Sebastian Council moves forward with Powerline Road over objections

SEBASTIAN–Drivers next year will be able to bypass US 1, Barber and other roads once Powerline Road comes online.

The Sebastian City Council approved moving forward with the $1.1 million project over the objections of several Columbus Street residents who spoke out against what they say would be a negative affect on their quality of life.

Nearly a dozen residents spoke out about the proposed roadway, many of whom live on Columbus, which runs parallel to Powerline. For several, their homes back up to the road that would connect Main Street with County Road 512, providing an alternate route for the Highlands, Ashbury, Pelican Isles and Sebastian Elementary School.

The impetus for the project is the $180,000 the city has in escrow from Ashbury’s developers. The funds must be allocated for extending Powerline Road by a certain time or face sending the funds back.

City Councilman Eugene Wolff was the lone vote against moving forward with the road’s construction, telling his fellow council members that the road will be needed in the future, but not now.

“There’s no urgency,” he said of needing the road, calling it a “road to nowhere.”

Citing the residents’ concerns about their quality of life, the cut-through traffic they could have because of the road and the added noise, Wolff said that if the council could provide them another five or 10 years of serenity, that’s what they should do.

Powerline Road currently dead ends about a third-mile south of Main Street becoming a dirt path that service and city vehicles traverse.

The plans for the paving of Powerline Road call for a sidewalk on the east side of the road, a pedestrian access at Lime Street and a vehicle access at Orange Street.

The plan also originally called for an 8-foot bike path on the west side of the road. However, the city council appeared ready to scrap the path in favor of a short berm and landscaping to help mitigate the noise and sight pollution from the road for the Columbus Street residents.

Columbus resident Bill Fraser told the council prior to the 4-1 vote that the road would “destroy my property,” be a waste of money and a disservice to the residents.

“Our quality of life will totally be destroyed,” another resident said, reminding the council that the wooded area the road would be punched through is home to foxes, raccoons, a bobcat, gopher tortoises and birds.

Residents also questioned the need for such a north-south connector road, given the lack of build out in Ashbury and other planned developments.

Phil Matson, of the Indian River County Metropolitan Planning Organization, made a presentation to the Sebastian City Council, citing traffic models that show the road would decrease traffic on other arterials, including US 1, Barber, Main, Easy and Fleming.

Assuming that development returns to the area in the future, Main Street could see an additional 8,100 vehicles without Powerline Road. With Powerline, that number would drop to 4,800.

Traffic on US 1 from Main to County Road 512 would increase to nearly 52,000 without the road and drop to just over 48,000 with it, he said.

Matson also told the council that Powerline could help ease traffic on US 1 and negate the need to six-lane the highway through the city’s downtown.

“No one wants a road in their neighborhood,” non-Columbus Street resident Louise Kautenburg told the council.

She pointed out that if the city doesn’t put in roads that are needed, then traffic will be congested and a “funnel-effect” will happen to the main thoroughfares.

“We share the city,” she added.

Though the council members said they understood the concerns and felt for the residents, they ultimately decided to move forward with building the road.

To help mitigate their concerns, the council directed staff to do what it could in the plans to provide for landscaping and a berm to shield the road from the Columbus Street residents.

Construction could begin by mid-April, starting from the north end near Main Street, and wrap up before school resumes in August.

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