Sebastian Council postpones $948,000 redevelopment plan

SEBASTIAN – The Sebastian Community Redevelopment Agency is asking for the public’s help in laying out priorities for the city’s redevelopment zone along Sebastian Boulevard, between US 1 and Indian River Drive.

The decision came after agency members – who also sit as the Sebastian City Council – expressed concerns about a conceptual plan involving nearly $1 million worth of improvements to the Sebastian Boulevard boat trailer parking lot, two downtown streets, and the potential closure of the boulevard through the targeted area.

The concept plan has been in the works since 1993 and incorporates what the city calls the “CavCorp” property located behind the Hess gas station, Sebastian Boulevard and Cleveland and Coolidge streets.

Part of that plan considers the potential closure of the Sebastian Boulevard between US 1 and Indian River Drive, which according to City Manager Al Minner, would give the city an opportunity for landscaping and other amenities to create a promenade and add “panache” to the downtown area.

Councilman Don Wright recalled the public outcry from a few years ago when the city considered the option and cautioned the council that might happen again.

“I think that will be critical,” Wright said of getting the public’s input on the issue before the council decides whether or not to close the road.

Mayor Gillmor told the council that he is having a difficult time understanding how closing the road would be beneficial to the project. He explained that drivers coming into the area from the west on Sebastian Boulevard would crest the hill as they approach US 1 and would see the beautiful lagoon and area but be stumped as to how to get there if they closed the eastern leg of the boulevard.

He suggested the city have a traffic study conducted to see what the impact would be if they were to close the road.

Vice Mayor Jim Hill requested the agency schedule a workshop and invite the public to help review the Community Redevelopment Agency’s master plan for the redevelopment area.

He mentioned other priorities the city has in terms of improving other roads in the area, proposed changes to US 1, and how all the projects would fit together.

The city has $750,000 set aside for the large-scale, multi-phase project that would span a couple years, Minner said.

Not all would come from the CRA budget, though. Both the city’s discretionary sales tax revenue and recreation impact fees would fund $350,000 of the project.

That would leave the city with nearly $200,000 unfunded for the full project. Minner said that the city could phase the project to coincide with fund availability in the following budget cycle.

Councilwoman Andrea Coy said that she wants to capitalize on the momentum the city has generated with the completion of the Main Street project. However, she said she does not want to move too fast, either.

“We’re moving forward at a good rate,” Coy said.

She said they should make sure that the city has a firm idea of what it wants so the various areas of the redevelopment zone congeal and look like one district.

And while Coy voiced support for making improvements to the boat trailer parking lot, calling it “hideous,” she also agreed that more public input and city review of the CRA’s master plan is needed.

Hill asked that the city schedule a public workshop soon so they can get to work on reviewing the plan and eliciting public input on what the agency’s priorities should be.

“We need to do that fast,” Hill said, adding. “Let’s get to work – roll up our sleeves and get to work.”

A date for that workshop has not yet been scheduled.

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