Palm Coast Council Members Declare Never To Have Been Wined and Dined by Red-Light Camera Company
FlaglerLive | May 20, 2014
The Palm Coast City Council convened for its bi-monthly meeting at the Community Center this morning, but as such meetings go, it was barely worth the effort: the council quickly addressed only a few issues of note and adjourned in 30 minutes in what amounted to one of its shortest meeting this year.
Only a handful of people attended the meeting. When the meeting was opened to public participation, just two people spoke, both of them raising questions about red-light cameras, the issue that’s bedeviled the council since last year. Jack Carrell asked whether the state had the authority to prevent Palm Coast from doing away with its red-light cameras (on the assumption that the cameras generate a sizable chunk of revenue for the state). The answer is simply no: the state authorizes local governments to have red-light camera systems, but it may not force them to do so.
A Palm Coast resident then asked the council members directly whether any of them, or Landon, had ever been directly wined and dined, by, or been the recipients of campaign contributions or gifts of any sort, from American Traffic Solutions, the Arizona-based private company that runs Palm Coast’s red-light camera system at a great profit. ATS is among the firms that most heavily lobbies state and local governments, spending millions of dollars a year in the effort. Milissa Holland, a former county commissioner, is now a lobbyist with the Southern Strategy Group, whose clients include ATS.
The council members one by one, with McGuire’s exception, said no to the question posed by the mayor: “Have you received anything of any value at any time from ATS?” Landon and the city manager also said they had not received anything from ATS. McGuire was absent.
A bristling Netts also responded forcefully to the suggestion by the second speaker that Palm Coast had created a problem by installing the red-light cameras. “I would submit to you,” Netts said, “that it’s the careless drivers, the inattentive drivers, the drivers who exceed the speed limit, who don’t maintain a safe distance between them and the car in front of them, they’re the ones who cause the problem, not city council, not the red-light cameras.”
In another matter, the council unanimously approved the final plat for a 50-acre tract along Old Kings Road, not far from Town Center, in a V-shaped zone between Old Kings Road and I-95, just north of Town Center Boulevard. The plat is referred to as Old Kings Road Professional Center, and encompasses three parcels owned by Town Center LLC since 2005.
Platting is not development. It is the subdividing of land into different lots or tracts in preparation either for the sale of some or all of the lots or for the development of some or all of the lots. The “plat” (the word, a variation of plot, finds its origin in the French word plat, which means “flat”) precisely identifies a parcel’s boundaries, easements, access points and the like.
“This is one of many you’re going to see. We’ve got a number of new development proposals coming through, including the horizontal type of development, meaning utilities, streets, etc., and the platting, and this is one of those examples.”
The northern part of the property is zoned for general office use, the southern part is zoned for general commercial. The 49.5 acres are being subdivided into six lots with three shared access points onto Old Kings Road. It isn’t known for now how many buildings will go up on the sites. “All those questions are related to the site plan. We don’t have a site plan at this point,” Landon said.
The Old Kings Road Professional Center is part of the Old Kings Road redevelopment taxing district that the city set up to recoup the costs of enlarging Old Kings Road to four lanes. That means once the center is developed, increasing the value of the land, its tax revenue will contribute to the repayment. But that’s a way off yet.
The council also approved this year’s resurfacing program, which entails the repaving of 10 miles divided between 31 streets and a section of Belle Terre Parkway from Royal Palms Parkway to State Road 100. That issue was addressed in more detailed at last week’s council workshop. And the council appointed Mayor Jon Netts as the alternative council representative to the county’s Tourist Development Council, which meets once a month. Council member Bill McGuire is the usual representative, but McGuire worries that on the rare occasions when he might miss the TDC meeting, Palm Coast’s voice would not be heard in meetings that almost always deal with matters that directly affect the city.