Sebastian working waterfront land in limbo as negotiations continue

SEBASTIAN – The fate of the working waterfront project in the heart of Sebastian remains in limbo as city leaders continue to negotiate what they hope to be a smaller price tag for the land south of Hurricane Harbor.

“We are very close to the end,” City Manager Al Minner told the Sebastian City Council earlier this week regarding the negotiations for the Dabrowski property.  

The council decided to table a vote on the matter and instead hold a workshop at a later date to tackle the issue.

“It deserves a heck of a lot of time,” Vice Mayor Jim Hill said of the discussion and project.

The council was asked to give direction on what should be done about buying the land. The asking price for the property is $250,000 more than the state’s appraised value of $500,000.

The city planned to purchase the land, along with Hurricane Harbor, with funds from the $3.1 million Stan Mayfield Working Waterfront grant and matching funds from the city’s redevelopment agency budget.

Originally, the city expected to buy the Dabrowski land with $50,000 of redevelopment monies. The state grant would cover 90 percent of the appraised value of the land – $450,000.

Because the seller, a trust for the property, is asking for more than what was appraised, the state has decided to offer only $450,000 for the property.

Sebastian leaders had set aside $351,000 for the purchase of both parcels, and with $230,000 already committed to the Hurricane Harbor purchase, the city has $121,000 it could apply to the Dabrowski site.

But that leaves the city with a $179,000 shortfall for the purchase. The money, however, could be accommodated within the Community Redevelopment Agency’s budget.

More than a dozen interested residents and a few members of the city’s Working Waterfront Committee attended the meeting, most in support of allocating the extra funds to buy the land.

Louise Kautenburg, who is not a committee member, told the council that in just this last week, she had spoken with three people who had recently moved to Sebastian. To a one, they cited the Main Street project as why they came.

“If the city itself, through the CRA district, is not willing to invest in its district, why would anyone else?” she asked rhetorically.

Barbara Salmon, a recent newcomer to the committee, also supported moving forward with the purchase.

“This is our one shot,” she said of revitalizing the waterfront and bringing to life the city’s long-held vision of bringing back commercial fishing to what was once a vibrant fishing village.

“This is a way to get things started,” Salmon added.

Fellow committee member Sal Neglia argued against moving forward with the working waterfront project, telling the council that what he had once envisioned for the area does not appear to be possible.

He said he believes the CRA funds could be put to better use fixing up the streets in the redevelopment zone.

He also questioned the affect a commercial fishing operation would have on those same roads as trucks haul 40,000 pounds of ice and fish from the area.

“I don’t believe it will be good” for the city, Neglia said.

Mayor Richard Gillmor originally proposed going back to the negotiating table with the Dabrowski representatives with a counter offer of $571,000 – which would not require additional redevelopment funds.

Councilwoman Andrea Coy argued they should not vote on a counteroffer until they had ample time to discuss the issues, which they did not have in the hour slated for the matter.

Instead, they unanimously approved bringing the matter back up for discussion where they left off at an upcoming Community Redevelopment Agency meeting.

The next meeting scheduled is March 24 at 5:30 p.m.

By the Numbers:

CRA Budget for Working Waterfront: $351,000

Money approved for Hurricane Harbor: $230,000

Money left over for Dabrowski property: $121,000

State Appraisal for Dabrowski: $500,000

State’s anticipated share for Dabrowski: $450,000

City’s anticipated share for Dabrowski: $50,000

City’s anticipated budget surplus for project: $71,000 ($121,000 – $50,000)

Current asking price for Dabrowski: $750,000

State’s anticipated share (based on new price): $450,000

City’s anticipated additional cost for Dabrowski: $179,000 ($300,000 price difference between state and trust minus (-) $121,000 budgeted for Dabrowski)

City’s anticipated total cost for working waterfront: $530,000 ($230,000 + $300,000)

City’s anticipated CRA budget overrun for project: $179,000

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