Orchid reserving judgment on Seven50 initiative

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By Janet Begley
February 06, 2013

ORCHID — The Orchid Town Council will take a wait-and-see approach to a regional economic development plan for Southeast Florida called Seven50.

At its meeting Wednesday morning, council members decided to hold off on any decision to withdraw from the Seven50 plan under development by the Southeast Florida Regional Partnership, a group formed by the Treasure Coast and South Florida regional planning councils.

“This is something we don’t have to do today, tomorrow or ever,” said Mayor Hal Ofstie. “I really don’t have a good understanding of it to make a decision today, and I’m inclined to do nothing at this point.”

The name Seven50 represents looking ahead 50 years for Indian River, St. Lucie, Martin, Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties. It’s essentially a blueprint that proposes counties would be better served by uniting as a region instead of counties working on issues alone.

So far, Indian River County has withdrawn from the plan, along with the city of Vero Beach and the Town of Indian River Shores. Fellsmere has indicated it will support the plan, while Sebastian is also taking a wait-and-see attitude.

Orchid Councilman Bud Oatway attended the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council meeting but said until there is a firm plan, no action on the part of the town is warranted.

“If you look at what they’re trying to develop as just a plan, this is just a bigger plan than (the) other plan,” said Oatway. “If they come up with a plan that says they stand for values we find abhorrent, we just don’t sign on to it.”

Vice Mayor George Mekras said he thinks any action to withdraw from the Seven50 initiative is premature.

“I think we should be open-minded and not shut any doors,” said Mekras. “I certainly don’t think we’d be in any trouble by sitting back and taking a wait-and-see attitude.”

Opponents of the plan say Indian River County is different from other counties in the alliance and that giving up local control of issues such as economic development, environmental protection and density is a bad idea. Supporters favor the plan because they think it will make the region more economically competitive.

Oatway said the $4 million in federal HUD funds is what has people nervous about Seven50, as well as the extended 50-year planning cycle.

“We’ve got some people in the community who say don’t join this thing,” said Oatway. “But if anyone asks if we’re in or out, I guess we’re in to the extent that we are members of the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council.”

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