Concerns raised about proposed sale of old Dodgertown property

Editor’s Note: In an email addressed to Vero Beach City Councilman Richard Winger, and copied to each member of the Council, Finance Commission member Vic DeMattia raised several concerns about the proposed sale of 35 acres of public open space.  Winger is also questioning the proposed sale of the property, which was once a 9-hole golf course owned and operated by the Los Angeles Dodgers.  

Relevant facts:

  1. The property was bought by the City in 2005 for $10 million dollars, when it was appraised for $9.9 million.  Currently, the land is appraised at $3.5 million.
  2. In 2005, the Council was concerned to prevent a 300-unit residential development from being built on the property, which is located southeast of 43rd Avenue and Aviation Boulevard, and is immediately under the flight path of one of the airport’s two main runways.  
  3. According to minutes from 2005 City Council meetings, city leaders were also interested in eventually developing a westside park similar to Riverside Park. 
  4. The land is currently unused. The City spends $15,000 a year on maintenance and insurance on the property.
  5. The City now owes $6.1 million on the property, with debt service of approximately $600,000 a year.
  6. A Palm Beach Gardens developer is proposing to buy the property for $2.7 million, and to build a mixed use development with 280 homes.
  7. If the City accepts the $2.7-million offer, it will still owe $3.4 million on the original note, and will still have debt service obligation approximately $300,000 a year. 

Mr. DeMattia’s letter to Councilman Winger:

I very much agree with your request to delay any decision on the sale of our Dodgertown Golf Course property.  Please see videotape of the few minutes of my comments at the very beginning of yesterday’s Finance Commission meeting.

It appears to be the opinion of the City Manager and some members of the Finance Commission that we should just dump the property for a 73% loss (plus continued interest cost for 10 years!).  It has been presented by them and our realtors to have a very limited current value and even that value will likely decline in the future.

It was hypothesized that the City tax revenue from the development would be a strong positive to offset the loss.  The proposed population would be ~1,000 residents.  The likely COVB RE tax contribution from those properties would likely be on the order of $100 per person per year.  Considering the stress on roads/traffic, schools, water, sewer, Fire Protection, Police Protection, social services, etc., any improvement of the city’s economic situation from this development is highly unlikely.  In fact, the opposite may well be true … even cruelly true.  Certainly, this high density neighborhood will negatively impact the taxable value of many properties in the surrounding neighborhoods.

We have at least three potential positives for the area:  Airport, commercial and environmental/recreational.

a. This property immediately abuts Vero Beach Airport.  On glide path, an airplane landing North on runway 4 would pass over the NW corner of the proposed development at an altitude of 270′ … you might just be able to tell the color of the pilot’s eyes.  Conversely, a piston engine airplane taking off South on that runway would be about 500 feet above that same corner at full throttle.  That alone would diminish the value of developing the property as residential.  I am fairly sure that we don’t want to close the airport and sell the land for $83k per acre because of a noise problem.

b.  With the addition and resounding success of Elite Airlines to COVB Municipal Airport, it is not difficult to foresee dramatically increased local pressure on airport services:  parking; restaurants/shops; multiple rental car facilities; hotel/motels and more.  Further, it appears that we are entering a strong period of job growth and Piper growth, and the Airport Enterprise Zone may enjoy considerable pressure on available buildings and acreage:  Piper has only 16 acres left to grow; The airport parking/services has only 7 acres left to grow; and the Enterprise Zone only has about 10 acres left to grow on the south side of the airport.  It is not difficult to see that any combination of these factors could put strong purchase pressure for commercial activities on our 32 acre plot.

c.  Vero Beach (and the rest of Florida) has a stormwater problem.  Currently there are 30 outfalls from the COVB stormwater sewers; 22 N-S drains flowing into the Main (North) Relief Canal and 8 flowing E into the canals in and around Vero Isles/Indian River.  The 22 outfalls into the Main Relief Canal drain the entire western portion of the city and outfall between 43rd Ave and US-1.  The (8) W to E canals drain from US-1 to the River.  It would seem both possible and very efficient for the flow from the 22 N-S outfalls to be cleaned of contaminants from the Main Relief Canal in the area at the South side of the Dodgertown Golf Course.  Vegetation and solid waste is currently removed from that flow stream at the facility just East of that area.  Certainly the undeveloped portion of the golf course area can be used for aesthetic/recreational purposes in the interim or possibly for a very long time in harmony with a stormwater facility.

If we look 5-10 years to the future, is it not likely that the traffic flow through the airport will be substantially increased?  That market alone will provide proportional support facilities for substantial growth in close proximity to the airport if land is available.  The other businesses at the airport (plus the addition of the Water and Sewer Department) may be anticipated to grow with the help of a strong economy, excellent living conditions and first class air support.

The Dodgertown Golf Course Property has a very limited current demand.  If we sell it as proposed, it will only recover 1.3% of the current budget for the next decade.  Considering the numerous and substantial uses that property might provide in the not-to-distant future, in my opinion it would be very shortsighted and unwise to dispose of the Dodgertown Golf Course property at a loss of nearly 1/3 of our current annual budget.  Let us be strong, not impatient and Keep Vero, Vero for the enduring future.

Best regards,

Vic DeMattia

6 comments

  1. Vic, have you learned nothing from the last months with this city council. Please do not confuse their decision making with common sense facts. The three City councilors will be voting again in the best interest of the people who got them elected (non city residents). So unless you want to move out of the City of Vero Beach, your voice will not be heard.

  2. High density development is not a good fit for our community. If the land is sold to the Palm Beach developers, precedent will be set. This will not bode well for the future development rights of our city.
    The sale should be delayed until further notice—until the highest and best use of the land is determined.
    As a concerned citizen regarding future development and home rule of law in our area, I urge you to attend the March 7th COVB meeting for agenda item: The Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council and Your Community. You might be surprised at the power Regional Planning Councils hold over locally elected officials, planning and zoning rights and comprehensive land use. Dodgertown is only the beginning.
    If we want to “keep Vero Vero,” we need to understand all of the forces at play.

    Phyllis Frey

  3. Will this proposed project have septic tanks or will a modern sewerage system be required that will include the necessary hookups to a sewerage disposal facility?

  4. Build it and they will come! We live in McAnsh Park, I can imagine what a strain that will put on our neighborhood roads. The speeding cars are a nightmare now.
    And we have to supply water to all these homes. Something that is going to be in short supply in the State.

  5. If its true that a past city council purchased the Dodgertown tract so that it would not be developed then what is the reason for selling this land at a $7,000,000 loss? What is wrong with open spaces ,dedicated to leisure .Do we want over crowding more cars, more congestion etc? I do not think we want or need the many problems that might occur if this low ball offer of $2,700,000. is accepted.Slow down and don’t be rushed into this sale.

  6. We have a proposal in the wings that our group has been working on……a full service ice skating facility , family entertainment center, with personal training for athletes, physical therapy, climbing wall, trampoline room. Proposed building will have a restaurant overlooking the ice, snack bar, party and meeting rooms…..we need the front parcel of the property (10.8 acres). We will donate back to the town approximately 2 acres to passive use….playground or Frisbee golf. Facility will be solar powered.

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