Why Did Three Vero Beach, FL City Council Members Think They Could Vote to Lease River House to a Brewery?


Perhaps because:

COVB Code of Ordinances Sec. 54-4. – Concessions.

Licenses for concessions for the sale of food, drinks, and sale or rental of merchandise at city-owned facilities may be granted by the city council by resolution.


COVB Charter Section 5.05. – Limitation on alienation of city-owned real property.

 (a)  Except as provided in subsection (b), the following parks and public lands may not be sold, leased, traded, or given away by the city unless such sale, lease, trade, or gift is approved by a vote of the electors of the City of Vero Beach. The properties are as follows:

# 6 Alex MacWilliam Park

# 9 Municipal Marina

(Entire list not included here)

(b) The foregoing properties may be leased without a referendum only for a public or civic purpose which also serves a recreational, artistic, or cultural purpose, including incidental concessions.

Do Mayor Harry Howle, Councilmen Val Zudans and Lang Sykes think leasing River House to Orchid Island Brewery would be an incidental concession?

Incidental means secondary to something else that is primary.  River House, where there are over 200 events a year, is primary.

This subject will be taken up again at the July 17, 2018 City Council Meeting.

At the June 9, 2018 City Council meeting Committee Member Laura Moss made the following remarks:


“Some of them (Council Members) have not been conducting themselves in a ‘professional’ manner.

They have been handling city business in a way that is disrespectful of their colleagues on the council, confusing to the community, and condescending and demeaning to City Staff.

Unfortunately there have been many examples of this but I shall focus on River House now because many concerned members of the community have joined us today to speak about it.

I’ll preface my remarks by saying that I voted against commercialization of River House.  Councilman Young also voted against it.  However, the final vote was 3-2 against us.

This matter was placed on the agenda of a recent meeting without any indication of what was to be considered.

For the community, the city council meetings must be ‘properly noticed,’ meaning that they are advertised and the agenda is supplied in advance to allow the community to participate.

Agenda matters should be clearly stated with background materials provided to aid in understanding them.”

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7 thoughts on “Why Did Three Vero Beach, FL City Council Members Think They Could Vote to Lease River House to a Brewery?

  1. Thank you, Tom for covering this.
    Certain council members are dedicated to dismembering our city charter which protects our parks from commercialization.
    Nothing is sacred, including our parks when politicians and developers are in league.
    The brewery idea was a test flag to see if the proposal would fly. Watch it explode in their faces at Tuesday’s council meeting.

    The next step toward destroying our charter is already on the agenda. That includes the old power plant and water/sewer sites. The proposal is to rip those sites from the city charter. This leaves those sites completely open to developers without restrictions on building heights or density. It also places all future development decisions on the hands of city council, leaving the public without a voice concerning the future of our community.
    If I were a city council member with a professional career and accumulated cash on hand and driven by greed, I just might want to pave the way for hyper-development so that once out of office I could invest heavily in those unbridled developments.
    One last item. The public should bear in mind those monstrously tall silver stacks at the Old Blue site. These stacks have “air rights” which means that developers could build very tall indeed. Of course once the city charter has been removed, the sky is the limit.
    This Council bears watching. Bypassing the public and leaving the people without a voice is not good governance. It borders on dictatorship. These are not times to be complacent. Close scrutiny is proving to be effective in exposing the true motives behind their unprecedented moves to destroy our charter and our constitution.

    • Phyllis, Please don’t go overboard and stoke the fires with misinformation. This area is subject to the same 35/50′ height limits as most of the rest of the City. Where did you come up with this concept of “air rights”?

  2. Sorry Mark, you are absolutely right. You would know. I appreciate that. I see that my original source was incorrect.
    Without a charter to protect building heights in that area, who needs air right?
    No need to stoke any fires. Council brought this on themselves. Apparently the public seems it is fitting to hold them accountable. Let’s see how the meeting concludes.

    • Phyllis, Just to be clear – the Charter protects heights and densities throughout the City. Even if the Charter protection again sale or lease without a referendum was removed for a certain property, the height and density limits would still apply.

      • Just to be clear for the community, are you saying that if the Big Blue site was removed from the charter, heights and densities would still be controlled as per charter? If so, what is the point of removing the charter? Is it being done to place all decision-making in the hands of five council members?

      • Phyllis, Of course the height and density limits would still apply. I haven’t yet heard Val’s explanation but I expect it has to do with avoiding a referendum before any non-recreational development can occur.

        If you have an educated and informed voting public, the referendum process should not be a problem. However, one of the last referendums I remember was to allow Trinity Church to have a steeple (higher than the 50′ church) and the voters voted it DOWN! Perhaps someone can explain that to me, I guess my point is that a referendum can be a crap shoot that many otherwise desirable investors may not choose to gamble on.

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