Editor’s note: Richard Winger is a former Mayor and three-term Vero Beach City Councilman.
Just when we think this City Council can get no worse, it does, descending to new lows. Council lasted from 3:00 p.m. Tuesday, October 2nd until 11:00 p.m. curfew. Using established strategy, Council put off the most important item, a fair Council election, until everyone had gone home.
Led by Mrs. Moss’s presentation, Council decided, by an enthusiastic 4:1 vote, not to allow all candidates on the ballot. Colonel Young oppposed the action. This vote rejected the City’s own Canvassing Board recommendation and Ordinance, which came to the conclusion that the City was in error by removing two candidates over paperwork flaws. Yet Council retained another candidate on the ballot who also had paperwork flaws, but who is aligned with a sitting member. Put another way, you will not be allowed to vote for duly qualified people who promise to save our City from its descent into a “northern Fort Lauderdale.”
Mayor Howell indicated it was up to the Florida Judicial system to correct the City errors. We hope he gets his wish!
From 3:20 to 7:20 Council attempted to make the sale of the 35 acre Dodgertown golf course land to Hulbert Homes, instead of doing what our first-lady, Alma Lee Loy, recommends, which is to keep the green space. They also rejected the next best option, selling to the County. Putting the Dodgertown and City parcels together would further the County’s negotiation with Major League Baseball to make Vero Beach the nerve center for baseball promotion.
Hulbert Homes’ offer has more flaws than I can write here. These include wanting to provide Dodgertown with event parking space limited to 500 cars, when 2,000 are needed, having provided no letter of credit or other proof of ability to pay and finance development, not having updated their written offer from $2.1 to $2.435 million, only having a sketchy development plan, and worse providing no provision to protect the City from a quick spin to another entity. Who knows what they, or a successor, will build because that has not been made clear!
Why is a third hotel in the area needed, when two are under construction? Why are more stores needed with the Indian River Mall’s situation? What happens to the extra traffic this development would create? What are the real chances of a project failing and stranding the City with a white elephant? Oh, the City would get $33,000 in annual taxes, and save $13,000 in upkeep if a development is successful. That is a pittance against the negatives. We can never get precious green space back!
Nine people, some reading from what sounded like scripts written for them, were pro sale to Hulbert Homes. 20 citizens rose to vote for green space, or the County and baseball. In the end, Mr. Sykes asked for more time to make a decision. The vote ended 3:2 with Mayor Howell and Councilman Zudans voting no to more time and apparently wanting to sell to the developer immediately. Bottom line, we will again need your help to protect against this Council from selling your green space to developers and bringing more of Fort Lauderdale here.
From 7:30 PM to until almost 10:00 PM Council discussed parking meters (or devices) in the Ocean and Cardinal area, with Councilman Zudan’s at 8:07 saying he didn’t care if they were unpopular. He also feels a short free van ride to the sometimes crowded South Beach Park or Conn Beach/JC Park at a cost in excess of $200, 000 would work. Really? When it already failed once!
Citizens again rose in unison to say the real solution is more parking, especially for hotel employees. Nobody wants to drive paying visitors off with hard to use pay devices. Mr. Sykes mentioned the Stuart free parking license reading system, where, if you move, your time is still your time. That system, coupled with garage space, fixes the problem.
With the electric sale, the City has the money to build a 150 place garage at Humiston. And a citizen has come forward, and been turned down, on privately building a similar garage on land he owns. It is true nobody would use a garage if they can just move their car, as they now can, or just erase the chalk mark. The Stuart system fixes that, by consistently fining offenders, in escalating amounts that would make parking in a garage, even a pay one, far cheaper. A garage and license plate reading system (with the first time free) together fix the parking problem and Keep Vero Vero!
So on parking, nothing to fix it move forward, except the three hour signs now change back to two hours.
That’s it for now folks, if it weren’t so depressing you could watch the rerun of this City Council a few hours at a time on www.covb.org as a comedy series. Perhaps, you should review it as a comedy of errors that lead to the downfall of our special paradise, our Road to Perdition!