Vero delays riverfront project vote

VERO BEACH — Faced with choosing among five different possible redevelopment visions for the power plant site on the Indian River Lagoon, the City Council decided not to move forward Tuesday with a final plan.

Based upon that delay, the city will not place a referendum on the Nov. 3 ballot asking voters to amend the city charter to make way for a commercial project on the site. 

Two new plans developed over the past month incorporated amenities that architect Andres Duany felt were more feasible in the age of COVID-19. But the fourth plan approved by council would have cost city taxpayers between $7 million and $12 million so City Manager Monte Falls and Planning Director Jason Jeffries asked Duany to come back with a plan that would at least break even.

That prompted a fifth plan that the council first discussed Tuesday morning.

All five versions of the project will now go back to the Steering Committee, plus the city will re-engage the public and also analyze how much each option would cost in terms of infrastructure versus potential revenue streams.

Council members praised Duany for his hard work and creativity, but said the timing isn’t right for such a huge and potentially expensive decision. 

“Let’s take a collective breath, through our masks,” Vice Mayor Laura Moss said. 

Councilman Joe Graves added that whatever the council ultimately places on the ballot, “We need a city united.”

Councilman Robbie Brackett said he’s optimistic that a hotel project would be more commercially viable than the apartments Duany drew into the newest plan. “I’m not for residential units on this property.”

Next year, once the city has a better idea what the long-term impacts of the coronavirus pandemic might be, the referendum could be on the ballot with the city council election in November 2021. Duany said he appreciates not putting the referendum on the ballot with a presidential election, that a vote next year would involve the city’s most engaged voters and would be less “random.”

“We’re in the middle of a seismic event,”

Councilman Rey Neville said, adding that the council needs to decide whether or not to keep the facade of the Big Blue power plant, and get a much better handle on how much the project will cost. 

Steering Committee Chair Vicki Gould said the most recent plans had not been vetted by the public so it’s good to wait, “But let’s not drop the ball. Let’s keep up the momentum. Let’s move this forward.”

The plans can be viewed in the backup documents of the Aug. 18 meeting agenda at

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