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Multimillion marina makeover gets the OK

STORY BY SAMANTHA ROHLFING BAITA (Week of February 11, 2021)

After years of complaints from boaters and residents about the dilapidated state of the Vero Beach Municipal Marina, a much-discussed, full-scale renovation of the aging facility finally has been approved by the City Council.

The council last week voted unanimously to move ahead with “Marina Master Plan Permitting and Design Phase I,” a proposal submitted by Vero Beach coastal engineering firm Coastal Tech that is the first installment of a multiyear, multimillion-dollar project meant to give Vero a modern, attractive marina.

“I’m happy to see the council keep this moving along,” said Marina Director Sean Collins, adding that it’s time for the city to invest in a facility that is a key part of city infrastructure and has served the city and the citizens for many years.

Phase I of the project – replacing the boat storage building and docks at the southern end of the marina property – will go out for bid in January 2022, with construction beginning in April and wrapping up in late October, according to Coastal Tech’s timeline.

The city is paying the engineering firm $828,000 to provide a detailed design for the entire marina renovation project and secure all needed permits from the Army Corps of Engineers and Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Last week’s vote approved a $648,000 payment for design and permitting work in fiscal 2020-21, with the remaining $180,000 scheduled for payment in fiscal 2021-22.  No cost estimate for the new dry storage building and adjacent docks was provided.

Coastal Tech’s design will encompass replacing all the marina’s docks except for the dingy docks, building additional new docks to the south of the existing docks, expanding the mooring field, dredging the lagoon in and near the marina and building a boardwalk and pedestrian bridge to connect the marina property to Alex MacWilliam Park.

The city council’s approval of the project notwithstanding, the Vero Beach Yacht Club and the Clean Water Coalition expressed concerns about the plan at the Feb. 2 meeting.

The yacht club sits on a parcel between the marina’s north and south sections and Commodore Bob Jones said the additional city docks that are planned would reduce docking and maneuvering space at the club, which has its own set of docks.

He also expressed dismay that the club was not consulted about the dock plans. City Manager Monte Falls agreed that the Yacht Club will be part of future discussions as the project moves forward.

A letter from the Clean Water Coalition expressed concern that lagoon bottom muck removed during dredging to expand the mooring buoy field could create dangerous nitrogen levels that would disrupt the lagoon’s fragile ecological balance and endanger seagrass beds and other marine flora and fauna. 

Those concerns will be considered by the permitting agencies.
In some good news for the city, Collins reported that a recently awarded Florida Inland Navigation (FIND) grant will pay for up to 40 percent of the marina renovation.