In his new Netflix special the comedian Jerry Seinfeld claims “the yo-yo was originally invented as a weapon in the Philippines, an interesting and an obscure piece of information. Hard to imagine Philippino tribesmen warring with yo-yos.” It’s not an accurate piece of information: the yo-yo was never a weapon of war. At least not in the Philippines.
It has been a weapon of war in Flagler Beach, if by yo-yo one means the attempted settlement agreement that’s been going back and forth innumerable times between the Flagler Beach City Commission and Howard Sklar, about what may and may not take place at Sklar’s Marina on the Intracoastal, off Holly Avenue.
The two sides have been at it since December, soon after a circuit judge issued a ruling mostly favoring Sklar’s plan to build live-aboard vessels at the Marina and operate it as he’s sought to do since the late 1990s, but been kept from doing so by an astounding series of obstacles thrown up by the city, some of them reasonable attempts to protect the neighborhood from undue nuisances, some of them unreasonable, arbitrary and misinformed administrative and policy rulings that eventually led Sklar to sue.
The November ruling was a chance at a breakthrough. It looked that way when the city commission agreed to negotiate a settlement of the lawsuit. But those negotiations have turned into an other duel, the many versions of the settlement yo-yoing back and forth between commission and Sklar and over what to most readers may seem like minor details, though both sides have shown irascibility and petulance. In April, the commission found its way to an unusual, unanimous vote to approve a version of the settlement, only for Sklar to retreat on some points, leading the commission to reject the agreement again in late July and put it back on course for a return to court.
It may yet end up there: there’s a re-hearing scheduled for Sept. 27 before Circuit Judge Scott DuPont, who’s not at all fond of re-hearings, because they suggest the judge wasn’t clear the first time, and DuPont doesn’t like to be challenged. And there’s an appeal, by the city, to the Fifth District Court of Appeal, which has been stayed pending the outcome of the re-hearing. But the two sides have been working to resolve their issues before it goes that far.
Wednesday evening, the city commission again voted to approve the latest version of the settlement, but not before making still more changes, and not unanimously. The vote was 3-2, as fractured as it could get, with Commission Chairman Jane Mealy and Joy McGrew in dissent, because they felt the previous changes Sklar made left too much noisy labor allowed to take place outside of a building on the grounds.
“It’s now all outside,” McGrew said, overstating the case: some work will be done outside, but not all of it. “How would you like to live down there and listen to a saw running all day? To me this has basically defeated the pt of trying to preserve a neighborhood.” McGrew still sees the activity as “manufacturing” rather than assembling the parts of boats, even though in essence the latest version of the agreement doesn’t change what’s being assembled from what the unanimous commission had approved in April, but for the removal of the word “pre-manufactured” from the text, which to Mealy implied that manufacturing could now take place.
Commissioner Belhumeur, who’d grown closest to Sklar, disagreed. “What he’s saying is that he’s going to try to do it in a way that doesn’t constitute a nuisance,” Belhumeur said, interpreting the latest document. There was a smattering of laughter at that, but Belhumeur later stressed: “I just think we need to stop hemorrhaging here. Going back to court isn’t going to help anybody, I don’t think.”
Mealy’s and McGrew’s criticism of the agreement was sharp, but it did not carry the day.
Commissioners’ 3-2 vote went along with the new scribbles on the agreement, nullifying Sklar’s signature: had the commission accepted the agreement as Sklar had submitted it, with his signature, they could have essentially added theirs and the nearly 8-year matter would have been over. The same was true of the commission’s April agreement, which went to Sklar for his signature. But now with additional changes, however minor—and they were so minor as to amount to scriveners’ alterations—Sklar must again decide whether to accept or reject them.
There’s been an element of ego-driven one-upmanship to the duel: neither side wants to be the one conceding the other’s latest changes, though that’s what it appears it will take for the duel to end—or head back to court.
“I hate to say it but Rick is probably correct,” Commissioner Marshall Shupe, who voted to approve the agreement with its latest changes, said Wednesday evening, during a break in the meeting. “If we can’t compromise a little bit it’s not going to do anybody any good to go back to court.” He conceded that there are “a lot of unknown, and we’ll have to see where it goes.” That, too, has always been the case.
The ever-elusive Sklar was not in the audience. He never is. His attorney, Jay Livingston, was, though this time he did not approach the podium nor speak to the commission as the commission went over the agreement, as he had in discussions over previous versions. He sat toward the back of the room, did not seem too pleased by what he was hearing, and afterward declined to be interviewed, reserving comment pending Sklar’s decision.