SEBASTIAN – Sebastian City Manager Al Minner was directed Wednesday night to continue negotiating with the proposed buyer of the former Flagship Marina property to see if a shared parking solution could be reached.
While the Sebastian City Council expressed preference that the potential buyer, George Wilson, work out parking lease agreements with private businesses in the area first, they recognized that might not be possible.
“Private parking is extremely difficult to ignore,” Councilman Eugene Wolff said, noting that the city should not interfere with the “free market” if private businesses in the area have parking for lease.
Wilson told the council that in order for the rebirth of Flagship Marina to be successful, they have to come up with a long-term solution to the parking crunch. He added that leasing from a business might help in the short-term, but no business would want to encumber their property for 10 years in this uncertain economy.
“We’re sort of ambivalent about the property anyway,” Wilson told the council, later adding, “It’s a marginal deal as it is.”
The developer has been in discussions with George Hart, who would like to open a Mulligan’s restaurant. The current proposal would require an additional 48 parking spaces based on a 200-seat restaurant and existing development codes.
However, at the Sebastian City Council meeting, Wilson said a 150-seat restaurant could possibly work, requiring fewer additional parking spots.
The city council also directed to staff to work quickly to modify the city’s land development regulations and codes to modify the formula used to determine the number of parking spaces needed onsite in the waterfront district.
“We can do this folks,” Vice Mayor Jim Hill told his fellow council members and city staff. He said the city has an obligation to make the waterfront district a viable area.
He added that if parking is making it impossible for businesses to thrive then the city needs address that and then “get the heck out of the way.”
City Manager Al Minner told the council that while the city could perform a parking survey for the area, with the help of a consultant, it would take several months to complete.
Instead of waiting on the parking survey, Hill proposed to the council that the city move forward with negotiations with Wilson and Hart, and at the same time review the city’s codes and get a survey going.
Minner estimated that bringing the land development regulations and codes back to council for approval could take 60 to 90 days, though he said it could take longer.
There were approximately 30 people in the audience who stayed for the Flagship Marina parking discussion and a few spoke before the council.
Tom Collins, Capt. Hiram’s Resort owner, told the Sebastian City Council that leasing public parking to a private business “is just not fair” to those businesses that had to jump through hoops and find their own parking solutions.
Collins pointed to his own business, which has more parking than the city’s formula figured and still he has parking issues.
Collins did tell the council that he welcomes new business and competition to the area, but he does not believe the council striking a parking deal would be in the public’s best interest.
Others who spoke were more favorable to the city leasing parking spaces to the potential Mulligan’s and coming up with an overall shared parking policy for other businesses in the area.
Chuck Mechling, a members of the Sebastian River Area Chamber of Commerce, told the council that the Chamber does support a shared parking policy, calling it “another tool” to help develop the entire waterfront.
“What we have a beautiful jewel” with the waterfront Mechling said – which has parking problems due to the tight restrictions. He said there needs to be flexibility, which is what the city’s staff expects to address as it reworks the city’s land development regulations and codes.
Those rules will be presented to the Planning and Zoning Commission for two public hearings prior to going to the Sebastian City Council for final approval. No dates have been set for when the votes at both levels could happen.