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Senior living facility in Orchid saddled with many caveats


When the Orchid Town Council considers plans for a proposed 120-unit, upscale senior living and memory care facility next week, it comes with the very conditional blessing of the Town’s Local Planning agency, laden with nearly 50 different, and in some cases expensive, stipulations.

The Orchid Local Planning Agency after a more than six-hour hearing last week voted 4-1 to recommend approval of what would be the barrier island’s first assisted-living facility, located on the Wabasso Causeway near the county fire-rescue station, just outside the gates of the Orchid Island Golf and Beach Club.

According to Orchid Town Clerk Cherry Stowe, Chairman Ron Borque was the lone vote against the project, but even those who voted yea proceeded to pile on dozens and dozens of conditions that the developer must meet.

According to Stowe, who was preparing the draft minutes of the April 26 meeting for the Town Council to review, “The waivers that were discussed included that the height be no taller than 30 feet with no exposed heating/air-conditioning units on top; that the setback to the Northside be a minimum of 40 feet without a walkway; that the setback along Caribe Way from the turnaround North be a minimum of 25 feet; that setback on that same side along the tennis courts from the turnaround South be a minimum of 10 feet, that the gross floor area not exceed 142,000 square feet; that opening hours be allowed to be 24/7.

“There was also a request that no employee parking be permitted on the Westside of the building. Finally, the LPA requested that the applicant draw up a new landscaping plan with a focus on large/mature vegetation and that the applicant work with the Town planner pertaining to parking needs,” Stowe said.

On top of all of that, the Town staff report to the planning agency included another 34 separate conditions to be placed on the project, which were included lock, stock and barrel into the board’s motion.

The calendar announcement on the Town’s website for the 9 a.m. May 12 meeting lists its primary purpose as “a Public Hearing to consider applications for a proposed Planned Development, Conditional Use, Site Plan, Preliminary Plat, Variances and Deviations for a proposed 120 bed Assisted Living Facility for the ‘510 property.’ The Public Hearing will be conducted according to quasi-judicial procedures for parties to the applications. There will be an opportunity for public participation during the Public Hearing.”

Orchid resident and long-time Vero Beach businessman and auto dealer Ken Puttick is the very determined applicant on the senior living facility – the third iteration of efforts he’s made to gain the Town’s consent to build something on his seven-acre parcel, which is zoned commercial.

Puttick says he’ll retain ownership of the property, buildings and the ongoing business, but that he’s found a reputable firm in Watercrest Senior Living to operate the facility for him. Watercrest recently completed a similar project adjacent to the Lake Nona Golf and Country Club near the Orlando International Airport.

The somewhat beleaguered, yet victorious Puttick said right after the exhaustive question and answer session that he was “very pleased” to have passed the planning agency hurdle, and that he was looking forward to a favorable outcome with the Town Council. He had long hoped his Orchid neighbors and fellow club members would see the possibilities of his project and allow those positives to outweigh the concerns, which include the proximity of the proposed facility to the club’s golf course.

Project Manager Keith Pelan of Kimley-Horn came back from out of state to pitch the project.  To make sure he wouldn’t be sent back to the drawing board or to get an answer and report back, delaying the planning agency’s vote, Puttick brought an entourage of people who have been working on every aspect of the project’s design. Joining Pelan were more engineers, several land planners and a couple of attorneys.

The strategy apparently worked, as the professionals present collectively were able to address all the concerns of at least four members of the agency board. Up until last fall, the Town of Orchid did not have a planning and zoning committee or a local planning agency which included volunteer local residents.

Puttick had sued the Town of Orchid because its hired consultants multiple times rejected his proposals, he said, without affording him the due process of a full-blown public hearing and ability to offer testimony and experts on behalf of the project. The Town settled with Puttick, reportedly for $35,000 to cover legal fees, and formed its Local Planning Agency in January.

Up until its April 26 meeting, the LPA has been in organizational mode, focused on a full review of the Town code, procedures and the agency’s own legal and other responsibilities. Orchid Town meetings are held in the Beach Club Dining Room, 1 Beachside Drive.