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Neighbors worry about expansion of Vero Marina


City officials are attempting to quell the concerns of an island community group that redevelopment and expansion of the deteriorating Vero Beach Municipal Marina will bring mega yachts and commercial businesses to the site along with traffic congestion.

New Marina Manager Sean Collins has been assuring the Community Park & Marine Group – a citizens group formed by Central Beach residents and members of the boating community – that although some marina expansion concepts call for additional and bigger boat slips, mega yachts are expected to steer clear of Vero Beach since they tend to dock in Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami.

“To say just because we rebuild the marina, mega yachts will come is a stretch,” Collins said, adding he expects only “a few” would dock at an improved facility.

Hotels, restaurants and other commercial space are not in the cards either – just an expanded marina with aging docks swapped out for new ones, Collins said.

 “The city marina is already a destination. We have thousands of boats that come through here every year, not to mention all the local ones that call this place home,” Collins said, noting some parts of the facility still standing today were built in the 1930s. “This place is a gem. It’s just a little bit buried in the dirt. It needs to be cleaned up quite a bit.”

The neighborhood group has concerns the expansion might be incompatible with the surrounding residential area, said Phyllis Frey, one of the group’s founders, adding that her group is also seeking a reduction of the speed limit in the area from 25 to 20, speed tables, increased police patrols, more stop signs and increased speeding fines.

“Naturally, our concern is that kind of commercial complex inside of a residential area is going to create increased traffic intensity and it could marginalize public safety and bring congestion to our already heavily travelled streets,” Frey said.

Coastal Tech-G.E.C. Inc., a local engineering firm the city hired earlier this year for more than $100,000 to come up with concept plans for the marina’s redevelopment, will present the Vero Beach City Council with three expansion options at the board’s Sept. 3 meeting. It will be up to the council to develop a master plan for the project, Collins said.

The public caught a glimpse of the options at a May 30 Marine Commission meeting where Coastal Tech Vice President Charles “Tem” Fontaine unveiled the firm’s three ideas. The commission recommended presenting all three to the council with a recommendation in favor of the concept that offered the most extensive renovation to the aging facility, located at 3611 Rio Vista Boulevard.

The first option would replace the northern dock and relocate it farther north; demolish what’s known as the lagoon dock and increase the number of slips on that dock; repair or replace the floating dock; add vehicle parking; repair or replace the dry storage building; and dredge near docks to open moorings for larger boats.

The northern dock has reached the end of its lifespan, while the wooden lagoon dock is rotting, Fontaine said.

“We want a nice well-run marina – that’s our main objective ... we want to act as a goodwill ambassador for the city by promoting tourism and local business patronage,” Fontaine said at the May meeting. “We want to maintain a marina that reflects well on the character of the city. We want to be good neighbors and we want to be a clean marina and protect the environment.”

The second concept expands upon the first to also include new dockage along the southern shoreline, a one-way drive with angled parking near the dog park and an expanded mooring field. The third option – favored by the advisory commission – goes one step further and adds a pedestrian bridge from the marina to Riverside Park.

The marina is comprised of roughly 100 narrow slips made for older, smaller boats, Collins said. The facility can accommodate some 50- to 70-foot boats and has one slip for a 100-foot boat. How many larger boat slips would be added to the marina is up to the City Council, Collins said.

No cost has been provided for the various options. The city earlier this year put the marina in a better financial position by using $2.9 million from the sale of Vero Beach Electric to pay off the remainder of a $4.7 million loan taken out in 2007 for the marina.

Loan payments were draining $338,000 a year from the marina’s budget, leaving the enterprise fund too strapped for cash to keep up with needed repairs or undertake expansion.

In his presentation, Fontaine noted that an office building on the city’s marina property formerly occupied by the Waddell Insurance agency is in good condition and could be rented out to a new tenant if the city so desires.