Former mayor circulates petition to protect public park lands

Now a venue for weddings, receptions and other special events, the River House in MacWilliam Park may soon become the home of Orchid Island Brewery. Brewery owner Alden Bing has been in contact with City staff, exploring the possibility of using land leased by the Dog Park and other land around the boat basin for anticipated overflow parking.

Editor’s note: Richard Winger, a former mayor of Vero Beach, who served three terms on the City Council, is circulating a petition opposing the Council’s plans to lease the River House in MacWilliam Park to a brewery. 


Richard Winger

There is an important issue concerning our valuable and irreplaceable public parks in the City of Vero Beach.  Our parks are now under threat from the encroachment of commercial development. There is a proposal before city council to include a bar/brewery/restaurant to displace the River House community center at MacWilliam Park. Commercial developers are poised to submit plans for establishing a commercial business inside our parkland in violation of our city charter.  A complicit city council is willing to relinquish a portion of our park for this venture. If this dangerous precedent is set, all our parks are at risk by a Council that has made the determination that, “we have too many parks.”

We have to pay attention here and voice our concern. These City Council members were elected to represent the safety and welfare of the people, not the special interests of developers. The current Mayor told the Orchid Island Brewery at the May 15th meeting, that “if it doesn’t work out for you at the River House, you can put it at the Waddell Building.” They have made it clear by their actions that they not care about our dog park or protecting our parklands.  They do not care about the negative impacts on our quality of life, the safety of the families at the baseball field,  destruction of our property values or our legal right to quiet enjoyment when multi-millions can be made by developing the land.
Please read the attached petition and give serious thought to the implications, should we allow this proposal for a bar/brewery/restaurant to pass. We are not opposed to enterprise, but not in City of Vero Beach public parks. There are many commercial locations zoned for businesses. MacWilliam Park is directly adjacent to the homes of nearly 100 people and Beachland Elementary School.

It is only when we unite that our voices will be heard. We can halt the encroachment of commercial development in our parks and protect our neighborhoods by speaking up now. Please help us fill as many seats as possible at the city council meeting, 1053 20th Place. Call each council member at 772-978-4700 and let them know you are not happy about having a bar/brewery in MacWilliam Park or relinquishing future parkland in the City of Vero Beach to commercial development. Sign and submit the attached petition.

You can download the petition here:


  1. To Vero Beach City Council:

    DO NOT let this camel’s nose under our tent! It has $$ signs for eyes!

    Protect Vero Beach … don’t contribute to its demise!

    Dorothy Frances-Osowski

  2. I usually agree with ex-Mayor Winger on keep Vero Vero but I believe he is dead wrong on this issue. Vero has a long tradition of using our parks for the benefit of segments of our population. Riverside Theater, the museum, rowing club, dog park, Coast Guard Auxiliary post, Youth Sailing, The tennis complex, Boat Ramps, Seaside Grill, etc. Some of these currently serve alcohol and food and in many ways are concessions most contribute little to the city operating expenses. With the sale of the electric utility, we the tax payers of vero beach will be taxed more or we will see services cut back. Continuing to look for ways to bring in additional revenue by allowing new concessions in our parks just provides additional utilization of the parks and serves a segment of the populations. Seaside Grill is a wonderful addition to JC Park and is enjoyed by many, Riverside theater has weekend concerts and sells food and alcohol. Adding a concession is just continuing a long tradition and definitely is keeping Vero Vero.

  3. Would much rather have the city making money off of this than increasing taxes or cutting services. This is not something new. Have you ever been to the Seaside Grill or to Riverside Theatre weekend concerts.

  4. Cities do not have parks to make money. The people pay taxes so they can have parks. Imagine Manhattan without Central Park.
    People come to Vero Beach BECAUSE we have parks. People move here, buy homes and invest here BECAUSE we have parks. Tourists come here BECAUSE we have parks. The Chamber of Commerce draws people here BECAUSE we have parks. Our parks make an enormous monetary contribution to our city.
    Ctiy ordinance does not allow the serving of alcohol on our beaches or in our parks unless it is for a singular event under a TEMPORARY permit. A brewery is NOT a temporary concession. The city charter protects our parks from any permanent commercial enterprise selling alcohol 12 hours per day, 5 days per week.
    The brewery is a great idea—just NOT in our parks, near our school, near our Little League players, adjacent to the dog park, its patrons and pets. Traffic volume and speeds have already been identified as problematic on Indian River Drive East. MacWilliam park is already at full parking capacity with the ball field, dog park, boat & trailer traffic, the volunteer ambulance squad, the rowing club and power squadron included. Adding 100 patrons per day under the influence of alcohol near joggers, bikers, baby buggy moms, fishermen, picnickers and all recreational activities is a risk to safety.
    Remove the protection of our city charter and the door is open to developers who do not care about our recreational preferences, but are only concerned about converting our green spaces to their bottom line.

  5. I and my family moved to Vero Beach over 45 years ago. Why Vero? Because it was truly unique. We could have moved to anywhere in the world including the US. Vero, undiscovered in a growing state in the tropical sun, and attracting a notable number of like-minded who wished to be part of the special Vero lifestyle. Yes, some called the city “Zero Beach”, but that was an asset. It was managed by citizens who understood what the future of the city might become unless certain guidelines and regulations were put in place to keep this fabulous city a piece of paradise and UNIQUE.
    The attempts to privatize our city assets will in the long term leave the city a run of the mill “maybe”- destination. Once we take this road we shall quickly discover how great things are, as they are. If it takes some extra taxes to remain as Vero is, so be it! Compared with numerous other places in the world, we have and enjoy a bargain living in Indian River County. We have right now an extremely high standard of living. Let’s keep it that way and improve, not remove what we all treasure.

  6. Hi Keith

    I agree that we live in a little special piece of paradise here. However, it is that way because we do continue to improve it. The dog park, the rowing club, the humiston park upgrade, setting up the park and parking areas for businesses along the point when the old bridge was removed, the leasing of city park land to the musuem and to Riverside Theater all were great improvements and all were argued against. The humiston park improvements were strongly opposed. We have people who want the Sunset concerts, Farmers Market and Christmas parade stopped. I am surprised there is not a movement to remove the seaside Grill from JC park.

    Having a facility that serves food and drinks and gives back money to the city is a positive improvement. If you have every traveled in Europe, I am sure you have enjoyed the out door Brewery type resturants in the park settings. I am currently in Berlin and these are great when you are out for a walk or bike ride and want some refreshments as you enjoy the great outdoors. The park north of the bridge would be a great place for that and I am sure would have many patrons from the dog park and rowing club and people who walk or bike around the central beach area. It would enhance the area not detract from it. If it had dockage so people out on their boats or kayaks could stop by that would also be very nice.

    When the vision task force years ago recommended changing zoning so resturants could add more sidewalk and outdoor dining it was fought. Yet it has been a big success in enhancing the Oceandrive area as a destination for tourists and residents.

    Vero became the paradise it is because sensible changes were made and improvements implemented maximizing the utilizaion of our beautiful parks to the enjoyment of all of us.

    Stopping expanding the use of our public areas and the amenities available is a sure way to degrade the quality of life we have here not improve it.

  7. Its the process Al you seem to be missing ,City Charter ,voter referendum sounds like democracy scares you Al !

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