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 City of Stuart

STUART COMMISSION MEETING JUNE 10, 2024

I have always had immense respect for Manager Mortell. This meeting reminded me why.

New development projects have dried up in the city, so the commission meetings have been low-key events. The first meeting of the month is one that has the arts moment, proclamations, employee recognitions, and presentations. Mortell gave the presentation on development.

He went through what the comprehensive plan is. It is the guide for the future growth of the city. Mortell showed the city by aerial photo of what it looked like in 1974 and what it looks like today. It looks pretty much the same.

He then showed the population of Stuart, Martin County, St Lucie County, and Port St Lucie from 1920 to the present. Back in mid-20th century, Martin’s population was larger than St Lucie County. Stuart was more than 25% of the county’s population until 1970, and it has since gone down to 12%.

Even though some believe that this decrease is a good thing, sales taxes and other taxes are based not on where in the county the tax is paid but rather by Stuart’s percentage of the population as compared to the county’s total population. This is another reason why thinking that commercial development is preferable to housing development is an absolute fallacy.

In 2023, zero new units were approved in Stuart. Martin County approved 5,883 new units. From 2010 to 2024, new units totaling 2,307 were approved in Stuart. Of those, 63% have been completed, 15% are currently in construction, and 22% have not been built.

According to Mortell, the comp plan for the past 40 years shows Stuart being slated to have a population of 25-30,000 people when fully built out. With current projections if every piece of land was built to maximum density, we could have no more than 23,900 people. And even that won’t occur.

During public comment, Sean Reed who is running against incumbent, Troy McDonald, stated that his spreadsheet of approved units since 2017 was 2,846. He did not explain how he came up with that number. Using city records, Mortell has shown us that there are many fewer.

If Mr. Reed is looking at individual changes to development orders, then he could be counting the same approved unit twice…once when originally approved then again if the developer asked for a change such as adding a commercial space to the project.

Mayor Brunner’s opponent, Laura Giobbi, also said nearly 3,000 units were approved when she spoke. I believe if Mortell is “cooking the books,” then he should be terminated. As a close student of government, I am inclined to believe the official version and not a number pulled out of the air.

As Giobbi said there is nothing wrong with being a small town and there isn’t. But being small should not equate to pulling up the drawbridge. Giobbi lives in a multi-family condo development that was built around 1970. Perhaps if the commission at that time was a no-growth one, that property would have never developed. It didn’t ruin Stuart nor will anything that has been approved, is being built, or has been built ruin the city.

If you believe nothing else that Mortell said believe this…Stuart is built out. We will never reach the comp plan goal of a minimum of 25,000 people. There are no big pieces of land to annex.

Given our continuing slide in Stuart’s population relative to Martin County’s growth, we may just run out of the funds needed to maintain all the current civic services. That means taxes will have to rise. See how fast the people come out when that happens.

You can see the presentation here

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