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Residents express concern about growth of Vero marina

STORY BY SAMANTHA ROHLFING BAITA (Week of December 30, 2021)

A handful of Central Beach residents, most of whom live near the Vero Beach Municipal Marina, have voiced an array of concerns about the city’s master plan to transform the marina into a world-class facility.

More than two years ago, the City Council decided to make the city marina a priority after years of delayed upkeep in which the popular facility had languished in various states of disrepair.

The City Council brought a new harbormaster on board and hired engineering consultants Coastal Tech/GE in early 2019 to develop a marina master plan. In the months since, the master plan has been discussed at length during numerous public meetings, and  citizens have had many opportunities to comment and ask  questions.

But at a Dec. 7 meeting, several insisted they had only recently learned about plans for the marina complex and adjoining boat dry storage house,  and complained that neighborhoods near the marina had not been consulted before the plan was developed.

Central Beach resident David Hunter urged the Council to “pause,” and said although “it is an interesting plan, it needs to be fleshed out.”  

Mayor Robbie Brackett replied that the project had been frequently and openly discussed for two years, with “tons of public meetings held,” and explained, again and again, that “this is a conceptual plan – a 20-25-year plan.  Everything will have to get approved by the council before anything is done at the marina. Nothing is set in concrete.”

A major concern expressed by Central Beach resident Leonard Markir concerned the potential size of the dry boat storage. Markir warned that a large building would “change the character of this small town,” and suggested moving it to Three Corners.

As reported in the Aug. 8, 2021 issue of Vero Beach 32963, during the city’s first round of budget talks, the City Council “gave staff unequivocal direction to plan on the largest of three options for a boat barn” at the marina.

The council’s preferred choice, said City Manager Monte Falls, would extend almost all the way to the city-owned Waddell building, with a capacity, Marina Director Sean Collins said at the time, of 140 boats up to 30 feet in length.

Brackett again noted that the plan is currently only conceptual, and stated he’d be happy to meet with the neighborhood group whenever they wanted. After the meeting, Brackett acknowledged his surprise with Markir’s comments. “Leonard and I have met on several occasions. I am always more than willing to sit down and talk.”

Another island resident, identified in the meeting minutes as Ron Farriby, commented, “This is a nice place now, but it could be ruined by the boat people.”

City officials explained that the boat traffic and docks required for dry boat storage would be incompatible with the pedestrian-focused Three Corners concept being considered. And they again noted that discussion on the marina project had been going on for two years.

When asked why he thought people were just finding out about the expansion plans, Falls said lots of people don’t follow the news, adding that “it’s a sign of the times.” 

Hunter argues that the entire concept would negatively impact the “pretty little city by the sea” reputation Vero Beach has always enjoyed, repeating comments from the Dec. 7 meeting, that Three Corners would be a far better location for docks and dry storage.

“Vero Beach is not Fort Pierce,” he stated. “If boaters want (that kind of marina) they can go to Fort Pierce.”