|New Park in Martin County named after Maggy Hurchalla 12/ 2013|
It is called: “Maggy’s Hammock Park” because everyone knows who she is.
Gimleteye note: George Lindemann is a Miami developer, art collector, and philanthropist. His fortune pales in comparison to other insiders that surround his Lake Point property near Lake Okeechobee. Like Big Sugar billionaires with homes in Coral Gables and Palm Beach. Lindemann's SLAPP suit against one of the state's foremost environmental leaders, Maggie Hurchalla, would seem quixotic except for the billions of dollars of value trapped in Florida's water. Who would benefit from cracking open the water law safe in Florida? Follow the money. (Previously reported in Eye on Miami March 2nd, 2013)
Palm Beach Post, Friday, Sept. 19, 2014
Point of View: Suit won’t alter fact: Lake Point can’t sell public water
Why is Maggy Hurchalla being attacked through the legal system for telling the truth about Lake Point’s proposal to divert water from Lake Okeechobee and pump it into the firms’ excavations for storage?
Lake Point does not have a valid permit to obtain Lake Okeechobee’s water. Any competent Florida attorney knows that the “waters of the state” are owned by the “people” and are managed in trust for them by the five water management districts with oversight provided by the state Department of
cities that have overgrown their own water supplies is not part of eastern water law.
So why the SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) against Hurchalla? Is there any evidence that she maliciously pointed out the fallacy of the Lake Point’s initial vague proposal?
Is there any evidence that her observations based on “common sense and years of homework” influenced decision-makers to critically review and tell Lake Point that their contract does not allow them to sell the waters of the state?
SLAPP suits were originated by developers, who, annoyed at public input on their plans, sought to muzzle any criticisms of their proposals. What if our Founding Fathers were sued for speaking out against the heavy hands of the Crown? Our country was built on citizens’ opinions, especially when
Hurchalla’s opinions are supported by fact, undeniable facts. The day responsible criticism is threatened by wealthy developers of controversial projects is a sad day in America.
NATHANIEL REED, HOBE SOUND
Editor’s note: Nathaniel Reed is a former assistant secretary of the U.S.
Interior Department and founding member of the Everglades Foundation.
Posted: 5:30 am Sunday, July 27th, 2014
Lawsuit against Hurchalla just legal harassment
By Sally Swartz
Lake Point, a controversial 2,200 acre chunk of land in western Martin County, for a decade has drawn schemers who want to make money from it. Now Lake Point is tangled in lawsuits and involved — again — in a county commission election.
It also persists in a Strategic Lawsuit against Public Participation — SLAPP — against former Martin commissioner Maggy Hurchalla. Last week, Hurchalla appealed on a website, http://www.SLAPPMaggy.com, for help paying almost $100,000 in legal bills.
Early owners of the Lake Point land wanted to turn sugar cane fields into a polo-oriented housing development. A later owner made it a rock mine, then planned to store water on the land.
In 2009, Lake Point developers made deals with the previous Martin commission majority and South Florida Water Management District to operate the mine and store water. They contributed to the campaigns of Commissioner Doug Smith ($9,000) and former commissioners Ed Ciampi ($9,000) and Patrick Hayes ($7,000), the commission majority that approved the contract. Martin voters nixed Ciampi and Hayes in 2012.
A former Lake Point employee is seeking incumbent Martin Commissioner Ed Fielding’s District 2 seat in the Aug. 26 primary election. Stacey Hetherington said she worked for Lake Point until September. The Stuart Martin Chamber of Commerce and a Lake Point website still list her as Lake Point representative. She doesn’t mention Lake Point on her website.
Meantime, Lake Point’s lawsuits against the water district, Martin County and Hurchalla continue.
An Aug. 5 hearing will decide the water district’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit. The district claims, among other issues, it never authorized Lake Point to sell water.
Martin County, sued for enforcing its development rules, has settled some issues, but still claims Lake Point is mining outside authorized areas and hasn’t maintained wetland preserves on the land. Martin also contends Lake Point’s project threatens the health of the rivers and estuary.
Hurchalla is being sued for “tortious interference,” she writes on the website, “because they claim I made the water management district and the county ask questions about their project.”
Both Martin County and Hurchalla have filed counter claims against Lake Point.
Like all SLAPPs, this one is not about winning. The idea is to wear down the target with mounting legal bills and the stress of dealing with court procedures. A developer with deep pockets aims to silence critics and scare off other opponents. Some states have laws to protect residents from SLAPPs but Florida isn’t one of them. In Hurchalla’s case, the suit seeks to stop her questions, comments and emails criticizing environmental aspects of Lake Point’s project.
Hetherington said in an interview she doesn’t think the lawsuit against Hurchalla is a SLAPP.
Hurchalla, a 73-year-old grandmother, architect of Martin’s protective growth plan and winner of several state and national environmental awards, said all money raised for the fund will go to legal expenses. She hopes some money will be left over “to contribute to a fund to defend the next person who gets slapped.”
Hearings, depositions and research surrounding the SLAPP, she said, have been “exceedingly” time-consuming.
The lawsuit “has been a large part of my life when I didn’t have a lot of time to give.” Hurchalla helps ill family members, including her sister, former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, who has Parkinson’s disease.
A long list of Treasure Coast residents have endured SLAPPs. Some have settled or stopped speaking at public meetings, writing to newspapers and emailing elected officials. Others, like Hurchalla, have filed SLAPP-back suits.
Hurchalla’s website plainly outlines Lake Point’s history, issues and players. With a Lake Point-affiliated candidate in the primary, it’s timely.
And Hurchalla has no plans to stop exercising her right to speak out.
“What would I do if I gave up?” she asks. “Say I lied? I didn’t.”
Sally Swartz is a former member of The Post Editorial Board. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.