“If the residents of Vero Beach, and organizations such as the Vero Beach Civic Association and the Indian River Neighborhood Association are not willing to defend the Charter, then its protections will prove meaningless in the face of pressure from development interests.”
If Vero Beach City Council members Harry Howle and Val Zudans have their way, the River House in MacWilliam Park will no longer be available as a venue for weddings, receptions and other special events. Instead the building, nestled among majestic sea oaks, will be leased to a commercial enterprise – Orchid Island Brewery.
Despite City Charter protections against leasing or selling the land and the facility for commercial use without voter approval, Zudans and Howle are push the City to lease the Riverhouse to the brewery – Charter protections be damned. (Currently Orchid Island Brewery is located in the Portalis De Vero building on south Ocean Drive, and was the site of Zudans’ and Howle’s campaign victory party last November.)
In a recent column in the Press Journal, the newspaper’s community editor, Larry Reisman, urged the Council to develop a long-plan for the use of City park lands before turning them over to the Brewery, or to a number of clubs vying for space. In a Facebook comment posted today, Zudans dismissed the value of land use planning, likening it to Soviet-style centralized economic planning.
In a second Facebook comment posted today, Zudans asserted that as a result of his campaigning efforts last fall, he took the pulse of the community, and sees no need to develop consensus on a long-term plan for the City’s riverfront property located north and south of the Alma Lee Loy Bridge.
Like MacWilliam Park, the land east of Indian River Boulevard that is north and south of the bridge is also protected from sale or less for commercial use without voter approval.
Because Councilman Lange Sykes does not seem inclined or able to think for himself, he will likely follow Howle and Zudans wherever they lead. With Howle, Zudans and Sykes determined to run roughshod over the City Charter, concerned citizens will have to step up to challenge their move. If the residents of Vero Beach, and organizations such as the Vero Beach Civic Association and the Indian River Neighborhood Association are not willing to defend the Charter, then its protections will prove meaningless in the face of pressure from development interests.