VERO BEACH — A judge Tuesday night blocked release of the votes on an issue that would have limited expansions on city marina and park properties.
Minutes after polls closed at 7 p.m., Circuit Court Judge Laurie Buchanan released her decision, throwing out a referendum placed on the ballot by the Vero Beach Preservation Alliance.
The group got the issue on the ballot in an effort to block expansion of the city marina and other public properties, but the city challenged the issue, arguing it was unclear.
Buchanan ordered that the vote count — which the Supervisor of Elections Office tabulated along with all other election results — not be published or certified.
The city is pleased with Buchanan’s ruling, City Manager Monte Falls said.
“What the City Council had asked, the judge confirmed,” he said. “The language was unclear and ambiguous.”
The concern was that the referendum, if it had passed, would have placed “undue restrictions on the city,” he said.
For example, the referendum’s use of the word “structure” was vague, as structures could apply to anything, the city argued.
“It would have added delays in making small improvements, in adding a small sidewalk or shade structure,” Falls said.
Alliance attorney Lynne Larkin could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.
The city said the referendum violated state law, arguing that its language was too ambiguous to voters. It sued the spanllispannce Aug. 30, and during the trispanl Fridspany, Buchanan said she would withhold her decision until polls closed Tuesday, leaving the fate of the referendum up in the air as residents cast their votes.
Buchanan cited two reasons for withholding her decision until after the polls closed.
“The reason I’m holding this until 7:01 is so it won’t affect results, No. 1,” Buchanan said. “No. 2, so that I don’t know the results, and so I’m not affected by them.”
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Because Buchanan invalidated the results of the referendum, the Supervisor of Elections Office will not publish the results of the referendum, said County Attorney Dylan Reingold.
Had the referendum stayed on the ballot and passed, the city would have needed voter approval before adding certain structures or expansions to its marina and more than two dozen of its parks, including Pocahontas and Riverside parks, as well as the potential site of the Three Corners development.
The referendum would have banned structures exceeding 500 square feet and existing expansions of more than 20% without bringing it to voters first. The city has argued the referendum, if approved, would deter developers from the Three Corners site.