Sebastian businesses won’t have duplicate water issues to overcome

SEBASTIAN — Businesses looking to expand or move into the City of Sebastian will have one less requirement to deal with – at least on the city level.

The Sebastian City Council this month agreed to remove a barrier to businesses the St. Johns River Water Management District already oversees. City Manager Al Minner begrudgingly called the move a “reactionary-type” proposal based on what candidates said during the Sebastian City Council election campaign.

He told the council that staff has reviewed certain city regulations and found that one rule, regarding the development of sites located along city’s “sand ridge” that runs on US 1.

The city’s rules limit on-site development to 50 percent of impervious surfaces. According to the city, the rule was meant to help recharge the aquifer. The requirements have presented a hardship to businesses, city documents show, because the rules necessitate more land than would otherwise be needed to accommodate drainage or more expensive ground materials that allow for water to seep into the ground.

The regional water management district requires commercial developments to provide on-site stormwater retention, which drains into the aquifer. The district does not appear to have a preference if the water is spread over more property – such as Sebastian’s code – or in one, more concentrated area, according to city staff.

This is a “clear cut case of a bad ordinance,” Mayor Jim Hill said during the first reading of the regulation’s removal. He explained that the ordinance is less effective than the rules already in place.

The mayor did caution his fellow council members against outright removing duplicate regulations.

“There are reasons we live here,” Hill said, noting that some, more restrictive, ordinances are meant to protect the character of the city.

Vice Mayor Don Wright said that he believed removing the aquifer recharge ordinance would be a “step in the right direction” and called for the city’s staff to continue reviewing other rules and regulations that could be hindering economic growth.

“We want to move the economy forward in Sebastian,” he said.

The second and final reading to remove the ordinance will be held at the Sebastian City Council’s Dec. 15 meeting. The council is expected to finalize rescinding the regulation at that time.

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