County on notice – Sebastian eyeing condition of fish house

SEBASTIAN – Indian River County officials can expect to hear from the Sebastian city leaders who want the Archie Smith Fish House preserved.

While the Sebastian City Council is not yet willing to take on the property itself, it wants to get the dialogue going with the county.

“Let’s start leaning,” Councilwoman Andrea Coy said.

As part of the effort to get the historic Archie Smith Fish House taken care of, Vice Mayor Jim Hill asked city staff to look over the property and report back on any code enforcement concerns.

He said that property is unkempt and is the county’s responsibility to care for. By pursuing any possible code enforcement violations, the city can better push the county to address the site.

“I want to work with them,” Hill said, noting that it is not his intent to alienate the county by bring up code enforcement problems.

“I don’t know that there are any,” he said.

City Attorney Robert Ginsburg said that if the city’s code enforcement officers were to find any issues with the property, the office would first put the county on notice and give them time to fix the problem.

“It’s the professional thing to do,” he said, adding that it is the same process all code enforcement violations go through.

Already, the county is fighting the City of Fellsmere over a code enforcement case involving the payment of a water bill for the county’s use of the city’s fire hydrants. That case is currently in the court system.

Ginsburg said that he is confident that the City of Sebastian would have a strong case to enforce its code against the county in the event the county refuses to take care of the property.

However, the city attorney said, the bigger picture for the city is to have the Archie Smith Fish House restored.

“We don’t want to take our eye off that ball,” Ginsburg said.

Growth Management Director Rebecca Grohall said that the county does a fair job clipping the grass on the property. She explained that the person the county sends to mow has been responsive every time the city calls to say the grass is too tall.

Though the lawn seems to be taken care, Hill voiced concerns about the overall dilapidated appearance of the property. He said that the city has codes in place that address maintenance of landscaping and aesthetics.

The Sebastian City Council expressed interest in working with the county to fix up the Archie Smith Fish House by way of providing funds for matching grants.

“They have an obligation to do something,” Councilman Don Wright said of the county.

It’s those obligations that the council wants the county to honor.

When the county purchased the site several years ago, it was with the intent of rehabilitating and preserving. County staff had hoped to receive a state grant that would have been used to do just that, but the grant monies never appeared.

With just $300,000 left in the land acquisition fund that are already spoken for other projects, county staff members have said there is no money left for fixing up Archie Smith Fish House.

Whether that means the county doesn’t have money to address potential code enforcement issues remains to be seen.

“Code enforcement is not the same” as renovating the historic site, Ginsburg said.

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