More talks needed for Dodgertown land swap deal

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — The Vero Beach City Council and Indian River County Board of Commissioners moved a step closer this week to completing a land swap that would allow a cloverleaf of softball fields to be built at Dodgertown, but more work needs to be done.Both sides are in general agreement that a swap of land that would give the county 12 acres of property to the south of Holman Stadium where the ballfields will be constructed. In exchange the city would get 9.5 acres to the west of the Stadium.

However, there is a sticking point on the available parking should there be a sellout event at Holman.The City of Vero Beach voted 4-1 Tuesday to approve the land swap deal with the county and various revocable licenses for parking. The County Commission also voted 4-1 to continue the negotiations, including an easement from the city to build a road off of 43rd Avenue for access to the new fields.Commissioner Bob Solari voted against the swap and Peter O’Bryan said he would vote to keep the negotiations moving, but without a satisfactory solution to the parking issue he would vote against it.Minor League Baseball is anxious to get the deal completed as it wants to have construction underway so it can market the fields as part of its offerings at the Vero Beach Sports Village. MiLB officials have said the softball and little league fields are crucial to their business plans.County Attorney Alan Polackwich, who is heading up the negotiations for the county said it will likely take to the end of the month to work out all the details.Councilman Brian Heady, the lone dissenter from the city, said he didn’t feel the staff had done adequate financial analysis of the pros and cons of the deal. Heady asked Interim City Manager Monte Falls for valuations on the parcels being exchanged, some dollar amounts on the costs of the ballfields and the heart-shaped retention pond and also the data on the financial benefit to the community’s businesses when Vero Beach Sports Village hosts an event at the facility.”Before this council votes on anything, we should have the dollar amount,” Heady said.Falls was unable to provide the documentation.”There is no financial analysis, it would be so hard to determine the value of these lands,” said Falls, who represented the city during the first round of negotiations.Falls added that, though the actual dollars of benefit to local businesses has not been tabulated, that local hotels and restaurants have provided “positive feedback” that events at the park brought customers through the doors.Councilman Ken Daige emphasized the economic impact of the Vero Beach Sports Village.”A lot of folks are depending on this agreement to go through on both sides of the house — on our side of the house and on their side — because they work there,” Daige said.Retiring Councilman Tom White said he was happy with the compromise worked out by Falls and Polackwich.”I’m tickled with the land swap, I wasn’t crazy with the lease swap,” White said.Lisa Zahner contributed to this report

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