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September 25, 2023

Key Project Updates

 

Meet the Candidates for City Council

 

And More

 

Hello all,

 

Today we have key project updates, overview of Bob Gibbs retail analysis, reminder for this Thursday State of the City at 21st AD, meet the candidates and more.

 

To start, reminder this Thursday, September 28, State of the City (both ZOOM and in person) at 21st Amendment Distillery with Mayor Cotugno and County Commissioner Moss -- Click here for more info and to RSVP.

 

PROJECT UPDATES:

 

RETAIL OPPORTUNITIES

On Thursday, September 14, retail analyst Bob Gibbs spoke in chambers to give us a detailed overview of Vero Beach’s potential for retail success. You may view the full replay here.

 

Gibbs was brimming with optimism describing the traits that make this place ripe for retail growth. He compared Vero Beach to Carmel by the Sea and Nantucket. People want to shop here and they want to stay here for extended periods of time. The current reasons for our apparent retail lag are non-market related.

Bob Gibbs analyzed three potential markets and found they can accommodate the following:

  • Downtown:

    • 45 new stores/restaurants

    • 88,000 sq/ft of new retail total

  • Ocean Drive:

    • 50% Growth opportunity

    • 125,000 sq/ft of new retail

  • Three Corners:

    • 45,000 sq/ft of new retail

 

Gibbs made the following recommendations:

 

  • Enhance walkability: A pedestrian-friendly environment in downtown will lead to greatly increased foot traffic and, in turn, greater business success. Gibbs says this is one of the easiest and most crucial fixes to revitalize downtown and stimulate commerce.

     

  • Business Improvement District (BID): Gibbs stressed the need for Downtown to devote itself to being a business improvement district that will attract more customers. This includes:

    • Traffic calming

    • Wider sidewalks

    • Stronger architectural codes

    • Leasing and management best practices

    • Marketing

 

Other Highlights:

  • Wider sidewalks or more parking?: When asked by City Manager Monte Falls whether he would prefer to see wider sidewalks or more parking, Gibbs answered wider sidewalks with more shade to create a pleasurable experience for downtown customers.

  • Gourmet Grocer: While we have several popular and successful gourmet grocers -- Ryders, Chelsea's, Polo, Village Beach Market -- Vero Beach can absorb more gourmet grocers and the demand exists.

  • Reviving the Theater: Would revive the arts scene and create an additional draw to bring people downtown.

  • Fashion/Design District: Vero Beach can grow and develop without becoming another Delray Beach. The best way to achieve this is through a fashion/design district, which will cater to young people and families without the negatives associated with a nightclub scene

  • Boutique Hotel in Downtown: Gibbs stated many people would actually prefer to stay downtown than on the barrier island. Boutique hotels attract people and businesses and there is a strong demand for one in downtown Vero Beach.


During the Sep. 12 City Council meeting, we received updates on the below projects, with corresponding timestamps. You may view a replay of that meeting here.

 

Three Corners - Timestamp 1:45:15

Jason Jeffries updated us on Three Corners, reminding us that there are already consultants under contract to move this forward. They are working on marketing materials and expect to have those ready within 30 days. The RFP for developers is live and the City Council hopes to have a contractor selected by December 15 and the next step is for staff at Kimley Horn to put together materials for the comprehensive plan amendment factoring in environmental and land use studies. Protecting manatees is of particular concern.


 

Water Reclamation - Timestamp 1:50:50

Water and Sewer Director Robert Bolton gave an update on the water reclamation facility. The RFQ for the project will go out in October with the goal of finding qualified contractors by December. The goal of the current pre-planning phase is to pre order parts with long lead times so that they will be ready to go by the planned construction start date. Some pre orders have already begun and further orders are expected to be placed in January. All steps being taken currently aim to reduce costs and time associated with the project. The city is in the process of soliciting grants, anticipating a 20% increase in sewer customers due to changes in state law.


 

City Marina Expansion - Timestamp 1:58:50

The marina expansion is the quickest project. The contract has already been submitted to USI, who is currently deliberating it. It is on track to be finalized by the September 30 deadline. The project is expected to take around 260 days from signing to completion, including the expected lead time for new dock material.


 

Lane Reduction Analysis - Timestamp 2:01:50

Ah yes…everybody’s favorite “zombie” project. Results from Kimley Horn support the idea that there is no traffic-related reason to not reduce lanes. More information will be released in the coming months. Everyone is strongly encouraged to attend the October 5 public information session, being held at the community center at 2266 14th Ave. at 5:00 p.m. Currently, Public Works Director Matt Mitts recommends reducing the lanes of each road by one to create space for parking and a bike lane.

 

Downtown Master Plan - Timestamp 2:07:00

Bob Gibbs gave his retail analysis of Downtown, Three Corners, and Ocean Drive. Talks with the planning consultant are ongoing and documents pertaining to the retail analysis can be found here.

Meet the Candidates

 

Join us Wednesday, October 11 at 6:00 p.m. for "Meet the Candidates for City Council" on ZOOM where you will have a chance to learn where the candidates stand and ask them questions.

 

You may RSVP here

 

 

Candidate bios:

 

Taylor Dingle:

Taylor Dingle, Vice Chair for the City of Vero Beach Utilities Commission, former member of the City of Vero Beach Historic Preservation Commission, and dedicated community advocate, has devoted the past six years to gaining a command of the most pressing issues and related initiatives facing our community.  From Three Corners, Twin Pairs, and Downtown Master Plan, to the City Marina expansion, and relocating the Waste Water Reclamation facility, Taylor is committed to advancing these projects with an eye toward preserving the charm Vero Beach is known for, while working with the community to create a fresh, shared vision for the future.

 

A southwest Pennsylvania native with blue-collar roots, Taylor was raised in Centerville by his mother, a small business owner, and father, a US Steel worker. He attended Pennsylvania Western University and after graduation, relocated to Vero Beach. A member of the John’s Island Club Professional Golf Staff since 2017, Taylor met his wife, Taylor Eliason-Dingle, during his first season here in Vero Beach. That is when Taylor found his family, home, and future in Vero Beach. Taylor recognizes his generation will live with the consequences of today’s decisions and will work tirelessly to shepherd the most important projects to successful implementation.

 

Honey Minuse:

A Registered Nurse and long-time resident of Vero Beach, Honey Minuse has been very active in the community since 1989, when she and her husband, Dave, purchased a home in Vero Isles.  Among many other volunteer and leadership roles throughout the city, including Vero Isles HOA President (1996-2000 and 2004-2007) Minuse served on City Council (2020-2022) and the City’s Planning and Zoning Board (2011-2020) where she served as both Chair and Vice Chair.  It was during those years on Planning and Zoning that the Comprehensive Land Use Plan was updated, a major project with citizen participation throughout.  She was also Chair of the Noise Impact Committee which led to the adoption of the Vero Beach Noise Ordinance. Years earlier she participated in creation of the City's Vision Plan which still today defines how growth will be managed to maintain the unique charm of Vero Beach. She held a leadership role with the Indian River Neighborhood Association (IRNA) to assure the integrity of that Vision Plan and later brought it to a non-profit status, away from divisive politics.  The IRNA was a founding partner of the Clean Water Coalition under her leadership. 

 

Born and raised in New York, Minuse graduated from State University of New York at Stony Brook. and then became certified by the Veterans Administration in "Principles of Patient Evaluation and Diagnosis," prior to the establishment of the Nurse Practitioner role. An accomplishment during that time was being part of the team which established the diagnosis of Autism. She holds a current Florida license as a Registered Nurse (non-practicing) and serves as Ambassador for the Indian River County Mental Health Collaborative.

 

John Cotugno:

Incumbent Mayor John Cotugno hails from Rhode Island but landed in Vero Beach after retiring from over 40 years of leadership in the electronics Industry, primarily in the Semiconductor market. He immediately began serving our community as a Volunteer Public Policy Advocate for the Alzheimer’s Association on both the State and Federal level. In 2019: Governor DeSantis appointed him to the State Health Improvement Plan Committee, he was appointed both to the Vero Beach Utlites Commission, where he served as Vice-Chairman, and the Three Corners Steering Committee.

 

He was elected to the Vero Beach City Council in 2021 and began serving as Mayor in 2022.He resides in Central Beach with his wife, Jan Williams, and rescue dog Roxie.

 

 

REMINDER: If you vote by mail, all requests for Vote By Mail Ballots in Florida expired on December 31, 2022. So, to cast a vote by mail for the upcoming 2023-2024 elections, voters must submit a fresh request. Applications for mail ballots must be received no later than 5 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 26. More details on application process here.

 

 

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September 18, 2023

DON'T FORGET TO RSVP

 

21st AMENDMENT DISTILLERY

 LET'S TALK VERO STATE OF THE CITY

 

 

 

Let's Talk Vero

 

State of the City

21st Amendment Distillery

2055 13th Avenue

Thursday, September 28

 5:00 p.m. - 5:45 p.m. -- Cocktails

6:00 p.m. - 6:30 p.m. -- Presentation  

 

 

 

Arrive at 5:00 p.m. for mingling and cocktails (cash bar). Here is the food and beverage menu.

 

At 5:45 p.m. we will move to the distillery's private production area prior to beginning the Q&A/ZOOM at 6:00 p.m.

 

Click here

to RSVP

 

(both in person and ZOOM)

 

Claire Higgins and Baerbel O'Haire look forward to seeing you again in person.

 

Don't forget to ask questions in advance if you have them -- Mayor John Cotugno and Commissioner Laura Moss will answer as many as possible.

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September 11, 2023

Next State of the City

Thursday, September 28

with Mayor John Cotugno and County Commissioner Laura Moss

at

21st Amendment Distillery

2055 13th Avenue

 5:00 p.m. - 5:45 p.m. -- Cocktails

6:00 p.m. - 6:30 p.m. -- Presentation 

 

Thrilled to announce the next State of the City will be held at Jeff Palleschi's much anticipated, just opened 21st Amendment Distillery in downtown Vero Beach. Watch this quick video to meet Jeff and learn the history and story behind the opening of 21st AD.

 

Arrive at 5:00 p.m. for mingling and cocktails (cash bar). Here is the food and beverage menu. At 5:45 p.m. we will move to the distillery's private production area prior to beginning the Q&A/ZOOM at 6:00 p.m. Click here to RSVP (both in person and ZOOM).

 

Also, reminder -- tomorrow (Tuesday, September 12) is the regularly scheduled council meeting as well as the special call budget workshop. More details here. The regularly scheduled council meeting will have an update on the timelines and progress of important projects -- Three Corners, Water Reclamation Facility, City Marina Expansion, Twin Pairs/Lane Reduction Analysis, and Downtown Master Plan. Click here for more details. Attend in chambers at 5:30 p.m., or watch via Channel 13. We will send a recap.

 

For those of you who wish to view the retail analysis prepared by Bob Gibbs prior to his presentation this Thursday the 14th at 9:30 a.m., it's here for your ease of reference. It's an exhaustive report delving into Vero Beach demographics and retail potential in Vero Beach for Three Corners, Oceanside and Downtown district.

 

Last but not least, Let's Talk Vero will hold a Meet the Candidates for City Council ZOOM Call on Wednesday, October 11 at 6:00 p.m. More details to follow shortly.

 

REMINDER: If you vote by mail, all requests for Vote By Mail Ballots in Florida expired on December 31, 2022. So, to cast a vote by mail for the upcoming 2023-2024 elections, voters must submit a fresh request. Applications for mail ballots must be received no later than 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 29. More details on application process here.

 

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September 7, 2023

Calling All Vero Beach and County Residents

 

Big News and Important Dates

 

We are super excited to share the news that we met with new County Administrator John Titkanich (bio here) to solidify what Laura Moss promised at the last State of the City.

 

The forging of a visibly stronger and more meaningful ongoing collaboration between City and County, especially surrounding growth and development issues.

 

So many of you have been asking for this. Beginning at the next State of the City, Laura Moss, County Commissioner for our District 5, will begin providing brief County updates alongside Mayor Cotugno's City update. Also, John Titkanich will be convening the public and all three City managers (Vero Beach, Fellsmere and Sebastian) in the near future. More as that develops.

 

IMPORTANT UPCOMING DATES FOR YOUR CALENDAR

Don't Miss the Meetings in Red

 

Tuesday, September 12

5:00 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.

City Council Budget Hearing

Vero Beach City Hall, 1053 20th Place

 

Tuesday, September 12

5:30 p.m. - End

Regular Council Meeting

Vero Beach City Hall, 1053 20th Place

 

Thursday, September 14

9:30 a.m. - End

City Council Special Call Workshop -- Bob Gibbs will present his Draft Retail Report--do attend if you are passionate about downtown retail offerings. An additional item regarding insurance costs will be on the agenda.

Vero Beach City Hall, 1053 20th Place

 

Tuesday, September 26

9:30 a.m. - End

Regular Council Meeting

Vero Beach City Hall, 1053 20th Place

 

Thursday, September 28

5:00 p.m. - 6:30 p.m. - In Person

In Person - Let's Talk Vero State of the City with Mayor Cotugno and County Commissioner Moss

IN PERSON -- Venue to be announced soon

 

Thursday, September 28

6:00 p.m. - 6:30 p.m. -- Via ZOOM

Virtual - Let's Talk Vero State of the City with Mayor Cotugno and County Commissioner Moss

VIRTUAL VIA ZOOM -- Link to be provided soon

 

Thursday, October 5

5:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.

SR 60 (Twin Pairs) Lane Repurposing Workshop with Kimley-Horn

Community Center - 2266 14th Avenue

 

Thursday, November 16

5:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.

SR 60 (Twin Pairs) Lane Repurposing Workshop with Kimley-Horn

Community Center - 2266 14th Avenue

 

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September 4, 2023

Unpacking Ray McNulty's MY TAKE / MY VERO On Twin Pairs

 By Jonathan Buckley

 

Jonathan Buckley, a longtime resident of Vero Beach and graduate of Saint Edward's School, is currently pursuing a master's in communication management from the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School of Communication. He is a 2023 graduate of the University of Miami, where he served as an Op-ed contributor for The Miami Hurricane while pursuing a dual degree in political science and public relations.

 

I attended the Indian River County Taxpayers Association Candidate Forum on Friday and was struck by the abundance of concern surrounding misinformation and rumors. One candidate even quipped something along the lines of "nothing moves faster than the speed of the internet like a good rumor in Vero Beach" and "that's the stuff that sells newspapers around here."

 

It got me thinking about why that is, the state of local news in general, and how reporting on important growth and development issues here in Vero Beach is served up mostly by two opinion writers who stubbornly refuse to question their personal beliefs. Their stories go unchallenged, leading to opinion being perceived as fact.

 

Let's Talk Vero makes it a practice to never "editorialize" local news articles.

 

This is a first, and we certainly don't want to make it a practice, but the MY TAKE/MY VERO piece is so one-sided, it would be a disservice to the community -- and to the important, complex issues at hand -- to let it sit as fact.

 

We are at a critical juncture -- the issue of Twin Pairs, rearing its ugly head now for the past two decades at least -- must once and for all be decided. FDOT is counting on the community to come together to create a shared vision. Indeed, hundreds of thousands of dollars have been invested to get this right once and for all. Whether it's re-striping, narrowing lanes, eliminating lanes or some other plan -- FDOT is counting on both County and City residents to weigh in on the best way to actualize a safe and thriving downtown Vero Beach.

 

Back to local news -- the nationwide demise of the local newspaper is tragic and has dangerous implications, especially for a place like Vero Beach and its surrounding counties, all experiencing explosive growth and development that threatens our quality of life.

 

I recall Carl Hiaasen's final column in the Miami Herald where he wrote:

 

"Retail corruption is now a breeze, since newspapers and other media can no longer afford enough reporters to cover all the key government meetings. You wake up one day, and they’re bulldozing 20 acres of pines at the end of your block to put up a Costco. {or in our case, another self-storage center or car wash or mattress store}. Your kids ask what’s going on, and you can’t tell them because you don’t have a clue. That’s what happens when hometown journalism fades — neighborhood stories don’t get reported until it’s too late, after the deal’s gone down. Most local papers are gasping for life, and if they die it will be their readers who lose the most."

 

Equally concerning is what we have here in Vero Beach -- a kind of unrestrained trafficking in opinion masquerading as fact. It would be great if TC Palm and 32963 would offer counter-opinions -- that kind of honest and informed debate would be of enormous benefit for our community -- it might even drive more ad dollars and subscriptions.

 

There is a difference between disagreeing with a proposed plan and sowing fear, uncertainty and doubt. Thursday's MY VERO front page story in 32963 recklessly suggests we should all just shut up and not give another thought to Twin Pairs. In the piece he reports, erroneously, that all three candidates have indicated they would vote against it if elected, declaring some kind of premature "victory."

 

The idea that these candidates would publicly declare they will vote against it on December 12 (well before hearing from voters at the long-awaited community input sessions have even begun!) aroused suspicion. LTV reached out to all three candidates asking if the statement below, as reported by Ray, is an accurate representation of their position on Twin Pairs.

 

McNulty wrote:

"The three candidates on the fall ballot -- Mayor John Cotugno, former councilwoman Honey Minuse and two-time also-ran Taylor Dingle -- have all indicated they will vote against it (elimination of lanes on Twin Pairs).

 

In fact:

Neither Honey Minuse nor Taylor Dingle, when pressed, could confirm or deny whether this was what they relayed to Ray McNulty but did, when offered the opportunity, wish to clarify their positions (pasted below). Mayor Cotugno said his answer was taken out of context, but we all know where Mayor Cotugno stands -- he's working diligently with Council to move Twin Pairs along as part a comprehensive downtown master plan with various pieces to the puzzle. He wants once and for all to collect and measure input supported by data, not rely on hearsay.

 

Here is what the candidates (thankfully) actually wish to convey to the public:

 

Honey Minuse: "It is premature to have a position on the Twin Pairs at this time. There are many questions needing answers first. Among these questions are 1) what are the results of the latest Kimley-Horn traffic study, 2) what is the plan for revitalizing downtown, and 3) would changing the Twin Pairs approved project at this time require additional funding from FDOT or the City?

 

Taylor Dingle: "We have many variables still unanswered regarding the Twin Pairs. Also, the public will have the opportunity to voice their opinion on numerous occasions in October-December. I am not entirely in favor of removing our infrastructure, but it would be inappropriate to take a position at this time until we have collected all the data. Especially if the state, FDOT, would move forward with this proposal."

 

OTHER ERRORS:

 

Vocal Minority: Ray refers to a vocal minority of supporters for narrowing of Twin Pairs. In fact, our survey data indicates the community is closer to 50/50 on the matter. That's well before the upcoming education and input sessions. You can analyze the survey results here. Reading the write-in comments is illuminating. And also note, most of the concerns the detractors bring forth have already been successfully refuted. Still, there are many questions to be answered -- cost, etc. Watch the video here where street design expert Victor Dover puts to bed any concerns about speed, traffic, safety, evacuation, etc.

 

While not "scientific," this survey serves as a good basis for a conversation starter in advance of the first public education session set for October 5.

 

Let's hope Kimley-Horn, Council and/or City Staff has a more comprehensive, scientific survey in the works.

 

If you have not already, please take the survey here and then share this email with friends, family and colleagues urging them to do the same.

 

 

OTHER ERRORS -- Full story here for your ease of reference:

 

Wrong-headed but resurrected proposal: It is worth noting this issue has been ongoing for at least two decades. A key priority in the Vision Plan, adopted in 2005, was to address the “bisected” downtown. It is accepted practice in democratic societies that a community-inspired city vision is preferable to a top-down government introduced plan. Who threw the Vero Beach Vision Plan in the trash? And why was it never implemented? Its lack of implementation (or revision with community input) is why we find ourselves in this 11th hour position. Perhaps it should be resurrected, revised by the next sitting council. Here it is for your ease of reference. If a community is thriving, it's pretty likely there is a vision plan laying the groundwork and serving as guiding principles. We all love a beautiful downtown and Vero Beach deserves one.

 

Timing of Study: Mayor Cotugno has addressed this and most of the other concerns mentioned in the piece at his monthly State of the City (you can watch replays here). Fortunately, the FDOT education and input sessions will put many of these questions/concerns to rest once and for all.

 

And more: But you get the idea by now. Please stay engaged on these important matters -- we will be sharing important dates and meeting times in a separate email.

 

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August 15, 2023

STATE OF THE CITY

 with

Mayor John Cotugno

in person at the offices of Engel & Völkers

821A Beachland Blvd, Vero Beach, FL 32963

 

Monday, August 21

5:00 p.m. -- Wine and Cheese (in person)

 

5:30 p.m. -- ZOOM Call and Presentation Begins

Questions from ZOOM callers will take priority 

 

Mayor Cotugno will give a brief update and answer questions regarding the following ongoing initiatives:

 

  1. Peter Polk has been hired as the project manager to advance Three Corners.

  2. The RFP soliciting developers for Three Corners has been issued; Colliers has been hired to market the RFP to the most qualified responders.

  3. City of Vero Beach has prevailed in the Vero Beach Preservation Alliance lawsuit.

  4. Budget workshops update.

  5. Draft retail marketing report from Bob Gibbs will be presented at City Council Workshop on Thursday, September 14 at 9:30 a.m.

  6. Downtown revitalization update.

     

If you wish to join us in person, please RSVP using this link.

 

If you wish to join virtually via ZOOM, please RSVP using the button below.

 

We will give priority to questions from ZOOM attendees.

 

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August 6, 2023

A couple key updates below..... But first, a shout-out to all the businesses getting into action to create a downtown that inspires more walking, gathering and socializing. It's heartwarming to watch all this progress!

 

We'll be organizing more tours soon -- around the time of the Kimley-Horn/Twin Pairs public input sessions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meantime, we asked Audrey Mosel, creator of that fresh and sleek VERO logo we all love (and proprietor of downtown Vero Seahorse Lane Boutique) if she would make her Vero Initiative product line available to the Let's Talk Vero community at 15% discount. And she said yes! For three days beginning tomorrow (Monday).

 

Go in person at 1981 14th Avenue or shop online by clicking here

Monday August 7 through Wednesday August 9

A portion of sales will benefit the Laura Riding Jackson Foundation

Use promo code LETSTALKVERO

One lucky shopper will be chosen to win $150 to use at Southern Social

 

There's something for everyone -- with great hostess, birthday and holiday gifts -- ranging from $10 to $75, now's the time to stock up, while supplies last. Choose from tote bags, T-Shirts, wine tumblers, car decals, men's and women's attire, baby accessories and more! Audrey created this logo back in 2016 as a symbol of love and respect for her hometown. Let's all celebrate downtown Vero!

 

UPDATES

 

  • Tuesday, August 8 at 9:30 a.m. is the next council meeting. Attend in person or watch on Channel 13. Click here for the full agenda. Of note on the agenda:

     

    •  Council will vote on hiring Collier as the official marketing partner for Three Corners -- see full RFP response here.

       

    • City has been awarded $150,000 from Florida Resilient Coastlines Program (FRCP) to assess the vulnerability of critical assets against sea level rise. The assessment will be conducted by Kimley-Horn and presented to the public for input. Date TBD -- around summer 2024.

       

  • Monday, August 21 at 5:30 p.m. is the next State of the City with Mayor John Cotugno. More details soon. 

 

 

About Let's Talk Vero (LTV)

LTV is committed to shaping an involved community to promote citizen-powered change; a community where informed Vero Beach residents drive growth and development and one where elected officials take their cues from educated and engaged citizens.

 

Through surveys, online Forum, "State of the City" ZOOM calls, guest experts, ongoing updates, and more, LTV leverages technology to reach a greater segment of the city (and where appropriate, county) residents. LTV is a private entity and is not in any way aligned with the City of Vero Beach or its official business.

 

LTV is powered by Claire Higgins (Engel & Volkers) and Baerbel O'Haire (Merrill Lynch).

 

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July 24, 2023

Thanks to all who came out to Baerbel O'Haire's home for State of the City with Mayor Cotugno and Victor Dover, author of Street Design, The Secret to Great Cities and Towns. And to those who joined virtually as well -- we had over 200 guests. Here is the link to the replay.

 

I highly suggest clicking here to watch excerpts of the walking tour the prior evening with Victor Dover and community leaders, including Robbie Brackett, Larry Reisman, Sydney O'Haire, Joe Cataldo and Bob Stanley.

 

Whether you are for, against, or undecided about lane reduction, we encourage everyone -- both County and City residents -- to get informed and engaged early. A resolution of support from the community will be required by FDOT. As such, there will be several public input meetings soon (dates tbd). In the meantime, we have created a public Forum page so people can begin to pose questions, share their concerns and ideas. The page can be found here.

 

By way of background, Twin Pairs (State Road 60) back in the early 80s was split into two, one-way roads between 20th Avenue and Indian River Boulevard, with a total of seven lanes near downtown. City Council has engaged Kimley-Horn to study implications of lane reduction -- an idea that has been debated for nearly 30 years, with pressure mounting to make a final decision prior to FDOT beginning road re-paving next year. Proponents say a lane reduction at Twin Pairs would make the road safer and activate downtown. Opponents say the change is unnecessary, and that slowing traffic could negatively impact nearby neighborhoods.

 

Share your thoughts in the Forum

 

About Let's Talk Vero (LTV)

LTV is committed to shaping an involved community to promote citizen-powered change; a community where informed Vero Beach residents drive development and one where elected officials take their cues from educated and engaged citizens.

 

Through surveys, ZOOM calls, ongoing updates, guest experts and more, LTV leverages technology to reach a greater segment of the population. LTV is a private entity and is not in any way aligned with the City of Vero Beach or its official business. LTV is powered by Claire Higgins (Engel & Volkers) and Baerbel O'Haire (Merrill Lynch).

 

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July 14, 2023

Next week is a busy one --

 

  1. Budget Hearings take place on Monday and Tuesday (17th and 18th) at 9:00 a.m. Staff and City Council members welcome all citizens to join in person, in chambers at 1053 20th Place. Here is the agenda. Here for your ease of reference is the fiscal '2324 proposed budget -- it's 334 pages!

     

  2. State of the City ZOOM call with Mayor Cotugno and special guest Victor Dover. Wednesday, July 19 at 5:30 p.m. Here is the sign-up link. Focus on Twin Pairs history, challenges, and opportunities with nationally acclaimed street design expert, Victor Dover. More about Victor here. Past news stories about Twin Pairs here.

     

  3. Notable Call-outs from July 11 Council meeting: The Three Corners project manager has been hired. Mayor Cotugno will tell us more about that on the State of the City ZOOM call on Wednesday. Super important -- Leslie Swan announced mail-in ballots must be requested on a more frequent basis now since the passing of Senate Bill 90 in 2021. Click here and scroll to the 1:15.34 minute marker to hear the PSA in full. Leslie urges voters to request their ballots at www.voteindianriver.gov or call (772) 226-4700.

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June 30, 2023

As the City begins setting dates for public information workshops in the coming months, Let's Talk Vero wants to make sure you have everything you need to take an informed position on Twin Pairs.

 

To that end, we are pleased to announce Victor Dover, the nation's leading authority on streets and author of STREET DESIGN: The Secret to Great Cities and Towns, has agreed to join Mayor Cotugno for the next "State of the City" ZOOM Call to take place Wednesday, July 19 at 5:30 p.m.

 

Victor will share his observations and help us better understand the challenges, opportunities and complexities as Council moves this issue forward. We encourage you to get to know a bit more about Victor and what motivates him by clicking here.

 

You've all by now seen the news (Janet Begley) and opinion (Ray McNulty and Larry Reisman) coverage concerning forward movement of the Twin Pairs study. We've gathered all the articles here for your ease of reference. This issue has been hotly debated for nearly two decades, and the time is upon us for you to begin weighing in. We will have a one-pager on the history and timeline soon. And as soon as we have concrete dates for the public input sessions with FDOT, we will let you know.

 

Local opinion writers are fervently against lane reduction, yet the city's most passionate and dedicated community leaders are working diligently to advance it once and for all. FDOT wants to hear from the community before proceeding -- so be sure to stay engaged and we'll keep you updated on important dates and milestones.

 

Look for the ZOOM Call details after the 4th of July holiday weekend. The event will be virtual and in person with elected officials, community leaders and business owners at the home of Baerbel O'Haire; space is limited but we'd like to accommodate as many as possible who wish to join us in person. Click here if you'd like to join in person -- we will do our best to accommodate everyone.

 

Best regards,

 

 

 

Irina

 

 

 

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June 22, 2023

Council Votes to Continue Twin Pairs Study

Your voice will be crucial in coming weeks and months at public workshops

 

Some big news to report!

 

But first, thanks again to Claire and Bob Higgins of Engel & Völkers for making "State of the City" a huge success. You can read all about it in Ray McNulty's 32963 piece, which will be published today.

 

Claire and I are already planning the next "State of the City" with Mayor Cotugno for mid-July, with a special guest and potentially a larger venue for all of you who expressed interest in attending in person.

 

On to the news:

 

At Tuesday's City Council meeting, the council voted 3-1 to continue the Kimley-Horn study on feasibility and impacts of narrowing the Twin Pairs. You can see Kimley-Horn's Brian Good presenting at the 45:55 minute mark here.

 

Narrowing and/or repurposing the East and West-bound lanes of Route 60 has been hotly debated since at least 2005, when the vision plan recommended addressing the "Twin Pair" arterials that bisect Downtown as a key strategy to enhance the pedestrian nature of the district. Here is that vision plan for your ease of reference. Kimley-Horn will be holding a minimum of two public workshops in the coming weeks/months and we plan to complement those in-person meetings with online engagement opportunities for those who are not able to attend in person. As soon as we have more information on dates, we will let you know to mark your calendar.

 

In the meantime, Tuesday's meeting recording has been uploaded to the City of Vero Beach website. You can view that here. See the public comments at the 1:22:48 mark and council deliberations and vote at the 1:34:03 mark.

 

Be on the lookout for upcoming "save the date" notices.

 

Best regards,

 

Irina

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June 16, 2023

"State of the City"

Replay and Survey Results

 

Good afternoon all,

 

To those who came to "State of the City" last night, thank you! Technical bloopers and all, it was exciting to see so many faces both virtually and in person. Many interesting questions were asked and Mayor Cotugno was pleased to have this opportunity to connect with all of you.

 

As promised, we are publishing the results of the survey, which are updated in real time. Those can be found here.

 

If you would like to watch a replay, you may do so here.

 

Stay tuned for details about July's SoC. We will be scouting a larger venue to accommodate more of you who wish to come in person.

 

Best regards,

 

Irina

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June 15, 2023

Trader Joe's survey results will be shared this evening at 5:30 p.m.

at

"State of the City"

via ZOOM with Mayor John Cotugno

Let's Talk Vero is not affiliated with the City and this evening's discussion is not considered an official meeting

 

Good morning all,

 

First, thank you to everyone who took the survey -- we have well over 1,500 responses, and they continue to tick up. This is a record for us, so congratulations!

 

If you haven't already, please take the survey here.

 

We know everyone in Vero Beach is concerned about where they live, their neighborhoods, real estate values, parks, schools, roads, etc. but don't necessarily have the time to attend council meetings in person.

 

That's why we strive to leverage surveys and technology to complement council meetings and news coverage in an effort to keep community members informed, updated, connected and engaged in shaping the future vision of Vero Beach.

 

Speaking of news coverage, here is a link to today's 32963 coverage by Ray McNulty. Overall, it's a great piece and gives readers a deeper understanding of the "why" behind the retail study currently being conducted. I'm only sorry he mistook early and important community input and feedback for "chatter" and "wishful thinking," but it was an important and informative article nonetheless. If you join this evening, Mayor Cotugno and Planning Director Jason Jeffries will be on hand to address some of the points he made and the role the retail study has in whether or not a Trader Joe's is in the future for Vero Beach.

 

The call will be quick -- 15 minutes -- with opening remarks by Engel & Volkers' Claire Higgins, who will turn it over to Jonathan Buckley (my son and recent UM grad -- Go Canes!) who will quickly run through survey results. Following that, Mayor Cotugno will take about 10 minutes before opening the floor to attendees for Q&A. We have over 100 registered participants attending, and we hope you too can join us for what will surely be a lively discussion and Q&A. You can register here.  If you are unable to attend, and want a replay, simply reply to this email with the word "replay." We will post it on the Let's Talk Vero site as well.

 

If you have a moment before this evening's presentation, watch this primer with Mayor Cotugno about the City's public/private partnership with The Source and Piper Aircraft on WPTV here.

 

Last but not least, here is the agenda for the next City Council meeting scheduled for Tuesday, June 20 at 9:30 a.m. at City Hall.

 

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June 13, 2023

Reminder: "State of the City" with Mayor John Cotugno

Survey results to be announced

Thursday, June 15

5:30 p.m.

in person and via ZOOM

 

Quick note to let you know we will be sharing survey results this Thursday the 15th to kick off our new event, "State of the City," with Mayor John Cotugno, which will be held monthly.

 

You may join in person or virtually via ZOOM.

 

If you wish to join in person at the Engel & Völkers offices on Beachland Boulevard, click here to RSVP. Wine and cheese will be served.  We have a maximum capacity, so RSVP is mandatory. If you wish to join in person, be sure to RSVP to the in-person event, not the ZOOM event. Once capacity has been met, we will stop accepting responses.


If you wish to join via ZOOM, please register here.

 

We will post the results on www.letstalkvero.com on Friday.

 

If you haven't already, please take the survey.

 

"State of the City"

 

with

 

Mayor John Cotugno

 

Thursday, June 15

5:30 - 6:30 p.m.

 

via ZOOM

 

or

 

in person

 

821A Beachland Boulevard

(refreshments will be served)

 

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June 5, 2023

Who wants Trader Joe's to come to Vero Beach?

Please take this quick survey here so we can share with Bob Gibbs, one of the nation's leading retail experts who has been retained by the city to propose a strategy for Vero Beach.

 

Pass this on to friends, neighbors and colleagues -- we want to get as much input as possible to Bob prior to his presentation to the public in August.

 

Take the survey, then join Mayor John Cotugno in conversation with Engel & Volkers' Claire Higgins for "State of the City" via ZOOM on Thursday, June 15 from 5:30 - 6:30 p.m.

 

Mayor Cotugno will share the survey results, give a quick ten-minute update and open up for Q&A.

 

"State of the City"

with

Mayor John Cotugno

 

Thursday, June 15

5:30 - 6:30 p.m.

 

via ZOOM

or

in person

 

821A Beachland Boulevard

(refreshments will be served)

RSVP here

May 31, 2023

Join us for the Treasure Coast's premier wine event -- one night only!

Engel & Völkers Grand Wine Tasting

 

Hosted by Bob and Claire Higgins

 

with

 

Rob Wayne, Proprietor of Varietals and More

Jerusha Stewart, Founder of Vero Beach Wine & Film Festival

Bob Stanley, Wine Director at Vero Beach Film Festival

 

on

  

Friday, June 9, 2023, 6:00 - 8:00 p.m.

The Historic Vero Beach Heritage Center

2140 14th Avenue

Purchase ticket here

Swirl, Sip & Savor wines from around the world at the annual Vero Beach Film Festival.

Engel & Völkers Grand Wine Tasting, the wine event of the summer season!

 

Visiting vintners will present medal winners, unique vintages, and cellar reserves. 

Introducing the bespoke home portfolio of Engel & Völkers accompanied by distinctively labeled wine bottles to dress up your next dinner. 

 

Win the chance to take home elegance in reds and whites with the Engel & Völkers Select Gift Box. 

 

Bob Stanley, Vero Beach Film Festival Wine Director, wine educator, and former TV Host of Seller to Cellar, will test your knowledge of wine trivia and tease your palette at the “Blind Tasting Table”.  

 

Rob Wayne, Proprietor of Varietals and More, will assist you with your wine selections and provide exclusive vintner discounts.  Wine jury award winners and tasting notes will tempt you to stock your cellar. 

 

An evening devoted to the spirit of vino veritas awaits you!

 

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May 22, 2023

Exciting outcomes to report from last week's special workshop meeting.

 

First, a shout out to City Manager Monte Falls and Planning Director Jason Jeffries, along with Mayor John Cotugno, Vice Mayor Linda Moore, and Council Members John Carroll, Rey Neville, and Tracey Zudans. Their diligence and commitment are unparalleled.

 

Together, they are moving mountains to advance a visionary master plan to revitalize downtown, beginning with the restoration and reactivation of Pocahontas Park.

 

Expect to see more lighting, additional patrols, the benches returned, enhanced views of the grounds surrounding the Heritage Center, and other improvements -- maybe even a band shell in the future!  The park has for some time been plagued by safety and public health concerns. I'm delighted to report we learned there are new public/private partnerships forming to enact real change. Let's hope we see more.

 

First, to great applause, John Calcagno, President and CEO of Piper Aircraft announced that Piper is committed financially to being a lead sponsor in the revitalization of Pocahontas Park. Thank you, Piper Aircraft!

 

Second, Anthony Zorbaugh, Executive Director of The Source announced that beginning June 1 on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 9 am - 1 pm, you will see members of The Source community sweeping, power washing and generally leading clean-up efforts to beautify downtown and the park -- all part of a program called "Community Works" aimed at teaching Source community members the skills they need to become employable and to lead them out of homelessness. Take a moment to thank them. As Anthony pointed out, "housing will never solve homelessness, but community will."

 

Last but not least, what better way to celebrate the beginning of downtown's revitalization than to join Engel & Völkers hosts Claire and Bob Higgins on Friday, June 9 from 6 - 8:00 p.m. for the Engel & Völkers Grand Wine Tasting to support the Vero Beach Film Festival.

 

Let's Talk Vero members receive 25% off the ticket price using the code EVVBFF25 (all caps) -- register here.

 

Vero Beach Film Festival Grand Wine Tasting

presented by

Engel & Völkers

 

Friday, June 9, 2023, 6:00 - 8:00 p.m.

The Historic Vero Beach Heritage Center

 

Swirl, Sip & Savor wines from around the world at the annual Vero Beach Film Festival Grand Wine Tasting, the wine event of the summer season!

 

Visiting vintners will present medal winners, unique vintages, and cellar reserves.  Introducing the bespoke home portfolio of Engel & Völkers accompanied by distinctively labeled wine bottles to dress up your next dinner.  Win the chance to take home elegance in reds and whites with the Engel & Völkers Select Gift Box.  Bob Stanley, Vero Beach Film Festival Wine Director, wine educator, and former TV Host of Seller to Cellar will test your knowledge of wine trivia at the “Blind Tasting Table."  Wine jury selections and tasting notes provided to assist you in stocking your cellar.  Wines available for purchase at exclusive discounts from Varietals & More.  An evening devoted to the spirit of vino veritas awaits you!

 

 

Hope to see you all there! 

 

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May 1, 2023

Hello everyone -- great news:

 

  • As you may have seen in TC Palm/Thomas Weber's recent story (here), a six-month moratorium has been placed on permits for self-storage units, pending permanent legislation. Hooray!

  • The city has retained world class designers and place makers -- Dover Kohl & Partners, DPZ CoDESIGN, and Bob Gibbs (among others) to be at the ready for future planning and development initiatives for Vero Beach. This is cause for celebration! And further evidence our city Staff and Council are listening, working diligently and committed to creating a safe, resilient and more livable, lovable Vero Beach for all. Lots to be happy about here!

  • Matt Haynes of Main Street Vero Beach recently presented a comprehensive overview of what business owners are seeing in downtown -- the findings are illuminating, if not a bit shocking. Matt is committed to working with Staff and Council to find solutions to clean up and beautify downtown to ensure it feels vibrant and safe for everyone to enjoy. Have a listen to representatives of Southern Social, Vintage Vero, Blue Dog, Edgewood Eatery, the Brackett family, Buggy Bunch and more. Great to see this group coming together, joining forces and sharing actionable insights. You can watch those clips here.

  • Wanted to share with you Council members' vision for the future of downtown -- their presentations were amazing! Check out the timestamps below for each of the council members:

    • Scroll forward in this link to:

      • 44:10 - Ray Neville

      • 57.40 - John Carroll

      • 1:15:57 - Linda Moore

      • 1:22:02 - John Cotugno

      • 1:27:02 - Public Comment

         

  • Last, but not least, there's a Council meeting tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. -- join if you can in person or from home/office via Channel 13. Of special note is Item K on the consent agenda. You can see it here. And the full agenda here.

     

Will stay in touch on future important dates and developments, this for now.

 

Best,

 

Irina

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April 14, 2023

Hello everyone,

 

Thanks to all of you for coming out for our ZOOM call Wednesday -- we had over 100 attendees and lots of smart comments and tough questions from the audience. Thank you, Jason Jeffries! The replay can be found at the end of this email.

 

The agenda for the regularly scheduled council meeting on Tuesday the 18th is here. Click on this link -- Three Corners matters -- to see discussion topics concerningThree Corners.

 

Also, if your schedule allows, do try and attend the special call workshop coming up on April 19 at 1:30 p.m. at City Hall -- lots of you have been eager to see if we can get a Trader Joe's and they will be talking about getting a retail market study done as part of a new downtown master plan, among other things. The full agenda is here.

 

As promised, you may find the replay of the conversation with Jason Jeffries covering current and future development and planning projects here.

 

All for now -- I'll send a summary of the two meetings above on the 21st or 22nd.

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Globally Connected, Locally Committed

April 3, 2023

Quick update:

 

Lots of social media activity over the weekend expressing outrage about the storage unit going up on Route 60.

 

A ZOOM call detailing the facts surrounding just "how" that happened -- and what's in the works to make sure it doesn't occur again -- will take place on April 12 via ZOOM from 6 - 8 p.m.

 

There are lots of planning projects under way in Vero Beach. If you're concerned, or just curious about plans for future development of Vero Beach, you won't want to miss this call. Be sure to register here. Or click the red RSVP button below.

 

Share this email with friends, family and neighbors who care about preserving the charm of Vero Beach, enhancing livability and improving quality of life for all residents -- now and for decades to come. An engaged community is a thriving community.

 

 

REGISTER NOW – April 12

6:00 - 8:00 p.m.

 

CONVERSATION AND Q&A

with

Jason Jeffries, City of Vero Beach Planning Director

  

Ask questions and hear all about current planning and development projects under way shaping the future of Vero Beach

 

  • Three Corners

  • Downtown Revitalization/Master Plan

  • Twin Pairs

  • Neighborhood Protection and Preservation

  • Commercial Zoning District Revisions

 

All Vero Beach City and County Residents Welcome

 

This Let's Talk Conversation is made possible with support from

 

Engel & Völkers Vero Beach

Globally Connected, Locally Committed

March 26, 2023

SAVE THE DATE – April 12

6:00 - 8:00 p.m.

 

CONVERSATION AND Q&A

with

Jason Jeffries, City of Vero Beach Planning Director

  

Ask questions and hear all about planning and development projects in the works shaping the future of Vero Beach

 

  • Three Corners

  • Downtown Revitalization/Master Plan

  • Twin Pairs

  • Neighborhood Protection and Preservation

  • Commercial Zoning District Revisions

 

All Vero Beach City and County Residents Welcome

 

This Let's Talk Conversation is made possible with support from

 

Engel & Völkers Vero Beach

Globally Connected, Locally Committed

March 8, 2023

Many exciting things in the works -- from Three Corners, Twin Pairs, Downtown Revitalization and other plans -- to New York's Lincoln Center coming to Vero Beach.

 

THREE CORNERS UPDATE

As you know, the hiring of a project manager is key to realizing Three Corners. Interviews with qualified candidates are under way with final decision set for on or about June 1. Anticipated timeline below:

 

March, 2023: Write RFP and engage planning consultants to revise the comprehensive plan and development regulations for the site

 

April - Sept, 2023: Traffic and environmental analysis

 

May, 2023: Issue RFP for Master Developer

 

June, 2023: Three Corners Project manager on board

 

Fall, 2023: Selection of Master Developer

 

October, 2023: Planning staff review


November, 2023: Planning and zoning board public hearing

 

December, 2023: State review

 

February, 2024: City Council Approval

 

Summer, 2028: Grand Opening

 

TWIN PAIRS UPDATE

Yesterday Council approved moving ahead with the Kimley-Horn study of the Twin Pairs to see if it supports lane reduction. My understanding is it's the FDOT schedule that is driving this and since the study has to be done anyway as part of a multi-faceted downtown master plan in the works, it was approved. The Twin Pairs has been an ongoing issue for years. It was recommended the city address the Twin Pair arterials that bisect downtown as a key strategy to enhance the pedestrian nature of the district as far back as 2005 in the Vision Plan adopted that same year. You can see that vision plan here.

 

Since then, it's been hotly debated with much of the dialogue being led by opinion writers Larry Reisman (TC Palm) and Ray McNulty (32963). Whether you are for or against lane reduction, it is imperative you become informed and engage at the public meetings to be scheduled by Kimley-Horn. FDOT has made it clear they want to be ensured the community has buy-in. I do not have the Kimley-Horn meeting dates yet, but as soon as I do, will share.

 

Also, with support from Engel & Völkers, we will work to bring you via ZOOM and where possible, in person, the nation's leading experts on street design, Victor Dover, author of Street Design: The Secret to Great Cities and Towns and Jeff Speck, author of Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time come to mind. And of course, Andres Duany. They can help to answer your questions and address your concerns about the pros, cons and especially the complexities of such an undertaking, how it intersects with the other planning projects under way, and its implications in terms of walkability, traffic, safety, home values, thriving downtown, etc.

 

OTHER COMMUNITY PLANNING PROJECTS

Many of you have been concerned about the sprouting up of car washes, storage facilities, etc. The storage facility was not "approved" by the city; that use is legal within our current zoning codes, so the codes must be revised if the city is to have more control. Council members are working diligently to prevent those sorts of things from happening in the future and are engaging in a number of other planning projects as well. Each of the following may turn into major planning studies or reports, all of which will benefit from your involvement:

 

  • Revisions to Commercial Zoning Districts

  • Beachside Overlay District

  • Downtown Master Plan

  • Old Dixie Land Use Study

  • Neighborhood Protection and Preservation

 

We are working with the city to propose a ZOOM town hall type of session where either a council member or city staff member will explain the rationale behind the above-referenced initiatives and answer questions like:

 

  • What is an overlay and why do we need it?

  • What is a master plan and how will it make downtown more vibrant?

  • What will the land use study tell us?

  • How do all these initiatives protect the charm and character of Vero Beach?

  • How are these projects inter-related and what is the ultimate vision for Vero Beach?

 

We hope to have this call sometime in May to coincide with public input meetings held by Kimley-Horn. If are interested in attending a ZOOM call like this, please reply YES to this email so I can let Council know we do have a lot of interest. Also, if you wish to unsubscribe to these emails, hit the unsubscribe button below or reply here with the word "Unsubscribe."

 

CHAMBER MUSIC SOCIETY OF LINCOLN CENTER

Early on in the design process of Three Corners, the community championed the idea of a state-of-the-art visual and performing arts center. Local resident and architect Scott Johnson and then steering committee member John Cotugno have been working diligently with Lincoln Center to add musicians of this caliber to our city's esteemed cultural offerings.

 

Don't miss "Brahms & Arensky" March 20 at 7 pm at The Community Church -- click here for a spectacular preview. Tickets can be purchased here.

  

Shout-out to Kate Shanaphy and Gifford Youth Orchestra for organizing and special thanks to Engel & Völkers' Claire and Bob Higgins for their generosity in making it possible for the entire Gifford Youth Orchestra student body to attend -- including tickets, transportation and the opportunity to meet the artists in person. Read the 32963 feature story about Engel & Völkers here.

 

 

 

This Let's Talk Vero update is made possible with support from Engel & Völkers

 

Let's Talk Vero is not affiliated with the City of Vero Beach

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