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Planning starts in earnest on future of Vero’s riverfront

Photo: City of Vero Beach’s Big Blue power plant site.

People who want the City of Vero Beach’s Big Blue power plant site, and eventually the sewer plant site, turned into a park – a water park, skate park, dog park, passive park or sailing park – have definitely gotten the jump on the planning process.

Those 50 people who showed up for last Tuesday’s workshop are the same people who will attend months of design charrettes, and who will sit through analysis provided by the city’s pricey, future consultant. Their input will be turned into the recommendations forwarded to the Vero Beach City Council for a vote.

But if there are other people out there who want some of that land to go onto the tax rolls, or who might encourage amenities other than open “green space,” now would be the time to get a seat at the table so that a variety of opinions are be tossed into the mix.

The matter of the power plant, sewer plant and old postal annex properties is being addressed as part of a Recreation Master Plan, and thus, the Recreation Commission has taken the lead.

The fact that the Vero Beach City Council delegated the initial discussion about the utility properties to the Recreation Commission, and not the Utilities Commission or even to the Finance Commission or the Planning and Zoning Commission, will impact how questions will be asked, and answered.

In other words, the process will be skewed toward all of that property being turned into some kind of park.

If a local business or a developer comes forward down the road with a viable, aesthetically pleasing commercial project, or public-private partnership that could serve Vero well into its next 100 years, it will be too late. People will protest. A three-ring binder will be trotted out and held up before the television cameras. It will be said that the plan dictates a park on that property.

Vero Planning and Development Director Jason Jeffries told the Recreation Commission that his target is to get a consultant on board in February to begin a planning process that “would be heavily citizen driven” in determining priorities.

“The result would be a conceptual plan” for all the city’s recreation facilities and available land that could be used for recreation, Jeffries said.

Recreation Director Rob Slezak said the last time any sort of a recreation master plan was compiled was in 1992, and that was countywide and did not involve Vero’s parks. According to city officials, and based upon the cost of similar consulting endeavors, the planning process could cost $100,000 or more. The whole community will pay for that through property taxes and utility bills.

Recreation Commission Chairman Richard Yemm’s battle cry that “we’re running out of green space” was echoed by a couple dozen people who rose to the podium to speak.

Certainly, the intrinsic and economic value of parks and green space is great, but in a city like Vero Beach where large parcels like the utility properties just don’t exist anymore, all reasonable options should be on the table.

Vero’s barrier island population holds a much broader array of experienced and knowledgeable people – people with backgrounds in real estate, architecture, urban planning, finance, hospitality and tourism – than were represented in that room last week. People with business and development backgrounds should have a say, even if the community ultimately decides that open green space is the best option.

And then there is the matter of what to call this area at the foot of the Alma Lee Loy bridge.

Since Vero Beach 32963 announced that our sister publication was holding a contest with a $1,000 prize to find a better name for this area that the daily persists in calling “three corners,” hundreds of responses have been emailed to

The naming contest remains open through Feb. 1.
Everyone who takes the time to send a proposed name should participate in  the planning process for Vero’s riverfront so a wide variety of possibilities can be explored.