Residents opposed to Costco project ‘fearful’ of traffic it will bring

Published: Jan. 19, 2023 at 5:21 PM EST
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Supporters and those in opposition of a mixed-use Costco project slated for South Kanner Highway are reacting to the State Administration Commission’s Tuesday decision to back the project.

The panel, which comprises Gov. Ron DeSantis, Agriculture Commissioner Wilton Simpson, Attorney General Ashley Moody and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, determined Tuesday that the city properly assigned the neighborhood special district designation to the property.

In August 2021, Stuart resident Robin Cartwright filed the state challenge, arguing the City Commission violated its plan when approving the land use.

“I am a little fearful about what it will be like, to be honest, only because I don’t think our roads can handle that at this point,” Cartwright told WFLX.

The project on 49 acres includes a 162,000-square foot Costco store with 18 gas pumps, as well as 378 apartments, stores and restaurants.

It's along Kanner Highway, about a block away from Martin County High School.

Cartwright and others in opposition contend that it will make traffic near Martin County High School worse and ruin the area's wetlands.

"We are looking at between 6,000 and 10,000 cars per day for just the Costco," Cartwright said. "It's just, it's a lot. It's a lot for this small little area."

In 2021, the judge who ruled in favor of Cartwright said the city’s analysis of the property was “not supported by a professional acceptable methodology.”

"She stated very clearly that this development was not appropriate for this parcel," Cartwright said.

However, the state commission determined the project is in compliance with the proper state statutes.

“I’m feeling very blessed and grateful for the decision,” Jimmy Smith, president of the Martin County chapter of the NAACP, told WFLX.

Smith, who also owns a small business in Stuart, told WFLX this project will bring a lot of financial growth to the community.

"It's a great benefit for Martin County because the Costco project will give us great jobs," Smith said. "Because it's already tough to try to live here in Martin County with low-paying jobs. That will help because it will increase the income and people will be able to afford to live here."

Cartwright told WFLX she is waiting for the state commission to finalize its decision on paper and then she will determine if it is appealable.

City attorney Mike Mortell released the following statement to WFLX:

"Florida Statute 120.68(10) states that the ruling must be reversed if ANY findings of fact are not based on Competent Substantial Evidence. The Petitioner submitted a proposed order that was adopted by the Administrative Law Judge that was almost entirely based on "proffered" evidence that had already been ruled inadmissible by the Judge. By submitting that proposed Order, the Petitioner caused the Judge to believe it was a different type of case. I knew that when the Cabinet reviewed the evidence it would reverse because the entire recommended Order was based on the proffer rather than the evidence that was actually introduced at trial. The City Commissioners did their jobs correctly and did everything right. I have never seen a City Commission - in any City - spend as much time and work as hard on a single item as the City Commission worked on this matter."

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