Op Ed: FOLLOW THE MONEY!!!! VERO BEACH, FL MUNICIPAL MARINA. PHASE TWO.

By Len Markir

We’re about to see action by Vero Beach (VB)  and it’s City Council in long time preparation,…. but under the radar by the majority of taxpayers, which will further change the definitions of public lands, recreational uses, and even ‘taxpayers’ money. “FOLLOW THE MONEY !!!- PHASE 1” (https://verocommunique.wordpress.com/2022/03/16/op-ed-where-our-vero-beach-fl-power-plant-money-goes/) outlined how decisions by a Growth and Development City Council elected by the voters for the past several elections led to the concept of allowing public recreational lands to be used in various ways for private development and businesses, and led us to ‘today’,… and this is what ‘today’ looks like for our home town marina:

The City Council plans to spend a lot of General Funds money in order to massively expand the existing village/town Municipal Marina on public lands and create, in their words, a “First Class Destination Business Marina”, which redefines the term ‘Recreation’ for the VB public in general and the VB resident boaters who are about 1/2 of 1% of the residents. The City originally created an ‘Enterprise Zone’ surrounding the marina complex in order that it could use public lands and amenities meant for ‘recreation’ and ‘open to the public’ as a profitable Limited Business Use. 

Because this City ‘business’ was just barely profitable, the City recently used about $3.3 MILLION Dollars from the sale of the power plant as a ‘gift’ to save the marina about $350,000 a YEAR in debt service which now made them quite profitable. So,… there is, at least the argument, that the marina could begin their own phased repairs without requiring, either additional funds from the City, or any substantial expansion.

For new residents of VB, this village marina has grown organically in a small backwater estuary hidden from the major Intracoastal Waterway and separate from the open Indian River Lagoon. It is adjacent to a large residential neighborhood and even consists of an industrial style and use building that houses a small number of 20 foot dry rack storage boats. It’s growth has been consistent with the small town growth of the City and it’s image of a ‘sweet’ neighborhood recreational marina amenity has attracted transient boating traffic to stop for the same reasons.

The majority of residents approve the need to update, and even rebuild, our existing marina in generally poor condition. I think this was the ‘hook’ to authorize, and then approve, about $600,000 for a marine architect to design concept drawings which started small and grew far beyond the existing marina ‘improvements’ reaching all the way to their pre-conceived ‘First Class Destination Site’ expansion project.

In my opinion, now comes the ‘bait and switch’ portion of this story. WHILE ALWAYS TALKING TO THE TAXPAYERS ABOUT SIMPLY UPGRADING THE EXISTING MARINA, their first decision was to approve the construction of the MAXIMUM sized expansion plan, requiring costs to be substantially borne by the General Fund (the taxpayer’s money). Next, they started budgeting the first amounts of money to transfer from the General Fund for this massive project. Then they applied for a series of Inland Navigation grants indicating they were intended for the MAXIMUM concept plan.

However, they will NOT start with rebuilding the existing marina, which makes sense, and was the entire predicate for the project. They want to first construct a new dry rack storage building about three times the size of the existing,… over utilizing the site for a quasi-industrial use operation, while locating that building in close proximity to an existing condominium complex. Their justification for the expanded building is, as they have often stated, for added marina business income. 

Once about $6-8 MILLION Dollars is spent for this first phase rack storage building, several dynamics will have been put into motion, while creating an ‘inevitability’ for the remainder of the MAXIMUM marina project: 

First is that the justification for this size and scope of Phase 1 building will not need to be proven BEFORE spending the money. 

Second is justifying the adequacy of this estuary to accommodate the increase in activity of the MAXIMUM plan will not need to be proven BEFORE spending the money. 

Third is that, once this most questionable and objected against part of the project uses the legitimate excuse of ‘upgrading the marina’ as the ‘hook’, the rest of taxpayer’s General Fund money gets transferred and delivered to this Limited Business Venture and the “First Class Destination Business Marina” becomes a reality.

City Council is holding a ‘workshop’ on 05 May to ‘listen to the residents’. Most of the comments by residents have been negative and already loudly heard. In my opinion, the City Council has created this workshop as a ‘red line’ to move forward with their ‘plans’. The only problem the taxpayers face now is they have no guidance from the Council as to what, if anything, would stop this project from moving forward. And without that vital piece of data, they cannot mobilize a series of persuasive arguments. So, we will probably watch the saga of a united City of Vero Beach dealing with ‘reasonable and necessary modern age growth’  pitted against ‘anecdotal’ anti-growth resistance. 

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