By Alisha McDarris
For Hometown News
MARTIN COUNTY -- The list of counties that were originally included in the Seven50 plan is dwindling as Martin County became the third to opt out of the plan that groups like The American Coalition 4 Property Rights thought was dubious at best.
Indian River and St. Lucie County also passed on the plan that is spearheaded by the Southeast Florida Regional Partnership that included a grant for $4.25 million to enhance regional planning in seven counties over 50 years.
The Martin County board of commissioners voted to opt out of Seven50 effective February 22, 2014 and will engage in no further commitment unless deliberated by the County Commission.
The plan's purpose was to incorporate livability, sustainability and social equity into land use and zoning with goals of reducing obesity, increasing the number of multi-family residences, and increasing the number of artists in the workplace.
At its core is the idea of "new urbanism," a principal that aims to create higher-density living areas with reduced auto travel by relying on mass transit and alternate means of transportation. Think Abacoa or even New York City.
Some of the ideas sound beneficial at first, but many, including Mark Gotz of AC4PR, believe otherwise.
What Mr. Gotz saw were government programs like Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Transportation that are staffed by unelected officials stepping in to call the shots in local development using taxpayer money.
He said the plan had too many gaps as it hadn't conducted any economic analysis and didn't seem to have any concrete plans for achieving its goals. He described the plan as incomplete and even unnecessary as the county has had a comprehensive land use plan of their own for decades.
He referred to the possibility of the plan being implemented by such large organizations as "scary."
"We have no idea who these people are, yet they're making decisions in our lives," Mr. Gotz said. "Our intent is to push back on an overbearing government."
Push back, they did. On Dec. 17, Jerry Kychelhahn presented his research-based views against Seven50 to the Martin County Board of County Commissioners in front of a packed house all dressed in red to show their disdain for the plan.
Mr. Kychelhahn commended Martin County's development plan and commented that the Seven50 Plan would not be sustainable and that it was "pure silliness" to think government could plan 50 years into the future.
New Urbanism may be attractive to some, but not for Martin County, he argued.
"Why put Martin County at risk by remaining in this coalition when there is no compelling reason to do so?" Mr. Kychelhahn asked in his presentation.
Their voices were heard and the board voted 4-1 against adopting the plan. Doug Smith was the only commissioner who voted to remain in the plan.
"It's nice to know political leaders will listen to their constituents," Mr. Gotz said.
A large part of the problem with the plan, according to Mr. Gotz, was also that no one knew about it. The plan wasn't widely publicized, but its opponents managed to show up in enough force at last week's meeting to show county commissioners where the public stands.
"We're happy that our home rule will stay intact," Mr. Gotz said.
Monroe, Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties have yet to vote on the plan.