Posts Tagged ‘Martin County’

Despite ‘disaster risk,’ trains haul hazardous gas cargo in South Florida

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2018

By Ann Henson Feltgen
FloridaBulldog.org
About the same time FEC executives were convincing Florida’s east coast cities and counties to back its idea of privately owned passenger trains traversing downtowns and densely populated neighborhoods, it quietly sought and won permission to haul extremely flammable liquified natural gas along the same tracks.
The post Despite ‘disaster risk,’ trains haul hazardous gas cargo in South Florida appeared first on Florida Bulldog.

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U.S. judge tosses lawsuit to block All Aboard Florida; Money for Phase 2 still in question

Friday, May 26th, 2017

By Ann Henson Feltgen
FloridaBulldog.org
All Aboard Florida’s plan to operate regular passenger train service between Miami and Orlando survived a lawsuit filed by Indian River and Martin counties when a federal judge on May 10 dismissed the suit. But funding problems remain.
The post U.S. judge tosses lawsuit to block All Aboard Florida; Money for Phase 2 still in question appeared first on Florida Bulldog.

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Everglades landowners ‘not willing sellers’ for Joe Negron’s Lake O reservoir

Monday, February 6th, 2017

A group of landowners in the Everglades Agricultural Area are telling the state officials that selling land south of lake Okeechobee do nothing to fix problems they believe are caused north of the lake.
Senate President Joe Negron is pushing a Senate proposal seeks to create a $2.4-billion, 60,000-acre reservoir for Everglades water storage.
If there aren’t enough willing sellers, SB 10 says then 153,000 acres of U.S. Sugar land can be purchased under an option entered in 2010.
In a letter signed by 14 EAA landowners — including U.S. Sugar, Florida Crystals and others — the landowners say just that: they are “not willing sellers of their property to the government.”
Each one of the names on the letter own more than 2,500 acres apiece: Robert Buker Jr. of both U.S. Sugar and SBG Farms; Robert Underbrink of Big B Sugar; James Shine Jr. of the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida, Raymond “Rick” Roth Jr. of Roth Farms; Alfonso and J. Pepe Fanjul of Florida Crystals Corp.; Alex Tiedkte of Eastgate Farms; John Hundley of Hundley Farms; Justin Soble of Star Ranch Enterprises and Star Farms; Alonso Azqueta of Trucane Sugar; private landowners Frances and Homer Hand; and Dennis Wedgworth of Wedgworth Farms.
“Water reservoirs south of Lake Okeechobee simply cannot store enough water to stop the discharges from lake Okeechobee when our region is inundated from harry rains,” they write. “Buying more land does not fix the problem.”
Additional publicly owned land, the landowners point out, would not have prevented the algae outbreak in Martin County to coastal estuaries.
No local, state or federal agency that seriously studied South Florida’s water issues have determined any land purchased in the EAA would “solve the region’s water challenges.”
Farmers in the EAA have been working for more than two decades to help restore the Everglades, the letter

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Power outage in Volusia approaches 80%; 826,000 statewide and rising

Friday, October 7th, 2016

Volusia County has gone almost entirely dark, and Flagler and Indian River counties are not far behind, because of Hurricane Matthew.
The latest power outage reports provided by Gov. Rick Scott‘s office show that 78 percent of power customers in Volusia were without electricity as of noon, while 69 percent of Flagler customers, 67 percent of Indian River customers, and 61 percent of Brevard County customers were in the dark.
Statewide more than 826,000 power customers had no electricity at noon. And that does not count what will be happening in Jacksonville when Matthew, as expected, gets that far in a couple of hours. At noon, the power grid in Duval County, the most populated in Matthew’s assault, was holding up pretty well.
That statewide total is heavily filled with people from Volusia and Brevard: 218,000 customers in Volusia and 187,000 in Brevard were without power. Elsewhere, more than 50,000 customers were without power in each of Indian River and St. Lucie counties; more than 40,000 each in Martin, Orange, Palm Beach and Seminole counties; 39,000 in Flagler; and 28,000 in St. Johns. In Martin that represents 48 percent of the customer base; in St. Johns, 34 percent; and in Seminole, 20 percent. Fewer than one in 15 customers had lost power in either Orange or Palm Beach counties.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has mobilized 1,770 lineworkers and vegetation management personnel who are standing by to respond to outages, according to a press release from the Florida Municipal Electric Association. Crews have been brought in from Nebraska, Oklahoma, Missouri, Tennessee, Texas, Alabama, Georgia and across Florida.
“Coordination and cooperation is critical in times like these. We are happy to lend a helping hand wherever needed and greatly appreciate the support of all our mutual aid partners here in Florida and from all over the United States who have come

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More than half of Brevard, Volusia residents without power due to Hurricane Matthew

Friday, October 7th, 2016

More than a half-million customers statewide including most in Brevard and Volusia counties have lost power due to Hurricane Matthew, the office of Gov. Rick Scott reported Friday morning.
The hardest hit areas, as expected, are the coastal counties from Martin through Flagler, with more power outages expected in coming hours as Matthew lurches northward toward Jacksonville. Statewide, 593,875 customers were without power at 9 a.m. Friday, mostly in those coastal counties, according to the governor’s office.
In Brevard, more than 164,000 customers, 54 percent of the county, had no power at 9 a.m., according to the governor’s report. In Volusia, 141,000 electricity customers had no power at 9 a.m., representing 51 percent of the county’s electrical base.
Martin, St. Lucie, Indian River and Flagler counties each had between 14,000 and 57,000 customers without power, representing between 26 and 47 percent of the base in each of those counties. In Palm Beach County, 47,000 people were without power, but that represents just 6 percent of that county’s power customers. Miami-Dade and Broward counties each were reporting fewer than 10,000 customers without power, tiny fractions of those counties’ bases.
St. Johns, next in line with Flagler for Matthew’s wrath, had 4,600 customers without power at 9 a.m., about 5 percent of the county.
Inland, Seminole and Orange counties have been the hardest hit so far, each with more than 25,000 customers without electricity. In Seminole that represents 12 percent of the base, and in Orange, 5 percent.
Smaller outages, of just over 1,000 to a few thousand customers, also have been reported in Okeechobee, Osceola, Lake, Polk and Pinellas counties.
The post More than half of Brevard, Volusia residents without power due to Hurricane Matthew appeared first on Florida Politics.

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All Aboard Florida’s plan for passenger train service from Miami to Orlando in jeopardy

Saturday, September 10th, 2016

By Ann Henson Feltgen
FloridaBulldog.org
All Aboard Florida’s plan to operate regular passenger train service between Miami and Orlando is in jeopardy following a federal judge’s order questioning the company’s ability to borrow $1.75 billion in taxpayer-subsidized federal bonds to pay for the project.
The post All Aboard Florida’s plan for passenger train service from Miami to Orlando in jeopardy appeared first on Florida Bulldog.

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All Aboard Florida’s plan for passenger train service from Miami to Orlando in jeopardy

Saturday, September 10th, 2016

By Ann Henson Feltgen
FloridaBulldog.org
All Aboard Florida’s plan to operate regular passenger train service between Miami and Orlando is in jeopardy following a federal judge’s order questioning the company’s ability to borrow $1.75 billion in taxpayer-subsidized federal bonds to pay for the project.
The post All Aboard Florida’s plan for passenger train service from Miami to Orlando in jeopardy appeared first on Florida Bulldog.

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Sally Swartz: Accomplished artist recalls life with Seminoles, Miccosukees

Tuesday, October 20th, 2015

About 150 of James Hutchinson’s friends braved a stormy night in Stuart last week to hear their favorite celebrated artist talk about living with the Seminoles and Miccosukees half a century ago.
Hutchinson’s paintings from those six years, well known statewide and nationally, capture not only a gone-forever way of life, but also the disappearing landscapes of Florida’s tropical wilderness.
Hutchinson’s great adventure with his wife Joan captured the imagination of his friends in Martin County, where he grew up and has lived most of his 83 years.
Named to the Florida Artists Hall of Fame in 2011, Hutchinson still paints. His sons Kevin, also a landscape artist, and Kelly, put together Tuesday’s slide show of photos of their parents’ camp, the people they met, and their father’s paintings. Joan is ill and could not attend.
Hutchinson received an Arthur Vining Davis Foundation grant in 1962 to produce 50 paintings showing the lives of Florida’s natives. Black-and-white photos showed the couple in the late 1950s and early 1960s “when we were young and beautiful and indestructible.”
The photos detailed their lives with the Miccosukees and later with the Seminole community on the Brighton Reservation on Lake Okeechobee’s northwest shores. Slides also showed some of Hutchinson’s paintings of tribal life and of landscapes that live now only in memory.
Once Hutchinson gained permission of tribal elders for the project, “everybody swarmed all over me. They said I had to paint their relatives.”
Joan, a teacher, “made friends with the children first,” Hutchinson said, “then with their mothers and then with their elders.”
The photos included pictures of Billy Bowlegs III, “a remarkable man, used by three Presidents as a guide to the Everglades. He spoke wonderful pidgin English, but there was no mistaking his meaning.” Hutchinson invited the elder over for coffee one morning, and after that “he was

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Sally Swartz: Gated community could set precedent

Wednesday, October 7th, 2015

A proposed new gated community of 92 upscale “row houses,” priced from the high $200s to the middle $300,000s, has south Martin County residents talking. The townhouses would be built between U.S. 1 and the predominately African-American neighborhood of Banner Lake, in Hobe Sound’s Community Redevelopment Area.
Some wonder whether expensive row houses belong in a CRA. Others worry that plopping a fancy gated community next to a neighborhood faced with challenges is asking for trouble. Banner Lake has had problems with drugs. Some 30-year residents remain in the historic community, but other longtime residents have fled to safer neighborhoods.
A preserve of native trees would screen the townhouses from U.S. 1 and provide a buffer of about 4 acres of woods between the development and the private Pine School to the south. A few trees, open fields and drainage ditches would separate Banner Lake from the townhouses — along with the gates blocking Banner Lake traffic from entering Hobe Sound Village.
Traffic from the gated community could cut through Banner Lake, however, to reach Bridge Road and U.S. 1.
Jeffrey Gelman, whose Palm Beach Capital Consultants LLC is developing the property, lives on nearby Jupiter Island. He owns several other parcels near Banner Lake, as well as a big chunk of land adjacent to U.S.1 where Algozzini’s, a store that sold Hawaiian shirts and other tropical clothing, reigned for decades.
Gelman tried to develop the 14-acre parcel he’s now pushing for townhouses a few years ago with a mixed commercial and residential project nobody liked. Residents and Neighborhood Advisory Committee members complained that plan would have created competition with businesses already struggling in Hobe Sound’s business district.
Landowners in the business district, along Bridge Road between U.S. 1 and Alternate A1A, plus several blocks along A1A, have been the happy recipients of millions of dollars

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Sally Swartz: Constituents still want environmental action

Monday, September 28th, 2015

Two members of Martin County’s legislative delegation listened for hours last week while more than 30 residents buttered them up, begged for money, griped about the Florida Legislature’s recent bad decisions and brought wish lists for 2016.
Republican Rep. Gayle Harrell of Stuart turned the annual event, held at the Martin Commission headquarters in Stuart, into a bit of a schmooze fest. Her nonstop upbeat comments, an overload of thank-yous to each petitioner, and personal observations cut the public’s speaking time at the end from three to two minutes.
Palm City Republican Sen. Joe Negron, seemingly silenced by Harrell’s persistent perkiness, asked a few questions and occasionally took off on a topic that interested him. Rep. MaryLynn Magar of Tequesta and Sen. Denise Grimsley of Sebring, both Republicans, were no-shows.
Water and sand were two big issues, with about a dozen people complaining about lawmakers’ failure to use Amendment 1 money to buy conservation lands and waters, which a huge majority of Florida residents voted they must. Harrell promised she will introduce new legislation to provide enough money for Everglades restoration.
Both Harrell and Negron said they’re outraged by the Army Corps of Engineers’ plans to try to steal sand offshore from Martin and St. Lucie County to nourish beaches in Miami-Dade.
The two are confident they can stop the sand heist. “Miami could buy better and cleaner sand from the Bahamas,” Negron said.
The same battle emerged almost a decade ago and then-Sen. Ken Pruitt of St. Lucie saved the sand. It’s needed to lessen hurricane damage and to protect flora and fauna on the ocean’s bottom.
Florida Oceanographic Society director and Rivers Coalition spokesman Mark Perry warned lawmakers that trouble already is brewing again on Lake Okeechobee. The lake is now at 14 feet, and rising 6 inches a week during recent rains. With an

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Sally Swartz: Are real changes or just distractions coming from FDOT?

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015

Deposit play money labeled “Martin mobility bucks” in boxes labeled with road projects. Or play a big screen computer game, voting for projects on a hand-held clicker.
Martin County’s Metropolitan Planning Organization gets an “A” for effort in trying to get residents involved in deciding how the state should spend money building roads, bike paths and trails in the county.
But the 25 residents deserve extra credit for braving heavy rain and flooded roads to attend the MPO’s open house at Indian River State College’s Stuart campus this past Wednesday.
The MPO, which includes elected officials from local governments who choose future road projects, recently has been in the public eye after residents decided they don’t like some of its plans for the county.
For the next two months, residents can weigh in on how the Florida Department of Transportation should spend almost $228 million on Martin County roads over the next 25 years.
The agency votes on final plans Dec. 14.
Residents unhappy with plans to six-lane S.R. 76 (Kanner Highway) from Cove to Monterey Road can continue to protest the project or suggest ways to improve it. Many see the proposed concrete jungle entrance off Interstate 95 as out of character for nature-loving Martin.
So far, FDOT’s response has been to threaten to take money away if projects aren’t approved, or to shift responsibility to the county.
Instead, the MPO could create a beautified, landscaped median along all of S.R. 76, suggests former Martin Commissioner Donna Melzer in an email to residents.
If the MPO wants Martin residents to pay for that, the MPO should in exchange take on maintenance of the new Veterans Memorial Bridge, she said, expected to cost $3.8 million for 2015-16. The state maintains other bridges it builds.
Some see other projects, such as a spending millions on Citrus Boulevard, as easing Port St.

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Sally Swartz: Lake Point project opponents get some wins

Sunday, September 13th, 2015

Victories in the ongoing battles between Martin County residents and governments and Lake Point – plus an unrelated win upholding Martin’s protective growth plan – gave county residents reason to celebrate last week.
Forbes 400 billionaire George Lindemann Sr. and his millionaire son, George Lindemann Jr. are developers of the Lake Point rock pit in western Martin. It’s  involved in lawsuits against the county, South Florida Water Management District, and a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation filed against former Martin Commissioner Maggy Hurchalla.
There are four big wins to cheer.

Martin Circuit Court Judge F. Shields McManus found the county innocent of breaking public records laws. Lake Point accused the county of destroying or altering emails among Commissioners Sarah Heard and Ed Fielding and former Commissioner Maggy Hurchalla and failure to turn them over promptly. McManus said the county “did not unlawfully refuse” to let the emails be inspected.
The Florida Elections Commission levied an unusually large fine – $4,500 – against John McAuliffe of Palm City and Martin County Residents for Tax Fairness. That political action committee accepted money from individuals and corporate entities connected with Lake Point to back a Lake Point employee and the editor of a monthly newspaper in their unsuccessful  bids to win seats on the Martin County Commission. McAuliffe falsely certified that three of the finance reports for his PAC were accurate when they weren’t, and reported spending money without adequate cash to cover expenses.
Judge McManus ruled that Lindemann Sr. must answer questions in a deposition, despite his lawyers’ contentions he knows nothing about the Lake Point project. It’s also a chance for residents to learn why the Lindemanns are so involved in Martin projects and politics. Lake Point lawyers recently launched yet another lawsuit against the county on behalf of Bill Reily, developer of the failed Pitchford’s

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