The Indian River County Commission held a public hearing and then approved a land-use swap at its Nov. 20 meeting. The swap opens the door for light commercial development on 11.5 acres at 41st Street along U.S. 1 that had been zoned residential.
Because the land-use swap changes the county’s comprehensive plan, it requires a state review. The plan will come back to the board, probably in early 2019, with state comments that will be considered during another public hearing.
In a land use swap, the allowed use of a property is “swapped” with the allowed use of an equivalent piece of land.
In this case, Warren Schwerin, retired president of Related Properties, a commercial real estate development company, owned two similar-sized parcels along U.S. 1. Three years ago, he gave the parcel at 79th St. and U.S. 1 to the Indian River Land Trust, which will preserve it as a conservation property.
That 79th Street parcel was zoned for commercial use, while Schwerin’s other property at 41st Street was zoned residential. The swap approved by the county simply flip-flops the zoning.
A land-use swap is the most likely means of changing the comprehensive plan, said Stan Boling, the county’s director of community development, because it doesn’t increase overall density or commercialization. About a dozen land-use swaps have been approved in the past 10 years, he said.
It is not known what type of commercial development Schwerin has in mind for the 41st Street property. Requesting a change to the comprehensive plan doesn’t require site plans to be submitted and Schwerin could not be reached for comment. His attorney, Bruce Barkett, said he had no comment on what sort of development may be going in on the site.
Most of the 11.5-acre parcel along 41st Street will be zoned “limited commercial,” which excludes car dealers, landscape services, construction yards, dry cleaners, machine shops and other heavier commercial enterprises. The remaining land will be zoned “Office Commercial Residential,” which further limits development to mostly offices, as a softer transition to an adjacent single-family home subdivision to the north.
Despite gaining residential zoning under the terms of the land swap, Land Trust Executive Director Ken Grudens said the Trust has no intention of developing the 79th Street acreage, which is part of the Toni Robinson Waterfront Trail property.
The 50-acre Toni Robinson parcel includes an unpaved parking lot and a one-mile public trail that winds through an open canopy scrub habitat and oak forest to the mangroves along the river. There is also a boardwalk and a dock that extends into the lagoon.
Besides providing recreation, the Land Trust property serves as a “buffer,” Grudens said, filtering out nutrients and other pollutants in rainwater runoff before the water enters the Indian River Lagoon.