Social media teems with Three Corners nonsense


Apparently, in the age of social media, six weeks is more than enough time for misinformation, conspiracy theories, ridiculous rumors, baseless accusations and outright falsehoods about the much-anticipated Three Corners project to circulate throughout our community.

Vero Beach officials publicly released on March 4 the four proposals submitted by developers seeking to transform 17 of the 33 acres straddling the west end of the 17th Street Bridge into the dining, retail, social and recreational hub the city’s mainland waterfront so sorely lacks.

Within weeks, critics and doubters – many from the “Keep Vero Vero” crowd that believes every remaining patch of vacant ground in the city should become a park – were already questioning the proposals, attacking the process and arguing that developing the Three Corners site will destroy our quality of life.

Some of these amateur pundits, despite offering not a shred of evidence, have gone so far as to allege payoffs and back-room deals.

Of course, you can do those things on social media, which requires no knowledge or insight or even thought, only that you have a keyboard and an opinion.

This nonsense, however, has gone on too long.

Not only did the community overwhelmingly embrace the concept during a series of charrettes four years ago, but 79 percent of Vero Beach voters approved a November 2022 referendum to allow commercial development of the parcel on which the city’s defunct “Big Blue” power plant currently sits.

In other words: This is what the people want.

This isn’t a situation in which greedy developers came to town to tell us what to do with our waterfront. We invited them to invest in our community, and we’re telling them what we’ll allow them to do.

More important, we’re also telling them what they can’t do with the Three Corners property.

They can’t build above our 50-foot height limit, if they determine the steel husk of the power plant can’t be re-purposed. Not only is the restriction considered sacred in our community, but getting around it would require another referendum, which almost certainly would fail.

They can’t build condominiums or townhouses on the property, unless those residences are part of an on-site hotel. In fact, the term “residential” does not appear among the permitted uses in the carefully worded referendum approved by the voters.

They can’t build a beach club affiliated with a Three Corners’ on-site hotel on a city-owned beach without the approval of our City Council, which is highly unlikely to entertain any such proposal.

Simply put: They can’t build anything that doesn’t comply with the city’s Three Corners Master Concept Plan and 2022 referendum.

Currently, all four proposals include the power plant building, but one developer did raise the possibility of needing a height-limit variance if engineers deem the structure can’t be re-purposed in a cost-effective manner.

No way the city caves on that.

Any developers who know they need a height-limit waiver, residential component or beach club for their project to be financially viable – and think they can get it during the negotiation phase if the council chooses their proposal – might as well not show up for next month’s presentations to the city’s Selection Committee.

None of that is negotiable.

Yet, Three Corners news stories shared on Facebook’s popular Vero Beach-area community pages continue to prompt dozens of comments from posters who aren’t convinced but undermine their positions with a lack of knowledge about the city’s charter, ordinances and officials charged with overseeing this generational project.

In some cases, the misinformation being spread via social media has been puzzling, given the intense and extensive news coverage this endeavor has received since the project was first suggested.

And it doesn’t seem to matter that the process has been transparent and the city has engaged the public at every turn.

It’s little wonder, then, that Vero Beach Mayor John Cotugno appeared to be at least slightly perturbed by the negativism expressed by some Facebook posters as he addressed the misinformation during last week’s City Council meeting.

“As usual, the social media mavens have been formulating rumors, promoting theories and interpreting what was done in the past,” Cotugno said, urging skeptics to review the way the process has been handled from the outset.

“We’re not looking to bait-and-switch anybody,” he added, assuring the community that the Three Corners plan will be “executed for the benefit of the entire community.”

That’s not what you’re seeing on Facebook, however. Instead, you’ll find too many know-nothings accusing city officials of selling out to developers who are “lining a lot of pockets to get what they want.”

Such allegations are as outrageous as they are irresponsible, of course, but these posters and others are so fiercely opposed to the Three Corners development that they want the council members who’ve endorsed the project to be voted out of office.

Some of the more-ignorant comments included:

  • “I’m afraid the fix is in, and the winner is … big money and the developers.”
  • “Strange how when people take a public office, their values change. I wonder why that is.”
  • “Watch the height of buildings climb to the heavens.”

More than a few posters wrote that they’d rather the Three Corners site become another park, even though the Vero Beach already has nearly 20 of them, including two beach parks, an off-leash dog park and the city’s crown jewel, Riverside Park.

Obviously, they’re unaware Vero Beach has five times the amount of designated park land it should have for a municipality of its size, or that most of the people using those parks are county residents who live outside the city limits.

They must also not know that the commercial development proposals submitted last month apply to only the 17-acre power plant parcel – not the property that now contains the city’s wastewater treatment facility, which is located on south of the bridge but is scheduled to be moved to the Vero Beach Regional Airport in 2027.

Even then – unless Vero Beach voters decide otherwise – those 16-plus acres will remain protected by the city charter, which restricts their use to recreational, educational and cultural purposes.

Thus far, the only planned use for the property is the construction of a Youth Sailing Foundation community sailing center, which will include a small lagoon-front park.

There’s currently no talk of commercial development on that parcel, so the complaints from Facebook posters who want the Three Corners site to offer more outdoorsy, recreational activity are grossly premature.

To be fair, though, a few of those posters – along with Vero Beach 32963 readers who have sent emails to this newspaper – did cite a couple of genuine concerns: traffic and parking.

Let’s face it, traffic probably will be troublesome there, especially during our busy season.

The Three Corners site is at the intersection of two heavily traveled arteries. One of the roadways connects the island to the mainland.

So expect a mess, regardless of what the traffic studies say.

But traffic is a mess at every major intersection in Vero Beach these days, particularly during the winter and spring months. And the backups are going to get only worse as the county’s population continues to increase.

By the time the Three Corners opens, the county’s population will be pushing 200,000.
Traffic congestion at a strategic intersection, however, is no reason to abandon a much-needed development that promises to add so much vitality to our community.

The Florida Department of Transportation knows what’s coming, and perhaps will provide a solution. If not, we’ll simply have to manage it the best we can.

As for parking: All of the proposals include a parking component.

Will there be enough parking? Before construction may begin, the developer of the winning proposal must submit a site plan that complies with the city code, which sets parking requirements.

There’s plenty of time to address the situation, so there can be no acceptable excuse for a parking shortage.

That doesn’t mean the Three Corners development will be perfect, or everything everyone here wants it to be, or even that the project will be completed on time. There will be hiccups. There will be delays. There are likely to be disappointments.

When the gates finally open – city officials are optimistically targeting the summer of 2028 – we’ll undoubtedly find things that could’ve been done better.

But there’s no good reason to oppose the project, on social media or anywhere else.

You might be among those who see the Three Corners development as a direct threat to your “keep Vero Vero” mantra, but a significant majority of this community wants something more for our still-special community.

We want to make Vero better.

At least two of the Three Corners proposals being considered will do exactly that.

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