VERO BEACH — Voters approved four minor changes to the city charter Tuesday, but one major change — a citizen-proposed referendum to limit expansion of the city marina and parks — was shot down by Circuit Judge Laurie Buchanan.
The referendum, put on the ballot by the Vero Bespanch Preservspantion Allispannce, a citizens-group led by beachside residents, would have restricted the city from making certain-sized expansions and structures on the city marina and other charter-protected parks without voter approval.
The city voted to sue the alliance in August over the referendum, which resulted in Circuit Judge Buchanan ruling to throw out the results for the Vero Beach Marina referendum on Tuesday night.
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Because she ruled in favor of the city — which argued the referendum was too vague and should be stricken from the ballot — the referendum wouldn’t have counted, even if voters approved of it.
The Supervisor of Elections Office will not publish the results of the referendum, said County Attorney Dylan Reingold.
Because the referendum was already printed on ballots prior to the lawsuit, Buchanan decided to give her ruling after polls closed, so as not to sway voters’ decisions.
But the alliance’s referendum wasn’t the only proposed change to the city charter; voters decided on five other proposals.
City Council raises
Voters approved raising City Council salaries, with 55% of voters saying yes. This is the first raise for the City Council since 2005, according to the city charter.
The change initially will give City Council members an additional $175 a month, followed annually by the same raise non-union employees receive.
The mayor’s salary will increase to $1,300 a month, or $15,600 a year, and other council member salaries to $1,075 a month, or $12,900 a year.
Raises will go into effect Oct. 1, 2023.
Edgewood Park status
Voters decided to add Edgewood Park, at 18th Street and 18th Avenue near the Edgewood neighborhood, to a list of charter-protected properties, with 75% approving the measure.
Now, the city cannot lease the property without voter approval, unless it’s leased for artistic, recreational or cultural purposes, according to the charter. Edgewood residents said they wanted the park protected in the charter.
Eight-year charter reviews
Mandatory charter reviews will happen every eight years, 76% of voters decided Tuesday.
The city charter did not previously specify how often the document should be reviewed by a council-appointed Charter Review Committee, but the amendment mandates a review every eight years now.
The city charter was last reviewed more than 10 years ago, said City Clerk Tammy Bursick.
The final amendment, which proposed to redefine the city Canvassing Board and who is on it, was approved by 70% of voters.
The Canvassing Board is responsible for publicly counting votes following elections. The minor change more clearly defines the Canvassing Board’s members and its duties, Mayor Robbie Brackett said.
It doesn’t change who is on the board — the city manager, city clerk and city attorney — or its functions.