Home split between counties may finally go to Indian River

[Photo: Kaila Jones]

The borderline separating Indian River and St. Lucie counties runs right through neurosurgeon Oszkar Szentirmai’s oceanfront home. He steps back and forth across the border many times each day.

Coincidently, an unfinished subdivision across State Road A1A, Round Island Plantation, features six lots in Indian River County and 25 lots in St. Lucie County.

So, when Dr. Szentirmai asked for the St. Lucie County portion of his lot to be moved into Indian River County, officials proposed shifting the six Round Island Plantation lots into St. Lucie County.

“It just kind of made sense,” said Indian River County Administrator Jason Brown. “The taxable values are pretty similar right now. All of the property owners are in agreement.”

Indian River County commissioners were set to vote this week on a resolution to support the boundary change. Commissioners gave preliminary approval on Sept. 17.

St. Lucie County commissioners approved a similar resolution Oct. 1 and included the boundary change in their 2020 state legislative priorities.

The proposed county boundary change still needs approval from the state Legislature during the 2020 session, which starts Jan. 14.

If the bill to amend Florida statutes passes, the boundary change would go into effect July 1, 2020.

Brian Sullivan, Indian River County’s legislative affairs and communications manager, pitched the boundary change to the county’s legislative delegation on Sept. 24.

No objections have been raised so far by other Indian River County taxing agencies, such as the School Board, Hospital District and Indian River Mosquito Control District, Brown said.

“It doesn’t make sense to have one home in two counties,” Brown said.

The two-story, four-bedroom, four-bath house at 2498 S. Highway A1A, Vero Beach, was completed in 1992 under a Feb. 12, 1991, agreement between the counties regarding permitting, impact fees and taxes.

Approximately 60 percent of the house is in Indian River County, so that county’s growth plan, zoning code and permitting regulations applied. Indian River received 60 percent of the impact fees and St. Lucie got 40 percent.

Oszkar and Gretchen Szentirmai bought the house in June 2013 for $1,480,000, according to property records.

The Szentirmais’ property tax bills for 2019 are $13,926.35 for Indian River County and $8,097.54 for St. Lucie County, records show.

Dr. Szentirmai works as a neurosurgeon at Cleveland Clinic Tradition Hospital and Cleveland Clinic Martin North Hospital.

Meanwhile, the land swap could jump-start the development of the Round Island Plantation on the west side of A1A, which is owned by SBM Associates LLC of Plantation.

The developer conceptually supports the boundary change on the condition St. Lucie County approves the development of the six northern lots consistent with the 25 lots already in St. Lucie, records show.

Updated plans for 31 single-family houses in Round Island Plantation were reviewed by the St. Lucie County Planning and Zoning Commission on Nov. 17, 2016. But the project stalled because the developer failed to provide required information about tree mitigation, said county Planning Manager Linda Pendarvis.

St. Lucie County first approved the site plan for Round Island Plantation on Aug. 23, 2006.

Plans call for 13 oceanfront condos on a 2.37-acre beachfront lot and 31 single-family homes on 41.6 acres on the west side of Highway A1A. A pedestrian tunnel beneath the highway connects the two sites.

Dr. Szentirmai’s efforts to have his beachfront property entirely in Indian River County initially were resisted by St. Lucie County because of the difficulty, Assistant St. Lucie County Administrator Mark Satterlee said. But the chance to obtain the 5.56 acres on the northern edge of Round Island Plantation made it worth it for St. Lucie County to give up the .43-acre slice of Dr. Szentirmai’s lot, Satterlee said.

“We think that is an equitable swap,” Satterlee told the St. Lucie County commissioners. “I think it would just make it easier for the development process to clean up the Round Island Plantation development site.”

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