Beware! Two words will doom downtown Vero Beach effort
Four Story Mixed-Use Building in Downtown Vero Beach a Good Match?
Vero Beach Planning & Zoning Board members approved a four-story building for the southwest corner of 14th Avenue and 18th Street in February 2019.
Laurence Reisman, [email protected]
I heard a story last week about two boys playing on a street in Vero Beach in the early 1940’s.
There wasn’t much traffic, but enough that Alma Lee Loy stormed out of her home to let her brother and his friend know that it was too dangerous to go down State Road 60, east of 43, on what was then the only two lanes to playapprox Avenue.
The road now has six lanes, thanks in part to the foresight of George Loy’s childhood friend John Schumann, the former editor and owner of the Press Journal, who not only played in the middle of the road, but championed it in the 1960s and early 1970s used for its widening.
Some people said six lanes was too much.
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security issues? How difficult is it to cross the twin pairs in Vero Beach?
We’re reviewing how difficult/easy it is to cross Westbound State Road 60, half of the Twin Pairs in Vero Beach, on Friday noon in the summer of 2017.
LAURENCE REISMAN, TCPALM
Vero Beach legacy of growth planning
Schumann also assisted the Twin Pairs, who amidst rapid growth, smoothly and safely routed traffic in and through downtown to the Merrill Barber and Alma Lee Loy Bridges.
Last week, as the Vero Beach City Council discussed downtown a few blocks away, I joked with Schumann that we should videotape ourselves crossing four lanes of State Road 60 to show how easy it is when we’ll do it on the corner, not in between.
The next day, I watched as a committee of the Indian River County Metropolitan Planning Organization passed a resolution adopting a goal of zero: “a statewide initiative to reduce traffic-related serious injuries and fatalities throughout Florida to ZERO.” “
Given the possibility of human error, this is an impossible goal.
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Why risk a safety record?
But since the Twin Pairs’ inception in 1992, no fatalities have been recorded downtown. Still, at least three city council members are hell-bent on reducing the street from seven lanes to four, and adding parallel parking lots to the sides.
In my opinion, trying to shorten lanes and add parking spaces will in turn lead to a significant polarization of the community. The effort will divert the Council’s focus from more important issues and drain its resources.
Some city dwellers want to limit traffic; Others like things the way they are. Some are willing to meet in the middle by narrowing lanes, slowing speeds, and adding crosswalks and wider bike lanes.
As for the proponents of lane removal, it seems to be their way or the Autobahn.
At the same time, the City Council is discussing a large, Three Corners-like plan for downtown and other areas such as the ocean and Royal Palm Pointe.
The challenge is the planning staff, five council members and their minions each have their own ideas of what to do. So does the public.
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Vero Beach faces numerous challenges
I’ve pointed out a few over the years:
- Condo Creep: Once upon a time, Vero Beach had many more restaurants along Royal Palm Pointe; two, including an ice cream parlor across the boardwalk from Conn Beach and a Sheraton hotel just north of Jaycee Park. They’re gone, replaced by a country club or high-end condos – good for owners, but not for the public.
- Neighborhood Character: Vero Beach is cool in part because of its unique neighborhoods. Some, like Edgewood, home of the Vero Beach Arts Village, have been largely protected. On the beach side, some older neighborhoods with smaller homes and handsome oak trees give way to McMansions. Character loss is unsettling.
- Former Dodger Pines Country Club: If the city isn’t careful, developers will take the largest vacant private lot (340 acres) in Vero Beach and turn it into a giant, biscuit-shaped subdivision — 774 homes under the latest plan. Not happy with traffic on State Road 60, 26th Street (Aviation Boulevard), 43approx Avenue or now the Twin Pairs? just wait!
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The zoning strategy can help downtown
- Storage City USA: What well-planned city would allow storage facilities to take up valuable space along a trade corridor like US 1 next to a neighborhood? The same that would make it nearly impossible to construct mixed-use buildings to encourage reinvestment in the neighborhood and make it easier for residents to walk to shopping.
Which takes us downtown.
It’s good advice, and its director of planning recently addressed the dreaded D-word: density.
It’s a scary seven letters. Nobody I know wants to see apartment buildings like the ones on North Hutchinson Island.
Something three or four stories, perhaps with retail or restaurants on the ground floor, similar to what’s found elsewhere in smaller downtown areas, makes more sense.
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The largest open space of Vero Beach: As of February 22, 2015: Latest plans disappointing for Dodger Pines homes
Get people to live downtown again
That in itself is a challenge.
Why? Jason Jeffries, director of planning, explained the city has a limit of 17 units per acre. In a downtown area like Winter Park, the limit might be 20 or 30 per acre, he said. At least one real estate agent I spoke to said less is not economically viable.
While I’m not often an advocate of building, the reality is that downtown Vero Beach homes have been bulldozed over the decades to make way for church and government building expansions.
The city center used to live off the pedestrian traffic of the neighbours. It would be great to see that again.
To be successful, the zoning issue must be considered independently of the twin pairs. A debate about a dramatic change in pairs, as has been proposed multiple times over the past 30 years and now, would derail the potential for zoning changes.
The twin pairs were never changed because eventually massive opposition – from city and county residents – arose and may change the city elections. People from the Arts Villages realized it was a divisive distraction from what they were trying to achieve, so they avoided it.
The reality is that our county’s estimated population of 165,559 is expected to grow to 181,640 by 2030; 196,133 by 2040; and 206,847 by 2050. Like our ancestors, we need to plan for more lanes, not fewer.
Can you imagine the distress we would be in if local leaders, with only 36,000 people in 1970, didn’t support the Twin Pairs, widen State Road 60 west of downtown, or build the Alma Lee Loy Bridge?
Remember the history and insight of our ancestors. They planned growth ahead. It came and we were much better prepared for it.
This column reflects the opinion of Laurence Reisman. Contact him by email at [email protected], by phone at 772-978-2223, Facebook.com/larryreisman, or Twitter @LaurenceReisman.
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