City to run old restaurant site in proposed contract
By Jessica Tuggle
SEBASTIAN -- Sebastian City Council members will review a new contract for the working waterfront project during the March 13 meeting.
The city has been working with Fishermen's Landing Sebastian, a nonprofit cooperative, to run the working waterfront facilities, but to keep the project moving forward at a faster pace, City Manager Al Minner believes a renegotiated lease would be in the best interest of both parties.
A proposed new contract was brought before the council during the Feb. 27 meeting, but no decision was made because several council members sought changes before a final approval was given.
In the proposal, the city would take oversight of the old Hurricane Harbor site, which houses a fish market and a small eatery, and has space for a museum or educational wing. The city would also take on the responsibility and costs of building a fish house, approximately $325,000, on the adjacent site for the fishermen to use when they bring in their catch.
"The idea behind the new lease, which is currently laid out for 20 years, is to let the fishermen do what they have always wanted to do, and that is fish," Mr. Minner said. "The fishermen would operate the fish house and pay a monthly rent of $1 per month for the working waterfront."
Mr. Minner said the city has applied for a grant to help pay for the cost of building the fish house, but grant awards aren't released until July at the earliest and there is no guarantee the city would get it.
Vice Mayor Don Wright was concerned about the city getting into such a large financial obligation without being certain of help from a grant to pay for it all.
Councilwoman Andrea Coy said she was concerned with a lease stipulation that allows the co-op to hold two special events without needing special city approval.
"If the focus was for the fishermen to fish, then they won't need parties on site," she said.
Councilman Jim Hill disagreed, stating that having special events on the working waterfront would bring more attention to the area, bringing in more tourism to the city.
Rich Stringer, an attorney for the co-op, said the proposed lease was something the co-op could agree to quite willingly.
A revised draft of the lease will be brought before the council on March 13.
Before the lease agreement is finalized, it will have to be approved by the Florida Community Trust, the organization that organized the Stan Mayfield grant the city originally used to get started on the working waterfront project.
To view agendas or for more information about city government meetings, visit www.cityofsebastian.org.