Vero mayor promotes idea of South Beach annexation


VERO BEACH — Vero Beach Mayor Laura Moss cut to the chase during Thursday’s Eminent Speaker Series at St. Edwards School. She had barely bid her audience a good evening when she invited the South Beach Property Owners Association to join forces with the city.

It would turn out to be a recurring theme.

I want to talk about quality of life,” Moss told the group of roughly 50 people. She was the last of four speakers to address the group, and her remarks came on the heels of a music video by Jake Owens – a Vero Beach native – aptly titled “In Good Company.”

I didn’t bring any pirates with me, or any police,” Moss continued. “I didn’t come here to take over the South Beach. But I think it would be an interesting conversation to have, because I think Vero Beach and South Beach are kindred spirits. Certainly, we are compatible communities with many of the same interests.”

The city’s interest in annexing South Beach stems from the property taxes it would reap from the thousands of homes along that stretch of the island, many of which are high-end. The area also is contiguous to the city’s territory in the heart of the island. In turn, there are problems with short-term rentals in South Beach that Indian River County can’t remedy.

As you know, we have a prohibition with regard to short-term rentals,” Moss continued. “That’s held up in court. Three times. The county ran for the hills. The city didn’t. The city hung tough. That’s something that some of the people in South Beach would find that very appealing.”

Short-term rentals are a hot button for South Beach’s full-time residents, who object to houses in their neighborhoods being used by a changing cast of unknown characters who may be inclined to party more than the average suburbanite.

While the state legislature eliminated bans on short-term rentals, and prohibited local governments from imposing new restrictions, cities like Vero that already had rules in place were grandfathered in.

Lack of police presence is another concern for some South Beach residents. Indian River County’s Sheriff’s Office dedicates only one patrol car to South Beach, which it terms “Zone 201.” Moss seized on the opening.

We have a police force,” she said. “I know this is a problem for the Sheriff’s Office. Not only because they have to drive through the city to get here to help you. That would be another benefit.”

Moss wrapped up her talk with discussion of the city’s pending switch to Florida Power & Light, which is expected to bring lower utility bills for city residents.

About a year ago the situation was a total standstill,” she said. “Parties couldn’t agree to a telephone conversion. There were a lot of technical issues to resolve. They changed course. Jacob Williams came in as CEO. He was a reflection of the change.

There was a lot of ill will on both sides,” Moss added. “It was my job to go there and turn that around.” And, indeed, it seems now the sale of Vero’s electric utility to FPL might actually happen.

With the allotted time for her talk running out, Moss circled back to South Beach.

Whatever you decide amongst yourselves. It’s your decision, but we’d love to have you.”

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