Megan Hoots: Candidate for 2017 Vero Beach, FL City Council.

Hoots

Megan Hoots

In the past, Vero Communiqué has submitted questions to candidates running for local offices, such as Vero Beach City Council and the Indian River County Hospital District.  Once again, we have submitted ten questions to the six candidates running for Vero Beach City Council.  All candidates agreed to participate, except Jay Kramer, who indicated he “had not decided” to do so.  We are pleased to share answers from the other five candidates to our ten questions.

1. The sale of the Vero Beach electric utility to Florida Power and Light is top of mind. Are you for the full sale and under what circumstances? Also, would you support a partial sale if the total sale does not go through? Do you believe a partial sale would result in the South Beach and other customers subsidizing Indian River Shores customers?

“Vero Beach residents voted for a full sale and the city should honor that decision. This process has gridlocked our City Council for decades and has cost the taxpayers exorbitant amounts of money in legal fees. The focus now needs to be on making the transaction transparent to Vero Beach residents and making sure we get the best possible deal. Making this process any longer and more convoluted is a disservice to our community. We need to sell the power plant, lower electric bills, and move past this issue that has distilled our City Council into a one issue governing body for far too long. A partial sale will not benefit the citizens of Vero Beach.”

2. In order to sell the Vero Beach electric utility, Vero Beach would have to exit its’ contract the Florida Municipal Power Agency. All of the remaining 19 cities would have to agree to allow Vero Beach to exit. Do you think all 19 members would allow Vero Beach to do so?

“At this point, respectful collaboration and discussion is key to seeing this deal through. FMPA has agreed to the current deal and I think all parties involved, (included Vero’s elected officials and FMPL) will be able to outline Vero Beach’s goals to the sister cities. From there, we can hope for an amiable agreement.”

3. From 2010 to 2016 the Vero Beach City Council budgeted $ 3,639,660 for various storm water projects and expended $ 2,683,239, a $ 956,421 short fall. According to a 12/11/15 article in Florida Today , Jim Waymer wrote that “Storm water is the No. 1 problem” facing the Indian River Lagoon. While Brevard County, FL residents voted overwhelmingly for a half-cent sales tax to fund Indian River Lagoon clean-up projects, the Vero Beach City Council voted not to give any further consideration on charging City residents a $ 5.00 monthly fee to protect the Lagoon. Should this $ 5.00 fee be reconsidered and if not, why not? If reconsideration resulted in enacting the fee, what projects do you feel should be undertaken?

“Storm water runoff is a very serious problem for our lagoon. Dangerous algae blooms are fueled by the excess nitrogen from stormwater runoff. $5.00 a month, less than $100 year, is a reasonable cost to clean and protect Vero Beach’s most valuable asset. Without a healthy and vibrant lagoon, Vero Beach’s core economy will fail. We should seriously consider this fee, among other proposed solutions.”

 

4. What is your position on the Comprehensive Land Use 2035 POLICY Plan? And what is your position on the role of the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council in our City planning?

“First, it is a travesty that our city officials have neglected to pass this comprehensive plan in a timely manner. This plan is more than 5 years overdue and is at risk of being fined by the state of Florida for the city’s tardiness.

I support smart growth for our city; the Comprehensive Land Use Plan will promote much needed measured growth. In addition, passing the comprehensive plan will allow for the proposed Cultural Arts Village to move forward. Supporting growth, a healthy economy, and the arts is vitally important; passing the comprehensive plan is the first step towards a brighter future.”

5. Inspired by Coral Gables, FL becoming the first city in Florida to ban the use of single use carry out plastic bags by retailers, there is a movement afoot to ban plastic bags in Vero Beach’s 32960 and 32963 zip codes. The goal of the movement is to get enough signatures of support to bring a proposal before the Vero Beach City Council to have the Council follow along and adopt Coral Gables’ ban. Would you support such a ban and why?

“I am proud to be one of the founding members of Save the Sea; Go Plastic Free- a statewide initiative to bag plastic bags in our cities. The pilot program was launched here in Vero Beach and we have gathered hundreds of signatures from Vero Beach residents in support. We plan to present the ban to current City Council at the October 17th meeting. I hope our City Council supports the efforts and implements an ordinance to significantly reduce single use plastic bags in our city. I know this effort will improve the health of our fragile waterways and unique marine life.”

6. At a recent South Beach Property Owners Eminent Speakers Series Vero Beach Mayor Laura Moss suggested that Indian River County’s South Beach property owners enter into a conversation as to whether they should be annexed by Vero Beach. Should they desire to be annexed, do you support having the City Council enact an ordinance to annex South Beach, which would lead to two public meetings, followed by a vote of the registered electors of the annexed property?

“If the property owners want to approach City Council, I would consider it at the time.”

7. In the late 1970’s the City of Vero Beach enacted an ordinance outlawing vacation rentals for less than 30 days. In the last legislative session Florida State Representative Mike Larose and State Senator Greg Steube introduced companion bills that “A local law, ordinance or regulation may not…prohibit…vacation rentals.” Originally, the bills “did not apply to any local law, ordinance or regulation adopted on or before June 1, 2011.” However, Senator Steube subsequently filed an amendment to his bill that would delete the June 1, 2011 provision except to extent the rental is offered by a “person who is currently serving on active duty in a branch of the United States Armed Forces or owned by a disabled veteran with a service-connected evaluation of such disability of 30% or more, according to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.”

It is likely that Representative Larose and Senator Steube will be back with similar companion bills, that if passed, would nullify Vero Beach’s 30-day rental ordinance except to the to the extent of the exception above, which would place the City in a position to monitor who or who doesn’t fall into that category. Are you aware of this threat and what action should the City Council be taking to address it?

 

“Tallahassee continues to pass legislation that intrudes on “home rule” principles. However, much has changed since the 1970’s. I would want to hear from current residents on how they feel about vacation rentals before I would urge the City Council to take action in one direction or another.”

8. Once Vero Beach’s Big Blue power station is removed, what would you like to see the City do with that property?

“I am a strong supporter of green spaces and increased public access to our waterways. I would like to support the building of more parks, with outdoor recreational activities. I believe in investing in recreation for every generation to improve the quality of life for our entire community. The land on the west side would be perfect pickle ball or frisbee golf and on the east side you have water access to our sailing and rowing clubs.

Let’s encourage smart growth, LEAD certified development, and make Vero Beach work for our working families and seniors.”

9. What would you propose to improve the parking in Vero Beach, particularly on the Island in the proximity of Ocean Drive? Are you in favor or metered parking?

“It is clear that parking on Ocean Drive needs to be addressed. Metered parking is one of many solutions that should be discussed and considered.”

10. If Vero Beach Mayor Laura Moss were to run for reelection, would you support her?

“It has been my experience, at City Council meetings and other venues, that our mayor is uninterested in collaboration and respectful dialogue with the citizens she represents. In the interest of promoting healthy conversation and smart leadership for the vitality and future of Vero Beach- I would not support her reelection.”

 

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