In explaining to the Council why he believes a brewery would have a “symbiotic” relationship with current activities in MacWilliam Park, including youth baseball, Bing said, “Beer and baseball has had a long, storied history.”
Orchid Island Brewery, which is currently located in the Portales De Vero building on south Ocean Drive, is looking to move to the River House in MacWilliam Park. Despite assurances that crowds drawn by the brewery would not cause congestion, noise and parking issues, public records reveal that company owner Alden Bing has been in contact with City officials exploring options for handling “overflow parking.”
In an email sent to Public Works Director Monty Falls today, City staffer David Gray wrote, “Alden Bing came to see me around May 17 seeking boundary information on MacWilliam Boat Basin and the Power Squadron lease. He also had questions about the Dog Park lease and the ability to use some of their lease area for parking and about the potential to use the dirt trailer parking area for his overflow parking.”
Explaining to the Council at its May 15 meeting why he believes a brewery would have a “symbiotic” relationship with current activities in MacWilliam Park, including youth baseball, Bing said, “Beer and baseball has had a long, storied history.”
“We’re not talking about Dodgertown and beer. We’re talking about Little League baseball and beer,” Councilman Young countered.
Councilwoman Laura Moss added, “I agree with Councilman Young. In addition, I have concerns about noise and parking.”
Councilman Val Zudans argued that because the City leases a building to the Seaside Grill in Jaycee Park it should be willing to do the same for Orchid Island Brewery in MacWilliam Park. Young countered, “To say a brewery in MacWilliam Park is the equivalent of a concession at Jaycee Beach is illogical.”
The building occupied by the Seaside Grill, once the Sea Burger, has been under lease for more than 50 years, long before the public approved Charter provisions protecting MacWilliam Park.
During public comment, Vero Beach resident John Wester said, “If you are equating the Seaside Grill with a brewery, that’s like equating McDonalds to the Schlitz brewery.”
Wester also raised concerns about nightly live music being played in the park north of the Barber Bridge. “The residents at the Vero Towers are going to be upset about this. Who wants a rock ‘n’ roll band at your back door?,” he said.
Former City Councilman Ken Daige urged the Council to consider the likely negative impact on the surrounding residential areas. He also raised concerns about turning public lands over for private use.
Several other members of the public, including Deborah Daige, Vickie Gould and Linda Hillman, spoke against allowing a commercial business to occupy the River House.
Provisions in the City Charter are intended to prevent the sale or lease of City lands and facilities such as the River House for commercial use without voter approval.
City Attorney Wayne Coment said, “Before you go too far, remember this property is under a Charter provision that says you can’t lease it unless it is for a public or civic purpose that also serves a recreational or artistic purpose. We do have a provision under Parks and Recreation to allow for concession licenses. That is the direction I would try to steer you, unless you want to do a referendum to allow it to be leased.”
“A concession would be 20 years, or whatever time he (Bing) needs,” said City Manager Jim O’Connor. Though Coment earlier tried to direct the conversation from discussion of a lease to a concession license, O’Connor continued to refer to leasing the property. He even suggested the brewery would need to enlarge the footprint of the existing River House building.
Bing did make clear he is looking to occupy the River House “long term.”
Charter provisions aside, Council members Val Zudans, Harry Howle and Lange Sykes voted to direct City Staff to find a way to make it possible for the brewery to legally relocate to MacWilliam Park.