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Martin County Commissioners Vote 3-2 to Advance Calusa Ranch Development onto Final Hearing


Martin County - Friday December 8, 2023: The turnout was high at the Martin County Commissioners meeting this past Tuesday, with many opposing proposed changes in zoning to accommodate the Calusa Ranch development.

Most residents who turned out spoke in opposition, some of them spoke passionately against any changes to the comprehensive plan.

"I'm so upset about this," said one resident. "The Calusa Creek Ranch amendment takes Rural Lifestyle more than a mile outside the Urban Service District, into farmlands, wetlands and cattle grazing lands in western Martin County.

"It seems like Miami and Palm Beach now. You need to listen to your constituents and not your lobbyists putting money into your re-election campaigns," said another.

But former owner, Chip Barney suggested that critics misunderstand what’s being planned. "The reason I am here is because I absolutely believe in this project. Its going to preserve the habitats, and the wetlands, the forests and to hear people use terms like unbridled growth seems crazy to me."

County Attorney Elysse Elder reminded the Commissioner that the zoning change applies not just to the Calusa Ranch project saying “It is not applicable to just one project. It is applicable to all of Martin County.”

Commission Chair Harold Jenkins and Commissioner Sarah Heard voted no.

“This is a purely arbitrary recommendation," said Heard. "No data and analysis was done to justify this amendment.”

Commissioners Smith, Heatherington, and Ciampi approved and the changes passed by a vote of 3 to 2.

This was just a transmittal hearing, which means approval at this stage only authorized sending the proposal to the state’s land planning agency and to surrounding justifications for their comments.

Barring any objections from those agencies it’ll come back to the Commission early next year for final action.