On February 2, 2020, a letter to the editor in this publication posed that very question – will “commercial creep” become the rule? The question centers on a quarter acre property at the corner of A-1-A and Azalea Lane. The entire 700 block, from A-1-A east to Eagle Drive, is currently residential and has always been so. But last year a developer wanted to purchase the property and create a bank parking lot. To do that would require a change in the Comprehensive Plan’s future land use map (FLUM). If approved, it would also set a precedent leaving other beachside residential neighborhoods near commercial businesses vulnerable to commercial creep.
Every resident on that block voiced their opposition because of the implications in terms of their neighborhood’s quiet enjoyment and the negative effect on home values. The letter to the editor was written by several residents as “Concerned citizens of Azalea.” In it, they wrote, “How can one applicant be allowed to change the land use on a quiet, fully residential street, when there is so much opposition?
This controversy began in July , when the property owner’s application was presented to the Vero Beach Planning and Zoning Committee. After hearing from both sides, the Committee unanimously denied the application for future land use change.
However, when the matter was brought before City Council on September 17, the Zudans-led majority voted to approve the proposed land use change in spite of P&Z’s recommendation against it. A petition was subsequently filed against the City to prevent it from moving forward with the FLUM amendment.
At the last Planning and Zoning Committee meeting on October 15, Committee member Honey Minuse asked if City Attorney John Turner had anything new to report on the issue. He replied that the matter had been handled in court just the day before. Circuit Court Judge Janet Croom denied the change approved by City Council.
This does not end the matter, however. The developer can reapply and according to Turner, “It may be coming back to you, may be going directly to City Council.”
If it goes before City Council again, it will be decided by a newly seated Council. The implications are far reaching and go to the heart of Vero’s quality of life image as a quiet, residential community. What may seem a relatively minor change can have far-reaching effects. The thirteen-story Village Spires condominium is a monument to what could have happened on our beachfront had City Council “gatekeepers” not prevented it.