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Vero oceanfront boom spills over the county line
week of July 24, 2014

North Hutchinson Island, the five-mile strand of sand, palm trees and high-rise condos south of Round Island Park long viewed as the red-headed stepsister of our barrier island community, suddenly is attracting the attention not just of local builders and brokers but developers from around the country. With oceanfront land and homes for sale on the Vero Beach side of the county line an increasingly scarce and pricey commodity, the unspoiled beaches and vacant tracts along the St. Lucie County stretch of our barrier island (despite different names, it's all one island) are starting to look more appealing to investors by the day. "I think there is a boom coming down there, and it is not far away," says Treasure Coast Sotheby's agent Stephen Brinley. "There are very few places left in the world like that area. It has become an exceptional opportunity." READ FULL STORY


Clock ticking in Shores suit over Vero electric rates
week of July 24, 2014

When the Town of Indian River Shores sued the City of Vero Beach last Friday for unreasonable electric rates and for failure to prudently manage its electric utility, it started a mandatory 100-day mediation process during which the parties must attempt to work out a settlement. At the heart of the Shores' argument is the fact that its residents have no voice in the management of the utility, and that the city, under the then leadership of manager Jim Gabbard and attorney Charlie Vitunac, deliberately phonied up its customer count to avoid state regulation that would have given Shores residents a voice. With no input from or accountability to Shores ratepayers, the suit says the utility has been mismanaged. One aspect of mismanagement of the utility has been the misuse of millions of dollars per year in utility revenue to subsidize the cost of Vero city personnel, facilities and services that in no way benefit residents of the Shores. READ FULL STORY


Theatre, Art Museum get boost from state
week of July 24, 2014

Vero's two largest cultural organizations are getting a major boost from state tax dollars this year, with both the Vero Beach Museum of Art and Riverside Theatre having their grant requests fully funded for the first time in recent memory. Directors say Riverside Theatre's state funding increased from $36,019 last year to $150,000 in 2014-15, a jump of 316 percent. The museum will also receive $150,000, up from $33,752. Last year, the state's arts organizations requested grants totaling $25.5 million and received just over $9 million. This year's budget included $43.3 million statewide for spending on the arts. That total significantly raises Florida's standing in per capita spending on the arts nationwide, with some reports putting the state in fifth place, depending on the outcome of other states' budgets. In the last fiscal year, Florida ranked only 41st. The grants will go toward the general operating expenses of the museum and the theater, as well as for exhibitions at the museum. READ FULL STORY


Hotels, restaurants get permission to serve alcohol on Vero's beaches
week of July 24, 2014

Enjoying a beer, a glass of wine, a mojito or a favorite fruity rum drink with lunch or dinner on the private beach property of hotels and restaurants will now be part of the leisure experience within the Vero city limits. Proprietors of such establishments can apply for such a special permit for beach alcohol service from City Hall. The change came about after several oceanfront businesses petitioned City Hall to expand alcohol service on their own property to the mean high-tide line, from 11 a.m. to sunset and in conjunction with food service. This does not mean patrons will be able to walk up and down the shore with a beer, but it does mean that seated customers in a lounge chair or at a table will be able to order alcoholic beverages while visiting their favorite hotel beach bar. READ FULL STORY


Luxury restaurant set for site of old P.V. Martin's
week of July 17, 2014

A new 6,000-square-foot fine-dining restaurant is coming to the oceanfront a few miles south of the county line in the North Hutchinson Island location where popular eatery P.V. Martin's stood for many years. "I think everybody will be blown away by the caliber of food and drink and the music venue," says Stephen Brinley, the Treasure Coast Sotheby's agent who brokered the sale of the vacant 3.1-acre property to Vero Beach businessman Joe Caragol and partners. "These guys are in the food business and they know restaurants and they are serious about making this a destination property. It is going to be very upscale and posh." Tentatively named South Orchid Island Club, the venture has preliminary site plan approval from St. Lucie County and is awaiting response to its state Department of Environmental Protection permit application. "The ground-floor dining room will have a double-sided fireplace and there will be a second-floor dining area above with a balcony that wraps around and gives beautiful views to the southeast," says project architect Jeff Ray, principal of Atelier d' Architecture. "There will be a beautiful outdoor bar and a curvilinear deck that has full ocean views. There may be some tables down on the sand. READ FULL STORY


Shores police play key role in solving laser burglaries
week of July 17, 2014

A late January break-in and the theft of a $100,000 laser from an island plastic surgeon's office seemed unlikely to result in an arrest. But diligent police work involving law enforcement agencies in Indian River Shores, Vero Beach and South Miami recently resulted in two arrests and is likely to lead to two more and the solving of four additional laser theft cases. In Indian River Shores on Jan. 30 at about 10:25 pm, four men dressed in black, with their faces mostly covered, kicked in the floor-to-ceiling window of Dr. Alan Durkin's Ocean Drive Plastic Surgery offices and clinic on A1A, and stole an expensive Palomar laser system and six laptop computers. At the time, police did not know that within two days of the burglary, expensive lasers had also been stolen from four more clinics and spas – two in Martin County, one in Broward County and one in Miami-Dade County. That information eventually led to a valuable link that is helping police solve the five crimes. Video surveillance tapes from the Shores break-in of Durkin's office showed four men prying the window loose with a crowbar and kicking it until it shattered, then leaving with the equipment. READ FULL STORY


Cultural Council may join Art Club in new downtown art center
week of July 17, 2014

The Indian River Cultural Council is rethinking its plan to attempt to acquire the historic downtown diesel plant for an arts center, and instead is considering multiple smaller spaces. One space currently under consideration has also piqued the interest of the Vero Beach Art Club, and the two entities are in early discussion on just how they might cooperatively make such a center happen. "We're just scratching the surface," says Barbara Hoffman, the Cultural Council's executive director. "We do not want to rule out the diesel plant. But we've been encouraged to have an alternative Plan B." "Because of the lawsuit, because of the trains, because of the fact that we might maybe want a larger space, we started looking at alternatives. The more you research, the more you really think through your projects, and you sometimes do reposition as a result. "What's been hitting my brain is that the community isn't really interested in the Cultural Council's building as much as they are in bringing art to the entire community. Is it through one building for the arts? Or is it though several buildings?" READ FULL STORY


Indigent care talks headed for arbitration
week of July 17, 2014

The Hospital District has pulled the plug on negotiations with Indian River Medical Center over how much taxpayer money the District trustees will give to the hospital for indigent care bills. Arbitration will begin Aug. 11 unless the hospital makes an offer the Hospital District accepts prior to that date, according to a unanimous vote by District trustees. "The advantage of arbitration is that the books are basically open, and the public and trustees deserve real answers," said District chairman Tom Spackman. A letter from the District, hand-delivered to Indian River Medical Center CEO Jeff Susi on Friday morning, said that the hospital had not negotiated in good faith on the Indigent Care Agreement and that the hospital was in default. The hospital was given 30 days to cure the default and come to an agreement with the District. The day before, at the District's monthly meeting, hospital attorney Bill Stewart tried to convince District trustees not to proceed to arbitration but to have more detailed discussions with the hospital to better understand what each side "found deficient in the other party's proposal. READ FULL STORY


Vero hoping to move sewer plant by 2021
week of July 17, 2014

In its first proactive step to get the city's sewer plant off the Indian River lagoon, the Vero Beach City Council directed staff last week to come back with a proposal to move the plant to the airport by 2021. This "whitepaper" the council asked for is expected to present a plan to take advantage of an opportunity to finance the project through bonds or loans after the city pays off tens of millions in debt seven years from now. Rough estimates put the cost of the project at $25 million or more, which would not only free up the 16.3 acres of prime riverfront property, but also give Vero a new wastewater treatment facility to serve ratepayers going forward. "This is a great thing that we're doing for the city," Mayor Dick Winger said after the meeting. Both Winger and Councilwoman Pilar Turner campaigned on the take-down of the sewer plant and have throughout their terms repeatedly urged the staff to get working on concrete plans to get it done, for environmental and aesthetic reasons. City officials assure the public that the plant poses no threat to the lagoon as the city no longer discharges waste into the water, but getting the aging facility off the waterfront would eliminate any possibility of an accident spilling raw sewage or chemicals into the delicate estuary. READ FULL STORY


Ocean Drive, Beachland Boulevard to be repaved
week of July 17, 2014

Cruising Ocean Drive is set to become a smoother ride this fall after the City of Vero Beach completes a re-paving project. Public Works Director Monte Falls said during city budget talks that he's targeting areas in need of new asphalt and the nearly mile-long stretch of Ocean Drive between Greytwig Road and Gayfeather Lane in Central Beach is one of those spots. The last time that section of Ocean Drive was paved was 1999. The city will also resurface three blocks of Beachland Boulevard from A1A east to Ocean Drive. Beachland Boulevard was last re-surfaced nearly 30 years ago. The whole project should take about a week, weather permitting. "Work will be done at night, traffic will be maintained in one lane and the on-street parking will not be accessible," Falls said. Falls told the council he's coordinating with the Oceanside Business Association on the timing of the project to minimize the impact on the OBA's major events – monthly Sunset Saturday concerts, the Christmas parade and April's Taste of Vero. Right now, construction is set to take place in mid-September. READ FULL STORY


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