Q&A on Hobe Sound

1.  How will these new developments affect us?

Time and time again the vitality of existing neighborhoods is sucked away by entire new towns.  Towns created in rural areas where land is cheap increases developers already big profits but decreases the vitality of older areas.  

      

Blight - Said another way, western sprawl town proposals like Hobe Grove and Harmony result in blight for the old towns. Large numbers of vacant homes and businesses are unhealthy and unsafe.  

     

The developers of Hobe Grove said their role model was the new town in Brevard County called Viera.  What happened to Titusville after this new town was built?  The local government offices and businesses moved to the new town, and the existing community of Titusville was left to struggle from the blight with homeowners and business owners the losers.  


2.  What about road expansions?

A road expert from the Palm Beach County engineering department has estimated that Bridge Road will need 8 to 10 lanes to handle just the traffic of Hobe Grove.  The DRIs themselves do not identify the source of multi-millions of dollars for road expansion needs.


3.   Who Pays?  Taxpayers, of course.  What are the costs for new, sprawl towns?

The DRIs do not identify estimates of costs or who will pay for the costs to expand beyond the urban boundary line.  There's vague references to the large real estate taxes the future town occupants will pay ---  in 25 years or so.  The previous Harmony proposal was called the "$2 Billion Mini-City." They do not provide a plan for paying for the huge upfront costs. The vagaries appear to leave the burden mostly on us taxpayers.  A proposed option is for the "towns" to borrow (sell bonds) now for the future town folks to pay later -- not exactly a "marketing plus" for selling the homes/businesses.


3.   In the 15 years planning time, is there a "need" for the 8,300 homes and millions of square feet of commercial/industrial?

No.  Even the developers' agree.  The DRIs instead go out 25 years to claim a need. 


The County Comp Plan references  "need" for 616 homes in the next 15 years.  However, that number does not include the large "supply" of existing vacant homes (conservatively more than 7,000 non-seasonal homes), homes built outside the urban boundary (during Valliere Amendment process, supporters talked about "all the homes" being built out there), recent increases in densities, the economic downturn.


4.  Will jobs be created for existing residents?

No.  The proposals indicate that most new jobs will be taken by new town home buyers.  What began as claims that there were big businesses and universities interested in coming has dwindled away to "we're in secret negotiations" and "...we don't know when..."  See Sally Swartz's "Plans for sprawling city in western Martin."  


Martin County's unemployment is lower than the sprawl counties of the Treasure Coast and South Florida.  The unemployment rate for June 2011 for Martin County was 10.8.   By comparison, St. Lucie was 13.9%, Palm Beach was 11%, Indian River was 13.5%, Miami-Dade was 13.9%.   Developers often refer to Collier County 11.3% unemployment or  Lee County which in June had 11.6 unemployment.  


5.  Are our house and business property values affected?

Yes.  With blight comes lower property values making it harder to borrow or sell at a profit.  New towns have a negative affect on the biggest investments most residents have -- their homes.


6.   Will the state help us to fight development outside the urban boundary ?

No.  The state law was recently changed and county commission have the ability to gut their Comp Plans - eliminate urban boundaries, fiscal feasibility mandates for plans, requirements that growth pay for itself, and concurrency with just the whim of 3 commissioners and minimal oversight from state agencies who only look to state resource impacts.


7.  What can residents/businesses do?  

The County Commission will vote sometime this fall or in the spring.  The current County timeline calls for the first vote to be on the Hobe Grove Comp Plan Amendments on Nov. 22, which is two days before Thanksgiving. It may be postponed.  Developers have a very large control of the timelines on DRIs.

           

Get your friends/acquaintances talking about the issues.  

           

Call Commissioners!   Urge them to continue to protect the urban boundary line and to say no to developments that will cost existing residents and businesses dearly. Share your knowledge and experience -- developers are lobbying them with claims of community positives.


If the Hobe Sound developments are allowed without strict urban boundary rules, land speculators west of Palm City are likely to push for new towns too.