Martin County Goals

Maggy Hurchalla writes:

On August 14, 2012, Martin County voters decided to keep Martin County.  Environmentalists and careful-growthers who wanted to stick with our comprehensive plan and the policies that made us different are happy. They see the vote as pro-people.

Parts of the development community are angry. They see the vote as anti-business.  This could be a wonderful time for making peace instead of war and for building a consensus about what we all care about.

If we can't agree, we might at least find out what we disagree about.  We should start by putting our overall goals back in our Plan. Somehow they got taken out.

When our comp plan was first adopted in 1982, chapter 2 started with:

"Martin County has endeavored to establish a Comprehensive Growth Management Plan which broadens, enhances and protects the quality of life for its residents. The overall goals for the Comprehensive Growth Management Plan are keyed to maintaining quality residential and nonresidential uses, natural resource conservation and preservation of beneficial and protective natural systems, enhanced economic development and fiscal conservancy. "

I can't think of a lot of people who would disagree with trying to achieve a community that had:

- a great quality of life for its residents

- a restored natural environment that was valued and protected

- a strong economy

- a fiscally conservative government that protects taxpayers

That's something we might reach consensus on.

The next step is to look at chapter 1. That deals with the Plan's purpose and legal standing and with the amendment process.

The state legislature changed a lot of things when they abolished the Department of Community Affairs and did away with state oversight of local plans. We're on our own now. We need to review and repair chapter 1 to recognize that fact.

Those who thought the Plan protected them were appalled this summer to find out how easy it was to change it. By the time Extreme Sports got to the final adoption hearing, it became apparent that the personal likes and dislikes of three commissioners could change any or all of the policies in the Plan. Instead of Plan policies deciding which amendments should be approved, amendments decided which Plan policies should apply.

The Plan itself no longer controlled the outcome. The public won, but it was a brutal battle that wasted time and resources on both sides

How do we fix it so the Plan is neither etched in stone nor made of jello?

Most of us would agree that it should be difficult to change our four story height limit and our 15 unit per acre density cap. Most of us would agree that changes to the land use map that meet all Plan policies should be relatively easy. I think all of us might agree after this divisive summer that the rules should be clear and the process should be predictable.

I've been around since before we had a comprehensive plan. I've watched the pro-growth/slow growth fight played out over and over. It's exhausting. It distracts us from dealing with other challenges. The economy is not getting better fast and surely we could find effective ways to make things better if we were working together.

Peace may not be possible, but it's worth trying for.

Send in your ideas by email to maggycplan@gmail.com.