GROWTH AND THE COMPREHENSIVE PLAN
You don’t need a sign telling you that you have arrived
in Martin County. There are no high rise buildings, and there is an
abundance of open space.
Will it always be like this? Can we avoid the mistakes of overdeveloped
south Florida? We can, if we muster the political will to put our
existing residents first. With its abundant natural beauty, warm
weather and favorable tax climate, Florida will continue to be a
powerful magnet for people from all over the world.
Some parts of Florida, in particular the southeast coast, have reached
the “tipping point” when overcrowding and overdevelopment degrade the
quality of life so much that people are escaping from there and moving
on to less crowded areas. For the past 15 years, more people have moved
into Martin County from other counties in south Florida than from
outside the state. They are fleeing the traffic, crowds, crime,
environmental destruction, and high costs that accompany
Local governments have the authority and I believe the responsibility
to manage growth in their cities and counties. And, we have laws to
control and manage our growth.
Signed into law in 1982, our Comprehensive Growth Management Plan (the
Comp Plan) is our enforceable planning document for future growth. It
spells out where and how development can occur and at what densities.
It protects our natural resources, our agricultural land, and our
existing neighborhoods. It limits our building heights to 4
stories. It establishes sound fiscal policies.
Using the Evaluation and Appraisal Report (EAR) as a pretext in 2009,
the Commission majority completely rewrote our exalted Comp Plan. The
EAR is simply supposed to be an examination of our Comp Plan to see if
its policies were meeting the goals of our residents. They certainly
were for most of our residents who revere the protections of our local
laws. However, a small group of special development interests who call
themselves the Future Group felt that our laws were too restrictive and
embarked upon an ambitious re-write project. And, the
Commissioners whose votes they controlled rubber stamped the disastrous
Our Comp Plan wisely prohibits commercial and industrial uses outside
the Urban Services Boundaries because these uses are enormous consumers
of urban services. Comp Plan amendments were approved that allow both
commercial and industrial uses on our Agricultural lands, far from
either of our Urban Service Boundaries.
Our Comp Plan wisely requires a minimum of 20 acres in our Agriculture
land use upon which to build a home. This protects viable agriculture
production and prohibits urban and suburban clusters from springing up
all over western Martin County. Comp Plan amendments were approved that
quadrupled residential densities on agricultural lands.
In 2010 and 2011, the county commission considered putting dense urban
clusters west of I-95 and west of Hobe Sound. Residents
overwhelmingly opposed the applications and, yet, the commission
majority voted in favor of the special interests that would forever
have changed the character and future of Martin County.
Remember that in every single instance where we witness poor planning,
overcrowding, and overdevelopment, first a Board of local government
elected officials made the poor decision to abandon their existing and
protective laws in order to enable and allow that overdevelopment. It's
death by a thousand paper cuts. In local government, those paper cuts
are Comp Plan amendments.
We must defend our Comp Plan laws to ensure smart, managed growth and a
sustainable future for generations to come. This will protect our
rivers and estuaries, Lake Okeechobee, and wetlands against increased
pollution. It will preserve wildlife habitat. It will protect existing
neighborhoods against flooding. It will prevent overcrowding in schools
and on roadways. It will insure that property taxes remain low and will
be used in existing neighborhoods and not used to pay for roads,
schools, and services for future developments. Growth is very
expensive. Growth that we cannot reasonably plan will inevitably result
in increased taxes and overall degradation of our quality of life.