By Henry A. Stephens To view original article click here.
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — A regional planning effort aimed at courting new businesses and federal grants continues to count Indian River County in its profile even after the County Commission and the Vero Beach City Council have withdrawn their support.
That’s because Fellsmere officials still support the Seven50 initiative. And those with the city of Sebastian and the School District, while not boosting it, haven’t opposed it, the project’s director says.
“As long as there are supportive entities in the county, we are still Seven50 and not ‘Six50,'” Marcella Camblor-Cutsaimanis said last week.
Camblor-Cutsaimanis is heading the Seven50 effort for the Southeast Florida Regional Partnership, a group formed by the Treasure Coast and South Florida regional planning councils.
The name Seven50 represents looking ahead 50 years for seven counties — Indian River, St. Lucie, Martin, Palm Beach, Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe.
And just because Indian River commissioners dropped out Dec. 18, followed by Vero Beach council members on Tuesday, it’s still a seven-county look, Camblor-Cutsaimanis said.
The partnership lists Fellsmere, Sebastian, Indian River Shores and the School District among its 200 partners. And that sits well with Fellsmere City Manager Jason Nunemaker. He said the regional scope can help his city plan for economic development, such as natural gas delivery through the region.
“If there was nothing in process, I could see people wanting to drop out,” he said. “That would save $4 million. But that grant is being spent on a process.”
He referred to a $4.2 million regional-planning grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The partnership was awarded that in 2010 and is using it to compile what Camblor-Cutsaimanis says is essentially a voluntary business plan for the region.
Nunemaker dismissed fears by some critics that the plan would subjugate local elected officials’ decisions to those from bureaucrats in Washington and Miami.
“There’s nothing being proposed that would do that,” he said.
Sebastian City Manager Al Minner said his council, meanwhile, sits “square in the middle” of the debate.
“We haven’t put a penny into this, or email, or cooperation or done any homework regarding any study,” he said. “I don’t see making this an issue one way or another.”
Schools Superintendent Fran Adams, in a prepared statement, said she hasn’t had any discussions with any School Board member or staffer regarding Seven50.
Shores Town Clerk Laura Aldrich, meanwhile, said she had no idea why the town would be listed as a Seven50 partner. The Town Council never took a vote on that.
“It must be just because we’re members of the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council,” she said.
But they may not be partners much longer. Aldrich said several residents have called for the town to withdraw, in the wake of the county and Vero Beach. She said the Town Council is scheduled to consider it Jan. 24.