If you ever looked at a map of the City of Sebastian, its borders look like an incomplete jigsaw puzzle. When driving south on U.S. 1, you leave the city limits after passing the County Ham N Egg Restaurant until reaching the Sebastian Roadside Restaurant.
For as long as we can remember, the City of Sebastian has wanted to fill in the missing pieces to our borders. But to do that, the landowners must agree to annex.
Last Wednesday, with the cooperation of the landowners, the Sebastian City Council approved the initial vote to annex nearly 60 acres. The process involved four annexation requests. There will soon be a public hearing and a second vote to make it official.
Much of the property is commercial. However, the approval was also for mixed-use and low-density residential compatible with its surrounding uses. There are some plans to build a new apartment complex providing 220 units, with 20% of them becoming affordable housing on the 22 acres south of 99th Street.
It’s also interesting to note that the county is also building 270 new apartment units called Sebastian Landing, next to the senior living facility, without any input from the residents in Sebastian. That is interesting because when Sebastian wanted to grow by annexing land west of here, the county, a few residents, an out-of-county newspaper, and several nonprofits promoted misinformation to stop it.
But with Sebastian growing fast and a failed attempt to annex 1,100 acres, it needed since 2019; there isn’t much housing available. Of course, it was always better to grow west of here, but now we’re finding new developments right in our backyard being built by the county and from the very same people against growth for Sebastian.
During Wednesday’s City Council meeting, a few residents were upset about one particular property located at 1820 Shakespeare Street. It’s a 20-acre property, known as Cross Creek, that developer Henry Fischer wants to expand by up to 58 units allowing low-density residential of up to three homes per acre.
Fischer’s proposal didn’t sit well with Sebastian resident Colleen Sherry, who accused the developer of poorly maintaining the development. She provided photos of overgrown weeds and allegedly poor landscaping in other areas. Sherry asked the City Council to require Fischer to properly maintain the area before allowing him to build more homes.
“If he can’t maintain our current development, why, as a council and a resident, would we want to grant him 19.58 [acres] more,” Sherry asked.
Sherry also talked about dead shrubbery, a boat ramp overrun with weeds, and algae found in their lake.
“Why would I want him to be able to build more if he can’t help me with what I live in now? And I understand, we’re growing, we need a bigger tax base, and I’m all for that. But let’s grow responsibly, and if he’s not responsible to me and other residents, why would I want him to do this with other folks,” Sherry explained.
Mayor Jim Hill said the public hearing was only to consider whether the additional property should be rezoned from the county’s agricultural designation to very-low-density residential, not to decide whether Fischer could expand Cross Creek.
“I hear the concerns of the people, and I agree with a lot of what they’re saying,” Hill said. “But I don’t think we should get involved with the developer and their homeowners’ association.”
Hill also said the city doesn’t have control over the issues that are being discussed because it’s a private development where the developer maintains the streets and sidewalks.
Councilman Bob McPartlan shared Sherry’s concerns and asked if the developer and the property management isn’t being responsible to the homeowners, “then who is responsible?”
Ultimately, the City Council voted to approve, while McPartlan voted “no” because of his concerns.
In addition, property owned by the Marine Resources Council was rezoned from residential to conservation land near the St. Sebastian River.
A hearing and the second vote will take place at a future City Council meeting.