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Price of Vero beachfront property up over 20 percent this year
week of October 16, 2014

The price of Vero oceanfront land, relatively stable since the end of the last real-estate boom in 2007, has jumped more than 20 percent so far this year as inventory continues to be depleted by an unprecedented volume of sales. The main way of valuing beachfront property is cost per running foot on the water. In 2013, the average price per running foot paid by buyers on the barrier island was $19,446, meaning a typical 100-foot-wide lot would cost $1.95 million. So far this year, the average is nearly $24,000 per precious foot of Atlantic Ocean frontage, and some sales have topped $30,000 a foot. "Prices are undeniably increasing," says Michael Thorpe, co-owner of Treasure Coast Sotheby's International Realty. "Oceanfront property is viewed by many as the premier asset on the island and it is a diminishing resource, which is making it more valuable." READ FULL STORY


Jason Nunemaker: The man with a plan for Fellsmere
week of October 16, 2014

Spend an hour visiting with Jason Nunemaker and you can't help but come away feeling optimistic, even excited, about the future of this small-in-numbers, large-in-area city in northern Indian River County. Not only does Fellsmere's city manager have a wonderfully intriguing blueprint for what this mostly undeveloped swath of land can become, but he also exudes a passionate-yet-practical enthusiasm for transforming his vision into a reality. "It's definitely something I can see," Nunemaker said, not a hint of doubt in his voice. "And what I see is the chance for this city to become even more special than it already is – to become something that will be a source of pride, not only for our residents but for the entire county. "We're going to take advantage of the resources we have and not try to be something we're not," he added. "Most of our plan is long-term, though there are some things we want to do sooner rather than later. Certainly, the economy will be a factor. READ FULL STORY


Shores panel OKs A1A office building
week of October 16, 2014

With a record crowd of protesters packing Town Hall, the Indian River Shores Planning, Zoning and Variance Board unanimously recommended Monday that the Spectrum office building project be approved by the Town Council. But they did it with one important concession to those opposing the project: They recommended that the two-story building not be permitted to house retail businesses or medical practices. Only professional offices would be allowed. The board, however, did not yield to repeated requests that the building be smaller and that more green space surround it. About 150 people took all of the available chamber seats, stood along the walls and gathered in groups outside to applaud speeches against the project and shout "no" when a handful of people spoke in favor of the Bermuda-style building proposed for a site across A1A from the Shores Town Hall. Those favoring the project said it would be "a gorgeous building and an enhancement" to the area. READ FULL STORY


Vero City Council election:
A battle for third?

week of October 16, 2014

With the fall election less than three weeks away, the battle among seven candidates for three available seats on Vero Beach City Council is shaping up as a two-way, or possibly three-way, battle for third place. But whatever the outcome, it is not likely to drastically alter the "Keep Vero Vero" policies of the present 3-2 majority on the council. Mayor Dick Winger, Vice-Mayor Jay Kramer and Councilwoman Amelia Graves have provided the 3-2 majority on a number of issues for the past year, and of that troika, only Kramer is up for re-election this time. Although his about-face on the sale of the city's electric system – he used to be for it until he became its most vocal opponent on the council – has earned him some enemies, he is expected to ride the power of incumbency to get back in. Randy Old, the newcomer who raised a ton of money, waged a professional campaign, showed a good grasp of the issues and collected an impressive array of endorsements, has been tapped by most pundits to finish as the top vote-getter this time around. READ FULL STORY


Kristen Simpson's journey: The pivot from grief to hope
week of October 9, 2014

About a year after her husband Brian was murdered in the bedroom of their Fiddlewood home, Kristen Simpson realized that she had lost hope. At first, the grief was so overwhelming she lived from minute to minute, never thinking about the day. But as time passed and she struggled through the mechanics of daily life, trying to keep going for her children, she knew she didn't want to. And regardless of what she did – teaching her PE students, going to counseling, running and going to every meet, game and concert of her kids – she looked forward to nothing. "Hope was so alien to me, I no longer knew what it meant," she said.But with the trial of the man who murdered her husband just over, her home saved by a caring community and the unwavering love of family and friends, she now sees the world differently. READ FULL STORY


Jurors say killer's iPhone sealed guilty verdict
week of October 9, 2014

While the jury weighing the fate of Henry Lee Jones, Jr. found him guilty of the murder of Brian Simpson in near record time, the key evidence that took most of them to a place "beyond reasonable doubt" was not presented until near the end of the trial and came from Jones' cell phone, according to interviews with four jurors. "The cell phone data on top of the other evidence is what nailed it in my mind. But I told myself I would keep an open mind to see what the defense had. When they didn't have much, I knew what I thought," said juror Tasha Solis, an urgent care nurse. "After the cell phone data I couldn't see it any other way even though I tried to," said juror Jim Gagnon, an Orchid Island security officer. "I believed Darius Robinson (the accomplice) who testified that Jones had the gun and shot Mr. Simpson, but what confirmed it for me was the GPS information on Jones' cell phone and the email on the phone about the stolen coin," said juror Stacy Smith, an orthopedic physician's assistant. READ FULL STORY


Warren Anderson, 93, dies here in obscurity
week of October 9, 2014

Thirty years after the deadliest industrial accident in history caused the deaths of 10,000 in Bhopal, India, Warren M. Anderson died in virtual obscurity in Vero Beach last week. The former CEO of Union Carbide, who was held accountable by Indian authorities for the 1984 disaster at the pesticide plant, would have turned 93 in November. It was four years after the toxic gas release, and two years into retirement, that Anderson and his wife Lillian in 1988 bought a three-bedroom, 2,000-square-foot home in Sea Forest, one of Indian River Shores' least pretentious private communities. There, they lived a quiet life together, reportedly retreating to an apartment in John's Island only on the December anniversary of the Bhopal incident, lest yet another activist or journalist disturb them. The couple also kept a century-old home in Bridgehampton, NY. "He was extremely well admired and well-liked," said Warren Schwerin, whose company, Related Properties, acquired the Union Carbide headquarters in Danbury, Conn., soon after Anderson's retirement. "He was a gentle, soft-spoken man and extremely private." READ FULL STORY


Kristen Simpson strong, confident at murder trial
week of October 2, 2014

After three years of fury and sorrow, grieving the loss of her husband while trying to keep going for their two children, Kristen Simpson's moment finally came. It seemed only right that she was the first witness called in the murder trial of Henry Lee Jones, Jr., charged with shooting her husband Brian in November 2011 during an abortive burglary of the family home in Central Beach. Often during the past three years, she has been quick to say that the trial of the man charged with shooting her husband was what she waited for with great passion as a point of justice and closure. But it is also what she dreaded more than anything else in the world because, she said, she knew, once again, she would have to live the horror of Brian's death detail by excruciating detail. And so, when she took the stand – a slim, curly-headed woman in black, trembling visibly – she was, at first, unable to speak, overcome by the gravity of the moment. READ FULL STORY


Vero can't halt Central Beach vacation rentals
week of October 2, 2014

A three-judge panel in circuit court last Wednesday affirmed the Aug. 2013 decision of the Vero Beach Code Enforcement Board that the city's ordinance regarding short-term or "vacation" rentals was too vague to enforce a $50 fine levied against former Councilwoman Tracy Carroll and her husband John. The Carrolls were cited, in response to a resident complaint, for renting out their home on Camelia Lane in Central Beach on a weekly basis to vacationers. In the wake of the circuit court ruling, Vero Beach is left with no ability to prevent owners of homes in Central Beach from offering them for rentals of any length an unlimited number of times a year. The Florida Legislature, at the behest of special interest groups representing the vacation rental industry, in 2011 passed a law pre-empting all authority to regulate short-term rentals to the state. Cities, towns and counties that had tough laws on the books were grandfathered in, but cities that did not were rendered powerless to strengthen their existing codes after June 2011. Vero did not act to tighten up its existing code. READ FULL STORY


Doctor vs doctor: Gillis sues Ramdev for defamation
week of October 2, 2014

A former, well-respected Indian River Medical Center emergency room doctor is suing a prominent local vascular surgeon for defamation, according to court records filed last week. Former hospital ER physician David Gillis accuses Vero vascular surgeon Pranay Ramdev of acts and statements that caused him to suffer "injury of reputation, shame, humiliation, distrust and ... a loss of earnings." The latest litigation stems from a medical malpractice lawsuit filed against both Ramdev and Gillis in 2011. In that suit, according to records from IRMC and Lawnwood Medical Center, Gillis, who was in the IRMC emergency room, called Ramdev, the vascular surgeon on-call at IRMC, and asked him to come in because of a life-threatening blockage in a patient's left leg which required immediate vascular surgery. Ramdev, who was at Lawnwood in Fort Pierce when Gillis called him twice summoning him to the IRMC ER, told Gillis to send the patient to Lawnwood. But when the patient arrived by ambulance at Lawnwood, Ramdev had left, according to hospital records. READ FULL STORY


Island attorney disbarred over trust account
week of October 2, 2014

A barrier Island attorney would be prohibited from practicing law for at least five years under a plea deal with the Florida Bar Association, which charged that she misused a trust account containing roughly $25,000 of her clients' money. Holly Ann Mantle, a partner in the now-dissolved law firm of Mantle & Starr P.A., signed a "Disbarment on Consent" agreement with the Florida Bar on July 28, but the action must be approved by the state Supreme Court. Carrie Constance Lee, counsel for the Florida Bar, said it could take months for the Supreme Court to rule on the agreement, which also requires Mantle to pay disciplinary fees of $2,768.79, as well as all "reasonable" costs connected to the association's investigation. Lee described Mantle's violation of the Bar's rules regulating trust accounts as "very serious" and said disbarment for such an infraction was "standard." Mantle may apply for readmission after her five-year disbarment has expired, but she would be required to retake and pass the Bar exam, Lee said. READ FULL STORY


Brian Simpson murder trial gets underway
week of September 25, 2014

After a day's pause for the observance Thursday of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, jury selection for the long awaited trial of Henry Lee Jones, charged with the 2011 murder of Central Beach resident Brian Simpson, is expected to finally wrap-up Friday with the trial set to get underway Monday morning. Judge Robert L. Pegg, who presided over the questioning of prospective jurors that began first thing this past Monday, originally said he expected to have a jury in place by the end of the day Wednesday. But that did not occur, and the jury selection process was set to resume Friday. A great majority of those questioned said they had read about the case either in Vero Beach 32963 or in the daily newspaper, and a number of those said they had already made up their minds about the guilt of Henry Lee Jones. Still, prosecutors and defense attorneys, alike, questioned the dwindling numbers of eligible jurors to see if they could cast aside preconceived notions and possibly serve on the jury. Chief assistant state attorney Tom Bakkedahl told prospective jurors that he was encouraged that they read newspapers, but told them repeatedly that "your verdict must be based solely on what happens here." READ FULL STORY


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