Program Excellence Award for Outstanding Partnerships: Intergovernmental Cooperation

Article excerpt

POPULATIONS GREATER THAN 50,000

One of two Program Excellence Award for Intergovernmental Cooperation in the greater-than-50,000 population category is awarded to Martin County, Florida, and County Administrator Russell Blackburn, and the City of Stuart, Florida, and City Manager David Collier for the interlocal agreement on school siting.

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Environmental protection and the preservation of rural and agricultural lands enjoy broad public support in Martin County, Florida (pop. 126,731). Although there remains a significant amount of vacant land within the county's primary urban service district, relatively few large parcels are available for intensive development. This has created new challenges for commercial and residential development. Options for siting new public schools are further constrained by numerous federal and state requirements.

As the public school system in the county grew against this back-drop, the political tension was mounting. The Martin County School Board was seeking relief from local government land development regulations; the Martin County Board of Commissioners wanted to preserve the cornerstones of its much-touted comprehensive plan; and the city of Stuart worried that urban residents might be short-changed if schools were located only in rural areas. The three entities seemed hopelessly divided until they agreed to resolve their differences through an interlocal agreement.

As part of the agreement, the school system, the county, and the city created a joint task force and hired a professional facilitator. To help come to objective decisions regarding the siting of new schools, the task force compiled a policy matrix of the most relevant school siting issues. The top-scoring sites are those considered to have met all local government requirements; the local government then has an opportunity to review and comment on the actual development that is proposed. By virtue of this matrix, the interlocal agreement offers an alternative method of determining compliance with the land use regulations--a method that is geared toward the unique, multi-jurisdictional circumstances of siting public schools. …