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State commission backs mixed-use Costco project on Kanner Highway

Administration panel, led by DeSantis, reverses decision by administrative judge
Rendering of a proposed Costco on Kanner Highway, south of Martin County High School in Stuart.jpg
Posted at 10:24 PM, Jan 18, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-19 09:10:16-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A Costco project planned along Kanner Highway in Martin County will move forward after a decision by the State Administration Commission backed the Stuart City Commission.

On Tuesday, the panel, which comprises Gov. Ron DeSantis, Agriculture Commissioner Wilton Simpson, Attorney General Ashley Moody and Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, determined the city properly assigned the neighborhood special district designation to the property.

In August 2021, Stuart resident Robin Cartwright filed the state challenge, arguing the City Commission violated its plan when approving the land use.

Cartwright told the TCPalm she plans to appeal the ruling, which will be brought to the commission on March 21 for finalization.

"I think frustration is probably where I would start, but I have a lot more emotions beyond that," Cartwright said. "From day one, it has not been a fair fight."

The project on 49 acres includes a 162,0020-square foot Costco Warehouse Corp. store with 18 gas pumps as well as 378 apartments, stores and restaurants.

In April, Judge Francine Ffolkes, of the state Division of Administrative Hearings, ruled in favor of Cartwright.

"There is no question that the city failed to consider the maximum development potential made available through designation of the property as Neighborhood Special District," Ffolkes wrote in the ruling. "The [land-use] amendment is not supported by a professionally acceptable methodology that analyzes the availability of central water supply, wastewater services and traffic impact on the level of service of Kanner Highway and adjacent roadways."

Many Stuart residents have been very open about their opposition to the location of the development.

They contend that it will make traffic near Martin County High School worse and ruin the area's wetlands.

The property is south of the school and Lychee Tree Nursery.

"There was a whole bunch of other evidence related to zoning and site plans, which can still be reviewed in another process," Moody said during the hearing. "This is the best course of action. … Not only should we find this in compliance with (Florida Statutes), but that it was based on appropriate data and analysis as to the Comprehensive Plan."