Commissioner Curt Smith Updates Citizens On Recent Meeting Agenda Items
By Space Coast Daily // April 5, 2016
Indian River Lagoon One of Highest County Priorities
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – Commissioner Trudie Infantini sponsored a resolution requesting that the Board ask Governor Rick Scott to declare a State of Emergency for the Indian River Lagoon and it’s current condition.
While the Board all agreed that there were some very specific issues that needed to be addressed at a State level, we did not all agree that the current condition of the IRL requires a State of Emergency declaration request.
For example, if you have 500 dead fish floating in the river behind your house, then that is an emergency for you and all of the other homeowners in the 20 mile stretch affected.
However, for the rest of the people in the 156 mile lagoon, it is not. So in my mind a State of Emergency declaration was not warranted and would be detrimental on many levels.
I personally felt as though the Governor would more than likely not have declared one anyway. The compromise that I proposed and that the Board unanimously agreed upon instead was to request specific actions from the State in an attempt to create momentum on projects that will help the Lagoon’s health.
My request was as follows:
1. Request $200 million from the State for IRL dredging projects
2. Request a streamlined and expedited permitting process for dredging projects
3. Implement mandatory septic tank and drainfield inspections at the time of sale of a property
4. Implement an additional 1 cent tourist tax to go specifically towards water quality projects for the Indian River Lagoon
This proposal passed 5-0, along with another suggestion I made to initiate a county-wide fertilizer ban until at least October of 2016. Since we will not have to ask the State for help in implementing a fertilizer ban, it will be drafted by County Staff to be discussed at a future Board Meeting for final approval.
At Tuesday’s Board Meeting Commissioner Trudie Infantini also sponsored a resolution to make the Indian River Lagoon one of the County’s highest priorities.
After having discussions on some language changes, the Board voted unanimously to pass the resolution and declare the Indian River Lagoon one of the County’s highest priorities.
The resolution is as follows:
Whereas, the Indian River Lagoon is a diverse, shallow-water estuary stretching across 40 percent of Florida’s East Coast; and
Whereas, the Lagoon is an important commercial and recreational fishery and economic resource to the state and region; and
Whereas, the Indian River Lagoon is an ecological jewel on Florida’s Space Coast that is integral to the environmental and economic well-being of Brevard County. The Indian River Lagoon system is the most diverse estuarine environment in North America, with more than 2,100 plant and 2,200 animal species, including manatees, oysters, dolphins, sea turtles and seahorses; and
Whereas, a high level of pollutants are present as a result of septic systems, excess fertilizer use, stormwater runoff, and organic debris all collectively contributing to a bloom of brown algae; and
Whereas, acres of sea grass have been killed to date in the Indian River Lagoon. It is alarming because sea grass is an indicator of the lagoon’s health, a food source for manatees, and a nursery, refuge, and place of forage for a variety of fish and other marine life; and
Whereas, muck, polluted groundwater and stormwater runoff are seriously impacting the health of the Indian River Lagoon; and
Whereas, the Lagoon is at a turning point. The coming months could herald a slow recovery of this unique ecosystem or an imminent collapse of the remaining portion of the estuary that has been sustainable up to this point.
The Board received a request from local non-profit organization Harmony Farms to waive development, building, zoning, and permitting fees along with a paving requirement.
Harmony Farms, Inc. is a volunteer-based, non-profit organization that provides equine-assisted therapy and activities to disabled individuals of all ages. The organization’s programs include Therapeutic Riding, the Horses & Veterans in Harmony Program, the Black Stallions Literacy Program, Scout opportunities, school field trips, and an off-campus training site for area college students for Occupational Therapy, Nursing, and Veterinary students.
On August 3, 2006 the Board unanimously approved a waiver of development, building, and zoning fees for the Harmony Farms’ current project at the time, which included building a new facility in Viera. However, that project never materialized. In March 2015 Harmony Farms moved to a larger location off of Pluckebaum Road in Rockledge, where the new facility is in need of many improvements and remodeling, including installing a new driveway apron. The organization was requesting that its waiver of fees be transferred to the new location and that the Board waive the requirement for a full concrete driveway apron.
ABOVE VIDEO: Harmony Farms was selected a Central Florida Humanitarian organization last year. The riders at Harmony Farms range in age from a four-year-old autistic boy to an 87-year-old lady suffering the ravages of stroke. Referred by physicians or therapists, they are coping with disabilities such as cerebral palsy, Down’s syndrome, autism, multiple sclerosis and stroke.
While I appreciate what non-profit organizations do, and understand that they are trying to save every penny possible due to working with a very limited budget, I also did not think that it was fair to waive the fees and requirements for one organization and not others. This is mainly due to the fact that when we waive certain types of fees, including permitting fees, it does not come out of the County’s general fund. Instead, it comes out of the enterprise fund and in turn causes everyone else that is paying their permitting fees to have to make up the difference. In my mind, that’s not fair to the other organizations out there who are paying their fees.
After considering these facts, I made the motion to deny the waiver request. Ultimately the Board agreed and voted 4-1, with Commissioner Andy Anderson voting no.
If you would like to view the agenda, minutes, or video of past Board of County Commissioners Meetings, click here.
ABOUT CURT SMITH, Brevard County District 4 Commissioner
Smith was elected to the Brevard County Commission in November of 2014 with 63 percent of the vote. He ran as a fiscal conservative coming from the private sector with 40 years of small business, entrepreneurial experience. This was his first venture into the world of politics.
Smith and his wife Linda owned and operated a Maaco Autopainting franchise in Melbourne for almost 27 years before retiring at the end of 2013. He grew up in a little town in southern New Jersey on the Delaware River called Pennsville. This is where he developed his deep love of nature and for being on and in the water of the river he loved. He also credits this area, just south of Philadelphia, with his deep love of God and country. The Delaware Valley is often called the cradle of Liberty.
Smith has always been civic minded. Some of his many associations in Brevard County include Board of Directors of Friends of Sally’s House and Prevent as well as supporting Brevard Little League Teams, Habitat for Humanity, Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, Candlelighters, Animal Services, and supporting efforts to restore the Indian River Lagoon.
Curt and his wife Linda have been residents of Melbourne since 1986. They have one daughter and three grandchildren.
To contact Curt Smith e-mail D4.Commissioner@brevardcounty.us or call 321-633-2044.