpetrated by teenagers, but it is far from a prank.


That incident shows that no matter how much progress we think we have made, there is much more to go…so much more that my grandchildren will be dealing with the residual effects. Most of the racist tropes are more subtle today than what was heard during the CRB meeting hack. Perhaps there will be less of that hatred spewed tomorrow. But it will still be there in some people’s souls.


The City and Commission apologized, and that is fine, but those are words. Our society needs to come to grips with more than just words. They passed a diversity ordinance and that is fine as a matter of a declaration. They will look at bringing back a special commission to tackle the problem. Yet the problem is so endemic in the U.S. that a national effort needs to be made.


Most spoke with heavy and sad hearts. The words were meaningful. There was no grandstanding from the Commission or the public. When things like this occur, it shows how far we must still go. Yet without concrete actions, we just have another gripe session.


The Chief of Police suspended the use of the choke-hold. That is good concrete step, but the state and federal government should also outlaw it. Is what happened by members of the Minneapolis police force indicative of all law enforcement? I do not believe it is. But cops like Chauvin should have never been hired. That is what must be addressed.


In the past thirty years, we have militarized our police forces. There are some tactical units that need to have that gear available. Patrol officers should wear bullet proof vests, but should they be wearing combat boots? Cops need to wear a uniform so that we know who they are. They are patrolling our neighborhoods and not fighting a guerrilla insurgency in Baghdad. The way that all police officers behave should reflect America’s highest ideals.


Dyess said that the FBI was looking into tracking down the perpetrators of that 90 second hijacking of the meeting. I hope they are successful. I am not so sure what they did was a prosecutable crime. It was nevertheless a crime to our psyche and our ideals. Chains from 400 years ago are still a part of our legacy and still contribute to the divide in this country. That is a fact.


The motion to pass a diversity resolution was 4-0.


You can read the ordinance here



Last summer Phil Harvey had his plaza for sale on Martin Luther King Blvd. He received a waiver from the Commission allowing him to sell alcohol from 9 am to 9 pm. The waiver was needed because of the proximity to Stuart Middle School. Mr. Harvey had his realtor speak on his behalf at the meeting. There was a prominent for sale sign displayed on the property. The prime reason he was asking for the waiver was so that the property would be more attractive to a potential buyer. There was neighborhood support.


That waiver runs with the property which means the selling of alcohol is already allowed. The eventual buyer, Shaher (Sam) Barghouthy, has been the owner of Speedy Mart in Gary Plaza for 28 years. That store location will be closing, and he is moving to the new location. The hours of his existing store are 9 am-11 pm.


Perhaps because of the proximity to Stuart Middle School, a waiver should have never been granted. Yet a prohibition on alcohol sales within certain distances of churches and schools seems antiquated. Medical marijuana is legal and other drugs are very accessible. The additional two hours does not really change the matter except recreating what already exists in a new location a few blocks away.


The Commission voted 4-0 to allow the extension.


You can read the application here



The Commission also had on their plate almost $100 million of real estate projects that needed to be voted on. Because of the lateness of the hour, the appropriate oversight may not have been given. Anyone who had wanted to speak had long gone by the time these matters came to the forefront.


It is not that I would not have voted for them, yet it does not seem appropriate that, except for Harbor Grove, not much of a presentation or discussion occurred. The Commission was tired and exhausted and did not give these items the attention they deserved. This is a ridiculous way of tending to the City’s business.


I have written before that overloading agendas causes insufficient time for deliberation. It does not help that Commissioners take up at least the first hour and more of every meeting with their personal peeves and citing what they did since the last meeting. Taken together with proclamations, arts moments, and employee recognitions of how long people have worked for the City, it may be good for politics but lousy for policy.




The abandonment of the ROW on Osceola was so concerning earlier especially to Snug Harbor. It did not even rise to a nod at 10:15 pm. A new appraisal was included showing that the applicant will pay $16,000 to the City. Richard Baron probably paid more in professional fees than what he will spend for the property.


The same could be said for the whimper that ended the storm of the Ocean Town Homes Project. While there were fears that this would cause all manner of problems for the neighboring community of Kingswood, those fears were allayed when the developer made concessions including transferring property to Kingswood for their parking.


The developer reached a deal with the Kingswood community for what were known as Parcels A & B for that purpose. A new site plan was attached leaving off those two parcels from this development. attached


Harbor Grove Apartments is proposed to be built on Commerce and Indian Street. It will consist of nine 3 story buildings on the nearly 14-acre property. There will be 324 units with amenities such as a pool and clubhouse. There will be assigned parking spaces and the density is 23.3 units per acre. The rental rates will be no more than 120% of the Area Median

Income (AMI) for Stuart as determined by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.


This project was one of the ones that the County Commission lamented would cause more problems for the roadways. The development will provide $420,000 in County impact fees supposedly to be spent on the roads surrounding the project. When the County raised concerns about the roadways to Stuart’s development director, he stated that statute requires that there will be a rational nexus for where those fees are spent. The County’s response was it is not on their CIP and, therefore, ineligible.


Such an explanation is a “Catch 22” that is worthy of that moniker. The County gets hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees to ameliorate the impacts of new development. By saying it cannot improve the roads around the project because the work is not on the CIP is ludicrous. With that logic not another house would be constructed in Martin County. Impact fees are then an extortion payment to get an approval and nothing more.


Meier suggested they add a floor to the maximum height restriction to reduce rents to 80-100% of AMI. That is another problem with our current height limit and why 4-story buildings are seldom built. When you add another story from 3 to 4, you need to include elevators. Unless you are receiving higher rents than most projects would command, the 4th floor costs more than the income provided.


Meier then suggested with Matheson’s endorsement that perhaps if a percentage of rents could be at 80-100% of AMI, then there could be other apartments at 140% of that number. The developer stated that he would look at it and see if a different proposal could be had on second reading. It passed 4-0.


The presentation can be found here


Lastly in a less than 10-minute discussion, the Commission voted to proceed with buying the Wells Fargo Building on Ocean with the intention of City Hall being moved there once Wells Fargo vacates. Wells Fargo’s departure could be anywhere from 6 months to 10 years. The price is $7,000,000. The vote was 4-0.


What to do with the existing City Hall was not discussed. How much renovation would cost to make a building older than the current City Hall ready for City occupancy was not discussed. In the time frame allotted at the end of the night, the Commission was not in the mood. They passed it 4-0

I am in favor of buying this building. Extending the reaches of the commercial district is a good idea. Maybe even the move of City Hall is a good idea. Of course, a referendum on what to do with the existing building would need to go to the voters. Unfortunately, I have seen too many times that the Stuart City Commission wants to proceed with grandiose plans only to fold once a few people with tee shirts protest whether they are residents of Stuart or Katmandu.


The Sailfish Ball Park scene is a perfect example. Twice that was put out for development and twice the Commission refused to go forward because of two hundred people, mostly from Palm City, that protested. You did not hear anything from the 16,000 actual City residents although it is their tax dollars that pay for it. The Commission believes in one step forward and two steps back.


But that night at that time, the Commissioners were hungry and tired. They had visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads.

Stuart Latest News From The May 31, 2020 Edition



I want to begin this section not with something that was on the agenda but something that was not.


Several months ago, a project was approved by the CRB and the Commission for new apartments in an old motel on Federal Highway by Frazier Creek. Some of you may remember that when it came before the CRB, they originally refused to vote up or down until a few things were attached to the application…like a site plan. As a member of the CRB, I said when it was first presented that it was not ready to move forward.


When it came back a few weeks later, there were a site plan, a landscape plan, and elevations. The only reason it was coming before us was because the existing structure had 19 hotel units, and to be converted to multi-family, only 15 units per acre were allowed. The project needed to become a UPUD to increase the density to the number of units already there. A plan was submitted that was not the most detailed but better than before. The CRB sent it to the Commission with conditions.

The Commission added a significant other condition when approval was voted upon. The building needed to hook up to sewer instead of staying on septic. It was a good addition because of the property’s approximation to the creek and the river. The other reason the hook up is beneficial is that if state and local government has spent millions to run sewer lines, then it should be mandatory (at least for commercial properties) to hook up once available.


The buyer of the property either had no idea what he was doing, or he thought he could skirt the codes. As I wrote above in the News & Views section, Florida’s building code must be followed. There is no wiggle room. And when you are agreeing to hook up to sewer, then that is in your plans. You cannot say I forgot. The developer wanted to come back to the Commission to ask not to hook up to the sewer.


I know the neighbors were not happy regarding the project. The sewer hookup was a promise. Several Commissioners behind the scenes began to let it be known that the developer should not come back for that relief. He got the message and did not move forward with his request. Occasionally, the system works.


This should show that Stuart needs some reforms. The first is that like the residential sewer hookup finance deal where the costs are paid over a period of time, the same needs to be offered to commercial properties. However, for commercial properties it should be mandatory that hookup occur within a defined time limit.


The second and equally important matter is that the City needs to more closely follow its master plan. In this case, what is the benefit to having a single-story motel building in that spot. Is that compatible or comparable to what we want the City to look like. Stuart may be using the PUD process to do what is always best for a developer but not for the entire City.


I am for density and infill where appropriate. Our codes and comp plan should not be ignored in order for one project to move forward. This ultimately will weaken our economic development. The PUD process should tweak individual projects to make them economically possible. We cannot ignore the overall development criteria for an area.


That does not mean that the plan is not changeable. What was once an acceptable character for an area may over time need to be changed so that the area can remain viable. Then the City needs to engage the stakeholders and come up with area wide changes. A continuous stream of “one offs” will only weaken our overall City.



While the above was not on the agenda, the Shoppes of Colorado was. This is the project that is being developed by Ted Glasrud who owns the building across the street that houses Fruits & Roots.


If you look at the plan, you will notice that the parcel is an unusual shape because of Frazier Creek. Two streets dead end on either side. Like many other roads in Stuart, dead ends are standard. It is hard to have connectivity. There is the challenge with how low the property grade is. The developer is bringing in fill. To put it politely, the parcel has challenges.


The Commission felt that it was not ready to come forward. Commissioner Leighton could not put her finger on it but just did not quite believe that the drainage would work. (I had the same feeling.) Matheson was skeptical about the oak trees being cut down because they gave the sidewalk shade. Bruner wanted a boardwalk along the creek (Attorney Mortell said that it is not possible because of environmental concerns.) Meier felt that the adopted plan for Colorado Avenue was not being followed.


After more than an hour of discussion, no vote was taken, and it was returned to staff with several suggestions. Another example of not ready for prime time.


You can see the presentation here 





Between the Pointe and Kingswood on Ocean Avenue is a parcel that is the quintessential infill project. The project will have an 80-foot buffer with Kingswood, a lake, rain gardens and a very suburban feel. It will be 14 buildings of 2 story town homes. There is 7.25 units to the acre which is less dense than its neighbors and less than current zoning allows.


At first, Kingswood was making noise to oppose the project. A few of the residents were saying all kinds of crazy things such as suggesting it should be an over-55 community so there would not be children. Watch out children would jump into their pools. I wrote a piece about how silly it all was. The Stuart News ran a story about the fight to come.


Yet at the meeting, no one spoke against the project. It was a rare love fest between the neighbors and the developer. Pulte, the developer, Bob Raynes, the attorney, and Michael Houston, the land planner, had ten meetings before this one with Kingswood. They worked to alleviate everyone’s fears. It showed last night.


The project could have been at least twice as dense by right. But this is the product that Pulte builds and believes there is a market for in Stuart. It is one more option for 80 families to call home. A little something for everyone.


A motion was made by Leighton and seconded by Clarke. It passed 5-0.


You can see the presentations here




This was Commissioner Leighton’s final meeting. She is resigning to run for another office. While we may not have always gotten along temperamentally, policy-wise I agree with her more than not. She has been a Commissioner for 8 ½ years.


Good luck!


Stuart Latest News From The May 20, 2020 Edition



The Commission convened a special meeting to discuss the easing of restrictions considering the governor’s order that was taking effect that day.


First, they had several presentations from their own staff and the Business Development Board. Suffice it to say, there was nothing that I need to spend time writing about. If you do wish to see the BDB, a presentation named Stuart Strong, or the Development Directors concentric circles regarding restaurant tables and social distancing, they are Attached


Of greater importance was when the summer program at the Stuart Recreation Center was going to open. It was decided to start the program on May 18th for those children whose parents will be back to work. There will be 9 children per group, and once capacity is reached, program registrations will no longer be accepted.


The Commission wanted to close Osceola Street to allow for adequate social distancing and restaurants to be allowed to have outside dining. Unfortunately, the next day after the City Manager and staff polled the store owners, they overwhelmingly did not want the closure. Instead the City will temporarily close parking spaces in front of restaurants that do not currently have outdoor dining. The Commission decided to allow outdoor dining in all areas of the City if the property owner gives permission.

The Commission also debated face masks. Indiantown had passed an ordinance requiring face coverings in public. There was no enforcement mechanism. Stuart will have an ordinance come back to the Commission next meeting.


If they pass the wearing of masks as mandatory, then I cannot believe Stuart PD will spend much time wanting to confront citizens and never mind issuing citations. If it is just an ordinance recommending the use of masks, then it will be an empty gesture. In any case much ado about nothing.




During Commissioner comments Commissioner Matheson asked that the City have all Commissioners sign a letter to the Army Corps of Engineers mirroring the County’s comments regarding LOSUM. There was back and forth for a while, but a motion was finally made by Matheson and seconded by Vice-Mayor Clarke. It passed 5-0. Who is ever against water?

The letters are Here


Apparently, there was an international news story regarding downtown not following social distancing at restaurants. Mayor Meier brought it up and was worried about how Stuart appeared. Stuart PD will have an officer assigned downtown to make sure that the law is being followed. The strategy is to report to the Department of Business & Professional Regulation any violators.


I and others have noticed that not all businesses are following those guidelines. Will it spark another rise in the number of cases? If it does will people, then retreat behind closed doors whether the government has another lock down or not? We are closing in on 90,000 deaths. Will a spike mean the end of how many businesses and jobs?

Dyess stated that he had re-opened the playgrounds. This mirrors the County’s action at their last special meeting.


Which brings us to Stuart’s version of face coverings. Do not worry the resolution that was passed in Stuart is completely voluntary. It says you should wear one whenever outdoors but if you do not…no penalty. The Commission had discussed this at their special meeting. Staff brought back a resolution as directed.


While Meier and Matheson would probably want to make it mandatory, they understood they did not have the three votes necessary. The final resolution has no impact at all except to say wear face coverings…pretty please. The motion was made by Clarke and seconded by Matheson. It passed 3-2 with Commissioners Bruner and Leighton voting no. The ordinance can be found Here




Matheson attempted to roll back the proposed Commission term limits to 2 terms. Unfortunately, while Meier said he would go along, the other three career pols decided they and their far in the future successors needed longer to feed at the trough. Bruner made a motion for terms to be extended to 4 years and have a three-term limit of 12 years. It was seconded by Leighton and passed 5-0. Who wants to give up $18,000 a year, medical insurance, and a pension?

The second charter revision provides that once you open a campaign account to run for a different office, you must resign your seat on the City Commission. This was proposed to curb any perceived or actual influence regarding how a Commissioner running for another office would vote on different matters coming before the Commission during the campaign season. Candidates need money to run and votes to be elected. And as we have seen, sometimes it is hard to tell why a vote is cast in a certain way. Clarke moved to send it on to the voters and it was seconded by Matheson. It passed 5-0.




Since the last go-round, the developer has lopped off a floor in the rear north building closest to the perimeter, made the lake more irregular as per the code, and changed the traffic pattern for ingress and egress. That still leaves 6 4-story buildings and the other amenities in the original proposal. The 13.9-acre parcel will have a density of 20 units per acre.

This development fronts Federal Highway by Commerce Street. It is not being dropped down into the middle of a single-family neighborhood though it borders one. And I guess that is what people do not like. The neighbors seem to confuse the terms comparable with compatible. In the modern planning world, what you want is the latter.


Under the old commercial zoning, many different things could have gone there. By having residential zoning, it is compatible with the residential developments to the rear. While the homeowners want to see as little density as possible, it is not financially practical. The rents that would have to be charged to build 200 units would be at least 50% more. That is not anywhere near the market.


The developer, who has over 10,000 units, has conducted market studies that show a need for this housing. At present, other similar complexes are full and have a waiting list. There are ample setbacks from the single-family homes…hundreds of feet in some instances.


At any time, the homeowners could have bought the parcel that they had to know would be developed someday. Would they have been happier with a couple of fast food restaurants and a Wawa? The homeowners hired David Earle’s law firm to intervene, and there were rumblings of court actions by some of the speakers. The courts, unless it is spot zoning and this is not spot zoning, give a wide amount of latitude to elected bodies to make these decisions.


After many speakers both in person and virtually, it was time for the Commission to deliberate. Bruner moved to approve, and Clarke seconded for discussion. Leighton stated that Stuart has grown by 3300 people in 30 years which is not exactly a huge growth spurt. She went on to say there is a need for development. However, she believed it was too dense and would not support it. It is election season and the Property Appraiser’s office calls.


Clarke, which she did throughout the meeting, rambled on without making any sense. It is election season. Bruner is consistent. She is for the river, the economy, and the survivability of the City.


Matheson had stated at the last meeting that he would support the project if the north building was reduced to three floors, the lake was an irregular shape and the U.S. 1 traffic situation was addressed. They were. Matheson as well as Meier are environmentalist not “no growth” fanatics. Meier especially believes that density belongs in cities. The alternative is sprawl.


The vote was 4-1 with Leighton dissenting.


Take a look at all the Presentation



From the May 3, 2020 Edition


When you create bad law, it tends to corrupt actions going forward. This happened quite a bit at this meeting beginning with the awarding of the right to future transfer of impact fee credits.


It is my opinion that the City of Stuart should do away with the payment of impact fees. The City is built out, and anywhere improvements would need to accommodate a new project, the City should charge those costs to the individual parcel as part of the approval process. It could be a requirement by ordinance.


Yet, that is not what the City does. It still charges impact fees for new projects. That is except if you are lucky enough to be an insider.


The motion that passed was as a result of an earlier ordinance that the City Commission approved which allows for the right to transfer unused impact fee credits from one parcel to another. This earlier ordinance was championed by the owner of 604 East Ocean, John Leighton. That property had originally 57 small units on it of less than 800 sq. feet.


The building itself had been demolished years ago. He eventually built 5 townhouses and 2 commercial spaces. For that project it was determined that 10 impact fee credits were used of the original 57. The ordinance passed at this meeting determined that John Leighton has 47 unused credits that he will ask to be transferred to other property in the future.


The original ordinance would allow any property owner the right to the unused credits. How many parcels in the City would have such an excess? There is only one I can think of at present that would have the ability to do so. A special deal for a special person. And what is so amazing about the entire episode is that the original building that had the 57 units never paid any impact fees. When that building was built, impact fees did not exist. Further you could not build 57 units on that parcel today.


A motion was made by Clarke to accept the finding of 47 excess impact fee credits. It was seconded by Bruner. The vote was 4-1 with Glass-Leighton, Clarke, Bruner and Meier voting for the motion and Matheson voting against. I asked Meier why he voted in favor and he said he felt he had no choice because of the ordinance earlier that was passed allowing this to occur. He and Matheson had voted against the earlier ordinance.


You can find the entire item here:




It seems like only yesterday when Paul and Linda Daly were in the chamber with hundreds of supporters pressuring the Commission to “Save The Pelican.” They claimed they needed a new lease to make sure that the small charming beach-front restaurant would remain and be a symbol of Stuart’s enduring small-town charm. The Dalys assured the Commission that they were not going to sell the lease. The lease extension that was signed was for years into the future and had below market rent. Barely a month later, it was for sale by the Dalys.


Mike Matakaetis, the owner of the Boathouse Café and other restaurants, began to cut a deal with the Dalys months ago. At Christmas time Matakaetis showed me renderings and his ideas for the place. Those plans, although quite attractive, bore no resemblance to the Pelican. But why would they have to since the scam had already happened. One more time the Commission, was taken for a ride. This time by the Dalys.


At this meeting, the Commission approved the assignment of the existing lease with an amended and restated lease for the property. There will be extensive work and improvements that will result in the building being much larger than the quaint Pelican. Matakaetis is a knowledgeable operator and will probably be successful. The City will make more money if everything pans out.


The catch is that once the lease is approved, the Commission will not have any input into how the finished product will look. No, they gave that right away. If the design meets code for the City-owned property, it will be approved by staff. The building could be designed any way that is legal.

What will be gone is that quaint little spot that the Dalys promised in what seemed perpetuity in October. Where were all their supporters who could not live without the Pelican? Not one of them bothered to even send an email. The Dalys received their retirement package care of the Commission and the taxpayers made all the contributions.


The vote was 4-1 with Meier dissenting. He asked why anything, but the assignment of lease had to be approved at the meeting. The answer Mayor Meier is that the Commission folds every time. Any little pressure or a well-placed campaign contribution will seal the deal.


I am sure that Matakaetis will do a great job and for the many of us, it will not matter. It is amazing how quickly charm and small town can go out the window and the people who could not live without it a few months ago, could not care less today.


The new lease and other information can be found at:







The Charter Review Board recommended 3 Charter revisions. This is the 10-year review that is required by the Charter itself. I was the Chair. My editorial on term limits could be found in the News & Views section.

The Board made three recommendations for questions to go to referendum plus several other matters that should be addressed by ordinance. The Commission did not mention any of those recommendations. Perhaps they were not concerned because those changes did not directly affect Commissioners.


Change A: The Board had multiple discussions regarding Commissioner pay. The

Charter Board settled on the following concept: outside a general wage increase or cost

of living increase afforded to all City Employees, the Commission must wait until their next

election cycle to receive any pay increase. Currently, commission pay is addressed in

Section 2 of code and not in the charter.


This was one of the issues that Matheson ran on and defeated Troy McDonald. In 2018, there was a pay increase of 55% that was voted in by the Commission a few weeks after Bruner was first elected and Leighton ran unopposed.


Matheson wanted to see that there would be no pay increase outside of a COLA without a referendum. The Board decided that they did not want to have the City go through the expense of a referendum and that a raise could take effect after each Commissioner stood for election.


Glass-Leighton said that no one cared that she voted herself a raise of 55%. Clarke stated that they had not received a raise in years, and it was due. Stuart has the highest paid Commission in the state for similar size cities and budgets. As part of their compensation, commissioners receive medical benefits and are part of the Florida Retirement System in addition to pay of $18,000 per year.


Matheson made a motion to accept the recommendation. It failed for a lack of a second. The Commission will continue to vote their own pay increases and other benefits without any check on their ability to do so.


Change B: Sec. 7.03 Qualification for Office. The board feels the following changes

should be added to the qualifications for office of City Commissioner. The Term of each

group shall be four years with a maximum of eight consecutive years regardless of which

group. The Charter Board recommends this be one referendum question and not two

individual questions.


The Charter Board felt that terms of two years were no longer advisable because it did not give Commissioners enough time in office before running for re-election. They felt that 4 years would allow Commissioners the time to have their platforms enacted. Further, by moving elections to even years, the City would not go through the added expense as they do currently of having elections in odd-number years. It further adds transparency since many voters did not even realize there were two Commissioners up for re-election last August.


With longer terms, the Charter Board overwhelmingly concurred that term limits of no more than 8 consecutive years would ensure others would be able to run. The history of Stuart elections is that there are very few challengers to incumbents. For example, there are currently 4 seats up for election. The only one with two people running is the seat being vacated by Leighton who is running for Property Appraiser. That “open” race will only be for her unexpired term of one year the remains.


All Commissioners agreed with increasing the term to 4 years. Leighton is opposed to term limits. Matheson saw there was opposition and said he felt 12 years was better. A motion was made by Matheson and seconded by Leighton for 4-year terms with term limits of 12 years. It passed 5-0


Change C: Sec. 7.03 Qualification for Office. The board feels the following changes

should be added to the qualifications for office of City Commissioner. If a City

Commissioner opens a treasury account for the purposes of accepting donations to run

for an office other than their current seat or any Commissioner who registers to run for a

different office, shall no longer be qualified to serve. Either, shall be deemed as a

resignation by the Commissioner effective immediately.


In the past two years City Commissioners have announced for other offices while still being Stuart Commissioners and voting on matters that had an effect on residents outside the City and for projects that people had contributed to their campaigns for those outside elections. While no Charter Board member claimed there were any improprieties, they wanted to see that there could not even be an allegation of such.


This appeared to be one that Commissioners all agreed was a good idea. A motion was made by Matheson and seconded by Bruner. It passed 5-0


It was noted in the agenda item that the Board also had several other recommendations that they wanted the Commission to take up by ordinance instead of by a Charter change. The item states that they will be brought back for discussion. If a Commissioner does not push this, those proposed ideas will die without a hearing in the bowels of City Hall.




It was requested by the applicant that the item be brought back at the next meeting.


The abandonment on Osceola was approved on first reading subject to an up-to-date appraisal. The appraisal was not available for anyone except staff at the last meeting.


Development had last minute presentations which were not contained in the agenda packets. Two Commissioners, Matheson and Meier, ran on transparency. How about living up to it in some fashion and making sure that the public has all information prior to the meeting so that they are just as informed as staff and the Commission.


The appraisal that was being used and was out of date is attached. A new one should be ready for the next meeting. You can find the old appraisal at:






For more than a decade, the City of Stuart has been trying to lease a little less than a 2-acre plot on U.S. 1 north of the Roosevelt Bridge. It is part of the Haney Creek property and was carved out of the preserve in order to be leased to provide funds for the maintenance of Haney Creek. Nothing has ever panned out.


Housing Solutions, a nonprofit, has been trying to build work force housing for several years. They have asked the City to consider leasing the property to them for an amount to be determined after study. There is also a for-profit entity that has put a bid in to lease the land to build a self-storage facility. This is not the first commercial proposal received, but nothing ever has materialized.


The Commission has decided to see if a deal can be worked out with Housing Solutions for them to build affordable housing. In the past, it was determined that there would need to be $500,000 in site improvements. Where all this money will come from is a good question.


In all probability, the self-storage project would probably never happen. While I would normally be in favor of the private sector, I do not think there would be any harm in having the nonprofit see what it can do but I will strongly object if it costs the City any out of pocket expense. The City cannot afford to spend their taxpayer’s money to build public housing.


As I have stated in the past, the parcel is too small and too isolated to work. The cost per unit would be more than any rent they could charge. As we enter a time of economic uncertainty, I would not expect any money from Tallahassee or Washington. But since this parcel will continue to be problematic, I believe the Commission should offer Housing Solution a finite time to see if a project could work and be financed there. If not, the Commission should seek to change the agreement with the County to just make it part of the Haney Creek Preserve.


The presentation can be found at:





Merritt Matheson wrote an op-ed that he sent to TC Palm and the newsletter. It has to do with Stuart’s LOSUM recommendations and their vision that they passed for the St. Lucie:


With the uncertainty of these unprecedented times, it is more important than ever to pay attention to stories of hope and positivity. As we approach the summer wet season, one bright spot is the current and forecasted level of Lake Okeechobee. 


During my campaign for office, I advocated for the City of Stuart to participate in proactive, year-round focus on Lake Okeechobee and the St. Lucie River, not just reactive protests during rainy summers when our waterways are already bloated with toxic green gunk. In the early weeks of 2020, Congressman Brian Mast and local environmental leaders were drawing attention to how the Army Corps of Engineers was managing Lake Okeechobee during the dry season. I recognized the importance of ensuring the City of Stuart was an active participant in one of the most significant safeguards against summer discharges: Lower the level of Lake Okeechobee during the dry season so it will have more capacity for additional water during the wet season.


By February, the City of Stuart was on the brink of filing litigation against the Army Corps for their proposed management of Lake Okeechobee during the 2020 dry season.  The management proposal, announced in December, stated a “focus on water supply” with a projected lake height of 12.5 feet by June 1, 2020. This contrasted with 2019 when Lake Okeechobee started the wet season at a height of 10.8 feet. The difference of 1.7 feet prior to the rainy season can mean the difference between clearer water and continued restoration of the estuary—or another toxic summer. It’s all about capacity. Clear historical evidence directly correlates a higher lake level on June 1 with an increased probability of massive discharges into the St. Lucie River.


The initial discussions pertaining to the City’s lawsuit were based around injunctive relief from the “focus on water supply” management pattern.


I am incredibly thankful for and proud of my fellow commissioners. We voted unanimously in favor of doing everything possible to encourage the Corps to manage the lake at a lower level, including the pursuit of litigation. Many residents, environmental experts, lawyers and advocates offered valuable advice to help us come to this consensus.


So where does Stuart stand now?


Although the City of Stuart always has the right to file suit to protect the health and safety of its residents, we currently are not on a path for litigation. Over the course of our deliberations, the Army Corps did begin managing the lake the way our proposed lawsuit would have demanded: Keeping the lake at a lower level by increasing flow to the south and west. Our need to take decisive, immediate action had subsided. The city’s goals of Lake Okeechobee management became realized.


I want to be clear, I do not claim that the City’s threat of a lawsuit changed the Army Corps’ action. What did happen, though, was increased communication among public and private agencies and increased public awareness of the issue at a time when most don’t think about it. Stuart adopted a Vision Statement (Vision Statement) for Lake Okeechobee management (link below), created a full-time position for a “River Advocate,” and gave me authority to speak on behalf of the City during LOSOM meetings. Martin County’s staff presented an update of their advocacy during the Lake Okeechobee System Operations Manual (LOSOM) process. (LOSOM will dictate management of the lake for the next decade.) Most importantly, beneficial flows to the south and west from the lake increased even as the lake went below 12 feet. Mother Nature, as is typical, likely played the largest role by providing rain during a typically dry season.


As I write this, the lake is at 11.37 feet. The most recent updates from the Corps project a height of roughly 11.5 feet on June 1. Compared to prior years, we expect to enter the wet season with more storage capacity in Lake Okeechobee.


Recently, toxic algae blooms were reported at Port Mayaca and the St. Lucie Canal. With decades’ worth of legacy muck on the bottom of Lake Okeechobee and ever-warming temperatures, future algae blooms seem inevitable. Our collective hope is that the increased capacity in the lake will be enough for the St. Lucie River to be spared harmful releases even in the event of a major hurricane.


Link to City of Stuarts Vision Statement





During her comments, Commissioner Clarke mentioned that two East Stuart notables had recently passed. Robert Hall, the first black Mayor of Stuart, was also, I believe, the first black Commissioner and City department head. He was 83.


Dr. Willie “Jay” Thompson was a pillar of the community for many years. He attended the segregated Stuart Training School and went on to FAMU. Jay taught in Okeechobee and Martin County throughout his career. He was someone that had a keen interest in children. He loved to recite poetry and engage everyone in music which was his specialty. Clarke recited a poem in his honor, “Keep A Goin.” It was a fitting tribute.


Mayor Meier commented negatively on the last newsletter’s portrayal of the City’s emergency meeting as the Becket play “Waiting for Godot.” In other words, 2.5 hours of nothing. I went back and listened to portions of the meeting and I haven’t changed my opinion.


I also stated that the streaming service was not up to par. It isn’t. This meeting was done via Zoom as a high-bred and the quality was very good. I realize that Zoom may not be practical for other meetings once things are back to normal because of close captioning but the audio and video were clear and much better than normal. As an aside, the City’s streaming was not working for the April 13th meeting.



The Commission had a vision statement crafted for how they see the discharges and our water quality. It is something that staff and Commission can point to as what they would like to see. The statement outlines the City’s idea on what should be the outcomes.


The statement was given to Martin County and Sanibel on the West Coast. The Corp has been releasing water to the west and south but not into the St. Lucie. The Caloosahatchee and the Everglades need more water, we rarely if ever do. The current lake level is 11 feet 4 inches which is a vast improvement over earlier years. Of course, we have had a very dry winter.


A vision statement is one of many steps and once the proposed County-wide task force is up and running (BOCC please don’t forget), perhap