By Dawn Krebs
FORT PIERCE - A day finding out city resident's thoughts and ideas for the western peninsula of Hutchinson Island resulted in a presentation on Aug. 1 that detailed a plan to include hotels, a public beach and a waterfront market.
But while grand in scope, what was called the "Citizen's Master Plan" was clear it would take years, millions and cooperation between government agencies to become reality.
"The purpose of this workshop is to show the results of the charrette held in March, and get additional input on what is being presented today," said Marcela Camblor, the consultant hired by the city to compile all the information given by residents into a report.
The area in question encompasses approximately 60 acres from South Beach Bridge east to the St. Lucie County Fire District building and south to the Smithsonian Marine Station.
Currently, there is a wastewater plant and electrical substation located on the property, in addition to adjoining privately owned acreage.
In March, more than 200 residents spent a day at the Riverwalk Center in Fort Pierce submitting ideas and suggestions for the area.
From that came the question of whether to relocate the plant and develop the property. Participants expressed their desire for the eventual relocation.
Some of the other goals identified in the report included providing access to the waterfront; establishing a water connection between the island, the port and the downtown area; and developing commercial and retail uses for the area.
The plan also mentioned other ideas for the area, such as marinas, water sports, such as a sailing club, seaplane landing areas and educational facilities.
Some downsides to the plan are that city regulations do not allow for that type of growth in that area. Also, the projected relocation costs for moving the wastewater treatment plant range between $70 and $110 million.
While the majority of residents were excited by the potential of the area, others urged caution.
Ashton de Peyster, who owns 17 acres within the plan's scope, replied by letter, calling the report inaccurate, and was "too late and too little influenced" by the March workshop.
"The report had been rewritten and the plan developed to micromanage development and add new layers of regulation," he wrote. "It would be best for Fort Pierce if the commission would promptly reject the report."
Mr. de Peyster purchased the property in 1995 for $3.6 million, and until the 2004 hurricanes Frances and Jeanne resulted in its eventual demolition, owned a 248-unit mobile home park on the property.
What began as interviews with residents, community leaders and business owners led to the charrette, then to staff and public presentations of the plan.
Now, the next step of the process would be for the city commission to approve the plan as written.
"These things take time, but this is a start," said Bob Benton, Fort Pierce mayor.
"If we have a vision, the city can take that vision to Tallahassee and say, 'When the plant is relocated, this is what we'd like to see.'"