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Sale of Shores oceanside property closes; beach path next

Photo: Shores oceanside property.

While the town’s cell tower plans seem stalled, and the twists and turns of the Vero electric negotiations leaving utility customers in limbo, at least one controversial Indian River Shores saga is nearly concluded. The sale of the auctioned 5.2-acre oceanside property has closed, and sale proceeds are in the bank.

“The $4,488,000 was deposited electronically on June 16, 2017, into an interest bearing account,” Town Manager Robbie Stabe said last Friday.

The Shores Town Council decided there’s no rush to decide how to use or invest the money, since the upcoming year’s budget is balanced without touching the cash reserves. Stabe said the millions are earning 1.1 percent annually while the council takes public input and weighs its options.

Next on deck is the task of clearing a 5-foot beach access pathway at the north end of the property, which the council voted to set aside for public use. The council’s action came in response to outcries from residents who live on the west side of A1A and had enjoyed casual beach access across the parcel since the 1980s when it was sold to Indian River County by Pebble Bay developer Ed Schlitt at a  deep discount with the agreement that public access would be preserved.

A grassroots effort emerged to turn the entire parcel into a park, but that failed and the Town Council hired former County Commissioner Wesley Davis and his firm Indian River Auctions to sell it as surplus property. The auction took place on May 6 under a tent on the site, with Naples-based developer Howard Gutman of the Lutgert Companies offering the winning bid of $4.4 million, plus a 10 percent buyers’ premium.

The path-building job includes removal of more than 50 mature palm trees planted many years ago that would block the charted walkway. Also, as property lines are often disregarded or encroached upon over the years when fences or hedges are installed, what Stabe called a “dilapidated fence” bordering the Pebble Beach Villas multi-family community will need to be torn down as it runs a foot or two into the five-foot-wide pathway. The fence also serves as containment for a thick hedgerow at the back of the townhomes. Without a new fence, the hedge would grow back into the beach access walkway, requiring regular maintenance.

Stabe got several quotes on the work and suggested the Town Council offer to split the cost of removing the old and installing the new fence with the Pebble Bay homeowners. The total cost is estimated somewhere between $9,000 and $14,000.

There is no timeline on completing the beach path project, but Stabe said he’s working with Lutgert Companies on some creative solutions they’ve presented about collaborating on the tree removal to ensure an aesthetically pleasing result for the public and for future residents of their planned single-family home development.

Lutgert Senior Vice President Mike Hoyt said he hopes to have plans on paper to start selling homesites for luxury dwellings in the fall, and to break ground on a model home by January.