It’s my great pleasure to share with you some exciting news: Mattamy Homes will serve as the master developer of Newfield, the innovative new town in Palm City that I first proposed to the people of Martin County more than five years ago, and which is now nearing the start of construction.
Start Of Construction Underway At Newfield
Five years after Knight Kiplinger presented his vision for Newfield to the citizens of Martin County, and more than a year after the county commissioners approved the Master Site Plan for Phase 1, construction work began last fall and is moving forward.
But don’t go looking for new houses yet, because the early work is almost invisible–the laying of pipes for public water and sewer, fire hydrants, conduit for telecommunications lines, etc. Then comes the creation of stormwater retention lakes, waterways, grading for the town center, and the laying out of streets, blocks and village greens.
“I’m pleased that so many local folks are enthusiastic about Newfield and impatient for it to get underway,” Kiplinger says. “But I remind them of how long it takes to build a high-quality new town–not just the government review and approvals, but the careful design and engineering of the community. And after homebuilding begins, it will be a gradual, decade-long build-out.” The utility work is the first, vital infrastructure for a new town, and it’s progressing west along Citrus Boulevard, from Citrus Grove Elementary and Park, almost two miles to where the town center will start to grow next year. After the utility trenches were filled and sodded over, the only indication of completed work are the new yellow fire hydrants of Martin County Utilities.
Following plans done by Shaun MacKenzie of MacKenzie Engineering and Planning, Inc., of Palm City, the work is being performed by Felix Associates of Stuart, one of numerous regional contractors that bid on the Newfield infrastructure. “We were pleased to select Felix for several reasons,” said Knight Kiplinger. “They have a great reputation, are local, and were able to assure us they could get the piping, which is in short supply during this national construction boom.”
The utility work, in the broad right of way of Citrus Boulevard, is not disturbing the current agricultural operations of Newfield, some of which will continue after the new town is built, since agriculture will be a key component of the Kiplinger vision.
Tommy Smith’s herd of cattle are watching the work along Citrus, where pastures will remain at Citrus and Boat Ramp Avenue as part of the Newfield Master Plan and its 2,000+ acres of open space (some 70% of the total acreage). Farmer John Long, of Agri-Gators, Inc. who grows potatoes on leased land at Newfield, will complete this winter growing season before his acreage is reduced next year by grading for the town center.
Kiplinger and Commissioner Ed Ciampi, whose Palm City district will include Newfield, recently spoke to Jon Shainman of Channel 5 WPTV (NBC in West Palm Beach) about the start of construction. (Construction moving forward on Newfield development in Martin County (wptv.com)) During the interview, a curious alligator did some sunbathing along one of the current ag canals.
Almost all of the new town will arise on former farmland north of Citrus, not on the natural lands–slash pines, saw palmettos, sabal palms and prairie–south of the boulevard, which will be preserved forever (and traversed by trails) in the Kiplinger Conservancy. In the far northwest corner of the Conservancy, there will be a gopher tortoise sanctuary where tortoises removed from other development projects will be relocated.
After the utilities are completed shortly, work will begin on creating a network of waterways–connected lakes and canals for visual beauty, recreation, and stormwater retention during rainy seasons. The fill from digging the waterways will raise the level of the new town center a few feet. The first of these lakes will be north of Citrus, and some will eventually be dug on part of the open land south of Citrus, across from the new town.
While all of this is going on, Knight and his team are advancing the design of new county playing fields and the look of the town center, with its mix of various housing types and neighborhood retail.
For the economic vitality of Martin County, there is considerable market interest in Newfield’s light-industrial land that lies along the Florida Turnpike, called Martin Enterprise Park. It will be attractive to a variety of employers and their business needs, ranging from warehouse space to research & development and light manufacturing.
An equestrian future for Palm City’s Newfield community
PALM CITY, Fla. (March 23, 2021) — The vast open spaces of Newfield, the new planned community in Martin County, will be a haven for horseback riders, hikers and trail bikers, and a few Palm City neighbors got a preview of this on a trail ride this week.
Master Site Plan For Newfield Phase 1 Approved By Martin County Commissioners
Martin County’s Board of County Commissioners voted 4-1 today to approve the Master Site Plan for Phase 1 of the innovative Newfield mixed-use community, which will set a new standard for traditional neighborhood design and open-space preservation on the Treasure Coast.
FAQs about a Community Development District (CDD)
By Knight Kiplinger, developer of Newfield
(written for the layman without the precise jargon of an attorney)
What is a CDD, of the type that is proposed for the Newfield community in Palm City?
A Community Development District, as authorized under Florida state law, is a legal entity created to fund, maintain and operate certain basic infrastructure and amenities within a Master Planned Community like Newfield, for the primary benefit of the homeowners within it. The infrastructure can include utilities within the new community, streets, a clubhouse and pool for residents, small parks and playgrounds, landscaping, natural lands, etc. In a non-gated community like Newfield, it’s likely that many other county residents will get some ancillary benefit from some of these amenities.
Who creates a CDD?
The developer applies to either the state or the county for authorization to create the CDD. Many CDDs are approved by the state, but In the case of Newfield, permission is being sought directly from Martin County, by vote of its Board of County Commissioners–in the spirit of “home rule.”
How does the CDD raise money to fund the infrastructure and amenities, and how is it repaid?
It borrows money through the sale of tax-free revenue bonds. It borrows on the project’s own credit, not the county’s. Repayment of the bonds will come from an annual fee paid by the homeowners on top of their normal Martin County property taxes. So residents of the CDD will pay both for normal county services–schools, public safety, parks and beaches, etc.–and for amenities within their community that benefit primarily themselves.
Is there any financial risk to the county from authorizing a CDD?
No. Even though the county may sponsor the creation of the CDD, no county funds will be used to repay the bonds, and the county does not guarantee repayment in any way. So the CDD does not affect the county’s finances or credit rating, and no current or future county residents who don’t live in the CDD are burdened.
Who runs the CDD after it is created?
A board of five supervisors, chosen first by the developer and later, within six years, elected by the homeowners in the new community, similar to the board of a homeowner’s association or a condo board. They can contract for services that the community needs.
Can they make laws for the CDD that supersede Martin County ordinances, such as for zoning and other land use?
No, the CDD and all residents of Newfield will be governed by county law. The CDD cannot change the zoning or level of development that the county approved in the Newfield’s Mixed Use amendment to the Comprehensive Plan and the various Master (and Final) Site Plans that will be approved by the county as the community grows.
So a CDD is not like an incorporated town within the county?
No. Unlike an incorporated town–say, Stuart or Jupiter Island or Indiantown–with its own governance of mayor and council, a CDD cannot legislate new basic ordinances that are different from the county’s.
Will the proposed CDD cover all of Newfield’s 3,400 acres?
Not at first. The proposed CDD will encompass about 150 acres–Phase One of the development–on which about 1,214 residential units of various types and sizes, which may be built over the next five or six years.
What are some examples of other CDDs in our region?
Many other counties in Florida have authorized CDDs to enable developers of large Master Planned Communities to fund the huge cost of getting started. Examples include Avenir in Palm Beach Gardens, Veranda Gardens along Becker Road in Port St. Lucie, and Tradition, also in PSL. In Martin county, it appears that the only CDD is one created years ago in Indiantown, to develop an 800-acre parcel on which there has been relatively little activity. In 2018, the developers of Harmony Ranch applied to the state for permission to create a CDD on a portion of its land in southern Martin County, but it was denied. Martin County did not take an official position on that CDD application.
Anything else we should know?
CDDs, Developer Agreements and Impact Fees are all mechanisms to ensure that–as has long been the tradition in Martin County–“development pays for itself.” That is, the cost of providing additional public services to new communities are borne either by the developer or the new homeowners inside the CDD, not by current taxpayers.
Newfield Advances to BOCC Hearings Dec. 8 and Dec. 15
Nov. 30, 2020 — After nine months of cordial negotiations with Martin County staff, our proposed new community of Newfield and the surrounding 500-acre Kiplinger Conservancy are moving towards anticipated Master Site Plan approval, leading to a projected start of development in early 2021.
At a hearing of the Board of County Commissioners on Dec. 8, the focus will be on the multi-part “developer agreement” that will assure that our new community will pay the county—in cash or in-kind contributions–the costs of public services required by its future residents, such as road improvements, public safety, a new library, public parks and playing fields, etc.
Our Newfield team and county staff will endorse the draft agreement on Dec. 8 and recommend that the commissioners approve it. (Due to the transition in county school management, we haven’t yet reached agreement with the new Superintendent’s office and School Board on our contribution of impact fees for future enrollment needs, but we are confident that can be achieved early in the new year.)
We hope that you will be able to attend the Dec. 8 hearing at the Blake Library, either in person or virtually, by tuning into the county Web site for instructions. Or send your comments on the plan to the county commission before, during or after the hearing.
Here are some highlights of what Newfield is offering to pay, give to or build for the citizens of Martin County as part of Phase 1 of the new community:
- The new Kiplinger Conservancy, totaling some 500 acres of scenic natural pine forests, dry upland pastures and wetlands—about the size of the county’s largest current park, Halpatiokee. It is traversed by existing trails for hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking, which will be maintained and accessible by three new trailheads along Citrus Boulevard. The Conservancy will be governed by a county-approved PAMP (Preserve Area Management Plan), and it will be enlarged by later additions to the Conservancy as Newfield grows. Eventually total open space at Newfield will comprise some 70% of the entire 3,400 acres…almost 2,400 acres.
- Several new sports playing fields, for soccer, baseball and other activities, lying along Citrus Boulevard and Boat Ramp Avenue.
- A new 6,000-sq.-ft. library with space for community meetings and other services, to be located in the new town center of Newfield.
- Improvements and extension of 84th Street from Busch Street to Citrus Boulevard through our property. This new connection, in conjunction with a future, County-funded fire station proposed where the current shooting range sits today will improve first-response service and time to existing communities like Palm City Farms and Stuart West/Cobblestone, as well as serve future residents of Newfield.
- Improvements to Citrus Boulevard at the Newfield town center as it grows, including wide multi-modal bike paths and slip access lanes (paralleling Citrus in a true boulevard configuration) and future traffic circles.
- A flow-through marsh that will divert water from the C-23, filter it naturally and return it cleaner to the C-23 downstream (similar to the current county marsh along Citrus at the Canopy Creek development).
- Martin County’s first gopher tortoise relocation areas, to resettle tortoises from this and other parts of the county to new burrows in the Kiplinger Conservancy.
At the Dec. 15 hearing of the Board of County Commissioners, the Developer Agreement will get a second hearing. The BOCC will also review the details of our Master Site Plan for Phase 1 of Newfield, and also discuss the proposed Community Development District, a funding vehicle for community infrastructure at Newfield. We hope you can attend or listen to that meeting too.
Announcing NEWFIELD…the first town at Pineland Prairie
March 3, 2020 – This week we filed our Master Site Plan application for the beginning phase of the first phase at Pineland Prairie, which we are calling Newfield.
Newfield will embody all the characteristics of “Traditional Neighborhood Design” (TND) that won the praise of local citizens and the approval of Martin County’s planning staff and elected officials in 2018.
Newfield will be a compact town with varied residential blocks—having homes of various sizes, styles and prices—mixed in a natural way with civic spaces (parks, community gardens, schools) and small-scale retail and office space. The built environment will be surrounded by large expanses of open land for conservation, hiking, biking and equestrian trails, playing fields, pasture and farming.
The several parts of Pineland Prairie
Pineland Prairie is a large expanse of land—3,400 acres, more than five square miles stretching from the Florida Turnpike almost to I-95 in the west—and gradually it will evolve into several distinct components, each with its own purpose and identity:
1) Newfield, the residential/retail/civic community, will take shape on the today’s level, cleared farmland (former citrus groves and now vegetable fields), at the midpoint of Citrus Boulevard;
2) The Kiplinger Conservancy will be natural land crisscrossed with trails, starting with more than 500 acres of the most-pristine, never-farmed pine/palmetto/palm lands in the northwest corner; and
3) Martin Enterprise Park, will be a 150-acre corporate and light-industrial district lying along the Turnpike and Boat Ramp Avenue—our county’s largest and best-located site to attract quality employers and skilled, high-wage jobs to our region.
As promised in our zoning process, more than 70% of the total acreage will be left open—a mix of wooded trails, pasture, wetlands, lakes, active farmland and playing fields. The developed footprint of the new community will use only 30% of the acreage.
Getting to this point
We’ve been very busy over the past 18 months getting ready for the Newfield Master Site Plan application, following approval of our rezoning with a new “mixed-use” category in the county’s Comprehensive Growth Management Plan.
We couldn’t finalize the dimensions of Newfield until two governmental bodies—the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and South Florida Water Management District—completed their mapping of our wetlands, which, of course, will be protected forever. This process took almost 18 months, and it largely confirmed our own wetlands mappings over the years.
We have spent almost a year working on “developer agreements” with all the key agencies of county government—such as transportation, parks, schools, and public safety—to determine how to implement new facilities that will be needed at Newfield..
With almost all that work completed, our Master Site Plan for the first phase of Newfield has been submitted to the county planning staff for review and forwarding to the Board of County Commissioners, which will rule on it this spring.
Phase One of Newfield
The footprint of Phase One will be 139 acres, all of it to be developed on the agricultural land north of Citrus Boulevard. The residential component of Phase One, to be built out over several years, will consist of a maximum of 1,214 residential units of all types including detached and attached single family units, small-scale multi-family and mixed-use structures, for sale as well as rentals.-. The detached homes will include every style from small cottages to spacious verandaed houses, with a wide range of prices.
A distinctive trait of Newfield will be homes with porches fronting on sidewalks and streets, with garages and driveways on alleys behind the block. All of this will create the feel of a friendly, walkable community.
The housing mix in Newfield
By the completion of all phases of Newfield—possibly 10 to 20 years from now — the mix of housing will end up being about two-thirds single-family detached and attached homes and one-third multi-family units, mirroring the mix of housing types in today’s Martin County.
Because Phase One will establish the vibrant core of Newfield — with retail and civic spaces, plus community gardens—the beginning housing mix will be heavier on multi-family units than in the overall completed town. Conversely, the mix in later phases will tilt more towards single-family detached homes, some of them on spacious lots bordering the Kiplinger Conservancy lands.
Starting the real work…
The next steps, if approval goes as planned, will be the site preparation of Newfield, beginning later this year with public water and sewer lines extended out Citrus Boulevard and the grading of streets and squares within the new community.
Simultaneously, we’ll be improving the existing network of trails within the Kiplinger Conservancy, creating soft trailheads for parking and equestrian access, and improving the fencing for cattle now grazing there.
And we’ll also begin marketing our employment sites at Martin Enterprise Park, to help create the job opportunities our young citizens need to live comfortably in our county.
Our plan now calls for the beginning of homebuilding in 2021, a process that will be joined by retail, civic buildings, parks and playing fields over the following few years.
Town building in a sensible, organic way takes a long time, but the resulting community will reflect careful planning and execution.
Newfield will someday be a vital part of our region, contributing to the economy and providing homes and recreation, while protecting the natural environment too.
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
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
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.