INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — Sebastian City Councilman Richard Gillmor spoke at Tuesday’s Board of County Commission meeting to remind Commissioners that, despite their expressed opposition to the seven-county, 50-year planning project called Seven50, Sebastian and Fellsmere still wish to participate.
Gillmor came to the meeting in response to a proposal brought forth by Commissioner Bob Solari to scrutinize the mission, the actions and even the name of Seven50 at an upcoming meeting of the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council. Several county boards have pulled out or are in the process of pulling out, leaving three or maybe four of the seven remaining in the coalition.
Solari has said Seven50 is a staff-driven project, a waste of taxpayer dollars and a threat to home rule. Yet Commission Chairman Peter O’Bryan not only supports Seven50 but serves on its executive committee.
The issue has been polarizing, not only at the County Commission but out in the community, prompting a “red shirt” campaign at Sebastian government meetings by property rights advocates showing their opposition to what they see as the long arm of the federal government butting into local matters.
Gillmor said Sebastian and Fellsmere are still open to the concept and also to the much-needed funding for housing and public works projects that is expected to flow through the Seven50 planning process from various government entities. He urged the County not to take such a hard line against Seven50.
“The two largest cities, Sebastian and Fellsmere are not pulling out of the program,” Gillmor said. “Sebastian is the largest in population and Fellsmere is the largest in area – it’s humongous. We believe that planning is an important part of the future.”
“There’s an old saying that if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu,” Gillmor said.
Solari countered, saying “The discussion item on Friday has nothing to do with being against planning. It has nothing to do with being against funding.”
Instead, Solari said he’s opposed to the way Seven50 morphed from a previous organization without the notice to or consultation of Indian River County.
“There hasn’t been a full, hearty discussion about what’s going on,” Solari said.
Gillmor compared Seven50 to the County’s own Metropolitan Planning Organization, but Commissioner Tim Zorc begged to differ.
“The MPO is our plan of what we want and what we want to see, not a plan we might inherit from Seven50,” Zorc said.
Commissioner Joe Flescher said his concern about Seven50 centers around “quality of life issues.”
“I understand that there’s benefit with Seven50; I understand that there’s monetary gain with strings attached,” he said. “That is our concern.”
O’Bryan pointed out that having “strings attached” to grant funding is not something unique to Seven50.
“Every single grant we get has strings attached,” O’Bryan said. “There’s no free money with no strings attached. There’s always strings attached coming or going.”
Property rights advocate Ellen Gower pointed out that the Sebastian City Council has not yet signed the consortium agreement required to be a fully participating partner in Seven50.
Despite Gillmor’s plea, no action was taken to urge Solari to pull his discussion item from the regional agenda later in the week and the discussion moved on to other matters.