As so often happens in discussions of planning in Martin County, the conversation is deteriorating.

Below is a letter from Mike DiTerlizzi, a former commissioner and present day school board member. 

What it lacks in accuracy, it makes up for in indignation.

Following Mike's letter is my response to him.



Letter from Mike DiTerlizzi:

Hello Friends,

Summer has finally arrived! I would like to take this time to ask you to pay close attention to the actions your county commissioners are about to take.  The commission is in the process of rewriting the county's Comprehensive Plan, the plan is the guiding document that should, over time, evolve as our community matures.

Over the past thirty years the plan has been modified at least one time per year, sometimes twice.  Every six or seven years Florida law required a reevaluation of the plan, taking a look ahead for the next 20 to 25 years and planning for the future.

The current commission has brought in people (non-elected) both former commissioners to rewrite the plan under the guise of protecting the environment and the community from urban sprawl. Both of which the current plan does a very good job of doing.  One of these individuals was a former one term commissioner who has been involved in about one dozen unsuccessful lawsuits against the county (taxpayers).

At stake here are many of the very things that are not only important to business owners but to all property owners, even the single family homeowner.  Just wonder how it would be if you bought your dream retirement house and wanted to add a pool, only to find that you needed to have a seventy-five-foot setback from the lake, canal, wetland, river or body of water in your backyard because the county said so, even though your neighbors had a pool already, you may not.

What if you wanted to expand your business only to be told that new laws enacted will prevent you from doing so?  Government has an insatiable appetite for our tax dollars and the more restrictions they put upon us the higher our taxes will go.  Please see for yourself, visit and review the budgets and tax millage from1996 to 2000 when your taxes went up by a whopping 20%+.

There are big changes coming to town, please do not sit back and let them shove them through, get involved, get educated, read between the lines.

All in all there is a bright future for our communities but your involvement is necessary in order to keep it that way.

Michael DiTerlizzi, Palm City Chamber President, Highway Tire and Auto    


Response from Maggy:

July 16, 2013

Dear Mike,

I received your letter to the Palm City Chamber members regarding the proposed Comp Plan changes.

I feel sure, that as an elected official, you would not want to be sending out inaccurate information.

It is surprising and disappointing that you seem to have just heard of the comp plan amendments. Last fall I sent the Palm City Chamber and a number of other business groups an invitation to get involved in crafting and improving the amendments. Joe Catrambone of the Stuart Chamber of Commerce was kind enough to meet with me, but I never heard back from the Palm City Chamber.

The website with current drafts of the amendment has been up since September at:

Public officials, all of the Chambers of Commerce, business and environmental groups, and community service organizations have all been invited to review the website, let their members know about it, and get involved in making the amendments better.

I have met with a number of consultants who represent development interests including Morris Crady, Bob Raynes, Toby Oberdorf, and Michael Houston. We’ve made changes together that made the amendment better.

You and I can agree to disagree as to whether the Future Group amendments to the comp plan protect the residents and the environment of Martin County. I don’t think that there can be any argument as to whether last summer’s handling of proposed amendments for the Hobe Groves and Harmony DRIs and the Extreme Water Sports Park left residents feeling adequately protected. There was confusion and frustration with the process.  By the time the primary election came along in August, it was clear that the majority of voters wanted their comp plan back.

They wanted the overall goals put back into Chapter 2 to ensure that Plan policies were people friendly, environmentally friendly, business friendly, and taxpayer friendly. It became apparent that there were numerous inaccuracies and confusions in Chapter 1 that needed correction. I can’t think that anyone, on either side of the aisle, wants an amendment process that is confusing and unpredictable.

You stated in your letter that the re-write was done by two former commissioners. You appear to think that the rewrite was a plot by former Commissioner Donna Melzer and you used your letter to personally attack her.

That was not only ungentlemanly, it is simply not true. In answering your attack, I’m not sure whether I’m dealing with paranoia or simply the kind of negative campaigning that throws out accusations and hopes they will stick.

This initiative to amend the comp plan is all my fault. I take full responsibility. If you feel the need to throw rocks, please have the courage to attack me.

Building consensus is difficult. In Martin County it may be impossible.

That doesn’t mean that we can’t have an honest discussion with people we disagree with.

You bring up two issues to alarm people about the dire consequences of the amendment.

First, you suggest ( “Just wonder how it would be if…”) that owners of single family lots will now be required to have a 75 ft setback from lakes, ponds and waterways and that they can’t build a pool even if their neighbor has built a pool.

I hope that when you have time to read and understand the proposed Shoreline Protection policies in Ch.2, you will send out a corrected letter to those folks who were frightened by the scenario you proposed.

1.       There is no requirement for a 75 ft setback for existing homes or for single family lots less than an acre in size.

2.       The Shoreline Protection policies apply only to the estuarine shoreline. They do not apply to lakes and ponds.

3.       It is not currently legal to build a pool within the shoreline preserve area.

In 2012 the County proposed an amendment to the comp plan to allow “horizontal structures” in the preserve area. The intent was to legalize a situation where a homeowner had built in the established preserve area 2 ft. from the MHW line. The amendment was adopted. It states that the Commission “may” allow horizontal structures in the preserve area on a single family lot with a hardened shoreline. It does not define horizontal structures. It does not give any guidance as to whether the intent is to wipe out the shoreline protection zone by allowing paving down to the water. It does not mention pools.

Currently neither the comp plan nor the land development regulations allow pools in the preserve area. They never have. There has been no time since 1982 that the rules allowed pools in the preserve area.

Your second scenario was: “What if you wanted to expand your business only to find that new laws enacted would prevent you..?” 

That supposition is so vague that it is difficult to answer. Are you referring to the fact that it would be harder to get a Plan amendment approved that expanded a commercial or industrial use into an existing residential neighborhood? If you could specify the policies you are concerned with, I would be happy to talk about your concerns.

We can solve problems where your Chamber members are concerned about policies that have unintended impacts. We can reword policies that you don’t feel are clear.

We can’t solve problems that don’t exist.

It is much more difficult to solve problems in an atmosphere of misinformation and animosity.

I hope you will share this letter with your membership. I will place your letter on the website so folks who are following the process can be aware of your concerns.


Maggy Hurchalla