Time To Pass the Comprehensive Plan

COMMENTARY

RICHARD WINGER/VERO BEACH CITY COUNCILMAN

Richard Winger

The conspiracy theorists are at it again, and this time they were joined by Vero Beach’s Mayor Moss. The occasion was a special call City Council meeting to address the updated Comprehensive Land Use Plan (Comp Plan). If you were to believe these individuals, the Plan is really a hidden plot to destroy all that we hold special in our City.

All local governments in Florida are required to have Comprehensive Land Use Plans. And they must be updated, and sent to the State for review. This update is what Staff and the Planning and Zoning Board have worked on intensively for over a year, A draft is ready for Council to modify or approve and transmit to the State for their review. The transmittal to the State is years overdue, yet a 3 vote majority voted to postpone it even further.

The conspiracy theorists maintain that outside influences have written the Plan, and there will be increased heights and densities. Wrong. There are no changes in heights or densities.

The accusations became so absurd, that at a recent Council meeting the City Manager had to assure Council there was no conspiracy in the updated Comp Plan and the City “would not become part of Georgia.”

The facts here are very clear. These Land Use Plans represent Home Rule in action. And this update was guided by the 2005 Vision Plan for our City’s future, which preserves the quality of life we value.

Last winter, a Council majority wished to re-visit the Vision Plan. Three taxpayer funded meetings were held and nothing came about as a result of those meetings. A lot of talking the talk.

Our Comprehensive Land Use Plan goes back to 1992. This will be the first update since that time. It is about goals to preserve our quality of life, and the policies and objectives to achieve those goals. There are no mandates or laws or regulations. Transmitting it to the State for their review is only the first step in the process which culminates when Council formally adopts the update. There are many opportunities to make changes before the adoption.

Meanwhile, we have problems awaiting solution, and since they involve land uses we cannot act until the plan is formally adopted: the Parking issue on Ocean, The Lagoon pollution, What to do with the Power Plant Land, How to Handle the Twin Pairs, How to Support our main land Neighborhoods.

Council, by defaulting on its responsibility to send a first draft of the Comprehensive Plan to the State, is now blocking itself in use of Home Rule for your benefit. The State won’t let us use the land that is annexed, won’t let us move forward on the Cultural Arts Village, and on and on. Simply put, we are breaking the state law. We are not walking the walk. But there certainly is a lot of talking the talk.

What needs to happen on September 20th is what councilman Tony Young demanded, and that is this City Council needs to make whatever amendments to the draft Comprehensive Plan, have a majority vote on Council, and stop just talking, which is something during extra long meetings this Council is expert at. This Council should start effectively governing. What this Council needs to do is pass this first draft of the Comprehensive Plan on to the State and walk the walk. That is what you pay us for.

It is time to walk the talk.

5 comments

  1. We hope cool, calm & collected Dick Winger and Tony Young will prevail – along with City Manager & staff. This crazy stuff has to stop – NOW!

  2. Mr Winger is a gentleman who I doubt ever resorted to name calling. As to weather Mr Winger ever read 400 pages of the plan is a question that should be asked of all council members.

  3. WHEN THE FACTS SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES

    FACTS:

    The Comprehensive Land Use 2035 POLICY Plan consists of 568 POLICIES which are LAWS as confirmed by our city attorney that WILL control how and where we live, build and develop for the next 18 years.

    The Comp Plan was authored in part by urban planner Dana Little with the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council who was hired to create a redevelopment plan of Old Downtown. In the “Arts in Depth” video he states, “My focus was on MIXED USE DEVELOPMENT to achieve MAXIMUM DENSITY inside a smaller footprint. Using a Blueprint Overlay we have MODIFIED LOCAL CODES and CHANGED LAND USES TO MANDATE MIXED USED ZONING POLICIES WITH INCREASES IN POPULATION DENSITY AND INTENSITY FOR THE BENEFIT OF DEVELOPERS.”

    In Chapter 2, Mr. Little’s POLICIES are repeated throughout the city, MANDATING MIXED USE DEVELOPMENT in Old Downtown, Miracle Mile, Royal Palm Point, Ocean Drive, Cardinal Drive, Beachland Boulevard, U.S. 1, our city marina and the airport. First priority (Pt. 13.2) is to “INCREASE POPULATION DENSITY and INTENSITY into compact and compressed MIXED USE DEVELOPMENT.

    MIXED USE ZONING is the designation for medium to LARGE scale development COMBINING commercial, retail, restaurants, entertainment, institutional, cultural and industrial development on the GROUND FLOOR with compact, compressed HIGH DENSITY residences built above.

    Mr. McGarry, head of P&D said, “It wasn’t until he got a little money ($30,000) to hire a consultant (Nilsa Zacharias from Jupiter) that the Comp Plan could be “completely overhauled. I put some POLICIES in there, telling them what to look at in the study that was done by the TCRPC.” He said, “the city charter (which controls building heights) is ‘problematic’, an obstacle.”

    When our city manager was asked why the TCRPC was hired to redevelop our city he answered, “Because they can get the grants.” The TCRPC’s SFTOD grant program offers cities $860K in exchange for giving the TCRPC authority over a city’s zoning codes.

    When politicians, bureaucrats, planners, developers and money talk—no one should listen.

  4. First of all, let me correct Councilman Winger. There ARE changes to the zoning codes in the new Comprehensive Land Use Plan as Mr. McGarry pointed out to me – Mixed Use designation IS increased to a potential of 21 units per acre. Increasing the density and intensity of the city population through Mixed Use development is the focal point of this plan.

    Planning consultants and bureaucrats encourage New Urbanism development because they don’t have to PAY for it. Combining retail, commercial, or office space along with residential units is not inexpensive. You need more, smaller residential units above the public space in order to subsidize it. For Vero, that means eventually raising the building heights to accommodate more units.

    The bureaucrats have come up with a way to help pay for the development – taxpayer subsidized incentives to private builders/developers. They also play fast and loose with the building codes so more square footage can be packed onto the property by reducing set back requirements.

    The plan calls for financial incentives and code flexibility in order to encourage more Mixed Use development. These types of incentive programs are ripe for crony corporatism at best and outright fraud at their worst.

    As a retired market researcher, I learned long ago ‘build it they will come’ only happens in movies. Mixed Use is being developed in large urban areas – you need dense population to start because the trend in metro living isn’t selling. So what’s the demand for Mixed Use housing here? Are folks clambering to live above a restaurant open until 10pm?

    The Arts Village, as a special project developed with waivers or carved out within the plan, is one thing. Pushing increased density through Mixed Use zoning makes no sense for the entire city from the beach to the county line.

    One also has to wonder if Councilman Winger actually read all 400 pages of the CLUP and what’s his rush? His inaccuracies, obfuscation, name calling and need to rush are far more ‘conspiratorial’ than a group of concerned citizens asking questions and pointing out facts.

  5. Sign the Bill before you know what’s in it!

    With all due respect, Councilman Winger calling taxpayers, and the current Mayor Moss, conspiratorial is unprecedented!

    Concerned citizens are truth seekers and entitled to understand the 400-page Comprehensive Land Use 2035 Policy Plan “total overhaul” and how it will change their dreams and the character of Vero Beach.

    Councilman Winger claims he has been working on the Comp Plan “staff and Planning Board have worked intensively for over one year.” The obvious question is “why were taxpayers excluded?” Yet Councilman Winger denies “increased heights and densities.” Maybe he forgot to read the chart in Section 2-5 labeled “maximum densities and intensities” with old numbers crossed out and replaced by new increased regulations?

    The “outside influence” is the Treasure Coast Regional Planning that played a hand in the Comp Plan “overhaul” – this is not Home Rule!

    In June Councilman Sykes suggested workshops due to Mayor Moss’s objection to the Comp Plan as a “Trojan Horse” and a total departure from Vero’s 1992 City Charter promising low density and quality of life!

    Important to compare Councilman Winger’s view “before he was elected” – expressing his passionate dedication to “Keeping Vero Vero.”

    His frustration appears be that “the state won’t let us use the land that is annexed … to move forward on the Cultural Arts Village.” The Arts Village deserves a special hearing to achieve their goal to create more “green space” – quite opposite to his high density plan?

    Taxpayers elect our representatives to be our voice and, frankly, it is extremely far-fetched to imagine anyone in Vero Beach who would vote for higher density!

    Please attend the Special City Council Meeting on September 20 at 9AM to put in a word for our paradise! Not Ft Lauderdale!

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