Tuesday, February 13, 2018

George Lindemann Jr. v Maggy Hurchalla, cont. by gimleteye

My comments and following notes from Donna Melzer, a Martin County activist who is attending the ongoing trial of Lake Point v. Maggy Hurchalla.

My comments: the Lake Point v. Maggy Hurchalla is a proxy for a larger battle that should make all Floridians sit up and take notice. The larger battle has several fronts: first and foremost, a decadal assault by Big Sugar and large sprawl developers against growth management in Florida.

After his election in 2010 Gov. Rick Scott, his Cabinet, and the Florida legislature crushed the capacity of the state of Florida to order and enforce growth management laws in Florida. Jeb Bush started the destruction, reinforced by serial attacks by the Republican-led legislature against decades of bipartisan consensus. The purposes of the act was to compel Florida's counties to some measure of order and accountability to taxpayers and to a sustainable future.

By the time of Scott's first election, the willingness of the state to protect that earlier consensus had been hobbled. The champions for growth management, who came of age in the 1980's and in recognition of the massive forces at work pitting Florida's sprawl based economy against water resources and natural habitat, dwindled in influence. Among those, Maggy Hurchalla in Martin County stood tall.

Martin County, on the urbanized east coast, embraced the protections afforded by the Growth Management Act through its own comprehensive land use plan. Maggy Hurchalla, as county commissioner, drew on Reno family history and experience with Miami-Dade's rampant sprawl, to author the county's plan in compliance with state law. Thanks to its growth plan, Martin County had retained a low-volume, old Florida character while Palm Beach to the south and St. Lucie to the north buckled under the costs of suburban sprawl.

Lake Point is charging Maggy Hurchalla with interference in its contract with the South Florida Water Management District to provide lime rock aggregate and, importantly, to be able to sell water on its lands as a source of private profit. The exact charges of Lake Point against Hurchalla, even beyond the fine points of growth management, are proxy for a much larger and more significant fight in Florida.

As soon as it is profitable and permittable, Big Sugar will convert sugar farms to sprawl, inland ports, and rock mines. Only the boundaries of state and federal laws hold its investment and its profits, back.

With the Trump White House, Florida's polluters have never had a more favorable environment for tilting toxic pollution water laws in its direction. With Trump's ally, Rick Scott, aiming for the US Senate, Big Sugar has never had a better opportunity to dictate terms to the Florida public.

Lake Point's principal, George Lindemann Jr., had never been a rock miner before his investment, but the ties of Lake Point to Big Sugar's interests are clear enough, as a matter of geography and friendships. That said, Big Sugar is not on trial in Martin County nor is it on the attack.

It is on the attack in Tallahassee, now. It is forcing a multi billion dollar reservoir plan that lacks adequate storage and treatment marshes to clean up pollution it is believed to be primarily responsible for creating, through its fertilizer and agricultural farming practices. In Martin County, too, its shadow hangs over the proceedings no matter how hard the Lake Point legal counsel tries to tightly frame its allegations against Hurchalla.

One of the key achievements in the last session of the Florida legislature was to carve out a new project that primarily benefits the Fanjuls/Florida Crystals' empire: a provision in the Everglades reservoir legislation that allows taxpayer funding to aid and assist in the conversion of Fanjul held land into water storage and treatment marshes that will, in the future, allow the corporation to sell rainwater to South Florida utilities.

This principle is a key point in the Lake Point contract with the South Florida Water Management District, and it is another way that the Lake Point outcome is a proxy for Florida's water future.

Until now, Florida water law has never provided for private corporations to be "water supply entities". Florida's water belongs to the people. Or so it always had.

Last year's Everglades reservoir legislation -- whose nominal purpose was to protect Florida's toxic-choked estuaries and rivers and battered, water-starved Florida Bay -- turns out to have been exactly the Trojan Horse its critics predicted. Floridians are being rear-ended into permitting rainwater and groundwater to be "owned" for re-sale to water utilities and consumers.

From this point of view, the Lake Point litigation - funded by a billionaire's fortune -- not only seeks to crush a civic activist who has been lauded by environmentalists as a Florida hero but also to grind into dust a history of conservation, environmentalism, and consensus that Florida's water resources and natural habitats belong to people and must be preserved and protected for both the economy and a sustainable future.

That revisionism is supported by outrageous settlement terms agreed to last year by the state, and endorsement by the governor and cabinet, in separate litigation by Lake Point against the South Florida Water Management District.

The Lake Point settlement with the District was a tacit blessing by Gov. Scott, worth tens of millions of dollars to Lake Point's owners, : a blanket-endorsement of Florida's water future as a private rodeo for billionaires.

Today, the revisionism is in full swing, funded by Big Sugar marketing budgets through industry sponsored "news" outlets. Independent, investigative journalism should train sharp focus on all the ways the Lake Point litigation against Maggy Hurchalla is a proxy for a hostile takeover by special interests who pushed Growth Management over the edge first and now making an example of Maggy Hurchalla in a Martin County courthouse, seeking a trophy like conquistadores who displayed the severed heads of the vanquished on sharpened, wooden stakes.


LATER TODAY - TUESDAY - George Lindemann, Jr., son of billionaire, and Maggy Hurchalla will testify.
Closing arguments should begin Wed. - but maybe Thurs. if Lake Point goes long again.

DAY 6 - Excellent Day for Team Maggy (sorry this email is so long but lots happened - pages and pages of notes)

Highpoint: Finally, after 5 years in litigation - we heard WHAT "breach" Lake Point sued on!
Maggy is accused of a tortious interference with a contract.

That contract is the Interlocal Agreement between Martin County & SFWMD that Lake Point claims some rights in.
Today - finally, the Lake Point corporate representative spelled out clearly that Lake Point only breaches claimed are:
1. Claims Martin County breached by sending Lake Point two Notices of Violations from violations of allowing cattle in disallowed areas, mining where it was not permitted, and other environmental protections.
2. Claims Martin County breached when it refused to immediately vacate the Development Order and Unity of Title that had allowed Lake Point to mine so intensely in that area at all. The contract said that the Development Order and the Unity of Title must remain until Phase II was deeded to SFWMD for the STAs.
3. Martin County had refused to accept two delinquent checks for an environmental assessment fee required by the Interlocal.
Whoops -- Lake Point's attorney was upset that he had not objected before this clear statement of Lake Point breach claim became part of the record - but too late. Who will be blamed -- client or attorney?

So Lake Point demands $4Million from Maggy -- a grandmother, environmentalist, community hero, and the mourning last of the four Reno siblings -- and is dragging her through this hard, costly court case.

Wetlands - Maggy correct in concerns and questions about wetlands destruction:
D. Greg Braun, ecologist and wetlands expert, provided expert, excellent information on why analysis made him believe that at least one wetland on the site was likely destroyed when, shortly after purchase, Lake Point's agent removed vegetation, ran disc over the area (like a shallow plow - I'm a farm girl) and leveled and added lime rock to an area that aerials, an older plan, and soil mappings supported it having been a wetland until 2009 Lake Point work. Lake Point corporate representative claimed he hadn't been untruthful when he said no fill was added because it was "lime rock" not "fill" and that it was for farming which is exempt - even though no farming was ever done in the area by Lake Point or any tenant.
Other records include a Corps permit for destruction of 60 acres of agriculture wetlands.

Studies Deficient - "studies" claiming environmental benefit deserved questions:
Thomas Conboy, expert in water hydrologen, testified that he was employed 1996 to 2004 and since as part of his business and interest to study the watershed of Martin and St. Lucie Counties. He testified that while the C-44 reservoir has significant water held and cleaned to help the river, Lake Point was not proven to help. Our river/lagoon/estuary devastations are from Lake Okeechobee dumps.

Lake Point actually harms Our Lagoon, not helps
Information that will not be provided the Jury: In a Transcript from SFWMD attorney-client meeting when the District was fighting Lake Point's lawsuit, Governing Board member Kevin Powers explained that Florida worked for decades to reduce the water utility rights to water from Lake Okeechobee. After settlements, L Pt now claims the right to profit from sales of Lake O water to Broward, Palm Beach, south. That means keeping the Lake higher with greater risks of more Lagoon/Estuary/River devastation.

South Florida Water Management District, Water Resource Engineer
Mr. Albers works for the District and studied Lake Point proposals. The District still believes there can be some good. He concurred that Lake Point was not in full compliance with the agreements it was suing on. Litigation began shortly after SFWMD sent then a letter to encourage Lake Point to comply with the Agreement -- to meet and try to work out a new schedule since Lake Point was behind, likely due to economy. For example, District asked for quarterly reports of progress - and received nothing except a lawsuit.
He agreed that the environmental promises by Lake Point were not in compliance. LP had not even applied for the permits for the STAs (cleansing cattail area). Under the settlement, these environmental components will not be done by Lake Point at all -- SFWMD will have to spend millions of taxpayer dollars to get even an iota of environmental positive and no environmental benefits are expected for at least 20 years.

No help for river: Mr. Albers testified that Lake Point could not be a serious reservoir for holding large amount of water from the river because of the geology and flooding problems for neighbors.

New Profit far Exceed the $4Million - from Sale of Lake Water to Broward and south: SFWMD rep agreed that the water supply to utilities for counties to our south was new. He earlier sent a letter telling Lake Point the Agreement would have to be amended to allow that -- and it was not amended. The Jury will also not hear that, in a deposition, a Lake Point expert claimed that Lake Point will profit more than $50Millions from the new water supply component.

Lake Point Focus on Attacking Commissioners Sarah Heard & Ed Fielding
A Transcript of a District attorney-client meeting disclosed a belief that this lawsuit is about vengeance by a billionaire family who don't mind spending very large monies for vengeance. Lake Point earlier had taken excerpts from County meetings videos to make opponents look bad.

Maggy's Team played excerpts Monday that accurately showed that (a) the Commission did NOT vote to breach the contract; (b) the Commission had lots of concerns and wanted staff to take a closer look before making any decision; (c) Staff, not the commission, issued the Notices of Violation - some serious, some not so serious; (d) Lake Point attorneys attended the commission meetings and remained silent; (e) the District was willing to work out the questions with Martin County.

Lake Point continues to claim they were always exempt from the Comp Plan which the Growth Management Director testified was untrue.

Sent by Donna Melzer, volunteer activist for our Martin County Quality of Life including river and community Comp Plan protections, and conservative fiscal budgets.
Full disclosure: Not only is Maggy a long time hero for Martin County and a friend but so is her legal team Maggy Hurchalla & Howard Heims & the new attorney in town, Daniel Melzer (son of David & I and, with his lovely wife Shannon, the parents of our wonderful grandsons).

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