Sebastian needs more land to control growth – Opinion

1,118-acre property near Sebastian, Florida.
1,118-acre property near Sebastian, Florida.

Editorial/Opinion – It seems like everywhere you go in Sebastian, homes are being built on empty lots and packing neighbors in like sardines. If you don’t see it, take a drive down Roseland Road or drive around some of the neighborhoods in Sebastian. Homes are being built everywhere, and now there are fewer lots.

Some of the people against the annexation in 2019 used to say, “there are plenty of lots to build on.” Some residents warned that it was a bad idea to overbuild in town, and we’re now seeing the repercussions.

The City lost the annexation after a local environmental group sued. The City lost it over a minor technicality involving a missing map, a significant loss for Sebastian residents. Then, former city council members Damien Gilliams, Pamela Parris, and Charles Mauti voted against appealing the decision. A huge disservice to Sebastian and its residents. We are still dealing with the mess they created before they were found guilty of Perjury and violating the Sunshine Law.

Some people complained about pollution, the water table, overgrowth, and the misinformation by the environmental groups didn’t help the cause. There were also rumors that 3,600 septic tanks were going to be installed and then stories of 11,000 homes built on the property during its first year.

The misinformation was on purpose to anger enough residents to ambush City Hall and flood the meeting during a vote.  A lot of the residents who went to the meeting didn’t live in Sebastian, but in areas like Wabasso, Roseland, and Vero Lake Estates.

However, Sebastian has a City ordinance to ban all new septic tank installations for new community developments. Then, someone who retired after working for Indian River County said there would be no sewer line to any new building in the area. That was also misinformation, as we now have one being installed up to Roseland.

Even the county was against the 1,100 acre annexation, saying a couple of thousand new homes was bad for Sebastian. But we know the real story; they wanted to develop the land. So they have been building thousands of new homes west of Vero Beach and somehow found a way to get a sewer line out there.

Long ago, back in 2004, Sebastian refused to annex land out to Interstate 95 when they had the option. They turned it down, and Fellsmere grabbed it. As a result, we have lost some great opportunities to grow, as people keep moving here and we have done nothing to prepare. There was a lack of envision back then on growth, and people thought no one else would ever move here. Bad thinking, bad decisions.

The Sebastian annexation was so political that three new City Council candidates hijacked the message and promised to stop it. Damien Gilliams, Pamela Parris, and Charles Mauti would become the saviors for the environmental cause, which ultimately backfired when residents realized they were duped.

The fact is, all of Sebastian used to be owned by the Graves Brothers. The City has been annexing land for many decades.

Jeff Bass of the Graves Brothers told Sebastian Daily that he might bring it back to the City to be annexed. They spent a lot of money fighting the lawsuit. And if Mr. Bass doesn’t bring the annexation back to Sebastian, no one can blame him. 

Could you imagine the travesty if the county or Fellsmere annexed that property? It will be developed either way, and the county can’t wait to get its hands on it. That would mean more people using our parks, docks, and boat ramps without paying tax dollars to the City of Sebastian for upgrades. 

Most people living in Sebastian care about the environment. In fact, the map proposed for parks and land for wildlife, which is hardly ever mentioned by people who call themselves environmentalists. It also meant more affordable housing for people who live and work in Sebastian.

Dr. Graham Cox, who served on the Integrated Pest Management board, used to tell people that there’s plenty of vacant lots to build on in Sebastian. He was against annexation. Unfortunately, neither he nor the environmental groups understand growth control.

Most of the Sebastian City Council also favors annexation because they understand we need to control growth the smart way. Also, City Council candidate Clint Phipps has also been outspoken about building. He wants responsible building, the kind where the infrastructure keeps up with the population. 

What we know now, since 2019, is that the population in Florida is growing and will continue in years to come. We can’t force people like Graves Brothers to halt annexation or building on their property. It’s going to happen.

Mayor Ed Dodd supports the annexation because it will bring more affordable housing to those who live and work in Sebastian. Smart growth would mean allowing the City to annex and collect tax revenue to maintain the growth. 

I know several people who say homes are being built all along their streets. Gone are the wooded lots. Developers are packing people in like sardines. 

We saw the Clean Water Coalition and the Pelican Island Audubon Society fight against the annexation, even though they never once called Jeff Bass or did their research on what was being planned. If anything, they helped with the misinformation. They are Vero Beach based non-profits.

If Jeff Bass brings back the annexation, we need to be smart this time and not allow the environmental groups, who reside primarily in Vero Beach, to dictate Sebastian’s future. We’ve already seen what that brings.

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About Andy Hodges
Andy Hodges was born in Annapolis, Maryland, and raised in Jupiter, Florida. He has been a radio and TV personality since the mid-1980s. He has worked for WFLX-TV (Fox 29), WIRK, WLIZ, WIXI, WKSY, WRMF, and others. In 1994, Andy took a break from broadcasting and was a software and systems engineer for various companies. In 2002, he permanently moved back to Sebastian, where Andy's family has lived for over 45 years. He returned to the broadcasting sector in 2005. Andy joined Sebastian Daily as our editor-in-chief in 2016.