History from Maggy Hurchalla

Maggy Hurchalla's message on history and preserving rural lands for agricultural uses.


There is this myth that once upon a time everyone was polite and that all the commissioners and developers loved the environment and protected our quality of life. I was there. I can tell you that that is hogwash.

During most of the 20 years I was a county commissioner, the battles were vicious and the majority of commissioners were pro development.

So why is Martin County different?

We are different because of all those folks who have continued to insist that we keep Martin a good place to live.

Planners and consultants and commissioners didn’t give us a great comprehensive plan. The hopeful and stubborn people of Martin County did. They insisted on a Growth Management Plan which is strict enough and specific enough that even bad guys could not easily give away the county’s future.

We made developers and commissioners follow the rules to keep Martin County special. We can do it again.

82% of residents say they want to slow growth.

  • No increase in density in rural areas.

  • Protection for existing neighborhoods.

Make the rules clear and follow the rules. Most important, listen to what Martin County residents want.

WHAT’S BEST - clustering or keep the 1 unit in 20 acre land use for rural lands?

Is it true that the worst possible scenario for the rural lands from I-95 to Lake Okeechobee is to keep the Comp Plan policy of 20 acre lot sizes?

No. It takes no planning expertise at all to know that 10 acre lots, 5 acre lots and 1 acre lots would have more negative impacts on the environment, on traffic, on taxes and on county services. Even if the entire rural area developed into 20 acre lots, it would be 10,000 max, and this is highly unlikely since some folks will want to stay in agriculture. If we keep the 20 acres, there is less incentive for agricultural to sell out. If we change it, they’ll cash in for big development and agriculture will be gone in Martin County. Other land will be preserved by the Everglades Restoration plan. Note that Indiantown already has its own urban service area with commercial and small lots.

What about the services that the 20 acre lots will require?

All development requires some services. But there will be alot less people and much less services than if you allow additional urban-type cities. The people living in the western area will be serviced by Indiantown which already has schools, a library, government offices, and 2 fire stations with another volunteer station on SR 714. There are already school bus routes covering the major highways in the western area. Indiantown will continue to grow and provide more services.

Is it true that the state will force us to have higher density in our urban area unless we permit development in the rural area outside our Urban Service District?

No. It is not true that the state will force us to pile people up inside the Urban Boundary. Regardless of whether development is expanded into the rural area, developers will continue to ask for even higher density. Feeding one ogre doesn’t stop the other ogres from wanting more.

How about clustering? Would this save most of the rural area and concentrate development in clusters?

We have ‘clustering’ in the urban service district. We put urban development in town and leave the rural areas rural. Developers are asking for the right to put urban development anywhere. Developers stated that in order to cluster they must be given four times as much density as what they currently have a right to. That amounts to 40,000 units outside the current urban boundary instead of just the 10,000 you might have with 20 acre lots. Clustering around golf courses and man-made lakes does nothing to save more environment. What would ensure that land that was supposedly set aside for preservation remain that way?

Clustering requires water, sewer and other urban services. Once these services are in place, adjacent undeveloped land will ask for (and get) higher densities because the services are there and the urban use pattern is established. Once we allow development in the rural area for one developer, how can we legally stop the others developers from building more clusters?

Is the clustered pattern of development worse than 20 acre lots?

Yes. Imagine 40,000+ homes instead of 10,000 max. Imagine dozens of gated golf course communities with a convenience store/gas station on the highway. Imagine dozens of little sewer plants that don’t work very well. The developer would build lots of lakes to sell the fill. The cluster would be too small to warrant a school or supermarket so the commuting traffic to town would be awful. Each area would demand a fire station with EMTs staffed 24 hours a day that would get very few calls, but the rest of the county would pay for them.