Martin County favors developers (again). But you can vote for change

Last week the Martin County Board of County Commissioners sided with a developer over clean water and constituents, approving a project known as “The Ranch” (formerly “Calusa Creek”) which will be some 6,000 feet — that is, more than a full mile — beyond the county’s urban service boundary.

Normally, development is discouraged where those “urban services” — think water and sewer — are lacking. But in 2022 Martin County officials (at the behest of a developer) added the new “rural lifestyles” text amendment to its comprehensive plan, allowing parcels of 1,000 acres or more adjacent to the the urban service districts to be developed.

But developers are eager to play leapfrog, and last week Martin County Commissioners helpfully voted (again, at the behest of a developer) to allow the “rural land use” designation to apply to projects up to a mile past the urban service boundary, paving the way for “The Ranch.”

The project includes 175 pricey homes, nature preserves and two private golf courses catering to high-end players. Meaning, there’ll be lots of pressure to keep those greens green — involving lots of fertilizer.

But not to worry, said the developer: The Ranch will use water from the nearby C-44 canal and water going back into the canal will be cleaner than the water coming out. Of course, there’ll be no regular testing to verify this. So the commissioners are basically taking the developer’s word for it.

Great idea, don’t you think?

Afterwards, TCPalm columnist Blake Fontenay ripped the commission’s decision — but pointed out that citizens do have recourse:

“Commissioners Ed Ciampi and Doug Smith have announced plans to run for new terms, while Harold Jenkins so far has not. In all three cases, there are other candidates running for seats currently held by commissioners who’ve been waving developers’ projects through like prom queens on parade,” Fontenay wrote.

“If voters don’t send a message at the polls this year, there’s no reason to expect the commissioners will change their behavior.

“Send them a message,” wrote Fontenay.

Indeed, that’s what “voting water” is all about.