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  • Barbara Clowdus


Salerno’s CRA money ensures one developer’s, one commissioner’s dreams will come true

The only way truly to get an inkling of the manipulation of County Commissioner Sarah Heard by Jupiter developer J. Corey Crowley is to read his emails to her that began June 2022, as well as Heard’s rare, but revealing, responses.

Go to the county’s website, click on the Transparency button, then on the County Administrator and Commissioner Emails link. On the next page, click on the link to Commissioner Emails. The emails are no longer separated by commissioner, but that’s okay. In the search bar, just type in Crowley.

More than 200 emails will pop up, so grab a pen and notebook (you’ll want to jot down a few dates and facts here and there), maybe a glass of wine or a beer, and spend a few eye-opening hours learning how Port Salerno became the sacrificial lamb in one developer’s quest for riches and one commissioner’s agenda for power.

Then, of course, you’ll need to spend a few more hours … well, many more hours … watching corresponding county commission and Community Redevelopment Area board meetings and reading NAC minutes to see how Heard’s actions and words mimic Crowley’s declarations in those emails.

You would almost think they’re lovers at times. After all, he does bring her coffee and chocolates direct from Colombia, South America, which he frequently visits.

Still, after reading all those emails, which stopped after Salerno businessman Casey Cass started posting them on social media, it will be unfathomable to Heard fans that their heroine of “the Martin County difference” is hellbent on turning Port Salerno into downtown Stuart.

Yet, that’s exactly what she’s doing.

However, Crowley and Heard are not acting alone. They have inside information, the source of which is left to speculation, guiding them over the past eight months to an assured outcome — creating this new city together.

Crowley’s pet projects, now adopted by Heard as her priorities, are also enshrined in the county’s new Innovation Hub plan. Unveiled to the county commission in July, the Port Salerno projects were somehow tailored, in part, to copy Crowley’s “new master plan” for Port Salerno.

County administrators and consultants who created the Innovation Hub, however, claimed the Salerno projects were simply based on parts of Port Salerno’s original Community Redevelopment Area plan — out of context and, in some cases, utterly inaccurate.

Even if they once appeared in the original CRA plan for Port Salerno, according to the county’s Comprehensive Growth Management Plan, Salerno’s CRA projects must be initiated and approved by the NAC, considered and approved (or rejected) by the CRA Board, then go to the Board of County Commissioners for final approval and staff direction. None of that happened.

Now, Port Salerno funds are being allocated for Crowley’s and Heard’s key projects, according to the agenda for the Dec. 14 NAC meeting. The 2024 Capital Improvement Plan budget calls for a $3 million increase over what the NAC approved for 2024 last December. The move will completely deplete their CRA trust fund for Port Salerno’s capital projects.

They also will spend their entire TIF revenue for 2024 primarily on projects they have yet to approve, forcing the NAC to abandon their efforts for parking projects east of the FEC railroad tracks, a priority of theirs since 2019. It also limits the availability of funds for septic-to-sewer conversions, the NAC’s first priority.

One of Crowley’s pet projects now listed by the CRA staff as a Salerno project is on-street parking on Salerno and Cove roads, which was NEVER included in Salerno’s CRA plan.

Another project, the extension of Railway Avenue between Salerno and Cove roads, was deemed “not feasible” by the engineers of the Treasure Regional Planning Council in September, and was previously vetoed by the late Maggy Hurchalla.

After reading Crowley’s emails, it will come as no surprise to readers that these, and other Crowley projects, are included in the Innovation Hub plan, as well as now Port Salerno’s CIP.

Port Salerno residents must ask the other four county commissioners — because they already know Sarah Heard’s answer — does the Innovation Hub plan override the CRA process described in the Comprehensive Growth Management Plan?

If that’s the case, the county commission needs to ask itself, why then bother with the NAC at all?

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