Martin County's Path to Preventing Browardization - Conclusion

Article Posted on May 14, 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.

Anything Changes or Nothing Changes, Both Roads Lead to Broward

Catchy slogans capture the imagination and get points across without having to think much. None of us wants to “Miami My Martin” or “Browardize” this special place.

Usually, though, the slogans say more than what's printed on a T-shirt. They say: “Don't grow. Don't change. Not in my backyard.”

That's the easiest message of all to sell to the widest audience. No thinking, no analyzing, no weighing of the unintended consequences of inaction.

After the election of former Jupiter Island commissioner Anne Scott in 2012, the county commission became the county's “Just say no” governing body, saying “no” even when projects met every single policy of our Comprehensive Growth Management Plan and followed each rule of our land development regulations.

The list of “no's” is too long to print here. Most wound up in court with taxpayers footing the bill.

Perhaps the more important question is, why didn't residents stand up in protest? Why were no letters of outrage in defense of our award-winning Comp Plan emailed to commissioners?

A likely reason is that the most charismatic politician this county has ever seen, a natural storyteller with a background chocked full of adventure and humorous misadventures, the late environmental activist Maggy Hurchalla, also was saying, “No.”

She changed the rules of the Comp Plan in 2013 without public protest, with the commission majority's blessing, to make sure that “No” meant no. That fact alone makes her comments rather ironic about the proposed Rural Lifestyle amendment being guilty of “the most sweeping change” in the Comp Plan's history.

And inaccurate.

Besides, the Rural Lifestyle amendment is not the same now as first proposed. (Thoughtful public comment made a difference and changes followed.)

Hurchalla's Comp Plan rewrite was in the courts for more than three years, thus not effective until July 2016. Not all of her changes were stricken by the courts.

Some of her rules remain, in large part because the state's review no longer required that changes had to comply with a county's Comp Plan, only that they did not contradict with state law.

Most ironic is that neither the county commission majority nor Hurchalla referred to any of the numerous sustainability reports with dozens of pages of scientific studies previously written to help shape a more viable Martin County, both environmentally and economically.

The reports simply had been shelved, including copies of former Sen. Ken Pruitt's brainchild, the Governor's Committee for a Sustainable Treasure Coast.

Its comprehensive suggestions, as it turns out, were largely the same principles presented at the much-lauded October 2018 all-day planning workshop hosted by 1000 Friends of Florida at IRSC and conducted largely by Martin County's professional engineers and planning staff.

Had those sustainability reports not been shelved, had they been taken seriously, perhaps Indiantown residents would not have felt compelled to create their own village in order to ensure their economic survival. 

Indiantown's projected population at build-out of their current and proposed development applications will be 21,000, according to a recent engineering study, larger than the City of Stuart.

Parts of the village core will allow density that's double that of the county's at 30 housing units per acre.

Directly adjacent to its urban services boundary lie 15,000 acres of agricultural land that could be annexed. At least two additional developers have reportedly already approached village officials to do just that.

Indiantown is on track to become a metropolis.
How Did Broward County Get “Browardized”?

Old-timers will recall in the '60s and '70s that Broward County was very much like Martin County. Their county commission adopted policies that sharply limited growth, making it a highly desirable place to live.

To ensure Broward maintained local control, their county commission separated themselves from state governance as much as possible by becoming a charter county.

A charter county can do what they wish as long as it does not conflict with state law, and non-charter counties, such as Martin, can only do what state statute allows them to do. The difference is both subtle and profound.

After the state approved their charter in 1975, Broward increased the number of their commissioners from 5 to 7 (now 9), and established their own land-use planning agency. 

Two years later they issued a $73 million bond, the first of several, to build new parks and buy conservation land, contradicting critics that Broward never planned how their land would be developed. 

Broward now has 502,000 acres of land in conservation, 62 percent of the county's total area, which includes a portion of the Everglades water conservation areas.

Martin County has 100,000 acres, 27 percent of its total area, which includes the C-44 reservoir and stormwater treatment area near Indiantown, a CERP (Central Everglades Restoration Plan) project. Commissioners propose another 45,000 acres for acquisition.

By the late '80s and early '90s, Broward County's electorate changed direction, electing more pro-development candidates, who in turn convinced the state legislature to create a special taxing district to fund the redevelopment of Ft. Lauderdale. 

The city's decaying historic buildings were razed to make way for hi-rises, since land was scarce, as well as building its famed Riverwalk and a glitzier Ft. Lauderdale.

By 1993, the legislature ordered that all unincorporated areas of Broward County be absorbed by one of their 31 municipalities, creating a nearly insurmountable challenge to creating a countywide vision.

The actions of the state legislature demonstrate that even a charter county is not immune to state control, if they determine a need arises for state intervention.

Obviously, Martin County is light years away from being another Broward County, or is it?

The sharp divide that relegates the Comp Plan's economic and sociological chapters to the trash heap and its sustainability studies to the dustbin could flip the switch here.

Consider this: The greatest urban spread will come from the middle of Martin County's western lands, from Indiantown. Critics of the Rural Lifestyle amendment are failing to see the potential of the amendment to give farmers and ranchers options, the tool the county needs to dissuade them from selling their land outright to developers.

Not only surrounding Indiantown, but wherever Martin County's agricultural lands meet the urban services boundaries. 

The key will be whether enough residents look beyond the self-serving, inflammatory emails to learn the facts, instead of falling for the fiction, as we've done time and time again.

Unlike Broward, Martin County can still come together, to envision a future that excludes no one, and ensures a high quality of life for all its citizens, if we don't blow it.


Rick Hartman
President, One Martin


If you would like to review the Introduction in the One Martin series, “Here We Go Again!,” CLICK HERE.

If you would like to review Part 1 in the One Martin series, “Here We Go Again!,” CLICK HERE.

If you would like to review Part 2 in the One Martin series, “Here We Go Again!,” CLICK HERE.

If you would like to review Part 3 in the One Martin series, “Here We Go Again!,” CLICK HERE.

If you would like to review Part 4 in the One Martin series, “Here We Go Again!,” CLICK HERE.