Town Commission Meetings
January 9, 2023
Town Commission Action Items
Resolution No. 911
Resolution No. 911 opposing House Bill 569 / Senate Bill 472 as proposed in the Florida 2024 Legislative Session was approved by the Town Commission. The bill seeks to amend Section 768.28, Florida Statutes, which currently waives sovereign immunity for public entities with respect to liability for torts but caps this liability at $200,000 per person and $300,000 per incident. The proposed bills amend the current statutes by doubling the caps on liability to $400,000 per person and $600,000 per incident, which would negatively impact smaller municipalities in a disproportionate fashion. The Commission agreed that the Town may be unable to secure predictable and appropriate coverage for risk management and/or budget planning purposes of the taxpayers’ dollars with the proposed Consumer Price Index language, in particular, which presents unknown payouts, presenting a unique challenge for underwriters and carriers as they assess exposure for policyholders.
By approving Resolution No. 911, the Town shows its support for the position statement on this legislation as expressed by the Florida League of Cities in its 2024 Legislative Platform.
Resolution No. 896, Roadway Abandonments
Due to the fact that there likely is pending litigation regarding the roadway abandonment/public accessway issue, as well as the Town Commission’s need for further research, review and discussion, the Commissioners voted to defer action on this proposed resolution. However, they did hear resident's comments related to the proposed abandonment and its potential impacts.
Strategic Planner James Karas addressed the Town Commission regarding his extensive experience assisting municipalities with strategic planning. Following his presentation and noting the amount of staff time that would be required to develop a Town-wide strategic plan, the Commissioners engaged Mr. Karas at this time to start with developing a strategic plan for the South Martin Regional Utility (SMRU). The Commissioners will provide Mr. Karas with topics to be addressed and considered.
Request for Winter Construction Waiver
The Commission discussed a winter construction waiver request submitted by the owner of 617 South Beach Road to construct a dune crossover, which the state requires be done during the winter, outside of sea turtle nesting season. Following discussion, the request was approved 4-1 with Commissioner Scott dissenting. The Town will work with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Department of Environmental Protection to assure project adherence with state requirements.
Town Boards and Committees Update
The Commissioners addressed the current impasse regarding whether the Board of Adjustment and Impact Review Committee should remain as decision making bodies on residents’ applications or become advisory to the Town Commission regarding the applications. Following the discussion, the Commission requested that Town Manager Garlo and the Building Department provide them a more robust report on the committees’ responsibilities prior to the Commission making a decision on this matter. The Local Planning Agency also will be included in the review.
Waterfront Setback Line Study
Town Manager Garlo and Beach Protection District Director John Duchock provided an update on the Town’s proposed study related to its waterfront setback line. Director Duchock reported that there were no responses to the Town’s RFQ to perform this study. Following discussion, the Commissioners unanimously authorized the Town to engage consultant Cummins Cederberg, a current contractor with the Town familiar with related Department of Environmental Protection regulations and requirements, to commence the Waterfront Setback Line Study.
In conjunction with this discussion, the Town Commission unanimously approved Resolution No. 901 to adopt a Zoning in Progress pertaining to the Town’s Waterfront Setback Line.
Town Attorney Report
Town Attorney Thomas Baird provided updates on Town Commission requests to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). With regard to the Town changing its way of reviewing applications with relation to its Coastal Construction Control Line, the DEP requires the local government to provide a letter before DEP will make a determination in that regard.
With regard to requesting a change of venue in a civil proceeding, the venue may only be transferred to another venue where the case could have been brought initially. With regard to other concerns brought up, Mr. Baird reported that receiving a fair trial does not enter into the decision making and that a request for a judge to recuse themselves from a case would result in assignment of another circuit judge. In that regard, Mr. Baird also noted that most judges are quick to reassign when there is alleged bias.
Additional Reports and Updates
Mr. Baird and the Commissioners also addressed the potential impacts on local municipal officials of proposed changes to Florida Form 6 that would require disclosure of personal financial information. A number of local municipalities are considering joint action to oppose such a requirement. Town Manager Garlo is staying abreast of this proposal and will keep the Commissioners updated.
Consultant Kelly Leyman also provided current updates regarding pending, filed and proposed bills and other State of Florida legislative matters for the 2024 session that have potential to impact the Town.
Financial Report - Finance Director Matt Pazanski presented monthly revenue and expenditure highlights through December. The Town maintains its good financial position. Director Pazanski will bring the Fiscal Year 2023-24 Town Audit to the Finance Committee in early 2024 and to the Town Commission at its March 2024 meeting.
Public Safety Report – Public Safety Department Lieutenant Joseph Scolly showed a video of a recent boat fire at Peck Lake. The first to respond to the fire were Public Safety members Corporal Boorman and Officer Henson with the only working fire boat in the County. Their response time was an exceptional 2 minutes and 30 seconds, compared with Martin County’s average of 9 minutes.
Engineering and Public Works Report – Public Services Director Stuart Trent provided an update on the Brightview Avenue project. He noted that drawings have not been submitted yet, and the roadway curbing is still an open project. He has received revisions to the driveway apron leading to the Bon Aire Desire project that will visually reduce its impact. He also reported that Blue Water Landscape has provided a proposal for landscape restoration at the end of the street. In addition, Innocenti and Webel has submitted a plan to replant the landscape, for which the developer will pay.
Beach Protection District Report
Beach Status – Beach Protection District Director John Duchock reported that the beaches are in good condition compared with November. Island-wide, most hot spots appear to be relatively stable. High winds encountered during December were mostly from the south and did not result in serious erosion, although mild erosion did occur in the vicinity of 145 to 165 South Beach Road.
In his monthly north to south beach review, Director Duchock reported that sand from the north end has thinned out and is moving south, as is typical this time of the year. The area from 33 South Beach to the Beach Club is relatively stable, although some erosion does continue during high tide. Some loss of sand on the berm face has occurred in the vicinity of 167 South Beach; and further south, some natural recovery of the beach in the vicinity of 269 South Beach has occurred replacing sand lost from earlier king tides. The beach has improved in the vicinity of 450 South Beach, and the beach in the 600 block is retaining sand accumulated over the past few months but is expected to adjust back to normal conditions.
Funding Update – Director Duchock provided an update of additional SB4-A Funding approved by the Department of Emergency Management, which covers the local funding share of the Town’s upcoming beach restoration project.
Next Town Commission / Beach Protection / SMRU Board Meetings:
February 12 - Town Coffee with Mayor Townsend, 9am
February 13 - Town Commission / Beach Protection, 9am
March 20 - Town Coffee with Vice Mayor Field, 9am
March 21 - Town Commission / Beach Protection, 9am
March 21 - SMRU Board Meeting, 12:30pm
for further updates and information.