NAC approves budget

The budget once allocated by the Martin County Board of Commissioners for Hobe Sound redevelopment definitely has shrunk, said Kevin Freeman, Martin County Redevelopment Director, at the Nov. 18 meeting of the Neighborhood Advisory Committee meeting at the Hobe Sound Community Building. But it has not evaporated.

“There is less revenue now,” he said, “but still there’s money in the budget, and you need to decide where to spend it.”

Of the $573,205 adjusted budget carried over from the 2010 fiscal year, a total of $307,650 must by spent by the end of the 2011 fiscal year, Freeman told the group, or it will revert back to the county. The 2011 fiscal year began Oct. 1, 2010, and will end Sept. 30, 2011.

“Funds may be kept only for three years,” he added. “If you don’t spend it, you lose it.”

The budget, as prepared by the Martin County Redevelopment Agency presented by Freeman and including the carryovers for 2010, total $867,633. The line item allocations include the following:

Bridge Road and Main Street Redevelopment $501,410
Banner Lake Infrastructure $174,834
SFWMD Stormwater Project $19,518
CRA Affordable Housing $50,000
Banner Lake Facelift $30,000
Special Events/Promotions $4,971
Annual Projects Maintenance $86,900

Freeman told the gathering, many of whom had spent the previous hour discussing the site of the proposed 9-11 Memorial (see story below), that the priority should be to develop a master plan for the Bridge Road and Main Street redevelopment, particularly a plan to bury the power lines, which now are on poles on both Bridge Road and Dixie Highway.

Diane Naylor, of Cottage Cache, drew attention to the flooding issues along the A1A parking areas and to the unkempt condition of the median.
“Perhaps we should locate the 9-11 Memorial in the median strip on A1A,” she quipped. “Then, maybe, the median would get maintained.” She suggested the possibility of pavers in the median with potted trees that business owners would water, accented by lamp posts to create attractive lighting. Her comments led to lengthy discussions that spotlighted several particular areas of concern along both Bridge Road and A1A, including parking spaces, road signage and the corner traffic light.

“Dixie Highway looks good compared to Bridge Road,” said Bert Krebs, a landscape architect and former NAC chairman, who attended the meeting, “and we already have a comprehensive plan. We have plenty of pretty pictures. We don’t need any more pretty pictures.”

Mike Dooley, owner of Illustrated Properties, encouraged the committee to stay focused on one target, primarily that of burying the power lines.
“We have 11 months left (to spend $307,650), which is going to go by much faster than we anticipate,” he said. “I believe that we need to focus singularly on getting utilities underground on Bridge Road. Everything else is icing, and the icing on the cake will change over the years.”

Mike Ennis, NAC chairman, acknowledged that power lines are a priority, but so too is the overall redevelopment of Bridge Road and Main Street (A1A), and he proposed that the $30,000 allocated to a Banner Lake facelift be reallocated to the Bridge Road project.
“That’s should be our priority; that’s our major concern,” he said, “so we need as much as possible put into that project, but nothing is set in stone. We can always go back later and reallocate funds where we think we need them the most.”

The board approved the budget with the change in the Banner Lake allocation, prompting Freeman to ask for and receive approval to begin the engineering phase of the Bridge Road project.

Hobe Sound resident Sue Martin asked if the engineer on the project would be a county employee or an outside consultant. Freeman responded that engineering consultants will be invited to bid on the project, but the project would be managed by the Martin County Community Redevelopment Agency.
“That scares me as much as having a county engineer,” Martin said. John Hennessee, from Port Salerno and a Martin County Redevelopment Agency member, assured the group that “Kevin Freeman is one of the best directors I’ve seen. Ever. He gets things done.”

Freeman explained to the group that he will be utilizing a “modular concept” of management, rather than a “linear” one, so that multiple areas would be addressed simultaneously, resulting in greater progress within a shorter period of time. The first step would be to get Bridge Road business owners’ input for the “conceptualized engineering plans” that would provide precise, surveyed measurements from US 1 to the railroad tracks on US 1. Having an engineering plan “on the shelf” already prepared also could lead to funding by other agencies seeking to spend federal stimulus funds.

The scope of the redevelopment project would not exclude the sidewalks adjacent to the Harry & the Natives restaurant on the west side of US 1 and it would include A1A. “We don’t want A1A to become a stepchild to the Bridge Road project,” Dooley said. “The development of that area’s just as important as Bridge Road.”