The Grave Brothers Annexation of the land south of County Road 510 is back on the table in the City of Sebastian.
The previous annexation was stopped in 2019 when former Sebastian City Council Members Damien Gilliams, Pamela Parris and Charles Mauti were elected to the Council. Gilliams, Parris and Mauti were later recalled and voted out of office in 2020. Chris Nunn, Fred Jones and Bob McPartlan were subsequently elected as as result. McPartlan was one of the three voted out in 2019.
Those who expressed opposition in 2019 to the annexation thought stopping it would have stopped the land from being developed when in reality, annexation of land just changes control of the land from the County to the City. The County could have and can hypothetically allow that land to be developed. If the Land got developed and was not in the Sebastian City Limits, the City would not get the tax revenue from that land to pay for the amenities in the City that those residents would be using.
The land could also get annexed by the City of Fellsmere, which would still present the same problem of the City losing tax revenue.
If the land is annexed into the City, it would give the City of Sebastian control over how that land is developed in a way that benefits Sebastian.
What Did The Sebastian City Council Decide on at the May 25th City Council Meeting regarding The Graves Brothers’ Annexation?
The City of Sebastian had voted 4-1 to allow for the start of the process to annex the 1,984.22 acres of land brought forward by The Graves Brothers Company. This annexation is voluntary, meaning The Graves Brothers Company requested the City annex their land into the City Limits.
City Manager Paul Carlisle said the final reading for the Annexation would be in September. Mayor Jim Hill said the public hearing would be held on September 14th. Mayor Hill also said the Annexation would be a Basic Annexation and that the land being annexed will be “designated as mixed use” within the City Limits. The City of Sebastian does not have land zoning for Agricultural land. Mayor Hill said the specific type of zoning for the land will be “determined at a later date.” He said the Sebastian Planning and Zoning Committee would be involved with this and there would be “many” meetings about the zoning of the land.
What Did Members of the Public Say During Public Input on This Item?
It’s worth noting that since this was an agenda item, the only time citizens can give public input on an agenda item is when the Mayor opens up that agenda item for public comment on that specific agenda item. Citizens can talk about things that are not on the agenda during public comment.
Many citizens had spoken in favor of the annexation when they spoke at public comment at the May 25th Regular City Council Meeting. Those that spoke in favor found that it would benefit the City of Sebastian greatly to have the land from The Graves Brothers’ Company annexed into the City of Sebastian.
A few citizens had said they want portions of the land put aside land preservation. There were others who want to make sure the land is developed in a way that best benefits the City. Some had also expressed they would like the City to be Transparent about the process.
Former Sebastian City Council Candidate Louise Kautenberg emphasized during public input that the City of Sebastian should annex The Graves Brothers’ land so that the City has control over it; she said control is the most important reason for the City to annex the land. Ms. Kautenberg has served on various Sebastian Advisory Boards and Committees over the years. She previously ran for Sebastian City Council in 2020 during the Sebastian Recall.
Former Sebastian City Council Candidate and Sebastian Recall Organizer Bill Flynn said The Graves Brothers’ land is a good opportunity to build more housing, at a time, when he said the County is facing a housing shortage. He said that he trusts the Sebastian City Council to do the right thing in regards to the annexation. Flynn said citizens should be involved from the beginning if they are interested in being involved with the annexation process.
Bill Flynn previously ran for City Council in 2020 during the Sebastian Recall.
A few citizens had expressed opposition to the annexation for various reasons.
City Council’s Response after the Public Input and Vote on Agenda Item
The City Council Addressed the various comments, including concerns, brought to the City by City Residents during public comment on the agenda item regarding the Graves Brothers’ Annexation.
Mayor Jim Hill had asked City Manager Paul Carlisle a few questions citizens had about the Annexation. He asked Carlisle why the City is waiting until September 14th. Carlisle said “there’s several meetings that take place, the Planning and Zoning meetings, public comment periods, other Municipal and County Governments have time to comment on it. DEO [Florida Department of Economic Opportunity] has to review it, they have two reviews of it that both of those take 30 days and around 60 days total for them. So there’s a lot of steps that go through this process. I know this isn’t about zoning, but the multi-zoning is only the future land use as these parcels come in to be developed, there’s no one believes that 1900 acres is going to be developed in one big swath. It would be developed in parcels under either PUDs and so there’ll be plenty of time to talk about each development segment as it comes into the city.
Mayor Hill then asked if the City has legal protection in the documents related to the Annexation. Carlisle said “we are negotiating the annexation agreement with the applicant and trying to vet all that out. Those provisions will be in there.”
Mayor Hill said it is the consensus of all citizens who spoke, that land will be developed.
Mayor Hill emphasized that the City of Sebastian does not make money nor spend money when the Annexation happens. In his opinion, annexations are done by the City to “protect the history, heritage and quality of life” in the City. He said the annexation will allow the City to grow in a way that benefits it, whereas the County Commission looks at things from a more broad perspective.
Mayor Hill said the citizens of Sebastian will be the “determining factor” for how the land is developed. He said this is “critical for protecting this great community.”
Mayor Hill also said in the past 20 years he has been on City Council, that the Environment has always been a priority for the City.
Councilman Ed Dodd said the last attempt at annexing the Graves Brothers’ land was derailed due to “misinformation” and “political wrangling.” Councilman Dodd said, while he knows the Council does not do “politicking” on the Dias, he said he will stand with the annexation, even if it were to have him voted out of office. Councilman Dodd is up for reelection in November 2022.
Councilman Dodd said he agrees with what the citizens who spoke during public input said about the environmental issues in the City. He said he considers himself to be a “closet environmentalist.”
Councilman Dodd emphasized that people have to be practical with Environmental Policy. He pointed to the Progressive Democrats in Congress and their failed attempts to pass an Environmental Policy, the Green New Deal, due to it being “too radical.” He then explained how the public reacted to this policy and that the proponents of that policy were called things like “Communists.”
Councilman Dodd said “we cannot force people to be environmental, we have to teach people to environmentally sensitive.”
Councilman Chris Nunn felt that the City did not do enough last time to counteract “lies” about the previous attempt at annexing The Grave Brothers’ property south of 510.
Councilman Nunn said the land could end up being developed in a way that Sebastian residents do not like, were it to be built while under the control of the County or the City of Fellsmere.
Councilman Nunn said the land should be annexed into the City. He found the people that would live on that land, will have just as much of an impact on the City, as if they weren’t living on that land. The City of Sebastian would also be losing tax revenue from those residents if they were not in the City limits.
Councilman Nunn said he’s open to working with the Graves Brothers to have parts of the land be “environmental park area.” He said 50% of the land annexed into the City has to be “open space.”
Vice Mayor Fred Jones said that Sebastian should “expand” its borders to keep the City “sustainable.” He then showed a Presentation of how Sebastian has grown since it was first incorporated. The presentation showed most of the current City was not in the City Limits when Sebastian was first founded and how the City has had massive growth since its incorporation.
Councilman Bob McPartlan was the one descenting vote on the annexation. He had stated prior to the vote that he would like the City to have an annexation agreement prior to going forward with the annexation process.
Councilman McPartlan said the City should talk to the Sebastian Water District about the impact of the new homes that would be built on the land in the proposed annexation. He also said he would like to see housing that those in the “workforce” could afford be built on that land.
He said he would like to see on the land that would be annexed into the city, housing built that those in the workforce could afford. He referred to this as “workforce housing.”
Councilman McPartlan also expressed concerns about the City having legal issues if they don’t work with and talk to all the entities involved with annexing that land.
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