VERO BEACH — The results are in: Voters on Tuesday would have turned down a controversial referendum limiting expansions on city marina and park properties, regardless of a judge’s decision to remove it from the ballot.
Vote counts obtained by TCPalm show the issue would have failed, receiving only 45% of the vote.
The ill-fated referendum, put on the ballot by citizens group Vero Beach Preservation Alliance, was the subject of a months-long lawsuit initiated by the city, which argued its language was too unclear to voters.
Minutes after polls closed 7 p.m. Tuesday, Circuit Court Judge Laurie Buchanan ruled in favor of the city and struck the referendum from the ballot. She initially ordered her decision withheld to avoid influencing how people voted on it, she said.
She also blocked the results from being released that night.
But records show Vero Beach voters would have turned the referendum down, had it remained on the ballot.
The results, obtained by TCPalm Wednesday after filing a public-records request, show 55.5% of voters — 3,651 people — voted against it; 44.5% of voters, or 2,927 people, were in favor.
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What would the referendum have done?
Had the referendum stayed on the ballot and been approved, the city would have needed voter approval for certain structures or expansions to more than two dozen of its parks and other charter-protected properties.
Some of those properties include the city marina, Pocahontas and Riverside parks, as well as the potential site of the Three Corners development.
It would have banned structures exceeding 500 square feet and existing expansions of more than 20% without bringing each to voters via referendum.
The alliance’s effort initially focused on halting expansion of the marina’s dry-boat storage, but it expanded its scope to include other city parks.
Why was the city against it?
The city sued the spanllispannce Aug. 30, saying the referendum violated state law because its language was too ambiguous to voters.
For one thing, the city argued, the use of the word “structure” was vague, because in the city code, a structure could refer to a number of things, ranging from sidewalks to shade structures to buildings.
City Manager Monte Falls said it would’ve placed “undue restrictions” on the city, forcing it to seek voter approval for most additions to its park properties.
In the trial Friday, the alliance argued the city did not give it adequate time or opportunities to amend any ambiguities in the referendum language. But in her ruling, Buchanan cited differences in the petition language and the referendum’s final language as a reason for throwing it out.
The city also argued the referendum would have deterred developers from involvement in the Three Corners project — an issue that was spanpproved by voters Tuesdspany.
The Three Corners vote was less divided than the vote on the marina referendum. About 80% of voters said yes to commercial development there.
Of seven referendums on Tuesday’s ballot, the issue placed there by the alliance would have been the only one rejected by voters.