Vero Beach Council approves Dodgertown land swap – in concept

VERO BEACH — The Vero Beach City Council has approved – in concept – swapping land that would clear the way for more baseball fields at the Vero Beach Sports Village.

The Board of County Commissioners also discussed the matter during its meeting, held at the same time at the Vero Beach meeting, deciding to seek a meeting with the city council to resolve outstanding issues the county has with parking and land use rights. Vero Beach City Councilman Brian Heady was the only one to cast a nay vote against moving forward with the swap.

He voiced opposition to what he considers a more than $5 million cost to taxpayers for the deal – which includes more than $2 million in planned construction and the loss of one-third the historic golf course the city purchased for $10 million years ago.

The proposed agreement between the city, the county and Minor League Baseball addresses a parking issue that would have kept the city from using the property.

The agreement, as it stands now, could allow the city to develop on three parcels, pushing parking elsewhere on the Vero Beach Sports Village property.

Minor League Baseball officials have told both the Vero Beach City Council and the Indian River County Board of Commissioners that the cloverleaf of youth baseball fields is crucial to the village’s survival.

Officials have explained that in order for the village to be successful, it must be multi-dimensional, providing multiple sporting uses for various ages. Providing for Little League and girls’ softball on-site would help attract more use of the Vero Beach Sports Village, officials have said.

“They want even more,” Councilman Brian Heady said of Minor League Baseball, explaining that the original deal struck with MiLB a couple years ago did not address the need for the cloverleaf.

Instead, Heady reminded the council, MiLB said it would re-purpose a couple practice fields for youth baseball.

The Vero Beach City Council approved moving forward with the swap and is currently expected to take a final vote on the matter at the Jan. 18 council meeting.

During the County Commissioners’ discussion, commissioners requested that a representative of the county sit down with the Vero Beach council to further hash out the agreement.

When that meeting might occur has not yet been determined and how that meeting might impact the current timetable for the final decision is not known.

READ: County seeks meeting with Vero Council over unresolved Dodgertown issues

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