Can City Council lease the Marina without your approval?



Editor’s Note: Richard Winger served three terms as City Councilman and Mayor. 

Do you want the publicly-owned City Marina in private hands?

The short answer is no – the Marina is protected by our City Charter, which is basically the City’s “Constitution” and cannot be changed by a mere three votes on City Council. It must be approved by a vote of the electorate.

But it may happen anyway at next Tuesday’s City Council meeting at 3:00 p.m. If so, it will be a violation of our City Charter for the following reason:

The City Charter is granted by the State of Florida to authorize what it can and cannot do and is crucial to protecting you, Vero Beach Citizens, from overreach by City Councils or City Management. One area the Charter is clear about – protected lands. These are defined City properties and parks that cannot be sold off without a referendum. Neither can they be leased to a profit making business without voter approval. In 2011, City Council had to order a referendum to approve a lease of the power plant to FPL. Voters approved the lease on November 8, 2011. (This is one of the two referendums mistakenly referred to as a referendum to sell Vero Electric).

The same issue comes before City Council this coming Tuesday, November 20. As in 2011, any lease of Charter-protected property to a private company/person must be approved by you the citizens of Vero Beach.

Council’s rationale for leasing the Marina is that they cannot manage the facility successfully, given its less than adequate physical state. However, some proceeds from the sale of Vero Electric to FPL could – and should – be invested in the facility so it can continue to make a profit in years to come. Yes, it does make a profit. But that profit could be greatly increased and contribute more cash flow to the City, making up for the annual revenue lost by selling Vero Electric.

The Charter is clear. As citizens, we need to be sure we are paying attention and that we are focused on protecting our rights against infringement by any one. We must not forfeit our rights, and we must be sure what is done is good for us.




  1. The primarily challenges facing the Marina are two-fold: (a) failure of City leadership to provide a viable financial framework for the Marina after the decision was made to purchase the Lost Tree property (south dock, dry storage and so called, Waddell property) and (b) unenergetic, micro-managed marina leadership. I get the sense that the majority on the Council and a few City leaders believe there is no way a city can run an enterprise like the Marina well. This is refuted by how effectively Vero manages its water treatment and waste utility enterprises, and by the experience of numerous cities that run their own marina. Get leadership and the business model right, and it will happen and be profitable!

    The Marina’s financial importance to the community includes the dollars transient boaters spend at Vero businesses, which dwarf the financials of the Marina — cruisers love Vero City Marina, even In it’s current run down state. If a chamber of commerce tried to envision the ideal visitor to their community, it would be one who quietly comes into the community, does not have a car that requires parking, spends many times what they outlay for lodging (e.g., in this case, mooring) and often decides to buy a home here when their cruising days are behind them. We cannot expect a commercial enterprise to correctly balance their own bottom line and the City’s broader interest in the Marina.

    Few of us want big development at the Marina, in particular a destination restaurant or a larger dry storage facility on this already crowded property or McWilliams Park. But modest increase in slip and mooring ball capacity are important so we can better serve our important transient yacht guests in the peak season and give the Marina just a bit more scale and profitability.

  2. My question is: If the council decides to go ahead and violate the city charter at the next council meeting, is there an immediate way (as in directly at the council meeting itself), to stop them, or invalidate their vote on the spot with a citizens vote? Or will this end up in court?

  3. Milt – Not trying to give you a hard time, but need to ask this question. I’m pretty sure without actually knowing, that there is a procedure for handling this situation. Have you ever heard of a process whereby the citizens are legally allowed to overturn a city council vote on the spot, or possibly through a referendum? When this kind of behavior by elected officials starts happening, it becomes the time to find out about what I’m asking, in case it needs to be used, and to set an example for future council members that might want to decide to misbehave.

  4. The Vero City Council must allow a referendum on this issue;the charter calls for this, and must be adhered to.

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