Martin County's Path to Preventing Browardization - Introduction

Article Posted on May 9, 2022

Note: It is our goal at One Martin to provide reliable, fact-based information so citizens can be better informed about our government and our community.

We may have just blown it!

The proposed Rural Lifestyle land-use designation, now postponed, could have ensured that Martin County's high quality of life and cultural heritage could continue.

Instead, we might lose this opportunity to turn thousands of acres of Martin County's treasured rural lands into parcels forever unsuitable for full-scale development.

Not just temporarily, but permanently.

By applying the Rural Lifestyle land-use designation to qualifying lands, we also could have legally contained the expansion of the urban services districts that allow full-scale development by limiting the desirability of rural lands.

Not just today, but for the foreseeable future.

Those facts and others got buried under the overwhelming numbers of carbon-copy, anti-planning, anti-development comments during the April 19 public hearing before the Martin County Commission considering approval of the Rural Lifestyle amendment to the county's Comprehensive Growth Management Plan.

Dozens of those attending were reacting to the pre-hearing rhetoric that claimed this amendment “would gut Martin County's Comp Plan” and “destroy the Martin County difference.” Although the claims were untrue, they're also not new.

We've seen this same scenario play out again and again over the past 25 years.

Fortunately, a few residents who had been against the amendment prior to the staff's presentation were brave enough to say they were beginning to change their minds at the end. Why?

Because they saw and heard the facts, instead of limiting themselves to just the fear-mongering echo chamber so typical of Martin County's well-orchestrated zero-growth movement.

They could see, for instance, that building three dozen golf cottages for short-term guests does not have the same impact as dozens of residential homes built for permanent residents. The 70 percent open-space requirement would dictate how much room was available for accessory buildings.

Unless you know the facts, however, it's hard to stand your ground in the face of such well-known organizations and the individual voices in Martin County that preach smart growth, environmental preservation, and agricultural protection.

If you listen closely, however, you'll see that their actual objective is zero growth, even at the expense of our own local environment. That's neither healthy, nor sustainable.

We're not going to try to counter every inaccurate statement made during the public hearing; however, we do think it's important to repeat the most relevant facts:

  • The Rural Lifestyle designation would be available only to landowners with at least 1,000-acre parcels ADJACENT to the current urban services' primary and secondary districts.
  • The only lands that could be developed under the Rural Lifestyle designation would be those already identified as next to be developed.
  • Since the Rural Lifestyle designation would require 70 percent in open space, landowners would be restricted to building only on the other 30 percent at the rate of no more than one residence per five acres.
  • The Rural Lifestyle amendment could have enticed developers to buy hundreds of acres of development rights from farmers, ranchers, or undeveloped land, which adds significantly to the cost of the development and decreases speculation.
  • Should rural development rights be purchased or set aside from a separate parcel, a minimum of 500 acres – and potentially much more – would never see construction of row after row of new houses, or condominiums, or apartments. Guaranteed.
  • Those rural acres would be forever preserved as working agricultural enterprises, water farms, or wildlife conservation corridors under permanent conservation easements in return for changing the Rural Lifestyle development itself from straight agricultural zoning to the equivalent of agricultural ranchette, one residence per five acres.

It's easy to see how land that qualified under the Rural Lifestyle designation would lose its appeal to developers interested in creating vast housing developments. A loss in appeal would reduce the value of the land itself and drastically reduce the pressure on farmers and ranchers to sell their land outright.

No legislative rules could more effectively contain Martin County's urban services boundaries long-term and usher in true sustainability of what we call “the Martin County difference” than the proposed change in land-use rules.

We remain hopeful that the Rural Lifestyle land-use designation will return for reconsideration, perhaps buttoning up some of the regulations a little tighter. Will that end the controversy?

No, because the zealots, usually also the loudest, have a different agenda altogether. Follow along with us over the next few days to better understand the pattern of Martin County's contentious growth history.

Please share our emails with your contacts in order to help demystify the myth-makers. It's our best hope of ensuring a sound future for Martin County.


Rick Hartman
President, One Martin

CLICK HERE to continue to Part 1 in the One Martin series, “Here We Go Again!”