32963 Homepage

Want to purchase reprints of your favorite 32963 or photos?

Copies of Vero Beach 32963 can be obtained at the following locations:


Our office HQ: (located at 4855 North A1A)
1. Corey's Pharmacy
2. 7-Eleven

(South A1A)
3. Major Real Estate Offices


1. Vero Beach Book

2. Classic Car Wash
3. Divine Animal
4. Sunshine Furniture

5. Many Medical

November referendum on Vero Marina termed ‘bad idea’

STORY BY RAY MCNULTY (Week of August 25, 2022)

A group of beachside residents opposed to planned expansions to the Vero Beach Municipal Marina has successfully petitioned for a vote on the issue, but Vero Mayor Robbie Brackett called the November referendum a “bad idea” that could derail the much hyped and wildly popular Three Corners project.

“If this referendum passes,” Brackett said Sunday, “there’s a great chance it will kill the Three Corners.”

The referendum was authored by the Vero Beach Preservation Alliance, formed in April to challenge the City Council’s $7.6 million plan to replace and expand the marina’s dilapidated and undersized dry storage boat facility, which was built in the 1960s and is not equipped to house today’s larger recreational vessels.

The core of the late-arriving group – the City Council began discussing marina expansion two years ago – is comprised of homeowners who live in the Central Beach neighborhood surrounding the marina, which has operated at that site since the 1930s.

Refusing to accept a compromise earlier this summer, when city officials agreed to reduce the length of the proposed new boat barn from 210 feet to 180 feet, the group went door-to-door and collected more than 1,150 verified signatures to secure the referendum.

“Citizens are tired of being ignored,” said former Vero council member Lynne Larkin, an attorney representing the alliance, which initially was willing to accept a moderate increase in the size of a new boat barn, but, having been rebuffed, decided to pursue the referendum.

“The city messed up,” she added.

The two-part referendum, which will be placed on the November ballot, asks Vero Beach voters to amend the City Charter to:

• Add the land containing the marina’s dry-storage facility and former Waddell Insurance building to the charter’s list of protected properties.

• Restrict “any future structures” added to the charter’s protected properties to no more than 500 square feet, and limit the expansion of existing structures to no more than 20 percent of their current footprint and volume, unless approved by city voters in a referendum.

The term “structures,” under the city’s code, can apply to improvements that include restrooms, pavilions, playground equipment, parking lots, sidewalks and walls. The 500-square-foot restriction would limit the size of those additions to slightly more than three parking spaces.

Currently, the addition of such amenities to city parks may be approved by a majority vote of the City Council. If the referendum passes, however, improvements that exceed the aforementioned size restrictions would need to be approved by city voters.

The charter amendments would cover not only the marina’s boat-barn area, but they also would apply to more than two dozen city parks and other waterfront property -- including the Three Corners parcels.

Vero Beach leaders are hoping to develop that 33-acre property – on which the defunct municipal power plant and current wastewater treatment facility now sit – into a dining, retail, social and recreational hub on the mainland’s waterfront.

In a separate referendum on the November ballot, in fact, city voters will be asked to amend the charter to allow development of the 17 acres north of the 17th Street/Alma Lee Loy Bridge for that purpose.

But nobody, including City Attorney John Turner, seems to know how the alliance’s referendum, which would severely limit the size of structures that can be built on charter-protected properties, would impact the proposed Three Corners project if both ballot initiatives are approved by city voters.

“It’s open to interpretation, which is a legitimate concern,” City Manager Monte Falls said. “The preservation group is selling it as a marina referendum, but if it passes, it’s going to impact more than the marina property.”

That’s by design.

Larkin said alliance members, while collecting signatures, heard from supporters who also were concerned about previous City Councils that promoted monetizing the city’s parks and other recreational facilities to reduce operating and maintenance costs.

“The boat-storage issue didn’t completely cover their concerns,” Larkin said. “So we decided to broaden our efforts to include other charter properties, and tailored the referendum to address them.”

She said the alliance is still receiving signatures in support the referendum, putting the total number in excess of 2,000.

Larkin downplayed the threat the alliance’s referendum poses to the Three Corners project, which she said wouldn’t break ground for at least a year, anyway, once city voters weigh in on the master concept plan for the power-plant property in November.

Even then, she added, the city would need to approve a final design and choose a developer.

“We don’t know what the city is going to do there yet, so it’s too soon to say how our referendum is going to impact that project,” Larkin said. “Depending on what they decide, it could be an issue. But if everyone is on board – if there’s that much support for it – it’ll be an easy vote and be approved with plenty of time to spare.”

Brackett, however, can’t help but wonder if there’s a connection between the alliance and opponents of the Three Corners project.

Referring to Larkin, he said: “What she’s failing to mention is that, if her group’s referendum is approved, we can’t put up another referendum on the Three Corners plan until November 2023.

“That’s a long delay,” he added. “Even if we continue to move forward, nobody is going to spend money on plans, knowing it’s got to go to the voters again.”

Brackett questioned the verbiage of the alliance’s referendum, saying it isn’t clear and unambiguous – particularly in defining structures – as required by Florida law. He called it “very vague.”

He also expressed concern that the referendum addresses two separate issues, creating a quandary for voters who might support one action but not both.

The City Council scheduled a special-call meeting at 9:30 a.m. today (Thursday) at Vero Beach City Hall, where it will conduct a public forum to discuss the alliance’s referendum.

“We want the voters to make an informed decision,” Falls said.

Regardless of what happens at the meeting, Turner said the referendum’s wording has already been submitted to the Supervisor of Elections Office and cannot be changed.

“This is just getting started,” he said. “The process is going to work itself out.”

In the meantime, Falls said his staff will continue to proceed with its plan to build a new, expanded boat-storage facility that can accommodate more customers, larger boats and generate the revenues needed to “keep the marina in tip-top shape and be an asset to the community.”

He said the county’s population has increased by more than 100,000 over the past 40 years, while the marina hasn’t been expanded.

The site plan will be submitted to the city’s Planning & Zoning Commission soon, Falls said, adding that he expects approval in October, when his staff will begin seeking and reviewing bids, and then choose a contractor.

At that point – probably before the end of October – the City Council must decide whether to award a contract.

But would the council members dare approve a contract just days before the alliance’s referendum is put before the voters?

“We can, and I think we would,” Brackett said. “We’ve already decided we want to do this. And my understanding is that, if the site plan has been approved, it can’t be changed. We can go ahead.

Larkin, though, said she wasn’t sure if the city could legally proceed when a referendum was pending.

“The referendum is on the ballot,” she added, “so they’d be countermanding the will of the people.”

Besides, Larkin said, even if the alliance’s referendum is approved in November, the city still could seek voter approval of a larger boat barn in another referendum next year.

“The city could expand it up to 20 percent, or go to referendum to try to make it bigger,” she explained. “All we’re saying is that more than 20 percent triggers the question. We want citizens to have a say.”

City officials, on the other hand, say the alliance’s referendum likely would hinder or delay still-developing plans for a new World War II stage at the Veterans Memorial Island Sanctuary and a new Youth Sailing Foundation facility on the Three Corners property, as well as a major renovation and expansion of the Vero Beach Museum of Art.

“We shouldn’t be deciding these kinds of land regulations at the ballot box,” Brackett said. “We, as City Councils, haven’t done anything to harm the properties, which are already protected in the charter.”