Page 68 article text (OCR)
The Palm Beach Post msl SECTION B TALKS HALTED Salary talks between teachers and the Martin school district are officially postponed. STORY, 3B WCk INSURANCE STING 5 executives are arrested in an insurance sting involving $4.4 million in alleged fraud. BUSINESS, 58 artm TUESDAY, DECEMBER 2, 1997 NEWS M ends suit not fight 'J lb 1. t ... if. land . I 1 over 'at r. - r. !- . Ma, I -Mi! 4.1'' l! fi - W-i is? '"''nib, "-a. j? t. A ' W " ' i 'A 1 , BOB SHANLEYStaff Photographer Cooler days and Mondays sometimes bring a smile FORT PIERCE - Six-month-old James Christopher Spagnuolo looks over morning. Monday's weather high of 74 and a low of 55 made for his father James' shoulder as they play with the family labs Shadow a cooler than usual family outing. Forecasters predict a high of 75 today (left) and Lacy on the docks atthe south causeway boat ramp Monday and a low of 54. Pssst: Sales tax referendum is today Owners of more than 1,000 acres of privately owned county land have asked to be annexed into Stuart. ; By Stephanie Desmon Palm Beach Post Staff Writer STUART Martin County on Monday dropped its court fight to keep hundreds of acres of land from being annexed by the city of Stuart But the county isn't giving up on that property. County Attorney Gary Oldehoff said the county is simply focusing its resources and efforts on another avenue of fighting the takeover the state's Department of Administrative Hearings. Owners of more than 1,000 acres of privately owned county land mostly vacant have asked to join the city in recent months. It could be easier for many of the owners to develop their property since the city has less stringent policies about traffic congestion and protection of wetlands. S The dismissal of the court case came as a surprise both to city officials and at least one county commissioner. They sure as hell didn't ask me," said Commissioner Dennis Armstrong, one of two commissioners who opposes fighting the annexations. Commissioners discussed the case on Nov. 4 at an executive session. Oldehoff said he was given direction at that meeting to dismiss the court action, but emphasized there was no vote on the subject. According to Florida's Sunshine Law, topics discussed during executive sessions should be confined to settlement negotiations or strategy sessions related to litigation expenditures. "Our position is they're not supposed to be making any final decisions on anything in these executive sessions," said Miami lawyer Ed Mullins, who represented The Palm Beach Post in a lawsuit this year that accused county commissioners of violating the Sunshine Law by taking action in the : closed-door sessions. .':: a The county settled the lawsuit in part by agreeing to a consent order, which requires them to conclude litigation in properly noticed public hearings. But Oldehoff said Monday that no public announcement of a decision to drop the annexation suit was necessary. Meanwhile, Armstrong said he isn't even sure why the county dropped the suit He was at the ex- Please seemmi2B Panel urges lighting, landscaping changes ; to ensure privacy By Teresa Lane Palm Beach Post Staff Writer PORT ST. LUCIE Planning and zoning board members on Monday recommended several code changes to beef up landscaping and scale down lighting in commercial and institutional projects near homes, but they quickly discovered the city's well-lighted parks may violate the new codes. i Spurred by complaints from Essex Drive residents about noise, harsh lighting and lack of screening between their neighborhood and Port St Lucie Boulevard, the city's planning department has taken steps to protect other neighborhoods that find themselves abutting the city's future fast-food restaurants and video stores. Those measures include requiring 14-foot trees rather than the 10-foot trees now required, around commercial projects, and Moot masonry buffer walls that are measured from the floor elevation of the business. . .;. Along Essex Drive, some walls were less than $ feet and others were built at a lower height than the adjacent business, resulting in a lack of privacy for homeowners. If the city council adopts the planning board' recommendations, all those who build on nonresidential land that abuts residential property must submit an outdoor lighting plan that minimizes the spillover of light onto homes. The ordinance would set maximum allowable heights for outdoor lights on non-residential property that abuts residential land to the rear or side, and the lights would have to be shielded so that the beam direction is horizontal. All outdoor lights installed before the ordinance is approved would be permitted to remain, but any existing light that is deemed a traffic hazard or that directs light toward homes would have to be shielded or redirected within 90 days of the city's notification. Because city soccer and football fields have drawn complaints from neighbors and motorists about the glare of stadium lights, planning board members said they'd like to exempt city park sites from the regulations to prevent the city from conflicting with the new code. "When McChesney (Field) lights were turned on there was a riot but we were able to make adjustments to the lights," said planning board member and youth sports coach Larry Jennings. "We may not want to fall into (the new) guidelines." T1 !1 '11 a j1 - 1 1, " 127,000 can vote Some 127,000 St. Lucie County residents are eligible to vote in today's county referendum on a sales tax increase. Supervisor of Elections Gertrude Walker estimates 18 percent of the eligible voters will cast their ballots, the same ' turnout as in the 1993 when the same tax with different projects was decided. B Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at precincts throughout the county. Proceeds of the one-cent tax for two years will be used to improve roads in the county and Fort Pierce, pay for buildings in Port St. Lucie and boost economic revi-talization of downtown Fort Pierce. usual notice in the mail advising them of the election and asking if they want absentee ballots. "Every year in January we notify the disabled, military personnel and other citizens who live overseas of the year's scheduled elections," Supervisor of Elections Gertrude Walker said. They can request an absentee ballot up to one year prior to each election." This year the only scheduled election was the Fort Pierce City Commission race, which would have been decided today if anyone had challenged the The notices were sent to eligible Fort Pierce absentee voters, but not to people from Port St. Lucie or the unincorporated area of the county. County commissioners decided in June to hold a countywide referendum on a 1-cent sales-tax increase which would be in effect for two years. Proceeds will be used to improve South 25th Street and Midway Road. Port St. Lucie officials plan to pay for the new community center and part of the cost of a new city hall, while Fort Pierce plans street Please see REFERENDUM Martin High students may get block schedule Heavenly queue Six planets line up this week like cars in an 1-95 traffic jam, peering to the left at Saturn and trailed by Pluto. Until Monday five of the eight will be visible to the naked eye shortly after sunset. Without reminder notices some may miss absentee ballots. By Jim Reeder Palm Beach Post Staff Writer : FORT PIERCE Some of St Lucie County's eligible voters may not know they can cast ballots in today's sales tax referendum despite all the advertisements and news coverage, officials said Monday. It's because the election was called late in the year and some overseas residents, servicemen and disabled people didn't get the Planets line up, to delight of stargazers By Tim O'Meilia Pajm Beach Post Staff Writer ; The millennium doomsday alignment of the planets comes more than two years early this week. ; Eight planets will be stretched across the sky from the southeast to the west shortly after sunset and five will be visible to the naked eye: ; "It's a planetary parking situation," said Erich Landstrom, the 4 observatory and planetarium director of the South Florida Science Museum. The planets will not queue up so nicely for Earthbound star-gazers for at least 100 more years, said Jack Horkheimer, director of the Miami Space Transit Planetarium. ; The May 5, 2000 alignment, much talked about by astrolo- gers, will not be visible from Earth because the planets will be so close to the sun. Some have Said the millennium-year gathering portends catastrophe. ' Tonight through Monday, Ju- mm; ld.fc.Ll By Joe Vldueira Palm Beach Post Staff Writer STUART Martin County High School administrators want to put the school on a new schedule, and they're leaving it to the faculty to decide which alternative system to adopt But several parents complained Monday that administrators have not consulted with them enough about the planned changes or given them proper notification in school newsletters and at the school advisory committee meetings. And at least a few teachers said they were unhappy with the choices they are being given. "Parents are saying, Why weren't we told about this? Doesn't our input count?'" said English teacher Dot White, who served on a committee that studied the alternative schedules. Teachers will meet today to discuss two alternatives drafted by a school committee, and vote for their favorite plan Wednesday. The changes will take effect next school year. They'll choose between a four-period system with four 92-minute classes that last only a semester, or an "alternate day block" in which eight 92-minute classes alternate every other day throughout the school year. Administrators say that either schedule will JEil SOURCE: Miami Space Transit Planetarium piter, Venus, Mars and Mercury will be visible in the southwest sky, just below the crescent moon. Saturn will be bright in the southeast. Look for the planets at dusk because Mercury closest to the horizon sets shortly after dark. Binoculars are needed to see Neptune and Uranus and a telescope fcr Pluto. ROB BARGEStaff Artist "Venus is dazzling this month and Jupiter is at its brightest With binoculars you can even see one of Jupiter's moons as a pinpoint of light. Uranus and Neptune are pinpoints of blue light," Horkheimer said. "I'm excited because these are the same planets hundreds of generations have seen," he said, "but we are the first generation to know v5hat the planets are about." i ne tuy council win vote on me Doara s iecom- r Please see SCKEDUl2B mendations at a meeting this month.