Sebastian fish house’s condition makes for uncertain site for algae firm

SEBASTIAN — Whether an algae company will be able to move into the Historic Archie Smith Fish House in Sebastian remains unknown as work continues to assess the building’s condition.

Asbestos found within the structure has caused a snag in county officials’ plans to get the façade cleaned up and painted.

“We have to deal with the asbestos first,” Community Development Director Bob Keating said. The county will have to have an analysis done to determine how much asbestos is there and then hire someone equipped to remove the material.

Once that’s complete, then the county can proceed with some cosmetic improvements to the historic building, including painting.

Keating added that the county is not looking to make any full-scale renovations in the near future at the site, but will instead work to mitigate further deterioration.

In the meantime, William Cox, CEO of AlgaGen, said the algae farm company is not on any set timetable to move into the Historic Archie Smith Fish House on Indian River Drive.

“It’s in pretty bad shape,” Cox said of the building, but “it’s going to get fixed up.”

While AlgaGen waits to find out when or if the company can expand its operation into Sebastian, Cox said it continues to strengthen and establish new ties with distributors and fish farms to provide feed stock.

If the fish house doesn’t work out for AlgaGen, Cox said the company will look elsewhere in the county for office space. His preference, he said, would be to locate within the downtown area of either Sebastian or Vero Beach.

There has been some question as to whether commercial use of the historic site would be allowed under the land acquisition bonds the county used to buy the property a few years ago.

Keating said they have researched the issue and found there to be no conflict between the bond rules and commercial use of the site. However, he said it would be up to Sebastian city leaders to determine if AlgaGen’s proposed use is consistent with the fish house’s zoning.

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