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State hearing for Martin County rural lifestyle land-use challenge to begin Tuesday

NewsState hearing for Martin County rural lifestyle land-use challenge to begin Tuesday

MARTIN COUNTY — A challenge at the state level against a controversial new land use, approved by the County Commission in September, is moving forward with a three-day hearing to begin Tuesday.

Judge Francine Ffolkes, of the Division of Administrative Hearings, will conduct the hearing prompted by a challenge filed Oct. 6 by Palm City resident Donna Melzer. She challenged whether the rural-lifestyle land use violates the county Comprehensive Plan.

The three-day hearing is set for 9 a.m. Tuesday in County Commission chambers. Testimony is scheduled from county staff and land-planning experts.

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It’s unclear when a ruling would be issued by Ffolkes, who also oversaw the ongoing challenge to the land-use element of the Stuart Costco project. Ffolkes issued her ruling in the Costco case five months after the November 2021 hearing. City officials objected to her ruling, and the case, and remains in limbo, awaiting a decision from the state Administration Commission.

The rural-lifestyle land use allows for more intense development outside of the county urban-service boundary, specifically on lands designated for agricultural use. It laid the framework for Atlantic Fields, a luxury golf-course community in Hobe Sound that was approved at the same time.

Lands eligible for the land use must be located next to the urban-service boundary, consist of at least 1,000 contiguous acres and have 70% open space, which can be courses and polo fields. Additionally, density could be increased to one unit per 5 acres, but separate property must be put into conservation or an agricultural easement if a project has a density more intense than one unit per 20 acres.

Rural lifestyle was approved in a 3-2 vote, with commissioners Sarah Heard and Ed Ciampi dissenting.

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