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A 2nd chance to hear Andres Duany’s vision for Three Corners

STORY BY RAY MCNULTY (Week of September 15, 2022)
Photo: Andrés Duany presents five scenarios to the Three Corners Steering committee Feb. 25, 2020 at City Hall.

Remember the excitement and enthusiasm generated by urban planner Andres Duany’s vision for the Three Corners parcels – a conceptual design so well-received that at one public presentation in January 2020 the gathering gave him a standing ovation?

Vicky Gould hopes to rekindle those feelings.

Confronting a citizen-authored November referendum that could derail Vero Beach’s plan to develop a dining, retail, social and recreational hub on the mainland’s waterfront, the chairwoman of the now-dissolved Three Corners Steering Committee wants to remind everyone what the project would mean to the community.

That’s why Gould is bringing Duany back to Vero Beach on Oct. 12, when he’ll re-present the city’s Three Corners Master Concept Plan for the 33-acre property that contains the defunct municipal power plant and still-operating wastewater-treatment facility.

The city is neither sponsoring nor promoting the privately organized event, which Gould said will be held in the early evening to allow working people to attend. The exact time and venue won’t be announced until this week on a newly created website.

Though only city residents may vote on the referendum, Gould said county residents are welcome to attend the presentation as well.

“So much time has gone by since the plan was presented to the community, and I just want everyone to have another opportunity to see what’s possible there and get re-engaged,” Gould said last weekend.

“From the outset, our committee wanted to give everyone a voice, and the response from the community was huge,” she added. “People realized this project is so big, so important to our future here. But there’s been a little bit of a lull.

“Andres coming here and revisiting the concept – showing us the gem we could eventually see on our riverfront – is a way to get everyone excited again.”

The Vero Beach City Council unanimously approved the concept plan recommended by the steering committee, but that vote was held in April 2021.

Gould said she and a group of other volunteers who support the Three Corners project were “already gearing up” to advocate for the approval of the city-crafted referendum asking voters to amend the city charter to allow commercial use on the 17-acre power-plant parcel, if officials can negotiate a long-term lease with a cooperative developer.

She said the Vero Beach Preservation Alliance’s referendum, filed shortly before the county Supervisor of Elections deadline last month, only increased Gould’s group’s sense of urgency.

“This other referendum came along,” she said, “and it has the potential to really throw a wrench into things.”

The alliance’s efforts, which began as neighborhood opposition to plans to expand the municipal marina, morphed into a referendum that would thwart the city’s efforts to noticeably expand, improve or develop any of the charter-protected parks and other waterfront properties by requiring referendums.

If the alliance’s referendum is adopted – and all but the smallest improvements and expansions must be approved by the voters – city officials and other civic leaders say the uncertainty and delays will dissuade potential developers from investing in the Three Corners project.

The City Council, however, voted unanimously last month to challenge the alliance’s referendum in court, asking a judge to remove the initiative from the ballot because its language is vague and misleading.

City Attorney John Turner has requested an expedited hearing so the matter can be resolved before the election, but he said if a ruling isn’t issued before voters begin casting their ballots – and if the city wins the case – the judge has the authority to void the result.

“This whole hullabaloo shakes things up a bit, but we have to proceed as if it’s going to be on the ballot,” Gould said. “That means we have to drum up support for our referendum, and we’re hoping Andres will be a cheerleader again.

“This concept is what we’ve worked on for more than two years,” she added. “This is what we came up with. This is what people wanted. Now we want our referendum to pass, so we can move forward with a plan.

“As Andres said back when: The longer you wait – the more you allow it to languish – the less chance it will become a reality.”