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Sebastian councilman floats idea of buying Flagship Marina at auction

SEBASTIAN – One member of the Sebastian City Council is considering the possibility of purchasing Flagship Marina when it goes on the foreclosure auction block next month.

Councilman Eugene Wolff floated the idea during a workshop this week with fellow council members.


He said the possibility of forming a public-private partnership for the site was intriguing.

“What do we think about that?” Wolff asked the council. It didn’t spark discussion.

Whether the city council would send a representative to the auction at the Indian River County Courthouse in May remains to be seen. But according to City Manager Al Minner, it’s not likely.

Minner said after the meeting that Wolff has been an advocate for purchasing the marina property, formerly owned by resident and businessman Damien Gilliams. And, in the past, Wolff wasn’t the only one.

However, during the course of the last year, Minner said interest has waned among the other council members.

He said he has not received much direction from the council to pursue the property and, if the council were still interested, the members would need to publicly discuss the possibility.

The council’s next opportunity to meet is May 12. The foreclosure auction is scheduled for May 24.

Wolff said after the meeting that the city had considered buying the marina a few years ago and had appraisals done on the site. Those appraisals are higher than the foreclosure judgment of $1.8 million.

At the time of the appraisals, Wolff said, the city tried to buy the property from Gilliams. The city offered an amount in line with the appraisals but Gilliams refused.

Now that the property has been foreclosed on and Gilliams is not involved, Wolff said the city might have a better chance at acquiring Flagship Marina.

He said he is interested in working with the mortgage holder, Oculina Bank, to work out a price for the property.

Attempts to reach officials with Oculina Bank were unsuccessful. If the council were interested in buying the property, it is unclear if the city could directly approach the bank before the auction or if the city would have to participate in it.

Minner said the council has, in the past, been interested in acquiring the site because they have viewed the property as an “enclave” within the Riverview Park area.

There had been discussions of using the marina as a community center of sorts and tie in with the city’s downtown redevelopment plans.

“It opens up possibilities,” Minner said, if the city were to acquire the land.

Wolff said that even though he is interested in buying the land, he has a concern about taking the land off the city’s tax roll. If the city were to acquire the property, the city would not receive property tax dollars from the land.

Also, if the city were to lease the land to a private entity to reopen business there, that private organization would have an advantage over other waterfront businesses, Wolff said, because that entity would not have to pay property taxes.

Sebastian River Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Beth Mitchell said the city – if it were to consider buying the property – would have to consider those issues carefully.

“You’d have to take a real hard look at the balance,” she said of sparking new business along the waterfront and taking the property out of the tax base.

If a private investor were to buy the site, the city would collect property taxes.

Mitchell said the site could be used as a marina and a restaurant, as it once did, provided the owner could overcome a few “minor road blocks” including parking.

The property is a “jewel on the waterfront,” Mitchell said. “The potential is awesome.”

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