Imagine yourself a developer in Florida’s early days along the St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon. Land is cheap, people are coming, you can dredge and fill, you can create a marina, or bulkhead spoil islands filling and building on top of them, you can cut canals into the land creating more waterfront, and while you are smoking your cigar, you see the peninsula of Sewall’s Point. “Location! Magnificent! A perfect place for a series of hotels right at the tip of the lush pennisula surrounded by water…this would be, simply marvelous!” “Chi-$-Ching!”
Believe it or not, in 1957-1970 that scenario was very much the fate of the Sewall’s Point and the two islands off its tip. The 1957 zoning map, the year the town was incorporated, designated High Point, and the two islands at the southern tip of the peninsula as a “Business-2 Zoning District.” This zoning designation permitted “hotels with not less than 25 rooms, clubs, multiple apartments, and municipal buildings.” (Historic legal documents referenced in Sewall’ s Point, Sandra Henderson Thurlow).
So why did not this developer’s dream come true?
“In 1970, a proposal to build multi-family dwellings on Sewall’s Point fell through when the members of the High Point Homeowners Association, working through the town government, defeated the the plan of Bessemer Properties.” (Thurlow) This was a feat, in that Bessemer was controlled by the Phipps family with wealth from steel manufacturing; they were very powerful.
In 1970, after the confrontation, the town’s zoning map was changed to permit only R-1 residential zoning.
So, if you ever feel discouraged about the state of the Indian River Lagoon or other things, think of the story of Sewall’s Point, and remember, a small group of determined people can certainly change their world!