One result of Tuesday’s City Council meeting regarding the Three Corners properties is the realization we are not prepared to make a decision anytime soon. We are certainly not prepared to put forth a voter referendum yielding control of our public lands to the potential whims or hidden strategies of a City Council that changes every year. At this point, most people agree that keeping the Three Corners strictly as recreational public land with no means to fund it in perpetuity is the least desirable alternative. Andreas Duany’s DPZ Codesign has presented us with a number of scenarios for developing the properties that may or may not include a traditional hotel, residential housing, a boathouse, conference center, and other options.
One aspect of these scenarios that has never changed though – the emphasis on public access and recreational use of the waterfront. City Councilman, Rey Neville, asked at the meeting why we could not go ahead and open the waterfront so the public can begin making use of their land.
Public access to the waterfront on both properties – former Vero Electric site and current water treatment plant site – is a common theme with every scenario presented so far. It also fulfills the current land use requirements for which these properties were granted protection in the City Charter. Infrastructure costs could be partially offset by selling the remaining 1.3 acres of the postal annex property, which is not protected in the City Charter.
If we focused our efforts on developing the already-defined public waterfront areas, then we could take whatever time is necessary to consider each of the existing proposals as well as others that might emerge in the process. Then we could end up with a”standing ovation” plan we could all approve knowing the all-important public access is already decided.
Remember how Royal Palm Pointe came into being? When the old Barber Bridge was torn down, private businesses suddenly lost their primary source of traffic. The City then invested $6 million to create a park and fountain at the stub end along with an attractive divided roadway leading to it. Royal Palm Pointe was created. The City also ensured that the park and divided roadway would remain in perpetuity so the public would always have access. Businesses upgraded, luxury housing was built and the park continues to attract visitors. Royal Palm Pointe is now a destination, providing enjoyment to residents, profits to businesses and income for the City.
We are now faced with a similar situation, where abandoned properties offer the potential to create a development that could define Vero Beach for generations to come. It centers on public access to our beautiful Indian River Lagoon. Why not go ahead and develop the waterfront park now while deciding on a “standing ovation” scenario for the rest of Three Corners?