A Vision Realized:
The Plan for Pineland Prairie

After over five months of planning and meetings with dozens of citizens and leaders in the civic life of Martin County, a plan has emerged for the future of Pineland Prairie, our family’s large expanse of land in western Palm City.

My vision for this beautiful property—covering some 5.3 square miles—has been shaped by broad citizen input; by today’s best practices in town planning; by a commitment to environmental protection; and by my research into changing trends in residential, workplace and lifestyle choices, especially among the young adults who are our future.

The plan we are proposing will take many years to complete, possibly 25 to 30 years. Because many of the county’s economic and demographic projections, used in our planning process, go out to the year 2040, we have used a 22-year build-out forecast.

Citizen Priorities

In interviews with local leaders and neighborhood groups, we surveyed their opinions on our county’s greatest needs and priorities. Most often cited were these:

  • Preserving open space, especially natural lands;
  • Protecting the fragile waters of our St. Lucie and IRL;
  • Attracting and growing businesses that will provide good jobs for our young adults, present and future;
  • Providing a range of housing choices, with a mix by size, price and style, appealing to all demographics, from young adults to families to active seniors;
  • Maintaining the agricultural vitality of our county, with farms and groves close to where people live.

Our plan for Pineland Prairie will help meet all of these goals for our county.

Vast Open Spaces

Unprecedented for a large planned community in our county’s history, we will leave an extraordinary 70% of our 3,411 acres as open space—some 2,388 acres. The graphic below shows the 70/30 proportion in green (open space) and beige (developed land of all sorts).

The open space will consist of the following land uses:

  • Unspoiled woods and wetlands covered in slash pines, saw palmetto, cabbage palms and other native species;
  • Pasture for horses and cattle, trails for horses, bicycling and hiking; facilities for family equestrian activities (three-phase eventing, Pony Club, neighborhood horse shows);
  • Ball fields and playgrounds for our youth;
  • Fields and groves for small- and large-scale farming (totaling some 150 acres), with community gardens, a farmers’ market; and farm-to-table dining;
  • An array of small parks, village greens, commons, and promenades interspersed throughout the village center and even the light-industrial district.

We are not planning any golf courses in Pineland Prairie, because our county already has many lovely courses—many of them inside handsome gated communities—so this is not an unmet need.

The heart of the protected open space are unspoiled lands that lie south and west of Citrus Boulevard, adjoining the neighborhoods of Stuart West/Cobblestone and the equestrian ranchettes of Palm City Farms.

The natural lands and farmland will be protected in perpetuity by severing their development rights, placing open-space easements on the land, and recording those easements as legally binding deed restrictions. There is no tighter way to protect open space.

The Developed Land

The developed footprint of Pineland Prairie will be limited: barely 30% of the 3,411 acres, or 1,023 acres. This includes all residential, village retail, office space, and three school campuses, totaling 130 acres for the three.

West of Boat Ramp Road, almost all of the developed footprint of Pineland Prairie will lie north and east of Citrus Boulevard, which bisects the property on a long diagonal. This is land that our family developed as citrus groves some 30 years ago. Only the Main Street District—the heart of the new community—will lie on both sides of Citrus.

Light Industry and R&D Employment Space

Our land lying closest to Florida’s Turnpike, lying east of Boat Ramp Road just north of Citrus Boulevard, will be the new Light Industrial/R&D District. While some 500 acres of that land has been zoned as industrial/research/warehouse space for many years—with entitlements for millions of square feet—we intend to protect 200 acres of it as natural lands, using the other 300 acres for job-creating employment ground. Even this land will contain a number of open-space enclaves.

The Mixed-Use Village

In the best manner of today’s “Traditional Neighborhood Design,” homes, stores, offices, schools and parks will be integrated in ways that enable people to live, work, shop, play, and educate their children in the same community, without having to resort to their automobiles for every trip. (See “Mixed-use Retail Centers,” under toolbar tab “Envisioning its Future/New Towns I Love”.)

We are planning 150,000 sq. ft. of retail space, to accommodate such uses as a small grocery (like Fresh Market, Trader Joe’s, or a small Publix like Hutchinson Island’s), a drug store, restaurants, and locally owned shops and services.

Office space will total about 140,000 sq. ft., ranging from entire small buildings to professional suites and live-work structures, with offices and apartments above first-floor stores.

New Housing Choices

The residential component will be a mix of single-family detached, single-family attached (townhomes), duplexes, condos and apartments.

To determine the right number of units in the entire community—after we had set aside 70% of the land in open space—we considered the following factors:

  • To be economically and socially vibrant, a community should have enough households and people to support civic organizations and the local retail its residents desire.
  • Since the projected build-out is more than 20 years away, it is important that the community achieve a critical mass of residents early enough to attract stores and employers.
  • Since everything about Pineland Prairie is in keeping with the character of Martin County today, we are planning on the same ratio of single-family homes to multi-family buildings (condos and rental apartments) that exists in the county today. This is roughly 65% single family, 35% multi-family.
  • Finally, we want to create a wide variety of housing choices—varying by size, architectural style, and price—which will be mixed together in the same neighborhoods, the way real villages grew organically in decades past. While our plan will easily accommodate some 4,400 residential units of all types, we are applying for 4,200, to leave us flexibility to vary lots sizes with market demand, adjust green space, etc.

Lot sizes for single-family units will vary from small in the village center to larger at the rural edges of the property. With the exception of very small houses arrayed around mews and courtyards—the increasingly popular “cottage mews” style—the typical lot size will be 50’ X 125’, similar in size to lots in much-admired Stuart neighborhoods such as historic Potsdam.

Traditional Neighborhood Design—which is producing sought-after communities all over American today—calls for homes to be placed on smaller lots, closer to the street than in conventional suburban plans, with sidewalks, front porches, and garages in rear alleys. This is a highly popular home type and neighborhood design with today’s young adults, families and active seniors too. The preferred architectural styles will be “Florida Vernacular”—the styles of houses (cottages, bungalows, Cracker and shot-gun houses) that were popular a century ago in Martin County and can still be found today around Stuart and other towns. (See “Residential Architecture” under toolbar tab “Envisioning its Future/New Towns that I Love.”)

Whatever the style and size of home, what they will all have in common are high-quality designs and creative arrangement by sound planning principles.

Environmental Protections

In addition to the setting aside of more than nearly 2,400 acres as open space (70% of the total land area), Pineland Prairie will strive to protect the waters of the St. Lucie River and Indian River Lagoon, a cause everyone in Martin County embraces.

The northern boundary of Pineland Prairie is the C-23 Canal (the St. Lucie County line), whose nutrient-rich waters, from agricultural runoff mostly in St. Lucie County, flows east into the North Fork of the St. Lucie.

We are beginning to discuss with state and local authorities our desire to divert some of the C-23’s water onto our property in rainy months, run it through a filtering “flow-through marsh,” and return it to the C-23 downstream a little cleaner than before. Martin County created a small flow-through marsh in the Canopy Creek neighborhood, at the headwaters of Bessey Creek, and we hope to work with county staff on designing one that will cover some 100 acres at Pineland Prairie.

We are also hoping to design the hydrology of our lands next to the Turnpike to help regularize the wet-and-dry seasonal flow of Bessey Creek, before it flows under the Turnpike through Martin Downs.

Because there is a consensus that additional septic systems should not be installed near waterways that flow into our rivers (such as the C-23 Canal feeding the St. Lucie), our new community is designed to use public sewer and water connections. These utility lines are available near our southeastern property line, at Citrus Grove Elementary School. Furthermore, the county’s multiyear projections of utility capacity already include the large entitlements that currently exist on our light-industrial land next to the Turnpike.

Pineland Prairie: At Home With Nature

Pineland Prairie will bring new lifestyle choices to Martin County in a kind of community that doesn’t now exist anywhere in the Treasure Coast or South Florida. It’s a better human environment, connected to a better natural environment.

I look forward to presenting and explaining this vision, and my plan, to my fellow citizens and the elected leaders of our county.

— Knight Kiplinger, Sewall’s Point