Parking becomes one less hurdle for waterfront businesses

SEBASTIAN – New or expanding businesses in Sebastian’s waterfront district will have one less barrier to conquer on their way to being operational.

The first business in the queue to take advantage of the new rules is Mulligan’s Grill, which has plans to buy the former Flagship Marina on Indian River Drive near Riverview Park. The restaurant-marina-home is expected to go to the Sebastian Planning and Zoning Board tonight for site plan approval.

George Hart, owner of the Mulligan’s restaurant in Vero Beach, has said he plans to be open in Sebastian before the end of the year. He has not yet closed on the property’s purchase with Oculina Bank, which took the site in a foreclosure against Sebastian business owner and council candidate Damien Gilliams.

Gilliams told the Sebastian City Council that the new rules were not fair – that his tenant, when Flagship Marina was operational several years ago – was not granted any parking favors.

“What’s past is past,” Mayor Richard Gillmor responded.

The new rules allow a business owner to pay into a parking fund in lieu of providing up to 30 parking spots on the business’s site. It also allows for up to 50 percent of a business’s parking be located off-site and increases the distance of the off-site parking from the business to 500 feet.

Mulligan’s would have needed 72 parking spots on the Flagship Marina property in order to be approved for the 170-seat restaurant and 47-slip marina and single-family residence above the eatery.

The site can accommodate just 42 parking spaces – leaving 30 unaccounted for.

Along with approving the new ordinance, the Sebastian City Council approved an agreement with Mulligan’s that the restaurant would pay $3,200 per parking spot – $96,000 – in lieu of providing those 30 spots.

The money will be paid to the city’s Parking-in-lieu-of-Fund over eight years at an interest rate of 3.5 percent. The city would then use those funds – and those collected from other waterfront businesses that do the same – to establish more public parking in the district.

Mulligan’s patrons would be allowed to park in any of the public parking places within 500 feet from the establishment and walk to restaurant.

While the Sebastian City Council unanimously approved the ordinance and the agreement, they did take note that at a low interest rate, there is little incentive for businesses to pay for the parking waiver sooner rather than later.

“There’s no real sense of urgency in this,” Councilman Eugene Wolff said. “It’s such a good deal. I would love to get 3 percent” interest.

Councilwoman Andrea Coy said that the sense of urgency is on the city’s side – that the city is anxious to get something going with the defunct Flagship Marina site.

“Yeah, it’s a good deal,” she said. “No doubt. It’s the right thing for the city to do right now.”

Fellow Sebastian council candidate Joe Scozzari told the council that he’d rather the city not charge for the parking waiver.

“If you really want to jumpstart the economy” don’t charge the businesses, Scozzari said.

Businesses that default on their agreement with the city will lose the ability to provide off-site parking, which could force the business to be non-compliant with parking requirements.

Also, the amount of money to be paid to the city’s parking fund could be set as lien against the property that would need be taken care of in the event the property goes into bankruptcy, foreclosure or is sold.

In the event of a sale, an agreement could be struck between the city and the new owner.

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