Sebastian’s ‘working waterfront’ could cost non-profit in fix-ups

SEBASTIAN – With the City of Sebastian already on the hook for more than $700,000 in two pieces of waterfront property, a non-profit group waiting to sign the lease could be in for more.

Initial estimates show that rehabilitating the old fish and ice houses on the property immediately south of Hurricane Harbor could cost between $200,000 and $400,000 – depending on if it’s rebuilt as one or two stories.

 

“I don’t see the city ponying up money” for fixing up the Dabrowski site, City Manager Al Minner told members of the city’s Working Waterfront Committee.

The city has committed to fixing up Hurricane Harbor, an expense city leaders estimate at $180,000.

Both sites could be leased to a non-profit fishing collaborative called Fishermen’s Landing Sebastian Inc.

Per the lease agreement, the group’s $1,000-month rent could be forgiven based on the amount of capital improvements Fishermen’s Landing Sebastian puts into the site.

Minner said there would be no cap on the rent forgiveness – meaning if the group puts $5,000 worth of capital improvements in, it gets five months free rent.

The Sebastian Working Waterfront Committee discussed both the management plan and the proposed lease and approved both with few changes.

The Sebastian City Council could address the lease at its next meeting, July 28, or one in August, depending on how soon Minner can meet with the co-op’s leader to discuss the changes.

Such changes include limiting on-site parking to prohibit boat trailer parking and reserving spaces for commercial fish trucks in a certain area of the parking lot.

“We’re not against it, we just don’t know where to put it,” committee member Beth Mitchell said.

They also discussed “transient” fishermen and whether the city should allow fishermen to live aboard their boats docked at the Dabrowski site.

Minner said the issue was never raised with Charles Sembler, the organizer of the co-op, but he would ask him about it.

Mitchell said that other working waterfronts have specified boat slips for live-aboard transient fishermen, who pay more to stay longer.

Committee member Vicki Christensen agreed, but added that local commercial fishermen should not be allowed to stay overnight.

The committee also discussed pursuing a permit from the Department of Environmental protection to allow for more active use of the pier behind Hurricane Harbor. As it is now, the pier is for observation only.

Mitchell and other members expressed interest in being allowed to rent kayaks from within Hurricane Harbor and then launching from the pier.

Sebastian Growth Management Director Rebecca Grohall said she would look into the process and would report back.

Also discussed was the potential for the city to acquire the Archie Smith Fish House north of Hurricane Harbor.

Minner is expected to meet Wednesday with county staff to discuss that possibility.

All but one member of the Working Waterfront Committee expressed support for the acquisition. Sal Neglia said that the city receiving – either by donation or purchase – the former fish house would be of no benefit to anyone.

Mitchell said that now would be a good time for the city to approach the county for the property considering the county doesn’t have the money to fix it up.

“If we don’t (get the property) it will fall into the water,” she said.

Minner told the committee that the county has done some amount of homework reviewing the property and has come up with an amount of $750,000 to rehabilitate the property.

Robinson said that while the site might work as a historical property, it would not function as a “working” waterfront property because the water is not deep enough.

Minner is expected to report back to the Sebastian City Council and the waterfront committee at a later meeting.

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To read more about the proposed lease agreement with Fishermen’s Landing Sebastian, click HERE.

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