Between the 2014 and 2016 elections, Palm Coast got an entirely new City Council–the first time the council has turned over that quickly and completely. The only equivalent in the city’s history was the founding council of 1999, giving this council a chance to be Palm Coast’s new founders. It’s a rare moment in the city’s 17 years. Whether the council chooses to make its defining mark may not become apparent for a few years, with the benefit of hindsight. But with that in mind, FlaglerLive asked all five council members to imagine the Palm Coast they would like to look back on at the end of their term, and write what they see as a way of setting out their vision–whether as a state of the city address that looks back on their years, or in a more conventional look forward. The results are being published this week over five consecutive evenings. Mayor Milissa Holland’s piece appeared Monday, Council member Robert Cuff’s on Tuesday.
By Heidi Shipley
My vision for our city begins at home. I would ultimately like to see neighborhoods where residents feel safe, secure and proud of their surroundings, where houses are affordable and jobs are within a short commute. A place where diversity brings us close and enables usto learn from one another and to celebrate each other’s cultures.
Neighborhood watch groups are popping up across the city. These are the eyes and ears of the community and help neighbors meet and look out for one another. An increase in police patrolling may possibly be something we need to explore as the number of residents and businesses rises.
Along with safety let me also stress that we need to have cell coverage and better radio service not only our residents, but for our first responders as well.
We need to proceed to a coverage level where every inch of Palm Coast is reachable. Along with that, I will stick with my goal over the next few years to light up every major road to help our drivers as well as make bus stops in early morning more visible.
Being proud of our surroundings means our future should maintain the standards put forth years ago: clean streets, beautiful medians and well-maintained business properties and homes.
Moving on to businesses, I see a change in climate for the better over the last few years. Once considered not business friendly, I feel we have become a city that listens and tries to assist small businesses through our Business Assistance Center. We also enable interaction with small businesses when they need assistance, and we try to help in any way we can. As that business climate changes I feel there will be more small business growth. I cannot promise big companies will chose us as their next location. But I can assure you that we will do everything in our power to accommodate them without giving up the Palm Coast way of life.
Areas such as Town Center have the ability to become hot spots where people from other cities come to walk the shops and enjoy outside eateries. I think once this area gets moving, we will see many changes including events at the Palm Coast Arts Foundation down the road from the movie theater.
The Matanzas area with its new interchange makes a commute to Jacksonville a little shorter but gives this area a great kick-start for new growth. I think we will see more lots being sold and more need for trails or playgrounds. That area of north Palm Coast should be the next focus of city leaders to not only work with future owners to make good use of the old Matanzas golf course but also to improve streets, lighting and services to that area.
For many residents transportation is not an issue. But I think moving forward we may need a fixed-route type of transportation system, possibly shuttles, that circle some of our main roadways and shopping areas. Not only will this change the amount of traffic we see, but it would also be a convenience for those who work across the city and have no means of transportation.
I would like to see seniors have a designated senior center sooner than later. Our seniors are a big asset to our community with many volunteering at schools, special events and on our streets as volunteers helping law enforcement. Keeping our seniors active mentally and physically is important. Giving them their own space allows them to attend classes and events and find companionship. I feel it’s time we include their needs in the planning of the space at the new community center.
We should also pay attention to young adults and teenagers who are not as interested in the many sports programs we have, or the music and arts programs available–students who need to be kept occupied but just haven’t found their fit. I would like to see a mentoring program where our retired seniors who have great skills to share mentor these young adults. I think it would be a win-win situation. I would like to see parks and playgrounds in every neighborhood that children can ride their bikes to and an arts center that can bring out the new star who may live right next door.
The hardest part of my vision is seeing something that has not already been thought of by those who served before me. So many great things are happening and are already in the works. Our services show our commitment to our community. We always welcome new ideas to keep Palm Coast a great place to live.
Heidi Shipley, a former business owner, was elected to the District 2 seat of the Palm Coast City Council in 2014. Reach her by email here.