TC Palm Editorial
November 16, 2017
There is no positive spin on Martin County’s resolution of the Lake Point lawsuit.
However, that didn’t stop the county’s media department from attempting to cast the settlement in a positive light. The headline splashed across Tuesday’s media release stated, “County settles Lake Point lawsuit; gains over 400 acres adjacent to C-44/Okeechobee Waterway.”
For the record, the 400 acres the county will obtain is property Lake Point didn’t want and Martin County had never sought. It has a total assessed market value of about $1.8 million, according the county Property Appraiser’s website, yet the county is paying $12 million for it as part of the settlement.
Only in an alternate universe would this be considered a “gain.”
The truth is, Martin County — and county taxpayers, in particular — lost big-time on Tuesday.
We’ve come a long way since 2008, when the County Commission — including Commissioner Sarah Heard — approved a deal allowing Lake Point to mine rocks for 20 years on 2,200 acres the company owns in western Martin County. However, in February 2013, Lake Point sued the county and the South Florida Water Management District alleging a breach of contract. Lake Point also sued the county and former Martin County Commissioner Maggy Hurchalla for alleged interference with its contract.
The company amended its complaint in 2014 to include two counts of violating Florida’s Public Records Law. Martin County was the sole defendant in the public records portion of the lawsuit.
Now that Martin County has settled both lawsuits with Lake Point, let’s total up the cost.
After court-appointed arbitrator Howard Googe found “the greater weight of the evidence indicates there was a pattern and practice of non-compliance and lack of diligence by the county and certain county commissioners in preserving and producing public records,” Martin County agreed earlier this year to pay Lake Point $371,801 to settle the public records lawsuit.
The second lawsuit, settled Tuesday, could bring the total as high as $20 million when the county’s legal expenditures — i.e., $4.28 million through Oct. 30 — and other costs are factored in to the equation.
Lake Point also will be allowed to mine its property for 50 years, instead of the original 20 years, and pay a hauling fee of 21 cents per cubic yard that will never increase. [READ MORE]