The controversial plan to build a new boat storage building at the City Marina will now go to the voters on Election Day in November. While no one questions the need for City Council to invest money into our long-neglected Vero Beach City Marina, citizen unrest was sparked by Council support for investing in a new boat storage facility several times the size of the current building, rather than more urgent update of existing docks and other infrastructure.
When the new boat storage building was proposed earlier this year, residents living near the Marina were the first to object. But concern then spread throughout the community. A citizen group was formed, the Vero Beach Preservation Alliance, with its primary focus to seek voter approval to protect the Marina by including it in the City Charter. The group circulated a petition to put the issue on November’s city election ballot as a referendum. For that to happen, the VBPA needed to collect signatures equal to ten percent of the City’s registered voters.
The fact they accomplished that with enough extra to ensure the ten percent level would be achieved, was indicative of broad-based public sentiment against City Council’s plans to invest first in this huge boat storage building.
Protection under the City Charter in this case means, according to the proposed wording of the referendum question, that adding any future structures great than 500 square feet, or increasing existing structures more than 20% would require voter approval.
This is not the only referendum issue come November. The future of waterfront property at the “Big Blue” abandoned electric plant is also on the ballot. Voters are being asked to decide whether a proposed largely commercial development should be approved by voters. It is similar in that both issues involve the right of voters to protect against development they see as counter to the quality of life so important to citizens.
In recent years prior City Councils have tried to sell off or give up control of City assets. That resulted in a 2014 referendum that protected certain City-owned properties from development without voter approval. Among the properties listed was what has become known as the Three Corners. Voters overwhelmingly approved City Charter protection.
This latest referendum issue would add the South City Marina/dry storage property to that list. So, this November’s election ballot will have two referenda, one to remove City Charter protection from Three Corners, the other to grant City Charter protection to the entire Marina property.