Two Towns in Martin County - Palm Beach Post

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HOBE SOUND
Indiantown and Hobe Sound, two of Martin County’s oldest communities, want to be towns.

“We’re a small seaside town and we want to stay a small seaside town,” said Mike Ennis, a 60-year-old contractor who is one of the leaders in the drive for incorporation of Hobe Sound.

Control of zoning and building codes is one of the main benefits of incorporation, say supporters from both areas.

“Our two biggest challenges are that we are losing jobs and we need workforce housing. People should be able to live where they work,” said Brian Powers, 50, the owner of Indiantown Gas and a leader of a group supporting incorporation of Indiantown.

The Martin County legislative delegation unanimously agreed Thursday to propose a bill in the 2017 legislative session to call for a referendum to incorporate Hobe Sound and Indiantown. If passed by the House and Senate, and signed by the governor, a vote will be held in both areas in November to decide if incorporation will take place.

“Our communities want to keep their character and I think as they grow they are afraid that might be lost,” state Rep. Gayle Harrell, R-Stuart, said at the meeting at Stuart Town Hall.

Martin County, which has a population of about 150,000, has four incorporated communities. They are Stuart, Jupiter Island, Sewell’s Point and Ocean Breeze.
Along with Hobe Sound and Indiantown, unincorporated areas in Martin County include Hutchinson Island, Port Salerno, Jensen Beach and Rio.

Both Indiantown and Hobe Sound, like The Acreage near Royal Palm Beach and Kennedy Estates near Jupiter, have no town councils. Their representatives are the county commissioner who represents their district.

Hobe Sound, in southeastern Martin County, would be a town of about 15,000 residents.

Hobe Sound would hire a town manager, assistant town manager, finance director/comptroller, town clerk/treasurer and administrative assistant. Estimates put the total annual cost in salary and benefits at about $675,000, according to the website established by incorporation supporters.

Indiantown, in far western Martin County near the border with Palm Beach County, would become a town of about 6,000 residents. Town voters would elect a five-member town council. The town would hire an administrator, Powers said.
Both communities would keep the Martin County fire and sheriff’s services.
Persuading voters that incorporation is not another layer of government that will raise their taxes is a big challenge, Ennis and Powers agreed.

“In the end, I think their taxes will go down,” Powers said, although residents will still be responsible for paying property taxes to the county as well as the new town.
Both
Hobe Sound and Indiantown supporters of incorporation have websites promoting their cause and asking residents to sign petitions and contribute money. Both will continue to hold public meetings to try to win support.

Indiantown originally was established by the Seminole native Americans as a trading post. It was settled by Europeans in the 1890s. The community is known for having one of the top thoroughbred horse racing facilities in the United States.
Monkees frontman Davy Jones kept a stable of thoroughbred horses in Indiantown.
Hobe Sound originally was settled in late 1600s when British merchant ship Reformation, on its way from Jamaica to Philadelphia, sank off the coast just north of the Jupiter Inlet. After being forced ashore, Captain Jonathan Dickinson and crew encountered two local Indian tribes, the Hobe Sound (Jove/Jobe Indians), and Tequesta (Tekestas Indians).

Where the towns aren’t

Unincorporated communities in Martin County and their estimated population.
Jensen Beach — 12,000
Hutchinson Island — 11,000
Port Salerno — 10,000
Rio — 1,000

Indiantown, Hobe Sound ask Florida Legislature for their independence

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The Legislature this year will decide whether Indiantown and Hobe Sound can become municipalities.

The two unincorporated areas of Martin County have been considering becoming independent for decades, and leaders hope having their own government and elected officials will give the more than 20,000 residents combined more power to make decisions that affect them.

“As a community, we found, as Hobe Sound did, there are things we can do better ourselves,” said Brian Powers, who heads Indiantown Independence. The group has organized two community meetings, and Powers, president of Indiantown Gas Co., said he hasn’t heard any opposition from residents.

State Rep. Mary Lynn Magar, R-Tequesta, will file two bills the Legislature will hear during its March-to-May session to allow the towns to incorporate. If lawmakers pass the bills, voters in each town will decide in November whether to incorporate in 2018. A simple majority, or more than half of votes, is required.

Read more: Hobe Sound, Indiantown seek independence.
TAX AND SERVICES

No property tax increases are expected in both towns, according to studies commissioned by groups pushing for the incorporation in each town.
Future increases could happen in Hobe Sound if its elected officials, with input from residents, decide to add additional services, such as new parks, said Michael Ennis, head of the group Protecting Hobe Sound. Indiantown elected officials could opt for tax hikes in the future, but Powers doesn't expect that to happen because the town would have a $15 million surplus in the first five years.

Both municipalities would contract with the Martin County Sheriff’s Office and Martin County Fire Rescue for their services. Those contracts largely would offset the revenue Martin County would lose if the towns incorporate, Ennis and Powers said. Their elected officials would decide whether to have their own law enforcement and fire rescue in the future as the towns grow.

SIZE MATTERS

Hobe Sound would have a population of 15,300 that could reach 20,000 with seasonal residents, according to a study commissioned by Protecting Hobe Sound. Its northern boundary would be Osprey Street and extend south to Jonathan Dickinson State Park, east to the Indian River Lagoon and west to 138th Street, which is just south of Bridge Road.
Indiantown would have 5,700 residents and extend to the northwest of Kanner Highway and along Warfield Boulevard.

Among the benefits of being a municipality is setting zoning and building rules that allow a municipality to grow as its residents intend, Ennis said. He said he hopes Hobe Sound stays small.

Another benefit is Hobe Sound and Indiantown would set their own impact fees, which developers pay for new construction, and have their own departments, Powers said. That would save Indiantown residents a trip to Martin County’s administrative building in Stuart every time they need a permit, he said.

Read more: Indiantown, Hobe Sound ramp up incorporation efforts.

COUNTY SUPPORT

Ennis and Power said they aren’t pushing to incorporate because they want to secede from Martin County and said county officials have supported their efforts.

“It’s about being able to protect our area,” Ennis said. “It has nothing to do with the county.”

Martin County has a population of 150,000 residents and four municipalities: Stuart, Jupiter Island, Sewall’s Point and Ocean Breeze.

Martin County Commissioner Doug Smith said he supports allowing Indiantown and Hobe Sound to become municipalities. He said leaders in each community have a better understanding of what happens in their neighborhoods. He said he’s not concerned about losing tax revenue.

“We will work through it,” Smith said.

State lawmakers hold town hall meeting Thursday in Stuart

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STUART, Fla. - Martin County residents are letting their voices be heard Thursday.

Several lawmakers are holding a town hall meeting to hear from the public prior to the legislative session in March.

Senate President Joe Negron, State Representatives Gayle Harrell and MaryLynn Magar are among those in attendance.

The algae crisis was a main topic at the meeting, with Negron vowing to take action to prevent similar algal blooms in the future.

"I think we need to have additional water storage capacity south of Lake Okeechobee, there are also some other issues with converting septic tanks to sewer systems and other things we need to work on.  But I'm going to be real focused on having options other than discharging the water into our community," said Negron.

The delegation on Thursday voted unanimously to move forward on two bills requesting the incorporation of Hobe Sound and Indiantown.
Hobe Sound & Indiantown Could Become Incorporated
Two unincorporated communities of Martin County are pushing to become towns.

Hobe Sound and Indiantown both received preliminary approval from the Martin County Legislative Delegation.

This means bills will now be presented to the Florida House and Senate for review.
If the chambers pass the bills, voters will ultimately decide whether to be incorporated.

"We've discussed incorporating Hobe Sound for over twenty years but there were financial problems with it," Michael Ennis of Protecting Hobe Sound said. "Now that we can share services with the county the financial problems went away."

"All we've ever wanted was just the opportunity to have a vote to determine for ourselves," Brian Powers, a business owner in Indiantown said. "This doesn't mean that we're incorporated it just means we'll get to have a vote on it.

This bill is just one of dozens the Legislature will consider starting in March.