Ocean Drive landlords protest two-story height limit
STORY BY LISA ZAHNER, (Week of June 14, 2012)
Efforts by anti-growth activists to tighten up development restrictions on the west sides of Ocean and Cardinal Drives and cap the height of commercial structures at two stories drew a sharp reaction from beachside building owners.
Property owners went head to head with members of the Indian River Neighborhood Association before the Vero Beach Planning and Zoning Commission last week.
The IRNA wants the city to revert to a 2007 vision plan that was never legally enacted to prevent construction of what they called a “canyon” of three-story buildings on Vero’s oceanfront.
“I know the vision plan. They had a vision. It’s easy to imagine what other peoples’ property’s going to look like if you don’t own it yourself,” said Nancy Offutt, who with her husband, has owned the building at the corner of Cardinal and Dahlia for 30 years.
Offutt’s sentiment was echoed by a handful of other property interests, including commercial real estate broker Jerome “Joe” Beasock of Alex MacWilliam Inc.
“I’m very opposed to a two-story ordinance on that (west) side of the street,” Beasock said, adding that the restriction seemed like spot zoning to him.
“Limiting it to two stories is not the way to go. If you look at the whole area, that would take maybe 200 (potential) units away,” said Beasock.
Derek Arden rose to the podium representing several Central Beach property owners who could not attend the workshop. He said his clients feel the city’s current density restrictions and parking requirements “are enough to prevent something higher from being built.”
Local artist Emily Tremml spoke on behalf of her parents, who moved to Vero in 1964 and own five buildings in the district.
“The height restrictions should be equal on each side of the street,” Tremml said. “My family has owned property on Ocean Drive since 1968. We want to maintain it and enhance it for all good reasons.”
IRNA Executive Director Brian Carman and several IRNA supporters continued to sound alarm bells, urging adoption of the two-story limits in the vision plan.
But Nancy Cook, owner of the Twig Shop on Ocean Drive, said the varied building heights on different sides of the street – referred to as the 3-2-3-2 plan – came from Kansas City consultants and not a local fear of heights.
“The 3-2-3-2 would be capricious and arbitrary and we have legal counsel that says it is,” Cook said.
“We want to keep the original intent of that area.”