VERO BEACH — Peggy Landers saw first-hand the changes in the Osceola Park neighborhood west of downtown Vero Beach over the past half-century as single-family homes and outbuildings were converted into rental properties affecting the quality of life there.
Landers never lost her fondness for the home in the 1900 block of 20th Avenue, which has been in her family since 1954 and which she moved back to for good in 1973.
“I will die in that house,” Landers said.
A number of other residents from the Osceola Park Neighorhood and some from the Original Town neighborhood also expressed their love for their community at a special meeting at the Vero Beach City Hall Monday evening. Their fondness for two of the city’s oldest communities, however, was mixed with concern about the encroachment of non-residential uses into their neighborhoods and absentee landlords who don’t take care of their properties.
About two dozen people from the neighborhoods talked to the city’s Planning and Zoning Board about their concerns and discussed what might be done to help them retain the residential and historic character of their communities.
The comments will go toward developing a white paper by the city’s planning and development department and ultimately could lead to changes in the city’s comprehensive plan to better control future development of the two neighborhoods.
The Osceola Park neighborhood is bordered by State Road 60 on the north, 20th Avenue on the east, 27th Avenue on the west and 16th Street on the south. Original Town’s boundaries are State Road 60 on the south, 20th Avenue on the west, 15th Avenue on the east, and 26th Street on the north.
Chris Runge, president of the Original Town Homeowners Association, has spent more than $35,000 fixing up and restoring the historical nature of the home he purchased on 15th Avenue.
“It’s a beautiful neighborhood,” said Runge, who spoke of the advantages of being able to walk downtown from the location.
But Runge and Linda Hillman, past president of the Original Town Homeowners Association, said the expansion of churches and encroachment of other non-residential uses have affected the area. Government, institutional and commercial facilities occupy most of the district and Runge estimated that owners probably live in only 20 percent of the existing residential units.
The encroachment of non-residential uses is not to that level in the Osceola Park neighborhood and Vicky Gould, president of the Osceola Park Neighorhood Association, said she likes mixed use in her neighborhood. She prefers, however, that commercial establishments stay on the outskirts of the neighborhood.
Gould and the other speakers were not pushing for existing uses to be converted back to residential, but wanted to maintain and protect what exists from further intrusion from non-residential uses. Landers and Hillman also spoke of the need for landlords to take care of their property. Hillman said there is a lack of code enforcement in Original Town.