A vote is scheduled at today’s City Council on whether to sell the former Dodgertown golf course property to the County, preserving the open space until a thoughtful decision can be made about its future, or sell to a Lakeland home developer who plan to build a shopping/office/hotel complex.
Imagine, our own county government has to step in to prevent the current Vero Beach City Council from making a decision clearly not in the best interests of its constituents!
The public response is totally one-sided against selling to the developer (except for the island weekly), yet City Council persists. Councilman Zudans wrote a guest editorial this past week in the Press Journal telling the public he represents, that they should be “dispassionate” about the future of this property and agree to sell strictly on his economics. That arrogance flies in the face of public sentiment, the public he is supposed to represent.
Celebrating Vero Beach’s Centennial is all about being “passionate” about the past and preserving it for the future, whether keeping a downtown post office that draws people to the center of our town, maintaining the integrity of MacWilliam Park or the symbolism and greenspace afforded by the former Dodgertown golf course.
Over-development ruined many once charming towns and has threatened ours as well. Recent City Councils have been dispassionate about trying to sell or lease out Crestlawn Cemetery, which was passed down to us as a sacred trust by the people now resting there. That effort failed after a public outcry and it was added to the properties protected by our City Charter.
One developer found a loophole in the City’s building height ordinance and gave us the Spires, which is the only building in Vero Beach more than three stories tall. Why? Because regulations were tightened after that by a City Council passionate about preserving Vero’s small town feel.
The riverfront properties currently occupied by the power plant and water treatment facilities are also protected by the City Charter, which means they cannot be sold to developers without voter approval. But can they? Remember the Spires.
Developers are passionate about developing. There is nothing wrong with that. We all live in homes and offices resulting from the efforts of developers. But aside from pride in what they develop, their primary motivation is to make money. We all want to make money, but draw the line when our gain hurts our neighbors and friends.
This brings us to the case in point. Most people in Vero see the Dodgertown golf course as more than a vacant lot. True, it is a neglected property, but that doesn’t mean it is therefore ripe for commercial development. I drive a 12-year old car and have been offered more than it is worth, but I love that car. Yes, I could buy a new one, but I won’t. Why? Because I am passionate about it.
You cannot be dispassionate about the Dodgertown golf course at the same time you are passionate about preserving the quality of life that we call Vero Beach. If all this upsets you, then you should show up for tomorrow’s City Council meeting at 3:00 p.m. and voice your opinion.