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At Residents’ Meeting Over F-Section Footpath, A Lot of Venting, and Hope for More Sustained Organizing

| June 29, 2017

A community meeting intended to discuss opposition to a planned path in the F-Section turned into a grilling of Palm Coast City Council member Steven Nobile. Council member Heidi Shipley also attended the meeting. (c FlaglerLive)

A community meeting intended to discuss opposition to a planned path in the F-Section turned into a grilling of Palm Coast City Council member Steven Nobile. Council member Heidi Shipley also attended the meeting. (c FlaglerLive)

A planned 10-foot-wide path through the F Section, toward Matanzas High School, is neither long nor winding. At least not geographically. But the plan has turned into the Palm Coast City Council’s thorniest project of the year, and it’s still growing thorns, if not potentially spawning opposition organized with broader ends in mind.

Even though the council has voted to approve the path twice in two weeks this month, the plan continues to provoke recrimination from residents and counter-plans to still attempt to sway the council.

The day after the Palm Coast City Council unanimously voted to approve the path, under high-power Florida Power and Light lines, Matanzas High School students and Palm Coast government officials presented the plan to an audience of about 75 at the high school’s Pirates Theater. That was at the beginning of the month. The plan drew bitter criticism from residents, who recalled how they had thwarted the plan for that very path in 2008, but have been denied a sidewalk along Old Kings in the same area, which would accomplish the same goal.

The meeting led two council members–Heidi Shipley and Steve Nobile–to reverse course and attempt to rethink the plan. They didn’t want to kill it, but to urge the city to more seriously study the alternative of a sidewalk along Old Kings Road instead. They succeeded in restarting a conversation. City Manager Jim Landon provided two potential costs for that alternative path. But within two weeks of the Matanzas meeting the council again voted to deny halting work on the FPL path. The vote this time was 3-2.

That left residents wondering what to do next.

Tonight’s meeting was the first answer, though after its organizers framed the issue and invited participants to speak–there were about 30 people–the meeting quickly turned into more of a town-hall style grilling of Nobile, who had taken the mic to explain how the money to widen Old Kings Road will be secured, and why it’s taking so long. But the questions kept coming, and at times grew more confrontational–not against Nobile, but against council members who had voted for the FPL path. Nobile ended up playing defense for his council, careful not to second guess the vote or to fall to decisively on one side or the other of the issue, and he took pains to defend the council when residents went as far as criticizing the council for not caring about safety.

“I will not let you say that about those people. They are not not concerned,” Nobile said. “My colleagues on the council made their decision, they made their decision from their perspective, they’re not bad people, they’re not trying to hurt you.”

Council member Heidi Shipley speaking with constituents after today's meeting. (c FlaglerLive)

Council member Heidi Shipley speaking with constituents after today’s meeting. (c FlaglerLive)

He added later: “I’m not trying to push a position here. I’m trying to push participation. The more we get engaged with government, the more we understand, and the more we understand, the more they start listening to us.” (Shipley also attended the meeting.)

But Nobile also clarified: “I’m not arguing my colleagues’ decision. I’m arguing the information we got to make that decision.” That information, Nobile said, was incomplete, because it did not include the path’s costs for lights and possibly for security cameras–costs that presumably could raise the price of the path to the point of making the cost of a temporary Old Kings Road sidewalk more feasible, even if it is to be torn up when Old Kings Road is widened. Nobile was also critical of the timing of the original Matanzas meeting. “It’s not the decision, it’s the process that got us to the decision,” he said, a criticism of the city administration’s handling of that process.

He was particularly critical of what appeared to have been a deceptive way to list the path’s construction under the more general annual street-resurfacing plan across the city, which did not make it clear that the path was neither a street nor a resurfacing project, but rather a resumption of the work halted in 2008.

Much of this evening’s meeting was a chance to vent, particularly about fears that the new path will not be safe but will rather be a magnet for trouble or bullying. But there were few clear answers or options to go forward on alternatives, including another meeting on the issue.

“In my mind we live in America, we live in a place of opportunity, of hope, of being able to be flexible,” said Jacqui Keough, one of the meeting’s organizers. “You can’t just accept things and say, hey, c’est la vie.” She added: “what is the point of keeping the city clean and beautiful if the residents are not happy, if the residents are not safe, if the residents are moving because they say hey, I can’t deal with this anymore.”

Some of the residents in the audience this evening wanted a special meeting of the council–or a revival of the matter for a third time. Nobile said it’s unlikely that the council would agree. But that became the most concrete idea the audience could seize on, though Keough, looking beyond the path issue, several times attempted to organize the group for what she described as grass-roots efforts beyond the FPL matter, “in all sections of the city.”

Most people in the audience filled out her sign-up sheet as Nobile continued to explain, citizens’ academy-style, how the group could most effectively make its case to the council. “We need a lobbyists, in other words,” someone in the audience said.

“It’s got to be a concerted effort. You can’t have 10 different efforts,” Nobile said. “Get engaged and push the agenda. Push it.” But soon Nobile lost patience for the grilling the pelting of questions and critical comments continued and voices, his among them, rose. Keough then took back the mic to encourage the audience to channel energies toward better organization. “Let’s try to turn it into our advantage, turn it into a plan, turn it into a cause, turn it into an effort where we’re not just yelling into the wind,” she said. It’s how grass roots groups organize. “This is not the last meeting. This is the first. The first of many,” she added.

If that plan grows legs, it may spell political rouble for the council. But absent driving forces and causes, sustainable community organizing is notoriously ephemeral.

“We will email you our plan and what we think we can do,” Keough told the audience as the meeting was breaking up. The only certainty was that all present still do not want the FPL Path.

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10 Responses for “At Residents’ Meeting Over F-Section Footpath, A Lot of Venting, and Hope for More Sustained Organizing”

  1. palmcoaster says:

    Can we all get a drawing, location, specs and who will pay the cost of the “FPL path and if is FPL why we will be paying for it, if so?
    Why are these projects approved by council without sufficient published information to the affected tax payers residents?

  2. Safety Professional says:

    Why doesn’t the City truly take steps to be transparent while gathering community feedback by forming a Transportation Advisory Board (TAB). TAB would consist of RESIDENTS ONLY to represent all sections of Palm Coast in issues related to transportation safety, street lights, designs etc

    The board would be provided the same project design and budgeting presentations that City Staff make to council etc and would represent (formally) any issues, good or bad, to the council.

    This would force the council to consider and formally respond to any issues brought up by the TAB.

    Residents selected for the TAB could include all demographics of PC.

  3. Benjamin Bartlett says:

    Always wear socks, or your feet and shoes will chase your audience away.
    That is, unless they’re very congested.

  4. su says:

    I just can’t believe the council members who were voted by the voters of Palm Coast completely ignore the voters. There are temporary rubber sidewalks that can be installed on Old Kings Road temporarily since apparently all the paths are temporary anyway. Has anyone looked into this. Why are you putting a path through an easement that has electric posts. What happens during a thunderstorm with lighting? I would not be walking near or next to that. Exactly how many people walk to school that this path is really needed? Has anyone address this? Palm Coast residents keep asking questions and keeping pushing for answers!

  5. Born and Raised Here says:

    This meeting should have been open to all citizens of Palm Coast. Many of us are missing the real purpose of the bike/pedestrian path. It is intended to safely get our students back and forth to school.

  6. T says:

    Multi-use trails are an amenity and a benefit. I have seen many crazed residents complain about trails – fearful that walking paths bring rapists, murders, and drugs into their neighborhoods, but each time a trail is completed they end up loving it, using it, and enjoying it. There is tangible evidence for the economic, safety, and health improvements from trails in addition to raising the surrounding property values.

    Build the trail!

  7. jm says:

    This is not a trail, like others we have around the city. There is a wooded area close by that could be developed as a nature trail. This is a secluded, unsafe utility area, that is only used periodically by fpl for maintenance. There is extremely limited access to it. The few students who would benefit from it will invariably have to cross Old Kings Road, if they live on the wrong side of its entry point. They will have to cross over Fellowship Lane to continue to travel on it. Both roads are very busy and dangerous, especially if you are traveling early morning or late evening. This doesn’t benefit all of our students, bikers, walkers, members of our community. It doesn’t alleviate the dangers posed every single day. It’s just more of our local government pushing an agenda they want, with no concern for our citizens. They hide behind the safety issue because they got flack from parents and students (rightfully so, btw), but will not admit the fault is theirs-and has been for the last 9 years. If sidewalk had been installed on Old Kings road, (regardless of the way distant future widening project, which is still way in the distant future), as soon as the high school was built, numerous innocent lives could have been saved. That is on them. Those of you who don’t know the area should take a ride up Old Kings Road. Look at where the fpl power lines are. Make a right onto Felshire, go to Fellowship, make a right, and see where the power lines lead. Maybe then, you can see how ridiculous this idea really is.

  8. jm says:

    Oh, and just an fyi-this ‘safe’ way for our students to get to and from school is a dead zone for cell phones. So, if something were to happen, they have no way to get help. Just another oversight when this was voted on.
    The costs of this quick, inexpensive alternative to a sidewalk on Old Kings Road just keep going up and up. Great planning on our city government’s part.

  9. Jitters says:

    The city does not need your
    Permission on everything they do.
    It’s not about you . It’s what’s best for the
    City who cares what you cry baby’s
    Think. o no my property value BOO HOO.
    don’t cry move please . Make room for
    The next generation . You all washed up
    Any ways

  10. Confused says:

    I am all for safety and pathways to be put up along with lighting. With this being said this location is not ideal.
    Kids already meet up right in front of this wooded areas on fellowship and do their drug deals. One kid rides up on his bike shakes hand with another and go their separate ways… Also kids gather up infront of felshire at night. So now we are going to put a pathway up in an area that is not open to everyone to see… Think this one through people

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