Forecast: Vero Beach
Learning from the past and focusing on the future brings planners, stakeholders and citizens together
Imagine planning for your life’s next 20 years in detail, anticipating opportunities, foreseeing potential setbacks and, when things don’t go your way, pivoting deftly in another direction. Planning for growth at the local government level is a similar task. Twenty years ago, in the first month of the new century, Stan Boling, head of Indian River County’s Community Development until 2019, and Dennis Ragsdale, former director of Planning and Development for the city of Vero Beach, were asked how our area would look in 2020.
Many of the planners’ predictions came true, including the growth of the south county. Numerous housing developments along 43rd Avenue south of Oslo Road and west to 58th Avenue have complemented the Publix-
anchored South Point shopping center built in 2007. The north section of the county has not caught up as planners had expected. “The south county is considered to be more integrated into the city. Infrastructure was already there, and available land was close to existing roads,” says Boling.
Fellsmere jump-started its growth by annexing 20,000 acres of agricultural land into the city starting in 2007. The planned Villages of Fellsmere would transform the quaint town. The plan calls for low-density single-family hamlets, a cluster of smaller neighborhoods near the center, and 4 million square feet of supporting commercial space, along with generous open park space. This is the kind of planning that tries to reduce traffic and encourage local buying habits. The obstacle to this vision is building supporting infrastructure, but if fully realized, the Villages of Fellsmere will become the largest development project in Indian River County over the next 20 years.
In the city of Vero Beach, growth happens at a more leisurely pace, since the geography is mostly built out. Ragsdale was the city’s top planner in 2000. “Preserving small-town character is difficult to accomplish,” he says. “The biggest challenge during my tenure was trying to mediate between maximum-growth and no-growth advocates.”