One of the radical rewrites of the Martin County Comprehensive Growth Management Plan by the 2012 county commission, and engineered by Martin County’s “shadow government,” likely will be rolled back at Tuesday’s Board of County Commissioners meeting. Finally.
In 2014, the no-growth commission majority decreased the maximum flow of septic systems in agricultural and industrial areas from the state-approved, standard 10,000 gallon septic tank to Martin County’s maximum residential size of 2,000 gallons.
The no-growth commission majority even limited those residential units to only one per parcel of land, regardless of the size of the parcel.
They took this action under the guise of environmental protection of our waterways, although many of these lands are so far removed from the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon that scientists estimate it could take up to 50 years for drainage to reach the rivers –-- all while that same 2012 commission made no effort to remove any septic tanks within yards of our waterways.
In the same Comp Plan amendment, the no-growth commission also banned the extension of sewer lines outside our urban services districts, allowing septic tank effluent to flow directly into the Loxahatchee River, our only state-designated “Wild and Scenic River.” That step would also prevent more than 80 septic tanks at the Seven J’s industrial park in Palm City -- on the banks of the C-23 canal that flows directly into the St. Lucie -- from connecting to sewer lines AT THEIR OWN EXPENSE.
The new language that will be considered for approval on Tuesday, Comprehensive Plan Amendment 17-10, will implement environmental and planning policies that protect our rivers and quality of life while regulating our growth. It will allow businesses, farmers and industry to expand their operations, diversifying our lop-sided tax base.
More than 70 percent of our tax revenue comes from residential property taxes, and only slightly more than 1 percent from industry -- and the burden on individual taxpayers will continue to grow.
Fixes to the amendment do not change any existing land uses or permitted uses already allowed by the county. They do not increase the density or intensity of development, as being charged in countless emails generated over this past week by those with a no-growth agenda and by those with honorable, but misguided, intentions.
With the new amendment language, the option for the extension of sewer lines now can be considered under specific circumstances if certain conditions are met -- a situation that requires public hearings and careful review by staff and county commissioners. It does not allow even one acre of additional development not already approved.
It does, however, help genuinely protect and improve the health of our waterways by acknowledging that septic tank effluent pollutes our rivers, our groundwater and is damaging our coastal reefs, as countless scientists have demonstrated in numerous studies, some of which have cost Martin County taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars to undertake.
We no longer will be ignoring those study results just because they do not fit the no-growth agenda.
The commission majority finally will restore policies based on expert staff analysis, scientists’ studies and common sense. It’s time that our commissioners roll back all Comp Plan amendments authored by the 2012 commission that were designed to stop growth at the expense of the environment.
Barbara Clowdus is editor and publisher of Martin County Currents, for which this column was written and distributed Monday.