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Palm Coast Appears to Retreat from Airport Annexation, But It’s No County Victory

| January 11, 2011

flagler county airport

In name only (© FlaglerLive)

An agreement is, after all, an agreement: if Palm Coast City Council members agree to a deal their manager has negotiated with the county over property in and around the Flagler County Airport, the city will drop its plans to annex the airport, but not its plan to annex a 55-acre site there, once a National Guard Readiness Center is built on the parcel.

“The city,” a proposed agreement reads, “agrees to provide potable water and sanitary service to the site and the south side of the airport, including the Airport Industrial/Business Park, without the requirement to annex.”

City Manager Jim Landon in July told the council that the city would have to annex property in and around the airport if municipal water and sewer services are to be extended there, as was the plan for the National Guard site. The county took Landon’s word as an assault that renewed the infamous “water wars” of the middle part of the last decade, when county and city relations frayed over the two sides water-lines of authority. Those wars were settled by a court-sanctioned agreement in 2007 that drew boundaries exempting some unincorporated zones from the city’s annexation plans.

“An agreement is an agreement,” Palm Coast City Council member Frank Meeker said in one meeting, offering up the city’s willingness to abide by whatever the agreement mandates. The county unearthed that agreement in November, forcing the city to rethink its approach. The county administrator, too: Craig Coffey, the administrator, had drafted an agreement with Landon that would have yielded the National Guard site to the city. But he did so without the commission’s knowledge, and drew rebukes from several commissioners, forcing him to go back to the negotiating table with Landon.

The agreement Landon is presenting to the city council this morning is the result.

But there are serious caveats. First, the county agrees to give the city land adjacent to the airport, near the National Guard site, for a new city park. That was never in contention so much as an agreed bargaining chip on the county’s part.

Second, the agreement lacks clarity in one crucial regard. The agreement states explicitly that “the city will not pursue annexation of any of the remaining county owned lands in and around the airport, except the site, after the National Guard Readiness Center is constructed.” The agreement is written in such a way–either intentionally or because of poor writing–as to leave unclear ultimate ownership of the 55-acre site once the National Guard moves in. “The county agrees to the annexation of the site after a certificate of occupancy for the National Guard Readiness Center is issued by the county,” the proposed agreement reads. That clause ostensibly applies to the park site, but it falls under a section relating to the entire “55 acre site.” Left unclarified, the clause could be misread in the future in the same way that the city attempted to misread the 2007 agreement in its favor last year. In fact, Landon clarified the clause for council members during the meeting Tuesday: the National Guard site would be annexed after the building is occupied.

Third, the city, in a sly end-run around that 2007 agreement, adds to the proposal that it is “making an exception to City Code […] to further intergovernmental cooperation and for economic development.” That section of the ordinance give the city authority to annex properties seeking city water and sewer services. The clause suggests that the city is doing the county a favor, as if the 2007 legal requirement were not in effect. It’s not a game-changer, but it reflects the city’s continued refusal to concede that the court mandate overrode its ordinance. While making that “exception, the city is also requiring that “the county agrees not to challenge the city’s annexation of any non-county owned lands around the airport in the future.” The word voluntary (as in voluntary annexation) is crossed out in the proposal: another hint of city moves to come.

Fourth, the city is requiring the county to make all water and sewer infrastructure improvements in and around the airport property, then turn over water and sewer customers in the airport zone to the city’s accounts. It’s a sweet deal for the city: no expenditure on any improvements, and new customers, who will pay a 25 percent surcharge on all municipal water and sewer services.

Fifth, the city is also requiring the county to make all road improvements generated by the addition of the National Guard site along Belle Terre Boulevard south of State Road 100.

Sixth, and quite controversially, since the city is not paying for infrastructure improvements, the city is requiring the county to turn over all development impact fees generated on airport property that accesses the south airport entrance, except for the National Guard site. “The county may modify the timing of payment of these fees, but may not otherwise waive these fees except with the concurrence of the city,” the proposed agreement reads. That provision may be a vast overreach by the city, since it implies that the city has authority over county policy, which alone sets and regulates impact fee collection.

The city’s less-than-advertised cooperation with the county is reflected in one more clause in the agreement. In the section of the proposal that spells out plans for city lands around the airport, the city proposes that “development occurring around the Airport is consistent with the Airport Area Master Plan.” But the words in cooperation with the county have been struck out.

In sum, the proposal nominally gives in to some of the county’s ownership rights, but it also emasculates those rights to the point of turning the airport zone into a quasi city neighborhood.

The Palm Coast City Council discusses the proposal this morning as part of a workshop that begins at 9 a.m. at the city’s offices at City Market Place. The meeting is open to the public.

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2 Responses for “Palm Coast Appears to Retreat from Airport Annexation, But It’s No County Victory”

  1. Charles Ericksen Jr says:

    I would just add a few comments to this write up.. The City is proposing to silently change the name of Flagler County Airport to “Airport”.. This process started when they and the County developed a new comprehensive plan for “The Airport Area”, in effect changing the name from that obtained, when I became, Flagler County Airport. The City wants to have a new park, inspite of it just announcing at a recent City Council meeting, that the City has over 800 additional acres of park land already purchased , that it has no money to develope .. According to the Mayor, and I quote, “I guess we allowed our desires to get ahead of our needs”..The money to develope parks is on hold until new impact fees start flowing again.. The City wants to ensure that the look of the Airport area, meets their standards. That is also why the City persuaded Sonic, not to build its new fast food store at the corner of SR100 and Buldog road, because it did not meet the standards Palm Coast wants at the entrance of the Town Center. Can you say, we lost 10-20 FT jobs also by their actions. Stay tuned for more tales.. Infact come to the meetings and workshops to see your City government is action..

  2. Gayle Ford says:

    City of Palm Coast~ we need jobs our kids need jobs if this battle continues we could loose the National Guard- do you really think they want to move to area that is unable to communicate for the good of the area.

    Maybe we need to vote as owners of the community verses alowing our commissioners to scaring away new business-

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