SEBASTIAN – Sebastian Mayor Richard Gillmor proposed a possible solution to absorbing empty houses and getting construction workers back to work last week – tell Northerners now’s the time to buy their Florida retirement home.
“Our area has the most undervalued homes in the nation,” the mayor said, addressing the Board of County Commissioners during the annual economic summit. “That’s a fact.” Borrowing a line from Commissioner Wesley Davis, Mayor Gillmor said they need to look for the “low hanging fruit” to stimulate the economy. To his way of thinking, the mayor said that fruit is the large number of homes on the market that are so undervalued.
He explained that if the county could market itself as a prime area to retire – for a little more than the cost of a new Mercedes or Lexus, northern retirees could get a home in Florida.
He added that the City of Sebastian has been working to promote itself as a retirement destination.
“We in Sebastian have scratched the surface” of promotion with billboards on Interstate 95 and Web sites dedicated to retirement, economic development and other topics.
Mayor Gillmor further explained that if the county could get the existing residential units absorbed, then new construction could begin again – putting to work thousands of construction workers, contractors and subcontractors.
“The money goes round and round in our economy,” he said.
Commissioners’ reactions to the mayor’s proposal were mixed.
Commissioner Gary Wheeler said that retirees are a “renewable resource” as the population ages and they don’t have kids – which means no need for more schools.
Commissioner Bob Solari, however, said that he has a different vision for the county – and it includes bringing young people to the county, not retirees.
He said he’d rather the county not spend its resources bringing more residential growth to the area. Instead, the commissioner said he’d like the county to work on bringing technology-based businesses to the area, which would draw younger, skilled residents.
Commissioner Wesley Davis told his fellow board members that Mayor Gillmor’s proposal is one way to breathe life into the economy now, rather than waiting for it to take care of itself.
“Some life is better than no life, even if it is old life,” Davis said, drawing chuckles from the audience.