During last Wednesday’s Sebastian City Council meeting, a self-proclaimed environmentalist was accused of promoting misinformation about the upcoming annexation stating there would be 10 to 12 homes per acre of land, which could cause the city’s population to boom an additional 50,000 people.
Diana Bolton, a board member of the Friends of St. Sebastian, argued with Mayor Jim Hill about the specifics of the annexation, alleging that the city hasn’t been transparent during the process.
Bolton, along with other board members of the Friends of St. Sebastian, have made accusations about the annexation in prior meetings.
This time, however, Mayor Jim Hill, along with council members Ed Dodd and Chris Nunn called Bolton out on her misinformation.
Bolton went to the podium, stating she needed to inform the public about the annexation. She says the information provided by the city mentioned there would be 10 to 12 homes per acre.
“So when you do the math on 1,984 acres, you’re coming up with approximately 40,000 or more new residents. So, that’s math. It’s actually higher than that. Somebody just quoted me 50,000, according to their math,” Bolton told the council.
Bolton also claims there are no provisions for the annexation to have green space for a property with a creek running through it from the St. Sebastian River.
Hill asked Bolton if she read the meeting agenda, but she answered no, saying none were available.
“Ma’am, it’s available online. You didn’t read it before you came up here? Because nothing you’re saying is true,” Hill said.
She continued to argue that there would be 10 to 12 homes per acre and no provisions for green space, and according to her math, it would be 40,000 to 50,000 more residents.
Hill reminded Bolton that there is a clear provision for green space. However, Bolton claims that she’s never seen it even though it’s in the meeting agenda and available online to download. The provision was also made available during the two workshops the city hosted a few months ago.
“I haven’t seen any provision for green space at all. Can somebody provide me with that? Because I’ve been asking for that and asked for it at the last meeting when I stood up, and so have these groups, they’ve been asking,” Bolton said to Hill.
Councilman Ed Dodd then pulled two pages out of the meeting agenda and showed everyone the documentation on the overhead projector and TV monitors.
The documentation, which has been provided many times by the City of Sebastian during the two recent workshops, as well as at the Planning & Zoning and City Council meetings, says, “THE PROPERTY SHALL REQUIRE A MINIMUM AGGREGATE TOTAL OF 50% OPEN SPACE.”
It also states that green space will provide for conservation areas, greenways and trails, all public parks greater than one acre, wetlands preservation, and so on.
Local citizens present during the meeting expressed their disappointment with Bolton and the Friends of St. Sebastian River non-profit group. They also condemned them for spreading misinformation about the Sebastian annexation while looking the other way at county developments that have done more harm to the environment in the same area. The properties in question are subsequent to the annexation, on the same creeks that lead to the St. Sebastian River, including one subdivision with new septic tanks approved by the county.
Many citizens allege the non-profit groups refuse to condemn the county for its ongoing development around Sebastian because they get free office space from them. They just see them attacking the City of Sebastian repeatedly about the annexation.
Councilman Chris Nunn said the City of Sebastian has been providing full transparency through the annexation process, and it’s been in several agendas at the meetings. He reminded citizens that the agenda is on the city’s website. Or, if a person doesn’t have a computer, the city will provide anyone with one at the meetings.
“We’re not going to deliver an agenda to your house, we’re not going to deliver it door to door and say ‘here you go’ with all the information,” Nunn said.
Nunn also mentioned the misinformation that continues to be spread in the city about the Sebastian annexation.
“If groups want to be taken seriously, and want us to talk to them, quit using the crap. Quit using misinformation; quit using that. If you want to be taken seriously, come talk to us with knowledgeable information. Don’t come up here and give misinformation. Come up here with the facts and the truth that’s in the agenda,” Nunn stated.
In July, a letter was sent to City Manager Paul Carlisle by some of the environmental groups, including Friends of St. Sebastian, Clean Water Coalition of Indian River County, and The Pelican Island Audubon Society with demands to be part of the annexation process. Many citizens accuse these environmental groups by upsetting their followers with inaccurate information about the annexation.
The city already has environmentalists working with them, including the Natural Resources Board, to help oversee the annexation should that be necessary. But as members of the council pointed out, information on green space and conservation has been provided by the city.
The last time misinformation spread, it came from what many Sebastian citizens said was a propaganda video made by Pete Hinck, another board member of the Friends of St. Sebastian.
The Pelican Island Audubon Society also gave Hinck a citizens award after publishing false statements about the City of Sebastian.
In 2020, when three city council members were found guilty of having an illegal meeting at City Hall, at least two board members from the Friends of St. Sebastian and one from the Pelican Island Audubon Society were present. Diana Bolton, Dr. Graham Cox, and Bob Stephens, who whispered, “psst, here come the police” while recording the illegal meeting.
You can also watch Bolton provide the misinformation during the City Council meeting by clicking here.