“We have heard what various people are against, but we haven’t heard very much about what you are for. If you don’t like what your Staff and your Zoning Board has prepared, where is your plan? Show us your plan.” – Carter Taylor
“And there is no merit to any statement that the Comp Plan provides for increased heights and densities throughout our city. Taking sentences out of context, giving them new meanings to justify some unknown theory is not acceptable.” – Honey Minuse
“In my opinion, opening the meeting with a negative statement was telling everyone in the audience who had come to support or speak on the Comp Plan, ‘Don’t even bother. I’ve already made up my mind, and I’m not going to listen to you. So, go ahead and talk, but it makes no difference to me.’ And that, to me, should not have occurred at any City Council meeting.” – Linda Hillman
Vero Beach is many years overdue in revisiting its 22-year-old Comp Plan. Now, after more than a year of work by City staff and the Planning and Zoning Board, the City finally has a draft of a revised comprehensive land use plan ready to be submitted to the state. All that is needed now is for the City Council to amend the plan as it sees fit, and then forward it to the state.
That process has been slowed, if not stymied, by Mayor Laura Moss, who has publicly stated that she sees the plan as “a Trojan Horse,” “a death warrant on the city as we know it,” and “a threat to home rule.”
Moss’ attacks on the Comp Plan echo objections raised by local activist Phyllis Frey. (Moss and Frey live in the same six-story building on the barrier island, a structure that would not be allowed under todays’ building regulations.)
Though perhaps well-intentioned, Frey’s criticisms of the plan are rooted in fear, not in any positive vision for managing and accommodating inevitable growth. Worse, Frey’s objections are conspiratorial, fantastical, devoid of reason and fact, and are, quite simply, disconnected from reality. These unfounded concerns would be harmless, had they not been embraced and championed by Moss.
Councilmen Richard Winger and Tony Young have, in the strongest terms, expressed support for the work done by the Planning and Zoning Board. Both have said the time has come to approve the plan.
Stressing that the plan does not call for higher densities or intensities of land use, Young said this week, “I am against paralysis by analysis.” And no one, Young added, should doubt his commitment to “keeping Vero Vero.”
In a recently published column Winger wrote, “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.”
“It is time to approve the Comp Plan,” Winger urged.
In requesting that a vote on the proposed revised Comp Plan be place on the next City Council agenda, Winger wrote the following to City Clerk Tammy Bursick, “I feel a responsibility to get this done in my term and really I cannot see why anyone could not sit down with staff for a couple hours this coming week and come to agreement. Our job is to do the people’s business.”
For their part, Councilmen Harry Howle and Lange Sykes clearly want to avoid the appearance of having embraced Moss’ and Fry’s irrationality. At the same time, they are being careful not to strain their alliance with Moss on other issues. No doubt, Howle and Sykes would both approve the Comp Plan with only minor revisions, were not Moss standing in the way.
At Tuesday’s special call meeting, Moss received some sharp pushback for criticism she has made of the plan and of those who worked to develop it.
Speaking on behalf of the Indian River Neighborhood Association, Carter Taylor delivered these remarks:
“This term that we keep hearing, that this Comp Plan is a Trojan Horse, is, I think, terminology that should be withdrawn.
“Allegations have been made that the plan was the work of the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council, an allegation that was later withdrawn with apology.
“We have heard that this comprenensive plan is ultimately a top-down portion of United National Agenda 21, and that Vero Beach is somehow a cog in the wheel of One World Government. I think those things are silly, and this use of the term “Trojan Horse” is irresponsible. It insults the work of the Staff of the City and the Planning and Zoning Board, and inpugnes their professional integrity, and makes, frankly, wild accusations as to their motives.
“Are we to believe that Mr. McGarry, who has served the City faithfully all these years, is really working for the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council or for One World Government? I think that’s silly. Mrs. Minuse and her Board are actually in cahoots with the United National? It’s ridiculous, but this is the underpinning of these claims.
“I think we should take the rhetoric down a bit and address the facts, because with each additional accusation, one accusation is surpassed by another accusation, and the discourse has become so inflated that is bears no resemblance to what we see going on down here on the ground.
“We have heard that Vero Beach is loosing its home rule, that we’ve got to ‘save’ Vero Beach. The IRNA has been fighting for home rule since the beginning, and frequently we were the only ones at the County Commission arguing for the regulation of short term rentals. The City, fortunately, has regulation of those. Where were these activists when that was going on? And, where were the activists when this Comp Plan was going through the zoning board?
“We need leadership on this matter. It is not sufficient simply to say what you are against when you are in a leadership position…It is very easy to tear down the work of other people. This body has an affirmative obligation to produce a comprehensive plan. You have to build a comprehensive plan that consists of ideas. We have heard what various people are against, but we haven’t heard very much about what you are for. If you don’t like what your Staff and your Zoning Board has prepared, where is your plan? Show us your plan. It is Council’s responsibility.”
Honey Minuse, Chair of the Planning Zoning Board, followed Taylor to the podium. Minuse stressed that the work of the Board was conducted over more than a year in open meetings noticed to the public.
She added: “Where we are right now is very unfortunate for our people and for our city. We have neighborhoods desperate for your protection. The Cultural Arts Village cannot start with their plans, and the new golf center cannot complete their 18-hole putting course, all because they need land use designations. And the process for that cannot even begin until the Comp Plan update is adopted by you.
“And there is something else I must add. It is very disturbing to hear the work of P&Z trivialized to the sum of the hours and minutes of those public meetings. Doing that is totally dismissive of our responsibility to come prepared to our meetings. I can assure you I spent hours and hours of study before meetings, and I know I am not alone. This study was necessary so we could have solid discussions on every draft of every element. And it was to fulfill our responsibility to reflect the City’s values and the City’s vision.
“There are certain misstatements being cast around. I am going to provide some facts here…There is a persistent accusation that the Regional Planning Council or one of their planners or some member of their staff wrote our update. Obviously, if you watched our meetings you are going to know that this is not true. This draft is clearly our product.
“And there is no merit to any statement that the Comp Plan provides for increased heights and densities throughout our city. Taking sentences out of context, giving them new meanings to justify some unknown theory is not acceptable.
“There are also further allegations that the intergovernmental coordination element threatens our home rule. Absolutely untrue. The City coordinates where there are issues of mutual concern, or when there are services we need but we don’t provide them directly. Think about some of them. We coordinate with the School Board. We coordinate with Emergency Management Services, which includes fire protection. We coordinate with Solid Waste, Recycling and Landfill. We don’t have our own landfill. We coordinate that. We also coordinate with the Department of Transportation, the Metropolitan Planning Organization for our local, state and Federal roads that are in our city. We coordinate with the Health Department, sewage disposal, Mesquite Control.
“Buy coordinating and communicating we are not duplicating services or creating more levels of government. We are providing for efficient government with fiscal responsibility. And there are no regional bureaucrats usurping our home rule.
Referring to Moss’ opening remarks, which went on for some 15 minutes, Planning and Zoning Board Co-Chair Linda Hillman, said, “In my opinion, opening the meeting with a negative statement was telling everyone in the audience who had come to support or speak on the Comp Plan, ‘Don’t even bother. I’ve already made up my mind, and I’m not going to listen to you. So, go ahead and talk, but it makes no difference to me.’ And that, to me, should not have occurred at any City Council meeting.”
Former Councilman and current member of the Planning and Zoning Board, Ken Daige, dismissed the assertion that the Comp Plan will allow for higher density development. He pointed out that increases in height limitations and density levels cannot be changed by the Council without first holding a referendum of voters of Vero Beach. “Everything in the proposed Comp Plan has been discussed on multiple levels with multiple citizen participation through multiple workshops since 2005,” Daige added, as he urged adoption of the plan.
Unwilling to move forward with the Comp Plan with Moss in such adamant objection to it, Sykes and Howle instead proposed a “cooling off period.” They appointed Moss a committee of one to work with City Staff to revise the plan to her liking. Now that Moss has been authorized to act on behalf of the Council as a committee of one, it raises the question of whether her meetings with Staff on the subject of the Comp Plan should be noticed and be open to the public.
Frey saw the delay as “total victory.” In an email addressed to “Friends, Patriots and Defenders of Freedom,” she wrote, “The proposed Comprehensive Land Use 2035 POLICY Plan document is a shameful example of how the enemies of freedom work furtively and Progressively to embed their agenda in the very documents that seek to control every aspect our lives, beginning with land use. The loss of our rights came ‘this close’ to being lost.” (Below is the full text of Frey’s celebratory email.)
Moss’ concerns about preserving home rule for Vero Beach are more than ironic, given that she, along with Howle and Sykes, were elected after receiving the vast majority of their financial support from outside interests, namely Indian River Shores residents and Florida Power & Light.
Friends, Patriots and Defenders of Freedom,
The victory achieved at the city council meeting in Vero Beach yesterday was clearly of your making. It was made possible ONLY because you were there. I saw such valor in your strong support as the task of unraveling the mess known as the Comprehensive Land Use 2035 POLICY Plan unfolded.
First, a little history. As some of you may know, this epic battle began in the City Hall chambers ironically on June 6, 2017, the 73rd anniversary of D-Day, the invasion of Normandy. I stepped up to the podium and pre-empted Tim McGarry’s presentation to Council which would have precipitated the approval for the final draft of the document for transmittal to Tallahassee had I not intervened.
But this is not a heroic tale. It is one of Divine intervention. It was only by happenstance that the document surfaced to me during my regular monitoring of city council meetings either in person or live streaming. All of my red flags flashed and alarm bell warnings sounded as I came to the realization that this 400-page tome would not only be the death of Vero Beach as we know it but would end Home Rule of Law.
Those of you who remember our united struggle to stop Seven 50 in 2012 would recognize the pernicious language in the proposed Comp Plan document as did I. I summoned our core group who immediately answered the call to attention and began spreading the word to our larger group. I shared my analysis and sent out the alert. As both Irma and the meeting date of September 20th approached, you focused on the importance of this mission and took action. Thanks to our combined efforts, we diverted the perfect storm, protected our community and restored home rule.
The proposed Comprehensive Land Use 2035 POLICY Plan document is a shameful example of how the enemies of freedom work furtively and Progressively to embed their agenda in the very documents that seek to control every aspect our lives, beginning with land use. The loss of our rights came “this close” to being lost.
No matter how toothsome and laborious this process has been, I am grateful for its emergence. It is a valuable lesson on how quickly and quietly freedom can be taken away. We know that the threat is always upon us, top down, bottom up. While those of you who have fought so bravely on the national level, I have been keeping my focus on the local front. Together we will continue to stamp out the forest fires and assaults wherever they surface.
It is when the hearts of patriots beat as one that all things are possible. It was in the spirit of our founders that we fought the good fight yesterday and extracted the reins from the hands of bureaucrats and returned them to those of our elected officials. How can I thank you enough?
I give thanks today to our Creator for the beautiful blessing of yesterday. Imagine how I felt as each one of you arrived. The first person I saw as I approached the front door was Betsy Dibenedetto sporting a sign with a beautiful message denouncing the Comp Plan. I turned around and saw Linda Teetz and troupe arriving. As I went inside the patriots kept coming, many familiar faces and new ones too. How exciting! Many of you were there who fought Seven 50. Everyone recognized the need to stand up and speak out. Ellen Gower, praise be, you walked straight out of cataract surgery and into city hall. Good heavens! Others took the time from life’s daily demands and sat shoulder to shoulder. The doors were flung wide with those who kept arriving and took their places, firmly on our side.
We filled half that chamber with resolve. And THAT my friends made ALL the difference. Thanks be too, to those who worked diligently behind the lines garnering attendance through emails, phone calls and letters to the Press Journal. Lamarre, Ellen, Susan, Stephanie, Melinda, Dorothy, Sharon, all who were All Aboard with nixing the train nightmare and regionalism pitched in. A special thanks to Rose and all members in the Republican Alliance for American Greatness. And let’s not forget those who came to learn from this experience, those who came to become informed in order to make an educated choice in the future of our community. If your name is not on this written page, please know that you are on my personal list and very much a priority.
When elected officials are at the crux of a decision, they need to hear from the public to quantify their position. Ours was the voice of reason. Ours was the voice for freedom. Ours was the compilation of facts. And they listened.
Power has been restored, and I don’t mean the lightbulbs in your lamps at home. Yes, that too, but we returned the bright light of truth to our council and from that all things became possible. Even so, this is not the time to turn our backs on the process. You can be assured that I will be in touch with them and you, monitoring progress. The bureaucrats are still in the loop and they bear watching. There will be future hearings. We may be called upon once again to unite for the final discussion for a new draft approval. I will keep you updated.
For now please know how very grateful I am for your friendship, your support and your undying dedication to liberty. Our little town and our way of life may not amount to a hill of beans to those who encroach upon us, but I rest well knowing that whenever the threat is upon us, We the People heed the call.
To each and every one of you who were there, to each and every one of you on my mailing list and the expanded list of the group, please accept my eternal gratitude for your good works.
My utmost regards,