Hutchinson Island Changes by Jim Hudson
December 31, 2014
Click Here for a pdf file of the minutes below.
Ocean Properties Meeting with HIC -‐ ESC December 29, 2014 2:00 – 3:30pm
Florida Oceanographic Society Conference Room
In Attendance: Gene Barnes (Spinnaker), Bobby Byrd (Martin County Engineering), John Canavan (Suntide), Jack Florin (HIC), Ed Griffith (Marriott Courtyard), Jim Hudson (HIC), Vicki Hudson, Tom McMurrian (Ocean Properties), Rich Morrin (IRP), Nerissa Okiye (Martin County Tourism & Marketing), Kathy Overton (Publix), Bill Peloso (IRP), Bob Raynes (Gunster – attorney), Ken Trabue (Green Turtle Cove), Mark Walsh (Ocean Properties)
I. The main purpose of this meeting was to get a status update on the Oceanside Resort (Old Holiday Inn).
Mark Walsh, one of the owners of Ocean Properties, described his company as a family-‐owned builders of hotels/resorts. They currently own 42 hotels/resorts. The closest resort is the Jupiter Beach Resort. The closest hotel is the Hutchinson Island Marriott Courtyard in St. Lucie County. They have two major construction projects currently going on in Florida, one in Clearwater and one in Long Boat Key and they have two other hotels up in the New England area that are being built. Mark assures us that the resort that they have planned is being over-‐designed for the long-‐term – a unique, one-‐of-‐a-‐kind resort for this area. It will be a high-‐end resort, but not pretentious. It is being designed with corporate meeting space, weddings, and family events (because it cannot be sustainable with just the typical vacationing tourist of Martin County). Mark said they are going to try to stay as an independent resort (i.e., they are hoping they don’t have to “brand” the resort – like making it a Ritz-‐Carlton) because it is quite expensive to brand a hotel or resort.
Mark explained that they bought the Old Holiday Inn from Wayne Hiezenga (in late 2009). At that time the economy started its downward spiral. The market has been slowly recovering, but not at a pace that makes it feasible to start the building process. Unlike the other areas of Florida that they have hotels/resorts that have an average occupancy rate of 95%+ all year round; Martin County occupancy rate has an average occupancy rate of about 65% -‐ this is not enough to sustain a resort that they are planning for their property at the old Holiday Inn site. They have been making strides towards completing the preliminary work that needs to be done before any building can take place. The site plan has been approved. Right now, they are spending about $600K to finalize the engineering plans on the exterior and the interior design – both are going well.
All construction permits are to be pulled by April of 2015. The reason that Ocean Properties wanted to get some people together from the Hutchinson Island Coalition was to inform the residents of the Island that they are applying for a 2-‐year extension; which is allowed as part of Florida Statutes. Bob (Ocean Properties attorney) said that the request had to be in to the Commissioners by Wednesday, December 31, 2014. This would mean they have until April of 2017 to get all the permitting pulled and then they would have 2-‐years to complete the building. Mark said that they don’t know if they will need the extension, but they felt that they needed to apply for the extension just in case they did need it.
After the meeting for Ocean Properties, Gene, Jim, Bobby and Rich stayed around to talk about the Jensen Beach Roundabout plan. Based on the polling of the residents of the Island (including some in St. Lucie County), Martin County was asked to delay the project until after “the season” and after the Sailfish Regatta. We asked Bobby to have everything staged and ready to go on Monday, May 18, 2015 and to finish as soon as possible. Gene also asked to have the landscaping changed to something more suitable to what the Coalition is trying to accomplish on the Island. Bobby and Gene will be working together to make the necessary changes.
Several people have asked what the yellow Martin County permitting/zoning signs on the Island are for. You will note that they have project numbers #15-‐8 through #15-‐14. All are on Martin County owned land. The changes were ordered by the Board of County Commissioners to change zoning codes from Estate Density or Industrial zoning to Conservation or recreational zoning.
Minutes submitted by Vicki Hudson
Click Here for a pdf file of the minutes above
August 30, 2014
The Phase 1 project is continuing and is supposed to be completed by mid-September. Stuart has had a tremendous amount of rain, so the swamp is having a hard time keeping dry to complete the project. Many years ago, the FDOT had cut down many Australian Pines and just left them in the wetland area (including the stumps); which no one knew at the time of the bidding process. So after the first two weeks the contractor had hauled away everything that had been in the bid. Needless-to-say, it took some time for Martin County (MC) and the contractor to resolve that issue - which also slowed the project down. I talked to Kevin Landry, who is the MC landscape architect, and Gene Barnes (HIC landscape architect) and within the last four weeks, they had to redesign Phase 1 so that we would have enough money to complete the project. Sable Palms have been planted. Irrigation pumps are installed. 19 Coconut Palms and several more truckloads of boulders will be delivered soon.
With regard to the roundabout, the bids just have come in in the last two weeks. Martin County should be making a decision by Labor Day to select the successful bidder (it will not be the same contractor that is doing Phase 1). MC is also waiting on an FDOT permit, which the engineering department says should be in by next week too. Bobby Byrd, the MC Engineer, tells me it is his goal to have the majority of the roadwork completed in late November or early December - before most of the snowbirds arrive. For the 26 years we have been on the Island, I would agree that most of the snowbirds do not come back until after Thanksgiving/Christmas. All of the bids for the roundabout came in higher than it was projected, so MC engineering is making adjustments to get as much done as possible with the dollars they have available.
At this time it would appear, between Phase 1 and the Roundabout, we will have over $1 million dollars in improvements to the Island in 2014. I have been encouraged to hear Commissioner Smith tell us that he will continue to support the Coalitions efforts; but we must be patient.
I will be back to Hutchinson Island the first week of October and hope to be able to be more "hands-on" with what is happening.
If you have any other questions, please let me know and I will try to get you answers. It's a little tough being 1,000 miles away, but M.C. has been trying to keep me updated on what is happening.
July 15, 2014
Since our last email on June 10, 2014 we haven't had a great deal of construction on our Phase 1 project for the following reasons:
1) After our last update, the contractor let us know that he had exceeded the number of truckloads of material to be hauled away from the project site. There was a great deal more muck, Australian Pines (which had been cut up many years ago by the FDOT and just left in the swamp) and tree stumps that did not show up in the bid package.
2) The water in the swamp was tested and turned out to be brackish and many of the plants which had been proposed in the bid and would be planted where water would remain would not have survived in the brackish conditions.
3) It had previously been determined that the ponds located on the golf course would still need to be corrected so that they do not drain into the newly constructed area. This is still being evaluated as to what needs to be done. I talked with Brad Cochran this week and he tells me he will do whatever is necessary, from the Marriott point of view, to elevate his golf cart path and keep it from being under water.
4) As you will be able to see with the attached pictures, we are in the rainy season and it is hard to do a lot of work when it is so wet and the water is accumulating and not draining quickly enough.
(Click on pictures to enlarge)
Last week Gene Barnes prepared alternate landscape prints, which will help save us enough money to bring in approximately 500 cubic yards of good soil which is needed. Kevin Landry, Martin County landscape architect is also in agreement with the new proposal. Bobby Byrd, who has replaced Erik Ferguson on this project, has met with Don Donaldson last week and he has also approved the changes in the landscape material and bringing in the additional soil. These changes needed to take place in order to work around our limited budget. Should you want to discuss the details of the new landscaping for the "swamp" area, please give me or Gene Barnes a call.
Approximately 25% of the wiring for the irrigation system has been completed and the water meter has been installed. Once the appropriate grade level is obtained, boulders, palm trees and ground cover will be installed (weather permitting). They are still projecting that the project will be completed by mid-August.
I would like to say a special thanks to Gene Barnes, Bobby Byrd, Erik Ferguson and Kevin Landry for their efforts in pushing this project along!! Thanks guys, we really appreciate your efforts!
I talked with Anna Colgan last week about the new Oceanside Resort and she informed me that on July 8th, one of the Board of Commissioner items concerning Martin County utility easements had been approved for the Oceanside project. There are more items which will need to be approved by engineering and the Commissioners, but they are still hopeful that this project should be completed within the next 18 months.
With regard to my letter to the governor, they have asked that I contact Elisabeth Hassett, of the FDOT, so that we can discuss appropriate landscaping for the rest of A1A (Martin County). In talking with Bobby today, I suggest that this meeting take place in the Martin County Engineering department around the end of October.
June 10, 2014
Since approximately 75% of us leave Florida during the summer months, I wanted to provide you with an update on this project. As you know, it has been a long, slow process getting approvals, permits and work started. I received pictures last evening, which are attached, and wanted to share them with you.
We are approximately 40% complete with this piece of Phase 1. The next steps will involve installing the small rock into the wet area of this property. It is projected that this will always be wet due to ground and rain water. But we do not want it to turn into a "swamp" area again. They will finish grading the project, install the irrigation system, installing big boulders, palm and other trees, and ground cover. Gene Barnes, our local landscape architect, will be back to Florida tomorrow to work with the contractor's staff, and Martin County's landscape architect.
I know that we will all be proud to see this area take on a new look. The project completion date will be August, 2014.
Jensen Beach Roundabout, the next HIC project we have been working on with Martin County Engineering and Commissioners, will be starting on the Island later this summer. This project costs approximately $500,000. Their goal is to have the project completed before the majority of "snow birds" return.
Thanks to each of you and with your continued support we will strive to make Hutchinson Island a safer, more beautiful place to live.
Click on the link below to see the
Click on slideshow for best viewing.
If you know the fisherman who caught this, drop me a note so I can give him credit.
It appears to be a Black Tip Shark. CLICK HERE for a description.
Click on slideshow for best viewing.
I sent a question to the Florida Oceanographic group located on the south end of the Island and below is the response I received:
Thank you for your wonderful photos and question. We believe this is a hammerhead, potentially a great hammerhead Sphyrna mokarran due to perceived size and fin shape, commonly seen on our shores.
Hammerheads are very well known for their distinctive head shape which is used to great advantage in their movement, hunting, and sensing abilities. These sharks are primarily benthic (or bottom) feeders but have been known to hunt migratory prey like pompano which were running around that time. Stingrays and other fish are found in shallower waters so this animal may have been using the surf to its advantage, letting the wave hoist it to the prey and sweep it back out to deeper (and safer) waters.
These are fabulous photos. May we have your permission to use them for educational purposes?
Thanks and have a happy New Year,
Also, here is a link to FLMNH to learn more about this species of hammerhead: CLICK HERE.