PORT SALERNO, Fla. — A group of commercial fishers in Port Salerno met at the town’s Neighborhood Advisory Committee to voice their disapproval over a plan to create more parking spots for businesses near Railway and Commerce avenues.
The commercial fishermen fear the plan, which was presented by the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council, is the first step in a redevelopment strategy to end commercial fishing in the town.
Although there is no direct evidence commercial fishing would end, a developer is threatening to build an apartment building if he feels an open-air market in the town isn't a feasible option due to various conditions.
Corey Crowley, with Capital C Inc., said the additional parking spots would help his proposed and preferred option — an open market development. He said he believes his plan will provide an economic boost for Port Salerno rather than another plan from a different developer.
"They want to maintain the commercial fishing opportunities, and they want to maintain the character," Crowley said. "Someone has got to do that, somebody as a developer, somebody with money. You can't just sit there saying, 'I wish, I wish, I wish.' You got to buy it and you got do it."
He said Senate Bill 102, which was passed into law this legislative session, allows a developer to ignore local government rules on zoning, density and building height in certain situations. Crowley said the law creates leverage for developers to move projects forward versus unwanted construction like an apartment building.
"I'm not saying I am using leverage," he said. "But, I'm saying that's a possibility for a lot of people. That's a scary thing and when people are scared that's leverage."
Crowley said the next step is the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) for Martin County making a proposal to its board on adding parking to the area. He said the neighborhood advisory committee can only add advice and direction to staff on the community's opinion.
Around 50 people attended the neighborhood advisory committee on Thursday night to give their opinion on the project. Although there was some support, the majority was disappointed and frustrated with the concept of adding additional parking spots because it would make the roads less accessible for commercial vehicles and boats.
One of those people against the project included Joseph Lloyd, who said he's fished commercially since 1971. He said he's taught his sons to fish and believes this construction is the first step to ending commercial fishing in the town.
"Oh, we will be replaced," Lloyd said. "We're going to be replaced at those docks. I can almost guarantee it."
He said he wasn’t aware of Senate Bill 102 and its ability to allow developers to force construction.