Home News Controversial rural-lifestyle land use in Martin County faces challenge at the state level

Controversial rural-lifestyle land use in Martin County faces challenge at the state level

Controversial rural-lifestyle land use in Martin County faces challenge at the state level

MARTIN COUNTY — Implementation of the controversial rural-lifestyle land use could be put on hold after a challenge was filed against it at the state level. 

Palm City resident Donna Melzer on Thursday filed a petition with the state Division of Administrative Hearings — the same agency that oversaw the challenge to the land-use element of the Stuart Costco project — arguing the new land-use category violates the county Comprehensive Plan. 

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A judge has yet to be assigned to the case, and it’s unclear when a hearing would be held. 

The land use, according to the petition, lacks “meaningful and predictable standards and guidelines for the mix of uses” that aren’t based upon “appropriate data and analysis.” Moreover, it states, rural lifestyle prematurely allows more intense development outside the county’s urban-service boundary.   

Melzer’s argument regarding integrity of the Comprehensive Plan was voiced by dozens of opponents between February and September as the land use went before the County Commission, underwent analysis and faced delays for a final vote. It passed in a 3-2 vote on Sept. 13 with Commissioners Sarah Heard and Ed Ciampi dissenting. 

“Martin County residents do NOT want to lose our (Comprehensive) Plan protections — our urban boundary, our environmental protections, our fiscally conservative infrastructure planning,” Melzer said Thursday. “The changes were not well-considered, were not thoughtful and careful.” 

Rural lifestyle allows for more intense development outside, but directly next to, the urban-service boundary with a density of up to 1 unit per 5 acres on land typically designated for agricultural use.

It also requires: 

  • Properties be at least 1,000 contiguous acres in unincorporated Martin County 
  • A developer with a project more intense than 1 unit per 20 acres to designate separate property as conservation or an agricultural easement 
  • 70% of the property be used for open space such as golf courses and polo fields

Rural lifestyle was approved in tandem with a luxury residential golf course community in Hobe Sound, proposed by developer Tom Hurley of Becker Holding Co.

In a statement Thursday, Hurley called the appeal “disappointing.”

“We have a lot of confidence in the professionalism and knowledge of the Martin County staff and the conclusions they reached about the amendment,” he said.

Martin County spokesperson Martha Ann Kneiss declined to comment on the petition. 


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