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Controversial FPL Footpath Through F Section Back on Agenda as 2 Council Members Demand Options

| June 14, 2017

'I was scared walking the path,' says Palm Coast City Council member Heidi Shipley of the proposed foot path under FPL power lines, through the heart of the F Section, ending up at Matanzas High School. (© FlaglerLive)

‘I was scared walking the path,’ says Palm Coast City Council member Heidi Shipley of the proposed foot path under FPL power lines, through the heart of the F Section, ending up at Matanzas High School. (© FlaglerLive)

Palm Coast government’s controversial proposal to turn a Florida Power and Light easement in the heart of the F-Section into a 10-foot-wide foot and bike path that ends at Matanzas High School is back on the city council’s agenda after provoking an outcry of public opposition similar to the one it did when the path was partly built in 2008. Public opposition stopped the work then.

Matanzas High School students and members of the city’s senior staff presented the plan to complete the path at an “informational” meeting at the high school last week, organized by the city but with limited notice, only for the meeting to turn into what City Council member Heidi Shipley described as “a bloodbath.” Council member Steve Nobile described the staffers as being “slaughtered with negativity” as F Section residents one after the other described the city as sneakily resuming a plan that had been shelved in 2008. Most in the audience did not know that the previous day, the council had voted unanimously to build the path, unaware either of the history or the political sensitivity of the issue.

Nobile and Shipley were the only council members at the community meeting. They both requested that the issue be brought back onto a council agenda for discussion and a vote, along with options other than building the path—including, for example, the cost of building a temporary path along Old Kings Road, where most residents want it. The issue will be on the agenda at the next council meeting the morning of June 20.

steven nobile palm coast charter review

Palm Coast council member Steven Nobile. (© FlaglerLive)

“When there’s that much opposition we really need to make sure we’re doing something we can’t do another way, and we can’t get around,” Nobile told the council at the end of a workshop Tuesday. “When I was a kid my grandfather used to tell me, he said, you stink on ice, meaning I was a bad kid. This process for this stinks on ice. I don’t like it. I don’t like the fact that I only found out about this being a big controversy when I started getting phone calls. We knew this was going to be a big controversy. We had to anticipate that. An informational meeting? I’m not buying that. I’m thinking we should have sat down with them and said hey, you know what, we’re thinking of doing this again, what’s your position on it—for the council’s position, so we really understood what was going on.”

Nobile spoke after five residents of the F Section addressed the council, all of them opposed to the FPL path, most of them reminding the council of the 2008 opposition when, in one resident’s words, “This was decided by city council in 2008, it was already voted No,” with the path on Old Kings Road being the preferred route. “You all are here to represent constituents, not to tell us what’s best for us.”

Richard Mayo, one of the more searing critics of the city’s handling of the matter—he singled out City Manager Jim Landon, who had faced the public in 2008—said the residents had repeatedly asked for the path along Old Kings, only for Landon to try to “sneak” the path through the FPL easement, under high-power electric lines. Of the death of Kelvin Smith, the 16-year-old Matanzas High School student killed as he cycled up Old Kings Road the night of New Year’s Eve, Mayo said: “Having a sidewalk would have saved his life, and the fact that it was not done makes the city complicit for his death.”

“It was a bloodbath. It was sad that people were there thinking that we tried to pull one over on them.”

Others cited the path’s lack of safety and visibility.

The comments gave Landon a chance to address the issue. His explanation turned into a remarkable wriggle of a performance as he sloughed off credit for the FPL path project onto his staff without himself taking responsibility for the project’s political fallout, and all along coming out entirely blameless for any issue the council is now facing. To the contrary: in an even more stunning wriggle, he put the blame for that on the council by saying the council itself had approved the path in its strategic plan. In other words, he was telling his bosses that they hadn’t looked at their own fine print, though the typesetting was entirely his own (or at least his administration’s).

He described the path as having “an interesting history” that was planned before he took the job as city manager, though construction started soon after he got there. He acknowledged that the plan drew opposition from residents who wanted the path built on Old Kings Road. But building a path along Old Kings wouldn’t make sense if it has to be ripped out once the widening of the road was in the works, however distant that widening could be.

“So then it became a matter of priorities, because we also had a death on Seminole Woods and had the whole community come out about Seminole Woods,” Landon said. “We had a death on Sesame.” So the question was: should the city spend capital dollars on a path that would be torn up as opposed to one that would be built permanently. That’s how the idea of the FPL path was revived, while other, permanent paths were built, including many built around schools, including Matanzas High School (such as the Palm Harbor path). “It wasn’t that the path on Old Kings Road isn’t needed. It’s a matter of priorities,” Landon said. “Do you build the one you’re going to keep, or do you build the one you’re going to tear up while you’re designing something else. And that was the decision.”

matanzas student corridors

Click on the image for larger view.

Until that point, Landon was merely restating history and explaining the city’s decisions. Then he got disingenuous.

Landon said he himself was not pushing the path, nor was the staff. Rather, he pointed to some fine print in a document the council approved some months ago: “The strategic action plan that you updated back in, was it March time frame? It has a line there, says, construct the path on the FP&L easement. So you have us direction to move forward,” Lan don said, placing the decision squarely in the council’s lap. But as Nobile pointed out later, none of the council members knew what they were approving, because none of them had known of the 2008 controversy. Only Landon had, and very clearly so. He prides himself on his political savvy. It is very unlikely that he did not know that the path’s resumption would trigger a controversy similar to the one in 2008. It is normally a city manager’s job to prepare his council for what political fallout may result from an unpopular decision, particularly one he was so familiar with, at first hand. He did not prepare the council for that fallout.

 “City council’s direction was very clear, and one on one it was very clear, from some of you,” Landon continued—again conflating the council’s sincere direction for more sidewalks and lights in the city with the more controversial plan to resume the FPL sidewalk.

Nobile didn’t buy the argument that the meeting at Matanzas was “informational,” when it occurred after the fact—and when the students themselves were no more prepared for the public onslaught then was Landon’s staff (Landon opted not to be there). “We didn’t give these people or this council the chance to hear everyone’s piece,” Nobile said. “It’s my fault because when we had the workshop on this and I saw road resurfacing, I kind of folded over, and then the next meeting looking at it going, wait a minute, this is the FPL path, what does this have to do with the price of peanuts in China.” (The FPL path had been included in council members’ agenda packet earlier this month as one of the coming year’s resurfacing projects, again out of the context of its controversial history.)

Heidi Shipley

Council member Heidi Shipley. (© FlaglerLive)

“I would like to see this pulled and have it on an agenda separate,” Nobile said. “It’s what it should have been. Because it’s controversial, it should have at least been on the agenda on its own so anyone reading the agenda could see it and then come to the meeting. They weren’t even given that opportunity.” Nobile also asked for all the options. “I don’t understand why we can’t put a temporary path up Old Kings Road,” he said. “Yes, we’re wasting money, but the waste comes from the fact that we didn’t take care of this eight or nine years ago” when Matanzas High School was opened in the middle of the past decade.

“To me,” Shipley said, seconding Nobile’s request, “it was a bloodbath. It was sad that people were there thinking that we tried to pull one over on them, and I know that’s what they felt. Going forward after that, I did walk that path, and I was scared walking the path, and stood in the path, screaming in the back, can anyone hear me? And nobody could hear me. Which means I don’t want the kids on that whether we do Old Kings or not, something has to be done for that path to make it so that it’s safer for the kids anyways. But I agree it should be pulled,” and to have a discussion and a solution “sooner than later.”

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13 Responses for “Controversial FPL Footpath Through F Section Back on Agenda as 2 Council Members Demand Options”

  1. Downtown says:

    Face the fact, kids are going to use the shortest, most direct route to and from school. If the shortest route happens to be the FPL power line right away then thats what they will walk. So why not make it as safe as possible for them. Install lighting, cctv cameras and Citizens on Patrol to monitor the pathway during the hours of school.

  2. jadobi says:

    I don’t live in that section so I don’t know why so many are opposed to it. Seems it would make a nice place for walking the dogs or biking. I am excited that the paths in Seminole Woods are in progress.

  3. Pat Patterson says:

    NEITHER Shipley or Nobile, both City Council Members, told the attendees at the Matanzas High School meeting that the City had voted on and approved the construction of a bike path the night BEFORE the meeting. Sickens me that neither Council Member had the guts to share that little tidbit of news to the meeting attendees there to discuss options. Shows what kind of representatives we have representing us on the City Council. Neither of the representatives, the City sent to lead the meeting, bothered to mention the bike path had already been approved either. The attendees were fools to believe we truly have a voice in Palm Coast.

    • FlaglerLive says:

      Pat, the council members were appropriately cautious out about not saying anything that could have been interpreted as violating the Sunshine law–which they could have done, being both present on an issue that could (and did) return to the council’s agenda. They told us ahead of the meeting that they did not intend to speak. Shipley briefly did in the end, without addressing council policy. That doesn’t mean the city representatives there couldn’t, or shouldn’t, have informed the audience, since they were not bound by sunshine’s requirements.

  4. Steven Nobile says:

    Just so we all understand, the two paths, Old Kings Road and FP&L easement, would be about 500ft different to get to Matanzas HS if you start at the same point where the easement intersects with Old Kings Road. There is NO other way onto the easement except through people’s private yards. My guess is @Downtown doesn’t live on the easement, but I can be wrong.

  5. anon says:

    One problem is being neglected. The rest of Palm Coast’s streets are dangerous. They are curvy, narrow, and have cars parked partially on the street which further narrows the width of the street. And then throw in dangerous drivers. Even if there are sidewalks on the major roads, it’s still very dangerous just to get to them.

  6. old guy in yellow vest says:

    Has anyone seen the old guy who wears the yellow vest and walks/runs on OKR? He walks on old kings road (OKR) in the mornings with a yellow reflective (barely) vest between Fellowship and Flemmingwood just before the Jehovah’s Witness Center. He’s older, white hair, typically wears tan khaki shorts, walks in the mornings around 6:20-6:40am? All of my near run-ins with guy lead me to believe he’s literally an insane fraud artist. His issue is that he prefers to walk on the northbound lanes (I think?), and he crosses OKR with no regard – typically waiting until you are approaching him – to get to those lanes. He’ll look back, see you coming, wait until you are right on him, then he darts out in front of you and shuffles over to the other side of the road. I’ve seen him out on foggy mornings doing this, raining mornings, clear mornings, the guy has no care in the world.

    I’ve seen him dart out in front of oncoming traffic to get to one side of the road, then dart out again to get immediately back to the other side. I hope he’s reading this. I hope he reads state law, specifically:

    I also hope he knows I video document ALL of my trips along that section of OKR due to his illogical and consistently irrational behavior, and I have an open case with our Sheriff’s office due to this old guy.

    I have a witness that places him out JUST this morning walking, darting across the road. You can walk, I don’t care, BUT you must obey the law (316.130 – Pedestrians; traffic regulations). If you’re after insurance money, you’re up the wrong tree with me. I document, document, document.

    I warn everyone to BEWARE of that old guy, and slow down when you see him, slow down from 50 to 30, and when he darts in front of you to call 9-1-1 because you are not the first person he’s done that to. Cell phone video it, too. Do what you can. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.

  7. kram snevets says:

    as an OFG (old fat guy) who wears a yellow vest at 6AM…..that one ain’t me. So neighbors, plz don’t call!

  8. JM says:

    Most residents do not understand that we fought for a path on Old Kings since 2004. A crap reason always came up not to do it. In 2008 the city suddenly had earth moving equipment behind our backyards. We fought them then, and tried to get the path moved to the roadway, OLD Kings were it belongs and where it is in every other neighborhood! No other place has a bike path/ walkway between the houses, it wraps around the neighborhood.
    If you look at the map, section 2-3 has to be built no matter where this path goes, .6 miles.
    Section 3 is the FPL part, and is 1.58 miles.
    Section 4-3 is the OLD KINGS path, and is ONLY 1.1 miles. This is the shortest route to the school, and the least costly! WHY DOES THE CITY LIE ABOUT THIS AND INSIST ON THE FPL SECTION?

  9. Downtown says:

    No, Mr. Nobile I’ve never lived on an easement. But I have lived on a golf course with people walking past my house all day staring in my windows and walking through my yard chasing their ball. I’ve lived beach front with people partying behind my house every weekend, leaving a mess for me to police up. So what’s the difference ? At present how many kids are using the FPL easement to get to school each day? By looking on Google Earth it appears that this easement is used often, by both vehicles and foot traffic. Here in the neighborhood where I currently live I have kids cutting through my yard daily taking a short cut to the bus stop, saves them a block or two of walking. So your position on living on an easement is weak Mr. Nobile. Face the fact that it’s how kid’s operate. If there’s a short cut their going to use it. I did as a kid and I’m sure you also used short cuts to maneuver through the community you grew up in. If the kids are using this easement daily you are not going to change that so do the right thing and make it as safe as possible for them. As for the people that bought property along the easement and don’t want people near their homes they can do as I did and move away from that area. That’s why I moved away from the golf course and beach.

  10. old guy in yellow vest says:

    I’m sorry, I got so involved in my disgrace with the old guy that keeps jetting out in front of my car (for over 3 years now) I neglected Mr. Nobile’s comments:

    FPL Easement Mythbusters, Episode 1, and 2:

    – Nobile Claim “There is NO other way onto the easement except through people’s private yards”.
    A quick search of Flagler Property Appraiser’s Records show that is clearly and coherently false: At the north end of the easement, the path would cross Forest Grove and then have to divert onto property, the swale (which is technically not the property of the property owners) of LRA Hammock Beach LLC (Parcel 42-10-30-3210-00000-0A10). After that, free and clear. At the south end of the FPL easement, the parcel intersects with land owned by the City, designated as such. Correct me if I am wrong?

    – Nobile claim “My guess is @Downtown doesn’t live on the easement”:
    Please check 2.17.05 – City of Palm Coast Code, section (C): “The City Manager or designee may require the granting of easements or the imposition of other conditions as may be necessary prior to the approval of the binding or unbinding of lots.” Too bad Landon did not attend the meeting, and does not seem interested in this. Section 15-103, The very definition of an easement lets us know that an easement can be granted “under, on, or above said lot or lots.” You do not either live on an easement, or not. Things can change.

    Can someone, please, stop this old guy from walking out in front of my car?

  11. Can't Say says:

    Just looking at the map there is no way there is only a 500 foot difference between the two. The path would service the entire neighborhood being in the middle of the F Section. You can’t expect kids to walk a half a mile east just to get to Old Kings Road. Hell you can’t even get them to use crosswalks half the time. Build the trail and add it to the rest of the trail system that makes Palm Coast what it is!

  12. MapMaker says:

    **FACTS: The distance along the FPL path from its south end to the south gate of Matanzas High is approximately 9,050 feet.
    The distance along the public ROW (Old Kings Rd & Forest Grove Dr) is approximately 10,570 feet; a difference of 1,520 feet (approximately 3/10 of a mile).
    Along the public ROW there are 3,900 feet of sidewalks in place.
    **CONCLUSION: You would only need to add 6,670 feet of new walkway along Old Kings & Forest Grove. This represents almost EXACTLY 33% LESS new walkway than would be required in the FPL path.
    **QUESTION: If the City can (and did) install street lights and an NICE asphalt path along Matanzas Woods Blvd from US 1 to I-95 that will have to removed when that road is four-laned why are we even having this debate?

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