by Kate Boland | December 10, 2013 | Martin County, Florida
Martin County is a partner in the Southeast Florida Regional Partnership. The Partnership was created to obtain a federal grant to develop a 50 year plan for sustainable development in seven south Florida counties – the Seven 50 Southeast Florida Prosperity Plan. The funding is part of the Sustainable Communities Initiative (SCI) created by the federal departments of Housing and Urban Development, Environmental Protection and Transportation. The SCI is only the most recent iteration of sustainability policies and programs the federal government has implemented over the past two decades. The goal of the SCI is to create “mechanisms to ensure that sustainability plans are carried through to localities” (HUD, DOT and EPA Partnership: Sustainable Communities, June 16, 2009). The mechanism is the regional partnership and the objective is to remove local barriers to coordinated investments by the federal agencies. Through these partnerships local governments and other partners agree to undertake projects consistent with a sustainability plan.
Seven 50 was created to obtain a planning grant to create this long term plan. When joining the Partnership Martin County signed two agreements that commit the County to certain actions to further the goals of the SCI.
- A Memorandum of Understanding (May 2010) committing the County to work in cooperation with the seven counties to apply for the SCI planning grant and to complete the work program funded under the grant and,
- A Sustainable Communities Grant Consortium Agreement (July 2011) which sets forth specific obligations of the Consortium members.
I have provided a copy of the Agreements highlighted to show the language that implies an ongoing commitment. The purpose of developing the Plan is to achieve implementation, thus the basic understanding of the language of the Consortium Agreement must presume that.
The signatories are committed to implementation of the Plan and support for continuation of operations of the Consortium. In particular the following examples:
In the Memorandum of Understanding: (signatories agree to)
- Follow seven livability principles including: “equitable” affordable housing; investing in neighborhoods that are “walkable”.
- Coordinate their policies and target their funding to meet these principles
- Section II Goal: agree to “achieve and sustain” the Regional Vision and Blueprint (the plan)
- Section IV Roles and Commitments: commit to “develop and implement” the Regional Vision and Blueprint unless it is detrimental to the Partner and the Region
- Also, play specific roles implementing local projects, providing leadership, staff support and financial support
- Section V Governance: agree that the intent is to develop a long term structure for ongoing operations
- Section VI Tier 2 Consortium Membership (includes Martin County): commit to providing leveraged resources; to development and implementation of the Vision and Blueprint (the plan)
Why opt out?
The Consortium agreement anticipates that members may want to opt out, and provides specific terms for doing so. There are numerous reasons to do so to preserve Martin County’s control over decisions affecting the future of our residents.
- Broadly defined, the environment of Martin County is very different [from] the Counties to the South. We have a small population and will almost certainly be dominated by the wishes and objectives of the larger counties.
- Implementation of the plan may conflict with Martin County zoning and Comprehensive Plan.
- Martin County environmental policies may be stronger than those favored by the other Counties
- Plan elements may not be suitable to the culture of Martin County and be inconsistent with the land use patterns that exist. The Seven 50 Plan emphasizes the preference for higher density, mixed use development. The emphasis on walkability, for example, presupposes a preferred choice of housing for higher density housing rather than the demonstrated preference of most residents for single family homes.
- The ongoing structure to implement the Plan has not been fully defined but will be heavily influenced by numerous unelected bodies that are not accountable to the public.
- Two of the specific goals of the County have already been accomplished: access to the wide range of data collected in preparation of the plan to inform future decisions; agreements to upgrade fiber optic technology and expand the opportunities for communication between and among County and regional organizations.
The County does not need to be a member of the Sustainable Communities Consortium to take advantage of the information developed. Remaining in the Consortium potentially exposes the County to, at a minimum, the need to defend its policies and Comprehensive Plan against an action favored by the majority of the other Consortium members. Unless the County formally withdraws from the Consortium, it will be expected to comply with the mandates of HUD and other agencies investing funds to implement the projects proposed in the Seven 50 Plan.
Respectfully submitted December 10, 2013
Kate Boland, Chair, Martin County Republican Executive Committee