Development — The Good,The Bad,The Ugly



Richard Winger

To those of us who remember Riverside Park when it was a jungle-like swamp, and now see it developed with theater, walking trail, fishing pier, gazebos, green space, Under the Oaks, and the museum; what a friend once told me rings so true.  “Without Developers, we would all live-in tents in a swamp.”  Developers and development are not only, not by definition bad, but indeed necessary.  Yet, developer money cannot be allowed to tip the scales.

Over the years, the leaders and people of Vero Beach have pushed City Council to have “good” development.  Some examples are resolving McWilliams Park to have all four of the baseball field, the Dog Park, Riverhouse, and the Rowing Club.   The Hampton was squeezed in to look like Vero Beach.  Humiston Park brought beachfront improvements, a beautiful park with a playground over a stormwater retention reservoir, more parking, and a restaurant to boot.  The list of wise development goes on and on, but it only happened because of the step-by-step interaction with our citizens and taking it slowly until we got it right.

Unfortunately, we learned our lesson from the Twin Towers, as one example of bad development which forced us to implement a height restriction.  Royal Palm Point was created when the old bridge ramp remained in 1995 and the Barber Bridge opened.  It was to be an east side of the Lagoon mecca for the people, but it was never zoned such.  The result is the developers got it.  Only one sliver at the very end remains for the people.  We can all list more examples of bad development.

Thankfully, Vero Beach is the jewel it is, because we the people have persisted with City Council and insisted through an amendment to the Charter and put our parks and key land, such as the Power Plant land in the Charter.   To change these parcels from Green Space or Recreation, we the people must approve the change in a referendum.

This Tuesday, at 5:00, City Council proposes to draft an open-ended referendum allowing Council to decide what to do with the property at the western foot of the Alma Lee Loy, 17th Street Bridge.  The idea would be, developers would bring in proposals this summer, and then City Council and you would have granted Council the authority in advance to decide the future of these extremely important and valuable tracts.  You know what will happen. This is the same City Council who wanted to sell the old Dodgertown Golf Course to Hulbert Homes, bring a developer into the Marina, sold the downtown post office to a developer, and make Riverhouse into a brewery in the middle of McWilliams Park.

We were promised charrettes, by an outside firm, by this City Council to determine how we wanted this land used.  We were promised that since, according to the City Manager, Florida Power and Light won’t be out of the power plant until July 2020, we would use the year to wisely decide the future we want. We were promised, once we were consulted, if a referendum was needed, it would be specific and we would approve specifically what we want.

City Councils over the years have made bad decisions when they rushed to judgment.  Think of the original acquisition of the Dodgertown Golf Course for almost $10,000,000 or paying too much for the South Marina.   Let’s not let them do it again!

If we are to keep Vero Beach the Paradise it is, it is critical this Tuesday at 5:00 we tell City Council, “hell no.”  NO REFERENDUM UNTIL WE SEE SPECIFICALLY WHAT WE ARE BUYING!