Vero Beach should coordinate Lagoon efforts with regional, One Lagoon group 2

Editor’s note: Richard Winger is a member of the Vero Beach City Council.


The next City Council meeting is Tuesday May 2nd at 9:30am. Between now and then, I need your help to rally support for the Indian River Lagoon. The City of Vero Beach must participate in the holistic approach to the Lagoon.

A formal call from me for consideration at the next City Council will be forthcoming for all City of Vero Beach Indian River Lagoon projects to be submitted to One Lagoon.

As I said at City Council April 18th, our City and our County need be whole-hearted participants in One Lagoon (formerly named the 5 county Indian River Lagoon Council).  We must realize, as Senator Nelson has said, it takes each and every local government along the Lagoon, working together with state and Federal agencies, to do its part to save the Lagoon.

The small projects envisioned in “The Legacy” project, are something I support, but apart from a coordinated regional effort they will make minimal improvement.  These small Legacy projects won’t help even a fraction as much as fixing the major problem of storm water runoff in the City.  However, all effort helps, and will benefit the Lagoon much more if they are a part of the holistic One Lagoon effort. I am requesting at the next Council meeting that the Legacy projects be submitted to One Lagoon, and I am suggesting they be brought to One Lagoon’s STEM and Management meetings. We went over that procedure for this at the April 18th City Council.

Please share this information with your friends and everyone you know who will support the holistic approach. Small fragmented efforts are not the correct path. A united effort means the Indian River Lagoon can and will recover.  One Lagoon is the only path for saving this unique environmental treasure and the City of Vero Beach needs to be a part of the total solution.



Vero Beach again named ‘Tree City USA’ Reply


Vero Beach, Florida was named a 2016 Tree City USA community by the Arbor Day Foundation in honor of its commitment to effective urban forest management. This is the 36th year Vero Beach has earned the national designation.

Vero Beach achieved Tree City USA recognition by meeting the program’s four requirements: a tree board, a tree-care ordinance, an annual community forestry budget of at least $2 per capita, and an Arbor Day observance and proclamation.

Cleaner air, improved storm water management, energy savings, and increased property values and commercial activity are among the benefits enjoyed by Tree City USA communities.

On April 28, 2017 at 10:30 a.m. the City of Vero Beach and the Vero Beach Tree and Beautification Commission will be planting a tree at MacWilliam Park located at 3361 Bridge Plaza Drive, Vero Beach, Florida, to commemorate Arbor Day. The Vero Beach City Council and the schoolchildren from Beachland Elementary School have been invited to participate. All interested parties are cordially welcomed to attend this Arbor Day celebration.

Finding Common Ground: An Interfaith Conversation at St. Edward’s Saturday April 22 Reply


Although this is short notice, an important discussion will be held at St. Edward’s School this Saturday, April 22 from 11:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. in the Waxlax Center for the Performing Arts. The keynote speaker will be Dr. John L. Esposito, Georgetown University Professor of Religion and International Affairs.  Representatives from the local faith community will also contribute. The event is sponsored by the Breaking Barriers Club, a student-run club at the school.

Yesterday, at the Vero Beach City Council Vision Plan meeting, it took students from Vero Beach High School and the Indian River County Charter High School at bring the health of our Indian River Lagoon into focus as the most important issue facing our community’s future. The upcoming Finding Common Ground discussion is also an example of our students leading the way for us to focus on an issue of prime importance to our community and our country.

See the details below:

What is your vision for the future of Vero Beach? Reply

If it matters to you whether the now-decommissioned power plant site and other public lands are preserved for public use and are not sold for high-rise developments, consider attending Monday’s Visioning workshop. The meeting is to begin at 11:00 in City Hall.



If you care about the future of the city we all call home, then you should consider attending tomorrow’s Vision Meeting at Vero Beach City Hall, 11:00 a.m. This is the second Visioning meeting held by the current Council, but unlike last month’s meeting, it will address specific issues. At least according to the published agenda, tomorrow’s meeting will not be a free-for-all public input session.

Here are the specific issues to be discussed:

Commercial Districts

There are five districts scheduled for discussion and the issues related to each:

  1. Historic Downtown

Although some would consider the beachside commercial area as “downtown,” the true downtown is between U.S. 1 and the western edge of the Twin Pairs at 20th Avenue. It includes City Hall, the main post office, Pocahontas Park, Vero Theater Plaza, Art district, Crestlawn Cemetery, County Administration complex, County Courthouse, Vero Beach Municipal Airport – in other words every government and historic property within Vero Beach’s city limits. Back in 1975 the state created a plan to facilitate the flow of traffic through downtown because I-95 ended at the SR 60 exit. That plan was implemented in 1991 and created the Twin Pairs. It is essentially a bypass through the heart of our Historic Downtown. Creating a more pedestrian-friendly downtown is one of the issues to be discussed.

  1. Royal Palm Pointe

The City created a destination out of what was formerly the western end of the original Barber Bridge. City taxpayers authorized $6 million of improvements to create parking and a public park that would attract visitors who would then shop at the businesses on what became Royal Palm Pointe. Today many of those businesses have been replaced by private, upscale condos and the concern is whether the vision of previous City Councils will fall victim to big money interests. More…

Col. Tony Young: Believe In Vero! 1

Editor’s note: Vero Beach City Council member Col. Tony Young issues regular updates on the work of the Council and on events happening in Vero Beach. Young released the update April 14.

Col. Tony Young

Passover, Easter Time: This week is abbreviated. Most government offices are closed tomorrow. Please take the opportunity to celebrate one of our basic liberties: Religious Freedom! Having served where that is denied, I realize we should all appreciate the privilege to practice any faith or not. Vero Beach is rich in the spiritual realm. Our houses of worship manifest the faiths we hold dear. These days are numbered so let’s use them wisely.

Monday is the second special-call meeting to address our City Vision. It is essential to look ahead and express our desires. We understand constraints. Businesses and families deal with limited means as a norm. But, goals are guideposts of life. Without them, our efforts are disjointed, and hap stance. These discussions help drive decisions. The process is the key. Along the way, we will adjust course. We can find resources, reduce our appetite, extend the horizon, or realign priorities. All are variables in the mix. Visions are part of all dynamic organizations. More…

Cultural Council celebrates 20 years of The Laurel Awards Reply

Some members of the committee gather at Riverside Theatre for a planning meeting. Left to right- Beverly Paris, Mark Wygonik and Alicia Quinn (all seated). Standing are Barbara Hoffman and Oscar Sales. Photo by Marty Paris


Since 1996, The Cultural Council of Indian River County has been recognizing individuals in the community who have strived to demonstrate support of the arts in a variety of means. To that end, an annual event has been held inviting those who have been nominated and later selected to receive this honor, in a wide array of categories that have included cultural leadership roles in business, education, philanthropy and volunteerism, as well as an award that recognized a local artist of their field who earned the respect of the community and their peers for their dedication to their art. More…

Acclaimed pianist Sergey Belyavskiy to return to The Emerson Center April 21 Reply

The phenomenal Russian pianist Sergey Belyavskiy, who astounded local audiences in Spring 2016 with an incredible performance before a full house at The Emerson Center, is coming back on April 21 for an encore performance.

“He plays with such tremendous passion and precision, he quickly captures everyone’s hearts,” states Amy Gallo, executive director of The Emerson Center. “His finale last year, Gershwin’s ‘Rhapsody In Blue,’ started a thunderous, standing ovation that lasted for several minutes. We all remember it so well. At that moment, we knew that Sergey would be invited back.” More…

Pelican Island Audubon Society announces 2017 ‘Hero Awards’ Reply


Many folks have volunteered and contributed to the success of our chapter by developing courses, leading and organizing birding field trips, writing grants for funding, maintaining our the Audubon House, initiating special events, and yes contributing money to keep projects going. At our annual meeting on March 20, 2017, we recognized the outstanding contributions individuals have made not only to our chapter but to our community. These awards highlight our activities and inspire us all to work together to improve our quality of life and make Indian River County a sustainable, environmentally, and happy place to live. More…

Humane Society rescues 13 lucky dogs Reply


Late Saturday night, the Humane Society of Vero Beach and Indian River County (HSVB) took in 13 dogs rescued from several overburdened animal shelters in Puerto Rico. The island’s animal shelters are trying to help more than 300,000 street dogs known as “satos” whose typical fate is abandonment and starvation. Many dogs are left to die on Puerto Rico’s notorious “Dead Dog Beach.” Working late into the night, HSVB staff transported the dogs from Ft. Lauderdale Airport to HSVB, walked, watered and fed the dogs and let them settle in to their kennels to rest.

Robby, Bobby, Godiva, Chillah, Alaia, Luilli and Lobo are just a few of the rescued pups set to find refuge in loving homes across the Treasure Coast. “Our plan is to give these dogs a full medical evaluation right way. They’ve been through a lot so our behavior team will also help them adjust to their new lives and new families,” Director of Operations Maria Ramirez said. “Our goal is to help these dogs start happy new lives as soon as possible,” she added. According to Ramirez, the dogs will be placed for adoption as soon as they receive all necessary care. More…

Our mutual inheritance 1


“Caught in a rip current, even the most strident limited government extremist would likely welcome rescue, even if the person helping them just happened to be an employee of municipal government.”


Landscaped photographers will tell you subtle colors and striking images are often to be found looking, not directly into a rising or setting sun, but in the opposite direction. That was certainly true yesterday evening. (picture above)

This past week, I have been a guest in an oceanfront home in Castaway Cove in Vero Beach. Yesterday, I photographed that magical time when the setting sun paints the earth’s shadow across the eastern horizon in shades of purple and pink. After the show was over, I settled into a comfortable deck chair on the front porch. Dusk slowly slipped to night, as sea grape leaves rustled in a ocean breeze. All the while, a near full moon stood guard against darkness. Ocean waves rhythmically caressed the shoreline, while the soft colors of “pink time” faded into monochrome. More…

By default or by design, budget crisis looms for City of Vero Beach 2



Several members of the Vero Beach City Council are sounding increasing hopeful of concluding a sale of Vero Electric to Florida Power and Light, perhaps as soon as April, 2018. Given their growing optimism over the proposed power deal, it is puzzling why City officials are preparing a 2017-2018 fiscal year budget that does not account for the financial impacts of the sale.

Equally perplexing is the Council’s direction to Staff to develop a 2017-2018 budget that maintains current employment levels, does not reduce the quality of municipal services, provides for capital projects, while also avoiding a tax increase. Given this approach, if the power sale is indeed imminent, a financial crisis for the City is brewing. They only question is whether this coming crisis is by default or by design. More…

Vacation rental bill advances over Miami-Dade, beach cities’ objections 2



Editor’s note: Just when we thought our quiet residential neighborhoods were protected with strong local ordinances regulating short term rentals, the State Legislature is fast tracking House and Senate bills that would abolish local control over the issue.

Constructive disruption, or heedless destruction? 3

Council members Laura Moss, Harry Howle and Lange Sykes have indicated a desire to sell off “surplus properties.”

Is the Vero Beach Marina soon to be for sale? Will voters approve?



Marine property lies to the north and south of the Vero Beach Yacht Club. Club representative say their organization is growing and is finding it increasingly difficult to meet parking needs. Any change in land use, they say, will impact the Club.

Acting on behalf of the Vero Beach Chamber of Commerce, Mark Mucher submitted a proclamation request to the Clerk’s Office on March 27, nearly four weeks beyond the deadline for the April 2 City Council meeting. To ensure the proclamation was place on the April 2 Council agenda, Mayor Laura Moss overrode the City Clerk’s Office.

City Code requires that requests for proclamations be submitted “at least four (4) weeks prior to the Council meeting date requested for presentation or issuance.”

Less than two weeks before intervening on Mucher’s behalf, Moss and he were seen working the crowd at an event held in Riverside Park. “Let me introduce you to the mayor of Vero Beach,” Mucher was heard saying, as he proudly introduced Moss to those who presumably had never seen Indian-River-Shores-funded campaign post cards featuring Moss’ photograph. More…

Councilman Young looking ahead to April 17 visioning meeting Reply

Editor’s note: In a regular newsletter titled, “Tony’s News and Views,” Vero Beach City Councilman Tony Young issued the following update March 29.


It has been way too long! We have lots to catch up on. First, I am still grateful to serve you and this great city. Yesterday was an example of what motivates me. Patriot the Palomino was returned to Pocahontas Park. Todd Biron restored the icon after it was damaged in the past hurricane. He and his wife, Julie, along with Ron Smith were aided by the city crew to place it back on the pedestal. And, I learned from another that it was first at the Palomino Hotel in Ft Pierce. This is vintage Vero! More…

Historic Dodgertown welcomes students from Dodgertown Elementary School for an interactive history lesson Reply


On March 31, 1948, baseball legend Jackie Robinson made his Dodgertown debut and the major league Dodgers held their first spring training game on this historic property.

To commemorate this day in history, more than 60 fourth grade students from Dodgertown Elementary School in Vero Beach visited Historic Dodgertown today for an interactive history lesson, which included welcome messages by City and County officials and the District School Superintendent, plus an outdoor scavenger hunt to further the students’ education. More…

‘Saturday Night Fever’ will cap Riverside season Reply

Featuring the songs of the Bee Gees


The Riverside Theatre will present Saturday Night Fever April 11-30.

Riverside Theatre, led by Producing Artistic Director/CEO Allen D. Cornell and Managing Director/COO Jon R. Moses, ends the 2016-2017 Season with the exciting musical, Saturday Night Fever. Performing on the Stark Stage from April 11 – 30, 2017, Saturday Night Fever is sponsored by Linda & Mel Teetz and Riverside Theatre’s Patron Producers Group. Saturday Night Fever is produced in association with the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia.

Based on the 1977 blockbuster film, Saturday Night Fever whisks you back to the 1970s, where open shirts, bell-bottoms and disco were all the rage. Tony Manero, a talented street-wise kid from Brooklyn, yearns of escaping his dead-end job and becoming ‘disco king’ at the local club. He meets a young lady who can help him achieve his dance dreams, but will she accept his advances and help him change his world? Packed with legendary hits from The Bee Gees, Saturday Night Fever sizzles a with compelling story and explosive dance.

The film made John Travolta an icon, and revived disco music to new heights around the world. The story is based on an article written by Nik Cohn for New York Magazine, “Tribal Rites of the New Saturday Night.” More…

Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League to hold 2017 Spring Camp at Historic Dodgertown Reply

Free agent tryout to be held on Saturday, April 8

The Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League return to Historic Dodgertown April 10-12 for their 2017 Spring Camp. This marks the Alouettes third visit to Historic Dodgertown for their Spring Camp, having previously come in 2014 and 2015.

Prior to Spring Camp, the Alouettes will hold a free agent tryout on Saturday, April 8.

“We are very happy to be back at the Historic Dodgertown complex, which is a great place for our coaches, players and staff to get ready for our regular season,” said General Manager Kavis Reed. “The proximity of everything makes our camp so much more functional, as does their very helpful staff. It is also very special for our organization to return to a place where the Montreal Royals, who we once shared our home field with, used to hold their training camp.” More…

Cultural Calendar Reply



The Christians  through April 9.  Visit for more information & tickets.


The Palm House Gallery, 3227A Ocean Drive (upstairs) in Vero Beach, is holding an opening reception on Thursday, April 6 from 5 to 8 pm for its Oil and Water Art Show featuring  artists: Wendy Douglas, Dede Gilbert, Rick Kelly, Kathy Kemp, Madeline Long, Suzy Mellott, Lee Moore, Jack Staley, Emily Tremml and Janet Kipp Tribus.  10% of all sales will be contributed to Quail Valley Charities.


HairPeace will perform at the North Indian River County Library Coffee House on Friday, April 7th, from 7 to 9 p.m. This local favorite band returns with Ray and Chrystine entertaining with their original folk/rock sound.  Free.

Main Street Vero Beach presents The 14th Annual Hibiscus Festival this weekend on 14th Avenue downtown.  Thursday, April 6 at 7 pm with the Miss Hibiscus Pageant at the Heritage Center.

The Atlantic Classical Orchestra will perform Masterworks IV – Heart & Soul on Thursday, April 6 at 7:30 pm at the Waxlax Center for the Performing Arts on Saint Edwards Campus.  For details & tickets, call the ACO office at 772.460.0850. More…

VBHS Golden Grads picnic this weekend Reply


500 VBHS Golden Grads at Fairgrounds.

Class reunions are not unusual, but local high school grads take it a step — and a few generations — further. On Saturday, April 8, anyone who attending or graduated from Vero Beach at least 50 years ago is invited to the VBHS Golden Grads celebration picnic at the Indian River County Fairgrounds Ag/Demo Building(7955  58th Avenue). That means the “youngest” attendees are from the Class of 1967.

Chairman for this year’s picnic is Alan Kauffmann (Class of 65). According to Alan, “This is our third straight picnic and each one has drawn 500-700 attendees, including spouses. Many of those spouses are also graduates. In one case, Class of 60 grads Walter and Berdyne Fulford Williams married after graduating and are still married 56 years later.”

As in the past, name tags will be issued at the check-in stations and tables will be set up with signs indicating class years in case you haven’t seen some of your classmates and they may have…uh…changed a bit since high school.

Some classes are organizing separate get-togethers on Friday, April 7. The picnic hours are 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. A barbecue buffet lunch will be served from 11:30-2:00 provided by 14 Bones Restaurant. Cost to attend is $20 and you can pay at the door.

For more information, contact Milt Thomas at (772)696-5710 or








Rash of beachside vehicle burglaries reported Reply


We got hit with another string of overnight burglaries. Our officers are currently working six different vehicle burglaries, with reports coming in as early as 5am. The majority of the incidents are being reported along 800 Block of Flamevine; we also just received a report of one on Dahlia and one Mockingbird, as well as an earlier report on Sandfly Lane. Please go out and check your vehicles right away and call us if anything appears suspicious. As always, please ALWAYS lock your vehicles and NEVER leave any valuables inside. We will update you as more information becomes available. Please call (772) 978-4600 with any reports or information.

We have to stay the course 2


Editor’s note: Richard Winger is a member of the Vero Beach City Council. 


Richard Winger

Thank you for your support on the last two issues I reached out to you about.  With your help, Vero Beach City Council voted 4-0 to take the “old golf course: Dodgertown property” off the market.  While we did not succeed with the Storm Water Utility yet, that issue still needs to be addressed to save the Lagoon.

Now, I need your help again, by coming to the City Council meeting about the long term, or what is called THE VISION PLAN, 2:00PM this coming Monday, March 13th at City Hall.  Or if you are committed Monday, you can e-mail your feelings about keeping Vero Vero to the City Clerk at

My thought is we have to stay the course, or lose Vero.  Once a bad development, traffic pattern, or building exists, we cannot change it.  Once the Lagoon is dead, we cannot bring it back to life.  Once we become Fort Lauderdale, we “can never go home again.” More…

Politics and Money: Legislator who received generous contributions from FPL accelerates two bills favorable to the company Reply


Editor’s note: Locally, Florida Power and Light gave $55,000 last fall to a political action committee supporting Laura Moss and Lange Sykes.  The only other contributors to the PAC were residents of Indian River Shores. In a previous election, FPL spent more than $50,000 on then Councilwoman Tracy Carroll’s campaign. The previous spring, the company spent more than $100,000 persuading Vero Beach voters to approve a purchase and sale agreement with the City of Vero Beach. In total, FPL has invested some $250,000 in political contributions to influence the outcome of Vero Beach’s municipal elections. The following story by Miami Herald reporter Mary Ellen Klas reveals how FPL’s political contributions are also winning the company favor in Tallahassee.

See also: When all else fails


Sen. Frank Artiles put on a brown jacket with “NextEra” emblazoned on the back and waved the green flag for the unofficial start to the Friday night truck race at this year’s Daytona 500 weekend.

Within minutes, a dramatic crash became the highlight of the season-opening event sponsored by NextEra, the parent company to Florida Power & Light.

Artiles, the chairman of the Florida Senate’s Communications, Energy and Public Utilities Committee, also used the event to conduct a fundraiser, which he says raised him more than $10,000.

Now, Artiles, a Republican from south Miami-Dade County, is returning a favor to Florida’s largest utility. Continue reading…


YouTube video questions motives for partial sale Reply

Watch YouTube Video

Posting under the name “VideoM,” someone recently created a YouTube video raising questions about why City Council members Laura Moss, Lange Sykes and Harry Howle so fervently support the sale of Vero Electric Indian River Shores customers to Florida Power and Light.  The video mentions $50,000 in campaign contributions FPL made to a political action committee supporting Moss and Sykes.

The video also questions campaign promises made by Moss and Sykes about how proceeds from the sale could directly benefit the City and its residents.

Unaddressed, however, is the direct campaign support Moss, Sykes and Howle received from Shores residents. In the November elections, for example, Sykes took in 90% of his campaign funds from Shores contributors. Fully 70% of Moss’ campaign expenses were paid for with Shores money.




Competing visions, or a lack of vision? 2


“While it is true the sale of the property would have improved the City’s cash flow by approximately $300,000 a year, the larger question has to do with what, if any, vision the community and its leaders have for this property, and for other public lands.”


After hearing more than an hour of public comment, the Vero Beach City Council yesterday rejected a $2.7 million offer for 35 acres of land that was formerly a nine-hole golf course owned and operated by the Los Angeles Dodgers.

In a 4-0 vote, with Councilman Harry Howle having left the meeting early, the Council turned back a proposed 280-unit development. The Council also decided to not renew the listing agreement on the property when it expires in early April. The Council plans to not take any further action on selling the property until after a series of visions meetings are held, and until after the 2017-2018 budget is established.

In 2005, the City bought the land for $10 million. At the time, the property was appraised at $9.9 million. Currently, the 35 acres, which is located immediately southeast of 43rd Avenue and Aviation Boulevard, is valued at $3.5 million. The City still owes $5.5 million on the land, and is making debt service payments of $600,000 a year. More…

Beware of hidden agendas 4


“Anyone who does not see the interconnected ways in which developers and their limited-government allies are trying to strangle the City of Vero Beach is simply missing the larger picture.”


The Loggerhead Marina in Riviera Beach. Can Vero Beach expect to see a similar development on what is now the power plant site? You can bet some are hoping so.

The Loggerhead Marina in Riviera Beach. Can Vero Beach expect to see a similar development on what is now the power plant site? You can bet some are hoping so.

As City of Vero Beach officials are approaching a fateful decision on selling 35 acres of public open space, some who remain concerned about the future of the community are, quite correctly, urging the City Council to slow down, draw back, and take a long view.

Ironically, one person raising questions about the wisdom of disposing of irreplaceable public land is Press Journal columnist Larry Reisman. “If you don’t like local government selling open space, attend their meetings and speak out,” Reisman recently wrote, adding, “You can give the Vero Beach City Council a piece of your mind at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday at City Hall.”

Whether Reisman is willing or able to recognize the connections between the proposed sale the old Dodgertown property, the resistance to establishing a stormwater utility fund, and the relentless drive to dispose of the City’s electric utility, these are, in fact, related, for they are all about paving the way for more development, while at the same time limiting the role of local government.

Why would the City consider selling for $2.7 million dollars land it purchased in 2005 for $10 million?  Quite simply, the sale is being proposed to improve the City’s cash flow. And why is improving cash flow a priority? Because the City does not now have sufficient revenue to provide important municipal services and at the same time maintain and improve infrastructure.

Currently, the City is spending some $600,000 a year in debt service on the Dodgertown property. Selling the land now, even at a $7.3 million loss, will free up $300,000 a year in sales tax revenue. That money can then be redirected to stormwater filtration projects designed to reduce the amount of pollutants flowing into the Indian River Lagoon.

Recently, Councilmen Richard Winger and Tony Young called for establishing a dedicated source of funding for stormwater projects. Creating a so-called stormwater utility to help address the Lagoon crisis would have brought Vero Beach in line with nearly every other municipality along the fragile estuary. However, Reisman and other advocates of “limited” government cheered on Council members Harry Howle, Laura Moss and Lange Sykes, as they rejected creating a dedicate means of paying for stormwater projects.

If funding seems tight now, just wait until the City hands Vero Electric over to Florida Power and Light. With the sale of the electric utility, budget issues will only get worse, for the City will lose $5 million a year it now earns off the utility.

How one person can advocate for the sale of Vero Electric, reject the formation of a stormwater fund, and oppose moves to improve the City’s cash flow defies logic. Further, why people like Reisman do not see the ways limited government extremists are using the power sale to further the interests of developers is beyond me. Anyone who does not see the interconnected ways in which developers and their limited-government allies are trying to strangle the City of Vero Beach is simply missing the larger picture.

Once the City has disposed of the old Dodgertown property, and then the electric utility, next will come the sale of its water and sewer system to the County. That move will be forced on the City, and at a fire-sale price. “Relieved” of approximately $6 million annual earnings from its two largest enterprise funds, the City will then be pressured to sell fro commercial development the riverfront land north and south of the Alma Lee Loy Bridge. The result? A bonanza for developers.

Concerns raised about proposed sale of old Dodgertown property 6

Editor’s Note: In an email addressed to Vero Beach City Councilman Richard Winger, and copied to each member of the Council, Finance Commission member Vic DeMattia raised several concerns about the proposed sale of 35 acres of public open space.  Winger is also questioning the proposed sale of the property, which was once a 9-hole golf course owned and operated by the Los Angeles Dodgers.  

Relevant facts:

  1. The property was bought by the City in 2005 for $10 million dollars, when it was appraised for $9.9 million.  Currently, the land is appraised at $3.5 million.
  2. In 2005, the Council was concerned to prevent a 300-unit residential development from being built on the property, which is located southeast of 43rd Avenue and Aviation Boulevard, and is immediately under the flight path of one of the airport’s two main runways.  
  3. According to minutes from 2005 City Council meetings, city leaders were also interested in eventually developing a westside park similar to Riverside Park. 
  4. The land is currently unused. The City spends $15,000 a year on maintenance and insurance on the property.
  5. The City now owes $6.1 million on the property, with debt service of approximately $600,000 a year.
  6. A Palm Beach Gardens developer is proposing to buy the property for $2.7 million, and to build a mixed use development with 280 homes.
  7. If the City accepts the $2.7-million offer, it will still owe $3.4 million on the original note, and will still have debt service obligation approximately $300,000 a year. 

Mr. DeMattia’s letter to Councilman Winger:

I very much agree with your request to delay any decision on the sale of our Dodgertown Golf Course property.  Please see videotape of the few minutes of my comments at the very beginning of yesterday’s Finance Commission meeting.

It appears to be the opinion of the City Manager and some members of the Finance Commission that we should just dump the property for a 73% loss (plus continued interest cost for 10 years!).  It has been presented by them and our realtors to have a very limited current value and even that value will likely decline in the future.

It was hypothesized that the City tax revenue from the development would be a strong positive to offset the loss.  The proposed population would be ~1,000 residents.  The likely COVB RE tax contribution from those properties would likely be on the order of $100 per person per year.  Considering the stress on roads/traffic, schools, water, sewer, Fire Protection, Police Protection, social services, etc., any improvement of the city’s economic situation from this development is highly unlikely.  In fact, the opposite may well be true … even cruelly true.  Certainly, this high density neighborhood will negatively impact the taxable value of many properties in the surrounding neighborhoods.

We have at least three potential positives for the area:  Airport, commercial and environmental/recreational. More…

Winger wants delay in decision on sale of City’s Dodgertown property 2


Richard Winger

Richard Winger

Vero Beach City Councilman Richard Winger is not warming up to the idea of selling 35 acres of public open space, especially if the deal nets the City a loss of some $7 million dollars.

The land, located southeast of the intersection of 43rd Avenue and Aviation Boulevard, was once a 9-hole golf course own and operated by the Los Angeles Dodgers. Purchased by the City in 2005 for $10 million, the land is now the subject of a possible acquisition by a Palm Beach Gardens developer who is proposing to buy it for $2.7 million for a 280-home development.

Yesterday, Winger submitted an agenda idea for the March 7 City Council meeting proposing that any decision on selling the land be delayed until the Council’s first meeting in April.

Winger wants a closer look, and a public airing, of the considerations that went into the decision to by the land in 2005. Whether or not to sell the land is, Winger said, as much a visions issue as it is an economic one. “While the 2005 Council paid too much; money is a tangential issue,” Winger wrote, adding, “The real issue is whether the City Council of 2005 had the correct vision then and whether that vision is the correct vision now.”

When the 2005 Council bought the land, city leaders planned to develop it into public open space comparable to Riverside Park.

Related Story: Concerns over possible sale of old Dodgertown course raise larger questions about City’s future

Application deadline approaching for Hibiscus Festival Fine Art and Fine Craft Show Reply

Vero Beach’s annual Hibiscus Festival set for April 8-9


hibiscus-festival-logoThe fourteenth annual Hibiscus Festival is April 8th and 9th, 2017.  Over the years, the Hibiscus Festival Committee has strategically planned to expand the art element of the Hibiscus Festival and this is the third year the Art Show will be two days.  With the increasing number of galleries on Fourteenth Avenue and many businesses featuring guest artists during the monthly Gallery Strolls, Downtown Vero Beach is an officially recognized Arts District. Categories for the Hibiscus Festival Art show are Ceramics, Digital Art, Fiber, Glass, Graphics, Jewelry, Metal, Mixed Media, Oils/Acrylic, Photography, Sculpture, Watercolor and Wood.  This year a new category of Bicycle Art has been added at the request of event partner Vero Cycling Club. Cash prizes will be awarded for First, Second and Third Place. More…

Assuming facts matter Reply



The conventional wisdom today holds that attention spans are short, distraction are many, and the average news consumer wants to receive information in small doses. So, here are just two facts relevant to the proposed sale of Vero Electric. Some will argue, and they may be right, that the debate over the sale has become so toxic and so distracting to other, larger issues facing the community that it is now time to hand the utility over to Florida Power and Light at any cost.

Other contend that while it is important to sell the utility, the City Council still has a responsibility to negotiate the best deal possible for the City and for the people of Vero Beach.

Still others wonder if the people of Vero Beach would be as supportive of the sale, if, rather than serving as a propaganda arm for FPL and local utility activists, the media were reporting all relevant facts.

Two numbers worth considering, numbers not reported or discussed by the island weekly or the local daily, are the shifting rate differential between Vero Electric and FPL, and the amount Vero Beach will net from the sale of its largest asset.

Vero Beach’s electric rate peaked at $158.82 per 1000 kWh in June, 2009, at which point FPL’s rate was $104.37.  Allowing for a 6% franchise fee, FPL’s rate in June, 2009 would have been $110.63, for a difference of 30%. As of January, 2017, FPL’s rate for 1000 kWh was $98.77. Accounting for a 6% franchise fee, FPL’s bill would be $104.69.  Compared to Vero Beach current rate of $116.08, that is a difference of 10%.

When Glenn Heran, Stephen Flaherty, FPL, the island weekly and the Press Journal began building interest in and support for a sale of Vero Electric, the rate differential was 30%. Today it is 10%

Fact: The rate differential between Vero Electric and FPL is one-third of what it was when the majority of Vero Beach voters first bought into the idea of selling the utility.

Some eight years ago, when the local media, FPL and pro-sale advocates first stoked interest in a sale of Vero Electric, the promised the public the deal would net the City some $180 million dollars. This money, they said, could be used to ensure tax increases would not be necessary to maintain municipal services.  It is clear now that the City and its rate payers will be lucky to avoid having to bring money o the table to close the deal. Further, as a result of the sale, cuts in municipal services and/or increases in taxes are all but inevitable.

Fact: Despite what was originally promised, the sale of Vero Beach Electric utility will lead to tax increases, further cuts in services, or both.  Indirectly, the sale may also lead to higher water and sewer rates, as the City’s remaining enterprise funds will have to cover more of the fixed costs for administrative services. 

One can be reasonably be for the sale, against it, or indifferent. Either way, the facts should matter, and certainly they should be reported.