Sebastian could take over rehabbing Archie Smith Fish House

SEBASTIAN — The historic Archie Smith Fish House could be leased over to the City of Sebastian for future rehabilitation, according to Sebastian and county staff members.

A decision, however, would be up to both the Sebastian City Council and the Board of County Commissioners.

The county purchased the old fish house in 2006 for a little more than $1 million with the hope of restoring the building and preserving it into the future.

“We think our board would be amenable,” County Community Development Director Bob Keating said of the county leasing the site to the city.

Sebastian Growth Management Director Rebecca Grohall said that the Sebastian City Council would have to determine the cost to rehabilitate the site and how it would be funded before deciding whether to take on the lease.

The aging structure out in the water sits atop deteriorating pilings that would have to be stabilized – at a minimum, both Keating and Grohall said.

Keating said the county has already met with an architect who has experience with historic structures. That architect has given a very rough estimate of at least $700,000 to make the Archie Smith Fish House structurally sound once again.

“The county really doesn’t have” the money to take care of the property, Keating said. He explained that there is about $300,000 left of the conservation lands acquisition bond the county issued a few years ago. That money is already committed to other properties.

“Right now, we have a lot of other commitments,” Keating said.

Keating pointed to the City of Sebastian’s Community Redevelopment Agency fund that could be tapped to rehabilitate the fish house if the city were to take over the property.

While the city does have money available within its CRA account, the city council has been discussing other projects within its targeted downtown and waterfront districts that could drain the fund.

Such projects could include repaving the “President” streets, establishing gateways into the special district, and possibly redeveloping the CavCorp property, which is currently the boat trailer parking behind the Hess gas station just north of Riverview Park.

Grohall said she expects City Manager Al Minner, who also met with county staff, to ask the Sebastian City Council for direction before moving forward with discussions.

The council could either tell Minner not to pursue the Archie Smith Fish House property or to bring in an engineer to evaluate the site.

He could bring the matter before the council at the July 28 council meeting at the earliest.

Grohall said that if the city were to sign a 99-year lease with the county to take over the property, the city could turn it into a working waterfront related museum or perhaps serve as a kayak and canoe launch.

“The water is really shallow there,” she said, explaining that it could not be a real, functioning “working waterfront” site like the Dabrowski site to the south of Hurricane Harbor.

If the city were to decide not to take on the Archie Smith Fish House property, Keating said the buildings would continue to sit as they are.

“We don’t think it’s imminent,” Keating said of the possibility the Archie Smith Fish House could fall into the waters below.

In the meantime, Keating said the county has been working to secure bids to have the fish house repainted.

“We’d definitely like to spruce it up,” Keating said of the site. However, the integrity of the site and the probability of lead-based paint already on the buildings has made bids difficult to get, he added.

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