Keep a Close Eye on Indian River County’s “Final” Growth Report
The convening notice I received last week hit me with a shock, like the feeling you get when you see a huge wooded area bulldozed for another cookie-cutter housing estate.
“This is an important meeting as Kimley-Horn & Associates will make the final presentation on the Land Use Vision Workshop results,” says the email from the Indian River County Metropolitan Planning Organizationthe intergovernmental agency responsible for local road planning.
Almost all of Indian River County’s major problems relate to its growth over the next 25 to 50 years. Rising traffic congestion, energy prices, housing affordability, jobs, education and the disappearing Indian River Lagoon are all linked.
If you don’t think growth is a problem, look at almost every other county on Florida’s east or west coasts — and many more in between.
Continued:COVID shows that preserving and encouraging agriculture is essential to Indian River’s vision
Farmers faith: Locally, their efforts please our palates, fill our bellies
Replicate Sarasota County?
How much do we want to replicate? Counties with seats such as Miami, Fort Lauderdale or West Palm Beach? How about those with Naples, Fort Myers, Sarasota, Bradenton or Tampa?
Kimley-Horn consultants told attendees at the October land use visioning workshop that Indian River County reminded them of Sarasota County – with a coast and a highway in it. lands. Have you seen the growth (and traffic) east of Interstate 75 in Sarasota? It’s frightening.
Having lived here for nearly 40 years, I know we can’t close the door behind us after moving in. But we have to plan for a better future than some of our neighbors.
It can be done if we bring together the best minds in the field, research, reflect and work towards a vision we want – not a vision we are doomed to.
The Latest on Indian River County Vision: See the documents on the department’s website
I wondered about the term “final presentation” in the email.
The only time locals were able to engage with county consultants before beginning to compile reports was the aforementioned workshop, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on October 14, a Thursday.
The crowd was what you would expect at a growth conference in Florida – about 80 developers, landowners and planners and government officials. I saw few younger residents – the people who will have to live with whatever is decided – and almost no minorities.
While the presentation and interactive sessions were decent, it seemed less of an effort to gauge audience input and more of discussing the inside of baseball. Despite the fact that there is room for around 35,000 more units in the county’s urban area, the consultants focused on what should be done on rural land as agricultural interests face financial pressures .
A follow-up meeting was held on the morning of February 3, a Thursday. There were a few more voices there, but the session built on the first meeting.
A third session reporting on the first two was held before the County Planning and Zoning Commission at 7 p.m. on February 24.
After receiving the “final” warning email, I expressed my concern to Brian Freeman, personnel director of the Metropolitan Planning Organization, that county residents had not had sufficient opportunity to participate. Freeman said the rest of the process — which will take more than a year — will include numerous workshops and meetings as the county’s overall land use plan may change.
For me, however, at this point the consultant’s final report might be too far along to stop if there are any issues.
Continued:The planner strikes at three corners of the ‘out of the park’ plan; Too bad we can’t use it soon
Continued:Don’t Nap: Next Steps for Vero Beach 3 Corners, Including 10 Takeaways
Continued:Jason Nunemaker served Fellsmere, but shaped the future of the rest of the county
Remembering the County Vision of 2004
I remembered how DFO did visioning exercises in 2004, which created a plan to guide the county to 2030.
Growth was so strong that county commissioners debated moratoriums to limit bad development. The commission established a 30-member growth task force to review land use planning regulations. Eighty amendments have been proposed.
At the time, I attended visioning meetings in Sebastian and Oslo, where planners discussed potential growth patterns and priorities – such as creating new towns in rural areas – and asked for feedback. .
Press Journal records show that DFO has scheduled seven visualization workshops in Vero Beach, Oslo, Gifford, Sebastian, Wabasso and Fellsmere. Four took place at 6 p.m.; the others at 1 p.m.
I called Peter O’Bryan, the chairman of the commission who will be leaving in November, to see if I was out of the picture worrying.
“It’s hard to get the general public out for things like that,” said O’Bryan, elected in 2006.
He is right. It is almost impossible to get a good representative sample of residents to show up at all times, but especially 10-2 weekdays. He said he would ask DFO staff if they could arrange a few evening sessions in the northern and southern parts of the county.
O’Bryan and I talked about Vero Beach’s success in bringing audiences out for a week of day and night viewing sessions across town – called charettes by city planner Andres Duany – which led to an initial design of Three Corners.
Vero Beach voters will be asked to vote in November to approve the concept of a waterfront recreation area, as well as a hotel/conference center, retail businesses and restaurants to help pay for l open public space on 38 acres that the city owns at Indian River Boulevard and 17th Street.
If the city could hire residents so well for a relatively small piece of land, one would think the county could do better by hiring people to survey hundreds of thousands of acres.
Continued:Consensus to annex the lands of Graves? Sebastian needs to get everyone on the same page
Continued:No new municipality for Indian River County now, but St. Johns idea will return
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Some farmland under threat
Development threats in the county’s rural area are real, from the 1,100 acres south of County Road 510, a lawsuit temporarily prevented Sebastian from annexing the potentially 25,000-acre New Town Improvement District of the St. Johns River discussed in 2020.
Not to mention Fellsmere’s annexation spree in the 2000s, growing from 6 to 55 square miles (almost from State Road 60 to the northern county line). The growth included nearly 6,000 acres now for sale by the Corrigan family.
Growth west of Interstate 95 has already begun – and not just the CVS distribution center. About 200 houses were built Trace of Verona, southwest of 12th Street and 98th Avenue. And it is surrounded by farmland.
It’s time for us to reflect on what Indian River County officials are working on. It’s good that they plan, but let’s be careful.
As I mentioned in November, we need to grow at a manageable rate, in a way that improves our ability to feed ourselves. Agriculture, as COVID has shown, is critical to our future.
The more we can be self-sufficient – and not rely on other states or countries to provide what we need – the better off we will be.
Let’s keep that in mind as we plan for the future.
The “final” DFO meeting will be held at 2 p.m. on April 5 in Boardroom B1-501 at the County Complex, 1800 27th St., Vero Beach.
Make plans to be there.
This column reflects the opinion of Laurence Reisman. Support his work by subscribe to TCPalm. Contact him by email at [email protected], phone at 772-978-2223, Facebook.com/larryreisman or Twitter @LaurenceReisman