Proposed Martin County development promises clean water, sustainability but draws mixed reactions

October 17, 2023 | Read Time: 4 minutes

Storie Village Center Rendering

As featured on WPTV, written by Kate Hussey.

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MARTIN COUNTY, Fla. — Martin County could be getting a new development, one that many people may have heard about by now.

“Storie FL” has been advertising itself for about a year now as a new kind of living focused on sustainability and clean water.

If approved, it would be built on the 2,700 acres of land centered at the intersection of Southwest Pratt Whitney and Bridge roads.

According to the site plan, 40% of the development would include about 4,000 mixed-use homes, a fire station, charter school, dog park, public pool and other amenities.

The other 60% of the plan would remain preservation areas and include 25 miles of walking and biking trails along with a European-style canal system that would run throughout the complex.

According to Storie FL’s team, it would also include a water filtration system to ideally treat 500 million gallons of water from the C-44 canal to address Martin County’s water quality issues.

“They’ve really, really taken the time, over a year, to put together this site plan that meets with what Martin County and the Commission is trying to do, which is to develop in an environmentally sustainable fashion,” Laurie Andrews, the president of Cotton & Company, said.

Andrews is representing the developer of the project, Buzz Divosta.

President of Cotton Co- Photo courtesy of Kate Hussey
Photo courtesy of Kate Hussey

It’s not the first time Divosta tried to develop that plot of land, which he purchased about 10 years ago.

Several years after the purchase, Divosta submitted a site plan to the county, which was rejected by commissioners. This time around, Andrews said he worked hard to design a development that addressed the concerns of commissioners and their constituents.

“We love our natural environment,” Andrews said. “We love what makes Martin County unique. Nobody’s trying to destroy that. At the same time, we all need a house to live in.”

Yet several residents in Martin County told WPTV they still had concerns.

Lifetime resident Allison Sweeney-Solis said she feels like Martin County is starting to become a bit of a concrete jungle.

“When I was a kid, everything was two lanes and dirt roads. Now everything is concrete,” Sweeney-Solis said. “It is starting to get over-developed.”

Carl Frost, the owner of Kai-Kai Farms, saw both benefits and negatives to the project. On the one hand, his farm survives on agri-tourism and told WPTV he felt the development would help grow his business.

“This is a real popular wedding ceremony location. Without the hospitality income, a small farm like this couldn’t survive,” Frost said. “The more people that move in the area, that’s a good thing right? We get more weddings, more dinners.”

pedestrian on the street - Photo courtesy of Kate Hussey
Photo courtesy of Kate Hussey

Yet while Frost saw short-term benefits, he also felt that in the long run, the development could hurt his business. For one, he fears a development with more people next door to his farm would lead to complaints about his machinery and eventually shut him down.

“More and more neighbors around, they complain, ‘Oh, it’s too noisy, there’s too much traffic,'” Frost said.

Second, he fears the project would create a scarcity of water.

“One of the pressures of urbanization would definitely be water scarcity, as there’s more houses built, more consumption of fresh water, that can affect the farm,” Frost said.

Andrews addressed both of those concerns. She said since all of the wetlands are being preserved, the development shouldn’t negatively affect the water in the surrounding area. If anything, she said it should improve it.

“Our areas are going to be revitalized, not going to be destroyed,” Andrews said. “Anything there that’s wetlands and trees, it’s going to stay.”

Addressing the second concern, Andrews said she feels with the number of preservation areas and hiking trails, there will be plenty of sound buffer between the farmers and surrounding residents and said the project shouldn’t push out the agriculture in the area.

Still, residents like Sweeney-Solis and Frost said only time will tell if those promises are kept.

In the meantime, Frost said he’ll leave the development battle to others; instead, he’ll fight his own battle at home.

“My battle is right here,” Frost said. “Bugs, every leaf that’s chewed is a battle.”

The project is by no means approved yet.

Storie FL submitted an updated application to Martin County on Sept. 7. The county has about a year from then to either approve or deny it.

Storie Magazine Cover


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