Local Planning Agency again grants strong support for Pineland Prairie

Local Planning Agency again grants strong support
for Pineland Prairie

STUART—The first reviewing agency to grant Pineland Prairie a unanimous vote of approval back in March recently rendered an additional 5-0 decision in our favor.

On June 21, the Martin County Local Planning Agency (LPA)—composed of citizens appointed by county commissioners and tasked with reviewing and making recommendations on proposed projects—once again granted its support of Pineland Prairie, this time recommending approval for the proposed Form-Based Code and accompanying rezoning requests.

“I don’t want to throw any obstacles in the way of this project,” said Joe Banfi, LPA member, “because it’s one of the best projects I’ve ever seen.”

The LPA decision comes on the heels of a recent unanimous approval of the project by the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council, as well as an endorsement by the respected statewide environmental organization 1000 Friends of Florida.

Landowner Knight Kiplinger, of Sewall’s Point, who conceived the Pineland Prairie concept and is taking it through the review process, told the LPA, “You were the first governmental body to weigh in on this, and I appreciate the risk that you were taking. I hope you are heartened by the fact that additional bodies—both governmental and quasi-governmental and nonprofit—have come to similar conclusions as yours.”

The LPA decision is conditional on the Pineland Prairie team continuing to work closely with county staff on the administrative process to apply the Form-Based Code, a detailed framework for assuring the community is developed in accordance with the original proposal.

“We’re committed to a process that is consistent with the comp plan, based on processes that are internal now, adding level of scrutiny, and delivering a compliance-ready package,” Marcela Camblor-Cutsaimanis, a lead planner on the project, said to the LPA. “Certainly, the Pineland Prairie team has thoroughly enjoyed working with the experts of the Martin County Growth Management Department. We’ve appreciated the ways they have strengthened our proposal.”

The county staff seems to feel similarly, as Nicki Van Vonno, head of the county’s Growth Management Department, made clear. “We think this is a very exciting proposal and we’re looking forward to it,” says Van Vonno.

In its 5-0 vote to rezone the property’s Limited Industrial Zoning District and Agricultural Ranchette Zoning Districts to the Planned Mixed-Use-Village District, LPA Member Joe Banfi made an important point.

“Some people might perceive this as an agricultural exchange for urban development,” he said. “But there’s really a lot of [potential] density that’s out there now, with the industrial [entitlement on the current land]. To my way of thinking, it’s almost a wash with the density that’s available under the old land use vs. what is being proposed today.”

Scott Watson of the LPA best captured my sentiments when he remarked: “Let’s ask that the applicant work diligent with staff, and obviously they are, and let’s get this thing rolling.”

After voting 4-1 in April to transmit the proposal to various state agencies to review, the Martin County Commission will review for final approval in August.

Leading planning organizations praise Pineland Prairie as setting ‘new bar’ for future projects

Leading planning organizations praise Pineland Prairie as setting ‘new bar’ for future projects

We have some exciting news—and key video clips from our meeting with the Martin County Commission—to share with you. We recently received very encouraging comments and reviews from two highly respected planning organizations—the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council and 1000 Friends of Florida.

On June 15, the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council granted unanimous approval to Pineland Prairie’s Comprehensive Plan Amendment No. 18-3DRI. Emphasizing “no adverse effects on regional resources or facilities,” the council stated:

“If built true to form, this ‘new town’ will deliver the positive economic, environmental, and social impacts the county and developer hope to achieve, without all the negatives of sprawl.  The Pineland Prairie plan represents a great opportunity for the county to ensure there is a regular and walkable network of streets and blocks, resulting in self-contained neighborhoods and mixed-use districts for all ages and incomes, that will effectively connect all the important components of public and private life… Martin County and the developer should be commended for their efforts together in creating the master plan for Pineland Prairie. It sets a new bar for future development and serves as a wonderful local example for accommodating some of the region’s future growth in a smaller footprint.”  Read more.

Additionally, in its spring newsletter dedicated to the role urban growth boundaries play in planning, 1000 Friends wrote that it “supported staff recommendations to refine the proposal which includes walkable clustered development, a mixed-use center, and 70 percent of the project area remaining in open space and agricultural use.”

In April, Pineland Prairie earned a 4-1 vote of approval from the Martin County Commission to transmit our proposed comprehensive plan amendment to the state for its select agencies to review.

The discussion was certainly thorough but also immensely enjoyable, with some excellent points and questions raised by the county staff and county commissioners. We appreciated the extended opportunity to delve into detail about:

  • our multilayered assurances for the 70 percent of land in open space.
  • our Form-based Code, which provides predictability and clear assurances that Pineland Prairie will be created precisely as depicted in the plan.
  • our cautious-but-hopeful expectations for diverting and filtering water from the C-23 canal before it returns to local waterways.

We were especially encouraged by the public commenters. As TCPalm.com recently reported, “most people spoke in favor of the development, which would create a walkable community with shopping and offices near residential areas that have a variety of upscale and affordable housing according to project plans.”

In first review, amendments to enable Kiplinger’s Pineland Prairie earn unanimous approval

In first review, amendments to enable Kiplinger’s Pineland Prairie earn unanimous approval

STUART (March 2, 2018) —In its first public governmental review, Pineland Prairie—the new village proposed by financial publisher Knight Kiplinger for his family’s 3,400-acre property in Palm City—earned a 5-0 vote of approval from the Martin County Local Planning Agency this week.

The proposed land use and text amendments necessary to implement the new compact, mixed-use community–which also received positive comments from the county’s planning staff–will now advance to the Martin County Commissioners for consideration.

“I think it’s an awesome project you guys have stepped into,” said Jim Moir, chair of the LPA. “It’s a new thing. It’s a scary thing. It’s precedent-setting. I don’t know how [others might] follow that act, though. I think that because of the place, because of the owner, because of the vision, it’s going to be difficult to match.”

Kiplinger’s family have been seasonal residents, landowners and philanthropists in Martin County since 1952, and they purchased the Palm City property in the late 1970s and early ‘80s.  Most of the land has been kept natural ever since, with less than 1,000 acres of it used for citrus, cattle grazing and vegetable farming.

The site—characterized during the meeting as an “infill site”—lies between the Florida Turnpike and I-95, south of the C-23 canal. It is surrounded on all sides by residential development, including Martin Downs, Port St. Lucie, Stuart West and Cobblestone, Canopy Creek, and Palm City Farms.

Members of the county’s Growth Management Department, which conducted the application review, concluded that Pineland Prairie’s proposed land-use and text amendments “have the potential to advance the achievement of numerous (Comprehensive Growth Management Plan) goals, objectives and policies.”

By allowing compact, mixed-use development on a third of the property while protecting the remaining two-thirds, the amendment would “facilitate a form of development not now available in Martin County but encouraged in numerous planning documents,” the staff report said.

Public comment at the LPA hearing was largely positive, with seven speakers in support and four citizens raising questions about future traffic and existing drainage issues in Palm City Farms.

Although he raised concerns about possible impact to the region’s hydrology, Van Stuck of Palm City complemented the applicant’s “excellent presentation,” which, he said, had “indeed assuaged some of my concerns.”

“You’ve done a marvelous job in communicating this plan to the community,” said Joe Banfi, an LPA member, “and in creating the plan with vision. I think the plan will be an asset to the county—and bring quality to the county.”

LPA member Scott Watson echoed these sentiments. “I think it’s refreshing. I think the assurances are there. I think this is groundbreaking, and it’s something Martin County is going to be extremely proud of when it’s done.”

Last May, Kiplinger launched a “listening tour,” visiting neighboring communities and civic groups to gather input on what type of proposal Pineland Prairie should put forth. Meeting with more than 700 people and contacting 3,600 surrounding property owners allowed him to identify and address many concerns in advance.

Currently, roughly 500 of the 3,400 acres lie inside the county’s primary urban service district and have zoning rights that could yield up to 10 million square feet of light industrial uses. The remainder of the site is zoned for 5-acre ranchettes.

Pineland Prairie proposes a creative reorganization of the current rights and incorporates a mix of uses to create a compact, walkable, mixed-use village surrounded by countryside. The proposal places 70 percent of the total 3,400 acres in publicly accessible open spaces of various kinds—natural lands with hiking and biking trails, agriculture, sports playing fields, equestrian fields, cattle pastures and a variety of marshes, ponds and waterways.

The most natural lands will be protected in perpetuity with open-space conservation easements recorded as deed restrictions at the county courthouse. Management of the natural lands will be shared between the owner and a nonprofit land trust. This will ensure that the broad swath of forested areas, dry uplands and wetlands will remain natural and preserved, as the village is developed, over more than 20 years, on the land cleared long ago for agriculture.

“From my long experience with recorded deed easements, I’ve never seen them modified,” Kiplinger said. “I’ve seen them remain in perpetuity. I’ve seen easements from 1880 being enforced today. It is more likely that a government, local or federal, can change its mind about a land use, so I would prefer to trust the tightness of recorded deed restrictions [rather than] the whim of future governments.”

Interested in hearing more? Please click here to see and hear the LPA commissioners comment on our project in their own words.

‘New urbanist’ plan for 4,200 homes west of Palm City gets a look

‘New urbanist’ plan for 4,200 homes west of Palm City gets a look

TCPALM (Feb 22, 2018), Gil Smart

Earlier this month I took a drive out Citrus Boulevard, west of Palm City. I looked at slash pines, saw palmettos and sable palms.

And what I saw was the future.

Well, one man’s vision of the future. Knight Kiplinger, the Washington D.C.-based financial journalist whose family has long called Martin County its “second home,” wants to build 4,200 homes on some 3,417 acres — a 5.3-square-mile parcel that’s actually larger than Palm City or Hobe Sound.

All of which sounds faintly ridiculous. Kiplinger’s development, Pineland Prairie, would in effect be building a brand new small town. In Martin County, of all places — where you can’t knock over a blade of grass without someone moaning about “Browardization.”

How’s this going to work?

To listen to Kiplinger, and see his drawings, the answer is: perfectly.

Kiplinger’s proposal will be the subject of a public hearing before the Martin County Local Planning Agency on Wednesday. Ultimately, the Martin County Commission will need to sign off; Kiplinger hopes the plan will go to the board in April.

Officials will consider comprehensive plan changes to accommodate the development; the county actually doesn’t have language in its zoning ordinances to allow Kiplinger to build the “Mixed Use Village” he wants to construct.

So, helpfully, he brought in planners to craft code he hopes the county will adopt, permitting neighborhoods “with a diverse mix of uses and housing types (that preserve) large swaths of open space.”

That, in a nutshell, is the plan for Pineland Prairie. But I’d driven out to Citrus Boulevard to get a gander at how, exactly, all this would fit into the landscape.

Citrus Boulevard is a pleasant “back door” into Martin County from Port St. Lucie, a sanguine drive. Kiplinger knows it. And in fact, he’ll keep much of it that way.

The property is shaped roughly like the state of Nebraska; just past Citrus Grove Elementary School, it borders Citrus Boulevard to the north. Here Kiplinger envisions “industrial neighborhoods” — light industry interspersed with homes, a community center, tree-lined public squares and corner stores.

Heading west/northwest, beginning at Boatramp Road, Citrus Boulevard bisects the remainder of the site all the way to the St. Lucie County line. But for the first mile or so, vistas would remain largely untouched, with open fields separating the new neighborhoods from the main artery. Cattle would graze in sight of the new rooftops; preserved wetlands would continue to provide shelter for critters like the 6-foot alligator we saw while there.

It wouldn’t be until you hit the center of town, the “Crossroads,” where you’d be out of the woods and into the heart of Kiplinger’s “new urbanist” vision.

Here you’d have tree-lined streets and retail storefronts, a grocery store and a farm market with a water tower; a mix of old and new, the type of place where you want to park, get out and walk. That’s the point of these “walkable” neighborhoods, which really don’t exist in Martin County right now.

Further north, near the St. Lucie County line, Kiplinger envisions community gardens lining Citrus Boulevard, along with 150 acres allotted to larger-scale agriculture. On the west/southwestern side of the road would be: nothing. A few trails; most of the area will stay exactly the way it is now.

All told, 30 percent of the site would be developed, with 70 percent — 2,000 acres — kept as open space.

That would make it the third-biggest “park” in Martin County.

Knight Kiplinger, editor in chief of Kiplinger publications, discusses the plans for “Pineland Prairie” Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018, at the proposed site for the new community along Southwest Citrus Boulevard, northwest of Citrus Grove Elementary, in Palm City. “The feedback I’m getting from my fellow citizens is that the time is right for something new,” said Kiplinger of the planned mixed-use village, which would occupy about 5.3 square miles (although only about 30 percent would be developed) and is projected to take between 25 and 30 years to complete. (Photo: JEREMIAH WILSON/TCPALM)

 

Kiplinger is obviously a wonk when it comes to new urbanist ideas. But — witness the financial publications bearing his name — he’s also a savvy businessman.

Tomorrow’s home buyers “don’t want a big yard, they like porches, and they like to meet their neighbors,” he said. “Our county needs good housing for young adults of a size and style they want. … Gated golf course communities are not an unmet need in Martin County.”

Couple that with the fact Kiplinger expects the project to be environmentally neutral — some land will be devoted to cleaning water from the C-23 canal and quite a few of those slash pines, saw palmettos and sable palms will stay right where they are — and you’ve got, I think, a true example of “smart growth.”

It remains to be seen how Martin County on the whole will react to this. I can already see the Facebook laments: NO MORE DEVELOPMENT!!!

But Kiplinger has gone out of his way to meet with local leaders, community groups and everyday citizens to explain what he’s trying to do, and to solicit feedback. A good bit of that feedback has been positive.

And let’s emphasize that “smart growth” does not mean “no growth.” It means — and here I’m stealing from the group Smart Growth America — “an approach to development that encourages a mix of building types and uses, diverse housing and transportation options, development within existing neighborhoods, and community engagement.”

On this basis, for all the talk about “smart growth” in Martin County, we don’t have much of it.

That could change — starting this week.

Click here to view the original article.

Kiplinger’s Pineland Prairie takes step forward as Martin County’s next big development

Kiplinger’s Pineland Prairie takes step forward as Martin County’s next big development

TCPALM (September 21, 2017), Lisa Broadt

MARTIN COUNTY — Development of a community roughly the size of Hobe Sound is about to take a major step forward.

Property owner Knight Kiplinger next week will submit to the county plans for Pineland Prairie, his proposed 5.3-square mile, mixed-use community.

Pineland Prairie’s design emulates towns from an earlier time, ones that were walkable, with shopping and offices nearby, and that today are intended to appeal to young people.

Neighborhoods there would have a variety housing types, many with front porches, and most nestled close to the street, according to the vision outlined by Kiplinger, editor-in-chief and president of Kiplinger Washington Editors.

“It’s going to require people to look at housing differently,” Kiplinger said Thursday. “I hope it raises the bar.”

The community would be built on the Kiplinger family’s 3,375 acres west of Palm City, between Florida’s Turnpike and Interstate 95.

A mix of about 4,200 residential units, 230,000 square feet of retail space, 90,000 square feet of commercial space and about 300 acres of light industrial would occupy about 30 percent of the property, according to Kiplinger’s plans.

Most of the currently undeveloped land, though, would remain undeveloped.

About 70 percent, or 2,400 acres, would be set aside for open, public preserve, as well as farm land, sports fields, playgrounds and parks, according to the plans.

Kiplinger acknowledged that major development in growth-shy Martin County could pose challenges, but he said he is hopeful his proposal will be well received by the county.

People who have seen the plans, he said, “have never seen so detailed a plan, one so fully realized.”

Over the past few months, Kiplinger has embarked on an outreach campaign to tell the community about Pineland Prairie, answer questions and solicit input.

On Wednesday, at an event at Ground Floor Farm in downtown Stuart, Kiplinger unveiled to the public a more detailed proposal.

Martin County conservationist and former Sewall’s Point Mayor Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch was one of about 70 people in attendance.

Thurlow-Lippisch on Thursday said it will be “fascinating” to watch the project play out.

“We haven’t seen anything this big in Martin County in a long time,” she said. “On an ecological level, I trust Mr. Kiplinger really has a vision here and wants to leave some walkable nature” for future generations.

The development must proceed with caution, though, Thurlow-Lippisch said.

“It’s a big step, so I think anybody, no matter what, has to be diligent in looking at everything, and not just jumping into it before we know everything bout it,” she said. “Nonetheless, I have to say I’m very impressed.”

Kiplinger on Thursday said he is serious about preserving the land.

He plans to sever development rights and put easements on the land that would protect it in perpetuity, he said. The preserve likely would be managed by a board of trustees, Kiplinger said.

He also is committed to making the community affordable to a range of people. He envisions a mix of housing, with mansions next door to more smaller, more affordable homes, he said.

Click here to view the original article.

Gil Smart: ‘New urbanism’ coming to Martin County?

Gil Smart: ‘New urbanism’ coming to Martin County?

TCPALM (May 9, 2017), Gil Smart

Where’s the “ka-boom?”

There was supposed to be an earth-shattering “ka-boom.”

And if you think it’s odd to begin a column with a quote from Marvin the Martian, consider that last week a major Martin County landowner announced he wanted to develop nearly 3,400 acres, and the response was… silence.

In space no one can hear you scream, I guess.

The landowner in question is Knight Kiplinger. You’ve heard of the Kiplinger Letter and Kiplinger Personal Finance magazine? Right, that’s his company, based in Washington, D.C. But the Kiplinger family has a long history in Martin County. Knight’s grandfather vacationed here in the 1950s and liked it so much he bought a home in Sewall’s Point. In 1980, Kiplinger’s firm bought 3,375 acres nestled between the Florida Turnpike and Interstate 95 in Palm City, a property he dubbed “Pineland Prairie.”

Last week, Kiplinger took out a full-page ad in our publication saying he envisioned turning the site into “a wonderful new kind of community — something that doesn’t exist anywhere in Martin County, or indeed, anywhere in our state.”

Kiplinger envisions Pineland Prairie as a mixed-use, walkable neighborhood where homes are located adjacent to businesses and significant amounts of undeveloped open space remain, situated alongside small-scale agriculture and outdoor recreation.

He has even suggested building temporary water retention areas to help clean water from the C-23 canal.

This map shows the boundaries of the nearly 3,400 undeveloped Pineland Prairie tract. (Photo: CONTRIBUTED BY KNIGHT KIPLINGERS)

You see neighborhoods like the one Kiplinger loosely has in mind elsewhere in the country. The concept is dubbed “New Urbanism,” though Kiplinger prefers the term “neo-traditional town planning” because “my ideal towns are less ‘urban’ than ‘small-town’ in feel, like Stuart itself,” he said via email. “This concept, I believe, should be one of several choices of living styles that our county offers to current and future residents.”

Kiplinger hasn’t yet pitched specifics, and in his ad — and on a website devoted to the project, pinelandprairie.com — he asks for the community’s input. He sets out his broad vision of what the community could be but wants to know what local leaders, business owners and residents think.

He’s meeting one-on-one with many in the community, and stopped out at our offices last week as part of his “listening tour,” where I spoke with him in person.

And in general, Kiplinger wants people to “describe their personal priorities for Martin County’s future and to suggest ways that this land can help meet our county’s needs” in terms of the environment, housing and the local economy.

And here’s where I expected the “ka-boom!”

Here’s where I expected, and still expect, people in Martin County to go into shut-down-all-growth mode. “We don’t need more houses!” they’ll lament — although we do. “We don’t need to pave over any more land” — although what Kiplinger loosely envisions would keep paving to a minimum.

And of course I expected “No more traffic!” — though if Pineland Prairie were designed according to New Urbanist principles, traffic would be minimized because of something called “internal capture.” That is, people wouldn’t have to leave the neighborhood for each and every need.

Let’s talk about that for a moment because it occurs to me many who complain the loudest about traffic live in neighborhoods that actually maximize it — with exactly one way in and one way out, with no shopping or commercial/office space whatsoever. That type of neighborhood means every resident who needs the littlest thing must get in his/her vehicle and clog the roads of Martin County. And that so many neighborhoods have been built in this fashion is one huge reason why those roads always are so clogged.

Anyway, I’m still waiting for the “ka-boom,” but in the meantime Kiplinger said he has gotten some substantive feedback. Hopefully, a thoughtful dialogue can continue.

Pineland Prairie faces many hurdles, particularly the fact that most of the site is outside the urban services district and isn’t served by municipal sewer or water. That could be a huge fight.

But in a broad sense, Kiplinger’s right. It’s time for Martin County to consider, and perhaps change its regulations to accommodate, mixed-use development like the one he has in mind. Our housing market isn’t going to be dominated by wealthy retirees forever. If this county is to be attractive to a younger demographic and the type of jobs they want and the community needs, a wider variety of housing/neighborhood options needs be available.

“Change,” however, tends to be a dirty word in Martin County. Which is why, if and when the “ka-boom” comes, it might have less to do with the specifics of Pineland Prairie than it does with the idea the county needs such a neighborhood in the first place.

Click here to view the original article.