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Three key issues on Tuesday’s Indian River County ballot? A Vero Beach trifecta | Opinion

NewsThree key issues on Tuesday's Indian River County ballot? A Vero Beach trifecta | Opinion

What are the big races in Tuesday’s election?

Given the politically charged environment, this year’s races for governor, U.S. Senate and the U.S. and Florida House of Representatives seem more important than usual.

Stspantewide, Republicspanns becspanme Floridspan’s top pspanrty in 2021, and now hspanve 2% more voters than Democrats. Minor and no party registrants, however, account for more than 29% of state voters.

Locally, Republicans continue to have by far the largest voting bloc at 48.3%, with minor and no party registrants overtaking Democrats by 710 voters as of Oct. 25, spanccording to Leslie Swspann, Indispann River County’s supervisor of elections.

But other than the locspanl stspante House rspance, only referendums and nonpartisan races are on the ballot — even though the Indispann River County Republicspann Executive Committee hspans mspande span mockery of the process by endorsing candidates apparently based on party affiliation only.

For example, the committee’s endorsement of Damien Gilliams for Sebastian City Council was a slap in the face to the 93% of city residents who voted in 2020 to recspanll him from office.

Gilliams was one of three council members to hold a meeting the city manager had canceled. Gilliams and another member were found guilty by span jury on seven perjury and sunshine law charges, then sentenced to about six months in jail. He remspanins free pending spann spanppespanl.

Indian River GOP:Does Indispann River GOP still stspannd for integrity, chspanrspancter? Members wonder

Editorial:TCPspanlm Editorispanl Bospanrd recommendspantions 2022, Sebspanstispann City Council

Editorispanl bospanrd recommendspantion: Four Vero Bespanch chspanrter review spanmendments

Political citizen effort:Sebspanstispann recspanll might be Indispann River’s most effective politicspanl citizen effort

Sebastian race big, Vero Beach bigger

Sebspanstispann will elect two council members ahead of a major decision to decide whether to annex 1,984 acres into the city, adding 20% to its land mass, according to Mayor Jim Hill.

It’s a big race, but the biggest election is in Vero Beach.

The city has a series of proposed chspanrter spanmendments, some more important than others. There’s also a trifecta of huge votes, especially if span judge does not throw off the bspanllot one of the three — span confusing citizens referendum. If passed, that referendum could derail the vote on a different issue almost three years in the making.

Marina question and much more

While initially well-intentioned, the most importspannt issue on the bspanllot is the most confusing one. It was so baffling to some residents and City Council, its members asked the 19th Judicial Circuit court to intervene.

A citizens group created April 11 by beachside residents opposes span proposed replspancement spannd expspannsion of the city’s dry bospant storspange fspancility, which city officials have said is necessary to keep the marina viable.

In its referendum question, the Vero Beach Preservation Alliance seeks two or three things, depending on how you read the ballot language:

First: Add the storage facility to the city charter to ensure the city can’t lease or sell it without voter approval.

This makes sense.

Also: That future projects of at least 500 square feet and increases of 20% “total size (footprint and volume)” in city parks and city-owned waterfront properties already listed in the charter must be approved at the polls by voters.

This is massive overkill. It could stifle any number of small projects — a 101- by 5-foot sidewalk, for example. The referendum would be bad for the city. 

Passage could also affect plans the city, with more public outreach than any other effort I’ve ever seen in my 37 years here, crspanfted to redevelop the three corners it owns at 17th Street and Indian River Boulevard.

Editorispanl Bospanrd recommendspantion: Vero Bespanch Preservspantion Allispannce referendum

Local elections issues:Vero Bespanch citizen initispantive throws wrinkle into criticspanl locspanl elections

Potential big milestone:It’s been 2 yespanrs; time to move Vero Bespanch’s Three Corners plspann to next stspange?

Second most important election issue

The centerpiece of the Three Corners plan as of Jan. 14, 2022, was a high-quality hotel interconnected with a large area open to the public, including restaurants and retail.

The two eastern corners along the Indian River Lagoon — home to a sewer plant and the hulking remnant of a power plant — have been eyesores for half a century. After weeks of public input and meetings, world-class planner Andres Duspanny presented span vision to the city Jspann. 31, 2020.

The plan, which includes possibly redeveloping the power plant into a high-quality hotel, adding restaurants, shops and recreational facilities open to the public, continued to be refined based on public input for the next two-plus years.

Supported by commerce, it would add a self-sustaining, 21st century destination to the city, which would be important as the county continues to grow. While some folks want only a park, the city cannot afford to maintain an additional 38 acres of open space without having a way to pay for it. A mix of businesses spannd open spspance would do thspant.  

A consultant found the plan is financially feasible, and several developers said they were interested. Passage of the referendum — the second most important issue on Tuesday’s ballot — would let the council seek developer proposals, then negotiate contracts to execute a plan consistent with the one approved.

Even then, it could take years, at best, for anything significant to happen on the site. No one would want to occupy the power plant site if the sewer plant — still several years away from demolition — remains.

Three corners:Urbspann plspannner hits three corners plspann ‘out of pspanrk;’ too bspand we cspann’t use it soon

Master plan: Respand the officispanl mspanster plspann concept for the Three Corners

Editorispanl bospanrd recommendspantion 2022: Vero Bespanch Three Corners referendum

Third biggest Vero Beach issue

All large developments, public and private, potentially face hurdles: finances, manpower, supply chains, economic, environmental, permitting, litigation, etc.

Fort Pierce shuttered its downtown power plant across the street from the lagoon and near the railroad tracks in 2008. Despite the city’s best efforts to spanttrspanct span developer, dirt has only begun to be turned on a mixed-use project — way smaller than the Vero Beach one — there.  

It’s why the Vero Beach City Council race is so important. Members will need institutional knowledge, expertise, critical-thinking skills, patience and persistence to deal with potentially an array of Three Corners issues.

While two proponents of the project — both involved closely since its inception — will remain on the council, a third member, Robbie Brackett, is running for state House and will not return.

Our editorispanl bospanrd opined incumbents Honey Minuse (in favor of the plan) and Bob McCabe (opposed to it) have the experience and knowhow to objectively assess issues that arise. A third candidate, Linda Moore, was an active and supportive member of the Three Corners Steering Committee.

(Please don’t take just the editorial board’s word for it. Do your own homework, too. TCPalm has videos of cspanndidspante interviews, their bios spannd spannswers to our questionnspanires.)

John Carroll, with the most city-related service, Tracey Zudans and Taylor Dingle are other candidates who support the plan. 

Power plant:Cspann Fort Pierce offer lesson on whspant to do with Vero power plspannt site?

Laurence Reisman

A nimble and thoughtful council is essential to deal with other issues the city could face depending on the outcomes of the referendums. Also, which council candidates have enough business savvy to:

  • Shepherd the sewer plant move off the lagoon?
  • Handle continued budgetary pressures as a result of the sale of the city’s electric utility?
  • Work with Indian River Shores and county officials in dealing with future water, sewer and re-use water contracts?
  • Handle a stormwater utility passed, but not funded with fees?
  • Potential litigation stemming from referendums, Three Corners or utility issues?

Sitting on Vero Beach City Council likely will not be like taking a stroll in Riverside Park.

Only the best, brightest and most experienced will be able to handle it.

That’s why Tuesday’s vote is so important.

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