Sebastian Council votes to use $3.16M grant to buy waterfront lands

SEBASTIAN — The Sebastian City Council unanimously approved changing a grant for the purchase of Hurricane Harbor and another adjacent property in an effort to revitalize the waterfront at its meeting Wednesday evening.

The City of Sebastian applied for and received a $3.16 million Stan Mayfield Working Waterfront grant from the state. The city is expected to match the grant by 10 percent — or about $350,000, according to City Manager Al Minner.  

The city’s grant was for the purchase of two parcels, Hurricane Harbor, with an estimated price of $2.5 million, and the Sebastian Entertainment Center, with an estimated price of $1 million dollars.

However, the Sebastian Entertainment Center property was rejected in the grant process, leaving the city with about $900,000 of unallocated grant funds. The city was given the option to either send the leftover funds back to the state or find another, suitable, property to purchase.

With $900,000 available, Minner told the Sebastian City Council that they could consider a portion of the grant for an actual working waterfront.

“This has been a question the Waterfront Committee has dealt with,” Minner said, adding that the property south of Hurricane Harbor, known as the Dabrowski Parcel is already a working waterfront.

Minner told the council that money from the city’s Community Redevelopment Area could be shifted to potentially increase the match by about $500,000 to cover the cost of buying the $1.5 million property.

“Tonight, what is driving this issue forward is the state,” Minner said.

There are other communities in Florida that are seeking the Stan Mayfield Working Waterfront grant, according to Minner, which could put pressure on state officials to take back grant applications that haven’t been spent.

On Monday, the Working Waterfront Committee met to discuss the issue in detail. They recommended that the city council modify the grant in order to purchase or at least make an offer on the Dabrowski Parcel, according to Minner.

The Dabrowski Parcel offers the essentials for a working waterfront, Minner told the council, adding that the Dabrowski Parcel fits the “heartbeat of the Stan Mayfield grant to be a stimulus for the fishing industry.”

Minner said the city could work with Fisherman’s Landing Sebastian Inc. to manage the waterfront project.

The purpose of the Stan Mayfield grant was for services that support a working waterfront. The Working Waterfront Committee is working on a business plan to be presented to the City Council in the near future that deals with things like eco-tours, museum events, educational events that can be held at the properties, and potentially a market place.

John Conway, chair of the Working Waterfront Committee addressed the council, telling the members that the committee supports acquiring the Dabrowski parcel.

“I learned a lot about the commercial fishing industry,” said Conway. “It’s evident that without the Dabrowski property, we don’t have a working waterfront, so I ask you to support this.”

“This is our opportunity to jumpstart the downtown,” said Councilwoman Andrea Coy in support of the grant modifications. “This is it folks. We’ve been waiting for something like this to come around for a long time. All the pieces are starting to fall together.”

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