Plans to bring a restaurant, marina, and bait shop to the Indian River waterfront in Edgewater cleared another hurdle as the Edgewater City Council approved a settlement between the city, the site developer and local residents who had opposed the project.

The settlement, which was approved unanimously by the council Monday, April 5, addresses some of the more controversial elements of the plans, including the construction of stormwater retention ponds in the public right-of-way on what is now East Boston Road. The unpaved Boston Road presently serves as the only means for resident Maryann Malcki-Thorhallsson to access her riverfront home. The original plan for the site, which Thorhallsson protested, would have provided her access to her property through the marina parking lot, as well as provided dedicated parking spaces for her use.

According to Edgewater City Attorney Aaron Wolfe, who presented the key points of the settlement to the council during the meeting, the settlement directs the site’s developer, Aski Development LLC of Orlando, to seek approval for moving the ponds to an alternate location on the site. A revised site plan had not been submitted for approval as of Thursday, April 8.

The settlement further addresses the Boston Road issue by stating the right-of-way between Riverside Drive and the Indian River will be “vacated” by the city, meaning the city will transfer ownership of the land to Aski and Ms. Thorhallsson. The settlement stipulates that she will be guaranteed access to her property by Aski through an ingress and egress easement. Also, the city will be granted an easement by Aski and Ms. Thorhallsson to allow for access, drainage and utilities in the space currently designated for Boston Road. The settlement commits the city to process the vacation of the road “as expeditiously as possible.”

Ms. Thorhallsson and Elizabeth Labiak, a resident whose property also abuts the development site, would agree as part of the settlement to not oppose the city’s approval of a modified site plan, provided the stormwater ponds are moved from the Boston Road area. The settlement states a modified plan may include additional parking spaces and the inclusion of properties on Riverside Drive adjacent to the current site.

Controversy over the plans erupted in July 2019 when the council approved a rezoning of the land by a 3-2 vote despite an outpouring of opposition from local residents that included concerns over the increased traffic and noise the development would bring to their neighborhood. Also, some argued the site was too small to accommodate the proposed development, which would include a 7,042-square-foot restaurant with 152 seats, a bait and tackle shop, and 44-slip boat marina.

Local and nationwide environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, presented concerns the project would have a negative impact on the Indian River Lagoon ecosystem, including the removal of natural vegetation to make way for a sea wall.

Mayor Michael Thomas stated he believed most residents were in favor of the project and those opposing it represented a small, vocal minority. He was one of the three who voted in favor of rezoning. Gary Conroy and Kimberly Yaney, the two council members who opposed the rezoning, no longer serve on the council.

The rezoning prompted Ms. Thorhallsson and Ms. Labiak to file a lawsuit in Circuit Court for Volusia County against Edgewater and the site’s developer. The suit argued the rezoning did not align with the city’s comprehensive plan, which is a long-range planning tool used by local governments to define goals and policies for a wide range of city functions, including land use, shoreline protection and traffic management.

The suit was decided in September 2020 in favor of Edgewater and Aski. However, it was appealed in the Fifth District Court of Appeals, where the case is pending. The settlement approved by the council includes provisions that would dismiss the appeal.

Despite a history of public opposition to the marina plans, which included a public rally on the site in June 2019 that attracted more than 100 people, no one came forward during the council meeting to challenge the approval of the settlement.

Following the signing of the settlement by all parties, the next hurdle for the site’s development will be a public hearing before the Edgewater Planning and Zoning Board on the vacation of East Boston Road.

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