VERO BEACH ― While the Vero Beach Three Corners project seems to have slowed down due to COVID uncertainties, the Youth Sailing Foundation is eager to move forward with a portion of the development.

Speaking before the City Council on Sept. 1, YSF Executive Director Stu Keiller proposed to build a Community Sailing Center at no cost to the city. He said the YSF is ready to proceed with fundraising, with a goal of breaking ground in 2023.

“The plan can jump start the Three Corners development,” Mr. Keiller told the council. “We developed a plan that will cost the city of Vero Beach zero dollars. We’re a developer that’s coming forward with the capital, with a plan to maintain the building, we’ll have an endowment fund for maintenance, and I think we’ve proven we know how to operate a sailing center, doing so out of the makeshift facilities we have now.”

The YSF currently operates near the southwest corner of the 17th St. Bridge by the wastewater treatment plant, with an entrance on Indian River Blvd., just south of the 17th St. intersection. They are proposing a land swap to move their operation closer to the water.

“It would provide adequate space to build a sailing center with proper storage, rigging, launching operations, and regattas,” Mr. Keiller said.

The proposal would also include sail boat, paddle board, and kayak rentals, plus there would be a launch for members of the public to use their own kayaks and paddle boards.

The YSF proposal would likely mean removing the idea of “glamping” from the current Three Corners Steering Committee plan.

“The key here is we want to develop a riverside park anchored by the sailing center,” Mr. Keiller said. “This park will be available to the public 365 (days) a year. The space we’re proposing, which we already occupy in our lease, the last few plans we saw it was glamping, which a few people would occupy the space a few days of the year, relative to what it can be.”

Though many activities have been postponed due to COVID-19, Mr. Keiller said that since the pandemic began the YSF has been so busy that they have added classes on the weekends and at night to keep up with the demand. He said that COVID won’t hurt their plans, adding that they just completed a COVID-free summer camp with 164 children.

Much of the YSF proposal outlined the financial benefits to the city of Vero Beach.

“A community sailing center can be an economic driver,” Mr. Keiller said. “Our operating budget today is $420,000. We think that will be doubled shortly after this building is up. That money goes right back into the community. Our summer camp employs high school kids and puts $55,000 right back into the community with our salaries. We bought 1,200 lunches from a vendor. Regattas can attract people from out of town.”

In February, the YSF hosted a South Atlantic Interscholastic Sailing Association regatta. According to the YSF, over 250 sailors and parents, representing 19 high schools and sailing clubs from around the state, came to Vero Beach for the event. For many of the participants, the YSF says, it was their first visit to Vero Beach, and most made a weekend of it, availing themselves of Vero Beach hotels, restaurants and other amenities.

Mr. Keiller said that the Pelican Island Audubon Society, the Kiwanis Club of Vero Beach, and the Exchange Club have all endorsed the YSF proposal.

Mr. Keiller said that, following rezoning, the YSF could move before any other Three Corners plans are developed or approved. The sailing center, he said, can co-exist with any other type of development.

Several city council members and city staff stated that they didn’t want to take anything out of the hands of the Steering Committee. Mr. Keiller replied that the YSF was not asking for a decision at this time, just for permission to work with city staff to create a detailed proposal to bring to the Steering Committee.

City Manager Monte Falls said that is fine, with the understanding that it will be up to the Steering Committee to review all proposals and recommend a plan to the city council.

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