By Jessica Tuggle
VERO BEACH -- During the June 4 meeting, the Vero Beach City Council heard a proposal from local developers that could change the landscape of the intersection of the 17th Street and Indian River Boulevard.
The roughly 4-acre property at the southwest corner, known as the postal annex, has been called one of the most valuable sections of property in Vero Beach. It has also been specifically named in the purchase and sale negotiations with Florida Power and Light for the city electric system with permission to use for a substation.
A group of developers presented a land swap idea to the council during the meeting, a presentation that was met with eagerness and excitement by the council, but in order for the plan to get off the drawing boards, FP&L would need to agree to discuss the land swap first, city manager Jim O'Connor said.
The council directed Mr. O'Connor to sit down at the negotiating table with FP&L and Mr. Ashcroft's group to see if a land swap would be agreeable.
David Ashcroft, representing his partners John Huryn and Mark Justice, Carlos Morrison and Louis Schlitt, told the council the group has a 6-plus acre plot further west on 17th Street they would like to offer the city in a "value for value" trade for the postal annex property.
Because the proposed trade site is larger than the postal annex site, it would allow the substation to be hidden from view with foliage, Mr. Ashcroft said.
The trade would allow Mr. Ashcroft and his partners to develop the 4-acre site in conjunction with a 5-acre parcel immediately west of it into a 9-acre development with high-end retail stores, restaurants and some offices.
Not only would the development be more aesthetically pleasing than a substation, but Mr. Ashcroft estimated that the city could get up to $1 million in tax revenue yearly when the development is fully operated.
Shops and restaurants would increase property values, create jobs and stimulate the economy, Mr. Ashcroft said.
Councilwoman Pilar Turner said she was delighted to hear of the proposal and that it sounded wonderful for the city.
Councilman Dick Winger said the 17th Street and Indian River Boulevard intersection is a gateway to the city and having a commercial plaza there instead of an unsightly industrial building would be preferable.
Mayor Craig Fletcher said if the substation would be moved to the 6-acre site, there would likely have to be zoning issues worked out and the neighbors of that parcel notified of changes to the area, to which Mr. O'Connor agreed.
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