Rezoning of island agricultural parcel paves the way for more new residences


One of the last parcels of agricultural land left on the barrier island was rezoned last week to allow up to three single-family homes per acre, paving the way for a new development on 19.6 acres of former citrus groves just north of the Island Club.

The Oak Hammock property at 8510 Jungle Trail does not extend to A1A and is prohibited by county regulations from having its entrance on the Jungle Trail, so construction workers and future residents will have to turn off A1A onto Island Club Manor to reach the new subdivision’s entrance.

The Board of County Commissioners voted 4 to 1 in favor of the rezoning with Commissioner Laura Moss rejecting the request from Jan Jelmby of Helmet House Construction, Manor Development LLC and John’s Island resident Alan Wilkinson, the property’s owner.

Wilkinson formed Manor Development LLC to buy the parcel in 2022 for $4.5 million from Premier Citrus. It is carved into the southern edge of what’s known as the Captain Forster Hammock Preserve, just north of the northern town limits of Indian River Shores.

The surrounding land consists of a mixture of conservation land to the north and east, single family development to the south, and the Indian River to the west. The single-family, up to three units per acre or RS3 zoning allows 15 times the density than the previous A1 agricultural, one unit per five acres zoning.

Initial plans for developing the property submitted last summer met substantial challenges. The county said the plans would have to be reworked and resubmitted because they did not include enough information to either approve or disapprove of the project.

At the April 23 commissioners meeting, county staff recommended the change as compatible with the surrounding area and consistent with the county’s adopted comprehensive plan and land development regulations.

With the exception of Moss, who was concerned about possible wetlands and endangered species and that the rezoning was in harmony with the public interest, all agreed that the applicant met the criteria.

“If it is not changed, we will have future inconsistency,” said Commissioner Joseph Flescher.

“This property met the criteria,” Commissioner Joseph Earman agreed.

“This land was previously grove land. I highly doubt it contains wetlands,” said Chris Balter, chief of Long Range Planning, adding that a wetlands delineation would be done later in the process and that any endangered species would also be identified.

If either is found, mitigation will occur at a low level, or a buffer will be created if the findings are at a higher level. “We have built-in regulations,” Balcer said.

Robert and Beth Shapiro, residents of Island Club Manor, expressed concern during the public hearing, saying they “fell in love with Vero Beach” when they saw it. “It was not a concrete jungle. In a few years, much of the area is unrecognizable,” said Beth Shapiro, adding, “the property would be better zoned for conservation.” In addition, the couple is worried about the noise and dust that will come from the construction process.

As originally proposed, the development would include 15 lots ranging from .71 acres to 1.07 acres, with one .39-acre lot. Home sizes are not included in the original design. Plans also showed a “future dock” on the river that looked like it would have a boat slip for each home and a gazebo at the end.

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