Vero Beach Mayor Harry Howle and City Councilman Val Zudans are advocating for the inclusion of commercial development, Orchid Island Brewery, in MacWilliam Park and leasing the River House to the Orchid Island Brewery.
At the May 15 City Council meeting, without any backup information, Councilman Val Zudans slipped onto the May 15 Council agenda an item he described as simply being for “discussion.”
Zudans’ intention was to call for a vote on his proposal to offer a brewery a long-term lease of the Riverhouse located in MacWilliam Park. Later in the meeting, without providing public notice of their plans, Councilmen Harry Howle and Lange Sykes joined Zudans in voting (three to two) to direct City Staff to have the City Manager enter discussions with Mr. Bing (owner of Orchid Island Brewery) about what potentially he wants to do.
Why are we interested in what he wants to do and not what we want to do?
Former Vero Beach Mayor Richard Winger, who served three terms on the City Council, is circulating a petition opposing the Council’s plans to lease the River House in MacWilliam Park to the Brewery. His petition states that inclusion of a brewery/bar/ restaurant in MacWilliam Park is in VIOLATION OF CITY CHARTER that designates the site as parkland.
Imagine how you would feel if you were River House and listened to the June 13, 2018 Bob Soos radio show when the Mayor of Vero Beach Harry Howle called the public concerns about the park as a “small, trite, idiotic group, whiny, squeaky, insane and fear-mongering.” He said public presentations at City Council meetings are mere “fluff.”
Mayor Howle basically went on a tirade against the people he represents. Does a City Mayor say these things?
River House is a charming old-Florida type structure nestled under oak and palm trees along side the Indian River Lagoon in between the Vero Beach Dog Park and the Power Squadron.
Built in the early 1980’s, River House may have historical significance, which should be reviewed with the Indian River County Historical Society.
It’s occupancy statistics, receipts and net income should be reviewed with the Recreation Department and published.
This story will be developing.
This comes at a time when the City of Vero Beach has just completed all required renovations to River House from Hurricane Irma.
LED flatscreen lighting
New state-of the-art air conditioning systems.
All new hurricane proof windows and doors.
A worker at River House said: “the City paid a ton of money for all this. They should just leave it alone.” He said leasing the land to the brewery will penalize people west of the Lagoon who want to come on to the Island for a celebration.
Is the City so broke it has to make more money from leasing River House and uprooting a roughly 35 years old landmark that has been completely restored? The motivation here is troubling.
The Vero Beach City Council will be debating this further with the public at their meeting on July 17, 2018.