October 24, 2014

Redevelopment: A Few Frills- Southeast- Oct. 2003

Pat Dunnigan | 10/1/2003
One hundred years ago, Jensen Beach was a no-frills train stop among the Indian River fish camps and pineapple groves. Most of Henry Flagler's well-heeled passengers continued south to the more glamorous surroundings of Palm Beach.

If they were anything like the area's 21st-century settlers, local residents probably welcomed the snub. This is Martin County, after all, where nothing starts an argument as quickly as the word "development."

Residents here are fiercely protective of their green spaces, low-density development and developer-unfriendly permitting process. Environmental and anti-growth groups are well-funded, well-organized and wield real political power.

So while it may be relatively small in size, a 68-acre redevelopment project in Jensen Beach is no small feat.

The project is part of a countywide effort that includes six other redevelopment districts in the unincorporated areas of Port Salerno, Rio, Hobe Sound, Golden Gate, Indiantown and Palm City.

Martin County commissioners took their first step toward redevelopment about 12 years ago by establishing a community redevelopment agency. But nothing much happened after that.

"Before I was elected to the commission, members really weren't inclined to see the redevelopment stuff happen," says Commissioner Doug Smith, who was elected in 2000 along with two other commissioners, which temporarily shifted the county into a pro-growth mode. "There was an undercurrent that anything that would have assisted in new development meant somebody else might live here," he says.

There were also fears that redevelopment would require changes to the county comprehensive plan that would destroy what some consider one of the best growth management plans in the state.

Indeed, changes to allow for a mix of commercial and residential zoning in the redevelopment areas brought a year of litigation between the county and the Martin County Conservation Alliance, the county's most influential environmental group.

Alliance members warned that any relaxing of the rules would open the county to developments like Wal-Mart and adult bookstores in residential areas. This summer, the two sides finally reached an agreement to allow the redevelopment districts some flexibility outside of the requirements of the comprehensive plan.

Alliance President Donna Melzer says despite concerns over the relaxed zoning in the redevelopment districts, alliance members support the effort.

"Redevelopment is actually something we think is wonderful," Melzer says. The two sides "are as happy as two people who don't totally agree will ever get."

IN THE NEWS

Boca Raton -- Architectural firm Garcia Brenner Stromberg has opened an office in Banner Elk, N.C. The firm has offices in Boca Raton and Stuart.

Accounting errors inflated the success of Florida Atlantic University Foundation's capital campaign by $21 million, an audit has found.

American Media Chairman David Pecker says changes are in store for the celebrity gossip tabloid the Star. Pecker says the tabloid won't be paying for stories anymore and will be remade in a softer, glossier style in an effort to attract more women readers.

A gas explosion at its Ocala plant led executives at U.S. Plastic Lumber Corp. (OTCBB-USBL) to temporarily shut down the facility, where it manufactures building materials from recycled plastic.

Boynton Beach -- The Related Group of Florida is scheduled to break ground next month on Marina Village, a mixed-use development with 338 condominiums in two 15-story towers and 11 town-houses adjacent to a 38-slip marina. Construction is expected to take two years.

Broward County -- Dogged by controversy and missteps throughout most of her term, elections supervisor Miriam Oliphant has agreed to turn over some responsibility for the elections office to county officials. Legal work, computer programming and some election planning are among the duties that may be shared.

Delray Beach -- Delaware-based Linton Delray has bought The Plaza at Delray, a 332,605-sq.-ft. shopping center, for an undisclosed price.

Fort Lauderdale -- N.Y. hedge fund Cerberus Capital Management will purchase the assets of Alamo Rent A Car parent ANC Rental Corp. for $230 million and $2 billion in assumed debt under a plan approved by a Delaware bankruptcy judge.

Jupiter -- County environmental officials want to buy and preserve a 100-acre parcel of oak and pine trees slated to become a 813,000-sq.-ft. shopping center if Jupiter town officials approve the necessary land-use changes.

Lauderhill -- Cricket fans' hopes for a world-class playing field capable of hosting qualifying games for the 2007 Cricket World Cup got a boost from county commissioners, who agreed to spend $4.6 million to expand the 97-acre park where a 5,000-seat cricket facility is planned.

Palm Beach County -- County officials are grappling with University of Florida population projections that put the county about 250,000 residents over what its own planners say can be accommodated without building on agricultural lands. The UF study projects 1.85 million people in Palm Beach County by 2030. The current population is 1.2 million.

County commissioners are considering a new law that would temporarily shut down development after a natural disaster like a hurricane. The law would suspend development orders, building permits and rezoning requests for 30 days.

Port Everglades -- Cargo terminal operator South Stevedoring & Terminals, the company at the center of a no-bid contract controversy two years ago, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Port St. Lucie -- City officials may have violated state and federal advertising laws by changing land-use and zoning categories to allow billboards along Interstate 95 and Florida's Turnpike, the Florida Department of Transportation concluded in rejecting an application for 14 billboards. Under the terms of a settlement between the city and Eller Media, the city will have to pay $700,000 to Eller Media for backing out of the deal to lease the sites for billboards.

Tags: Southeast

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