Approximately a month ago, Sebastian Daily reported on a site plan submitted by a property owner for a new 3-story Home2 Suites Hotel that may soon grace Indian River Drive in Sebastian.
The proposed location raises concerns as it directly borders the Indian River Lagoon and is between residential properties.
During the recent Technical Review Committee meeting two weeks ago, attendees grew increasingly alarmed upon learning that the property’s runoff would flow directly into the environmentally fragile Indian River Lagoon.
While the planners assert compliance with county requirements and City of Sebastian ordinances, specific details remain ambiguous.
One notable aspect discussed during the meeting was a traffic study conducted by consultants. According to the survey, the hotel would generate 427 vehicle trips daily, including 18 heading south towards Sebastian.
However, the study was completed last summer, failing to account for the influx of seasonal residents.
Local residents of Sebastian are well aware of the escalating congestion on the roads, particularly Indian River Drive. Many argue that a traffic light has long been needed at the south end of Indian River Drive and US-1, and the addition of a 96-room hotel will only exacerbate the situation.
The proposed Hilton hotel has sparked considerable interest among Sebastian citizens. Some residents embrace the idea, welcoming more lodging options beyond Captain Hiram’s Resort and the Best Western, both owned by the same company. They also believe the hotel will create new job opportunities for Sebastian residents.
However, there are those like resident Terry McGinn who support job creation but contend that the chosen location for the Hilton hotel is unsuitable, given its proximity to primarily residential properties.
McGinn expressed his skepticism, stating, “This is a deflection by the county because the past applications were not huge commercial hotels but Eco Lodges and smaller venues that were suitable for the density, the green space, and the stormwater management. Again, a sideways diversion to the truth.”
He initiated a petition opposing the Hilton hotel and garnered over 3,400 signatures in just over a week.
McGinn acknowledges that some may perceive his concerns as irrational, but he explains that he moved to Sebastian specifically for its small-town charm and waterfront ambiance, avoiding the allure of South Florida. “We chose Sebastian because it was small, had a great waterfront to walk our dogs, and was quiet and scenic, unlike all those other places. But, for some reason, the county doesn’t understand that. For some reason, they cannot respect the North County and our waterfront,” McGinn stated.
McGinn and others do not oppose the idea of the Home2 Suites Hotel in Sebastian; instead, they advocate for its relocation to US-1 instead of the Indian River Lagoon.
Where are the environmental groups?
The absence of environmental groups at meetings, including the Pelican Island Audubon Society, Friends of St. Sebastian, and the Clean Water Coalition, has raised questions among residents.
Despite their recent lawsuit against the Sebastian Annexation over environmental concerns, these groups have remained silent about a proposed three-story building that could potentially impact the Indian River Lagoon.
This inconsistency has left residents who financially support these nonprofit organizations disconcerted.
Early Development Review Process
County officials have clarified that the project is still in its early stages and has a long way to go.
Andrew Sobczak, IRC Interim Community Development Director, informed Sebastian Daily, “The current submittal is for a Home2 Suites, 3-story hotel. Staff will provide their preliminary comments on the submittal at a Technical Review Committee (TRC) meeting scheduled for May 10, 2023, but keep in mind, this is very early in the development review process.”
Observers noted a sense of rapid progress during the Technical Review Committee meeting, where limited public input was permitted.
The revelation that the project will bypass the county Planning & Zoning Board due to meeting all necessary requirements is of particular concern. Consequently, it will proceed with staff approval alone, without any opportunity for input from city residents.
City officials in Sebastian are increasingly worried about the implications of county hotel guests utilizing local parks, boat ramps, and roads without contributing taxes to their maintenance.