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Shores Town Council flip-flops on density, affirms beach access


In what has become a heated saga over selling off a 5.3-acre vacant parcel of ocean-view land acquired by Indian River Shores from the county in 1993, the Town Council last week decided at a special meeting that, instead of limiting density to three units per acre, it would stick with the original six-units-per-acre zoning.

This reversed a council decision taken just two weeks ago that cut density to the three-per-acre limit.

Also at that meeting, the council, before an occasionally raucous, packed house of nearly 65 residents arguing for and against higher density, voted once again to dedicate a 5-foot strip of right of way owned by the Town to a public beach access.

That vote was handled in a confusing way, as a motion to reverse the previous vote to allow the beach access. That motion failed 3-2, leaving some advocates of the beach access grumbling as they exited the meeting, thinking they’d lost, when they actually won the battle. A post-meeting memo sent out by Town Clerk Laura Aldrich provided some clarity on the decision.

“The Mayor (Brian Barefoot) announced that the previous decision to have a 5’ right-of-way access pathway stands,” Aldrich said.

The special meeting was called in response to an analysis by Town Building Official Jose Gaunch, recommending the council retain the original multi-family, up to six-units-per-acre zoning and let the Town’s rigorous building codes and state traffic studies govern how the property is developed.

Councilman Dick Haverland wanted the beach access item revisited as well, after he found out residents of Pebble Beach Villas, which would abut the beach access path, did not want people traipsing through the north edge of their community.

The two matters were debated for nearly three hours, with 11 residents rising to speak, five in favor of the path, two opposed, two who wanted users to pay for it and two asking questions.

A group of John’s Island residents had lodged complaints claiming the sale price of the property would be lessened if a path was permitted, and arguing that every Town resident has a stake and that a decision needed to be made to benefit all – not just the residents who traverse the property to get to the ocean.

The parcel was initially appraised at $7.7 million, based upon several assumptions, including the most lenient density, and no public beach access path.

Also of concern was the fact that a fence dividing Pebble Beach Villas and the long-overgrown lot, was installed two feet into the Town’s property and would have to be taken down to provide for the five-foot right of way.

Also, Pebble Beach Villas residents would lose some established hedges and landscaping that also encroach on the Town’s property. The fence and hedges would either need to be replaced by the property owners or the association, or there would not be much of a barrier between the Pebble Beach Villa back yards and the public beach access path.

The parcel, which includes roughly 5.1 acres of marketable land, is set to be auctioned on May 6 by the auction firm of Wesley Davis, former county commissioner.

Davis plans to market the property locally, in the Wall Street Journal and the Spanish-language edition of the Miami Herald as three 1.7-acre estate lots and as a 5.1-acre parcel for development into condos or townhomes. Davis has stated that the high bid would determine the best use of the property.

Davis’ firm will receive 8 percent of the sale price should he close the deal.   The property is being partially cleared, and staged with a raised viewing platform for the on-site auction.