Whose side are our friends and neighbors really on?

On May 1, 2022, Mr. Tom Campenni insisted on writing about the Kanner CPUD and his opinion as to what should or should not happen with the parcel and why.

Mr. Campenni is a former City of Stuart Commissioner. He is appointed to the CRA by Commissioner Meier and a member of the CRB. Mr. Campenni publishes at least three blogs or newsletters. Friends & Neighbors is the one where he claims to be “Your Martin County Government Watchdog!”

Mr. Campenni’s position on the CRA and his relationship with the City of Stuart creates concern when he issues opinions with information provided by the City of Stuart and/or the developer with the intention of swaying public opinion.

An open letter to Mr. Campenni –

In your Friends & Neighbors newsletter dated May 1, 2022, you wrote an opinion piece stated WHAT IS A NATIVE LANDSCAPE… AND WHAT IS PURE BS.

There is much in your piece that is pure speculation and, one could say, pure BS.

In your efforts to defend the City of Stuart’s unanimous vote for Ordinance Number 2466-2021, you neglect to actually focus on the ordinance, the comprehensive plan, the procedure, and the due diligence required to support it. Instead, you are acting as a mouthpiece for the developer and/or the City of Stuart.

Either way, it’s unbecoming and inappropriate of an appointed CRA and CRB committee member such as yourself, especially when it’s your personal opinion and not fact.

Your continuous disparaging of those concerned with the well-being of our community is becoming rather mundane.

The case against the City of Stuart, which was wholly confirmed by the Administrative Law Judge’s recommendation, was about the process and the due diligence related to the process.

But, as you have no argument to make based on case law or general common sense, you choose to focus on the items that will incense those who read your newsletter. As you insist, yet again, to present an opinion, let us provide the facts.

“… For years, farmers would throw their old machinery, garbage, and chemicals in unused sections of the property. They didn’t care that those chemicals would leach into the ground water and pollute. … More recently, after farming on that parcel ceased, other who owned the property didn’t seem to care about rusting cars with crank cases full of oil, gas tanks with fuel, or other old machinery strewn about that had been improperly dumped there. Some of the loudest voices against building the Costco PUD are those whose relatives made a fortune by selling off the land but felt no compunction at not having cleaned it up to be good shepherds to our birds and animals.”

What is most intriguing about your statement is your insinuation that those with the “loudest voices” have a greater responsibility to be good stewards of the land than those who actually owned it, those who purchased it, those looking to develop it, and/or those who participated in quasi-judicial hearings whose job includes protecting it.

So, to the question about who is responsible to determine if any land is degraded enough to be developed:

The land was supposedly surveyed by Mr. Ed Weinberg who provided a report used in a quasi-judicial hearing as to the ecological value of the land.

I say “supposedly” because while a report was provided, it was deemed beyond incomplete and without substance to support the City of Stuart’s defense against the lawsuit over the improper assignment of a Future Land Use.

As stated by Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Francine Ffolkes in her Recommended Order issued on April 5, 2022, “The City did not present any nonhearsay [sic] evidence or expert testimony regarding the character of the undeveloped land. The City did not consider the environmental character of the land as a factor upon which the use and intensity should be based.” (State of Florida ALJ Recommendation – Page 14)

What does this mean? It means the City of Stuart did not present Mr. Weinberg’s report for consideration. Mr. Freeman used it as a basis for his testimony. But nothing more.

Mr. Weinberg was not present as a witness during the DOAH testimony given in November. Wouldn’t his testimony have provided sufficient support to not just bolster the City’s position but prove their case so the lawsuit would be easily won?

Why was he not called as a witness?

Because his report was not defensible and perhaps Mr. Weinberg would have had to contradict or even perjure himself.

As stated by ALJ Ffolkes regarding the testimony provided by the plaintiff’s expert witness, Mr. Greg Braun, “Mr. Braun’s live expert testimony and written report constitute credible non-hearsay evidence that substantively describes the environmental conditions on the Property.” (State of Florida ALJ Recommendation – Page 6)

She also stated “Mr. Braun’s other task was to review the environmental assessment report provided to the City by the Applicant’s environmental consultant. Mr. Braun reported that the presence of a variety of threatened and endangered plants, foraging wading birds, and wood ducks was not revealed to the City in the Applicant’s environmental assessment.”

She then stated “Mr. Braun also testified that past degradation makes the remaining habitat more important to preserve. In his opinion, the Applicant’s consultant seriously exaggerated the Property’s degradation, as it contains high quality habitat.” (State of Florida ALJ Recommendation – Page 8)

It should also be pointed out that M&M Realty, the developer of the proposed Kanner CPUD, could have done geo-technical testing prior to purchasing the land. Surely, they would have found all of this alleged land degradation then.

So that begs the question, is the land so degraded and polluted that none of it can be preserved to allow us to be the good shepherds to the birds and animals that you state are needed? Or does no wildlife exist at all on the site or along Kanner Highway or anywhere in Stuart they want to build?

M&M Realty’s site plan was to wipe out the 49+ acres.

The site plan provided for paving over all 10 wetlands, of which 8 have WRAP scores that make them not just viable but necessary. It should be noted that not all 10 wetlands were EVER included in testimony to the City or in public materials. In fact, there were only 7 wetlands mentioned in any reports until May 24, 2021.

The site plan included ONE baffle box which, according to US Fish and Wildlife, would NOT provide enough storm water treatment for the project. As a reminder, that storm water runoff would go into the St. Lucie Estuary directly across the street, the same one the City and County Commissioners are claiming is in dire need of restoration and protection.

The site plan created a man-made lake that aesthetically would be lovely but does not allow for sufficient foraging for federally protected wood storks, which use the current parcel for foraging and nesting. But Mr. Weinberg neglected to even mention them in his report.

As a reminder, Mr. Weinberg testified that the Endangered Species Act was a hinderance to builders. (Read the testimony provided by Mr. Weinberg here.)

That site plan, while including some re-plantings to create an upland, cannot replace what exists.

But perhaps you, Mr. Campenni, are creating a narrative to suggest that M&M Realty comes in to do the City of Stuart a favor and clean up the parcel.

Funny thing is they’ve tried that before.

In 2011 Jack Morris and his wife, Sheryl Weingarten, were sued for civil conspiracy among other things by Ford Motor Land Development, Ford Motor’s real estate division. Mr. Morris and Edgewood Properties bought a contaminated site from Ford Motor. Part of that agreement was to clean it up. Instead, Edgewood Properties dispersed contaminated material to seven of its construction sites to use.

For reference:

  • “This case arises out of the demolition of a Ford assembly plant in Edison, New Jersey, and the distribution of contaminated concrete therefrom. Ford and Edgewood entered into a contract whereby Ford agreed to provide 50,000 cubic yards of concrete to Edgewood in exchange for Edgewood hauling it off the site. Thereafter, Edgewood brought the concrete to seven properties it was developing (the “Seven Properties”). The parties later determined that the concrete was contaminated. As such, Ford brought claims against Edgewood under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 9601 et seq. and Section 58:10-23, 11f (a)(2) of the New Jersey Spill Act (“Spill Act” or “Act”) for contribution and indemnification for all costs as provided under the contract. Edgewood, in turn, has asserted cross-claims, counter-claims and a third-party complaint against Ford and other parties, which include claims for breach of contract, contribution, negligent misrepresentation, and civil conspiracy.”

Source: https://casetext.com/case/ford-motor-company-v-edgewood-properties-inc-nj-2-15-2011

  • “The sites include a former American Standard manufacturing plant site in Hamilton, Mercer County, the Fulton Square development site in New Brunswick and the Tingley Rubber Factory site in South Plainfield, where a 484-unit housing complex is scheduled to be built…. The settlement is with Ford Motor Land Development, the auto maker’s real estate arm. The sites included in the settlement are slated for development by Piscataway builder Jack Morris. … Morris’ development firm, Edgewood Properties, used thousands of tons of concrete from the shuttered Ford Plant at the building sites. Tests later determined the material is contaminated with PCB (polychlorinated bi-phenyls), a probable cancer-causing material.”

Source: https://www.nj.com/news/2008/04/ford_motor_co_to_pay_300k_for.html

  • “Beginning in September 2005, Ford responded to complaints from Edgewood regarding the levels of PCBs in the concrete by commencing excavation, removal, and disposal of concrete that Edgewood had transported to the Properties. According to Ford, contaminated concrete found on the Properties was due to Edgewood’s commingling of Ford concrete with contaminated concrete acquired from non-Ford suppliers.”

Source: https://casetext.com/case/ford-motor-company-v-edgewood-properties-8#.

Pretty ironic as Mr. Morris is chair for a healthcare system and has a billion-dollar cancer center being built in his name.

Is this why you are heavily pushing this new narrative that the land is beyond able to be saved? Not just so it can be developed but because then the materials used on the land won’t be questioned?

Regardless, here is the response to your manufactured argument, it’s irrelevant.

The ALJ’s decision was based on case law and specific to the argument that the Comprehensive Plan was not upheld and the City of Stuart staff “FAILED” to do their due diligence and their job, as stated repeated by ALJ Ffolkes.

The environmental aspect of the parcel is but one issue where the City was proven to have FAILED.

Full stop.

Maybe the questions people should be asking are: Why are you so concerned about this parcel? What is in it for you that you would continue to dedicate so much space to it in your newsletter? Why do you feel the need to defend this project so fervently bordering on foolishly? Are you being compensated by anyone to continue to provide rhetoric and opinion over something that cannot be debated?

Oh, and one more question.

Whose side are you really on?

2 thoughts on “Whose side are our friends and neighbors really on?

  1. “Don” Campenni is a progressive NY transplant who has taken the form of a Republican, a Democrat and even a Libertarian (no way is he!). His connections, affiliations and groups he’s wormed his way into all try to influence via collusion and networking and posing as whatever his audience or whoever is in the Club he may be infiltrating. He and Ciampi are 2 peas in a pod. His news letters for years are full of contradicitions in Policy and opinion to the level of a Politician (and all that implys). I witnessed his handywork in the Local orginazation with “72 year history” of the MCTA who also claim to be defenders or watchdogs of Martin County as they reward the elected officials and bureaucrats who drive up our taxes and ruin our quality of life. Beware of TC and all his mates!

  2. Thank you for this insightful article. My question is why would we allow any one to continue in any capacity for our community with the clear malfeasance that Mr. Campenni has demonstrated on top of his history of previous acts of threats to City staff? The City Commission should act immediately to remove this and any other person who act with such malfeasance…

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