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A Special Taxing District To Repair Palm Coast’s Privately Owned Sea Walls? Not Exactly.

| December 18, 2018

Sea walls John Pascucci

Many sea walls in Palm Coast’s C and F Sections are deteriorating. Some are collapsing. Is Palm Coast looking to create a taxing district to pay for privately owned seawall repairs  on the city’s 26 miles of saltwater canals? Not exactly. Certainly not yet. But it’s not off the table, vague as the approach may be at this point.

Concerned residents have been peppering officials with anxious emails, one of which read in its subject line: “City considering Special Tax Assessment District for saltwater canal front houses.” Even Jon Netts, the former mayor who himself lives along the saltwater canals in the F Section, received at least four communications as of the middle of last  week from worried homeowners.

“What is about to be considered by Palm Coast City Council is a tax on all salt water canal properties to fix sea walls not being repaired by their individual owners,” one homeowner wrote. “This is serious.   Basically this would be a special tax on all of us who live on salt water canals to fix other people’s failing sea walls. What the heck??”

Homeowners might be excused for worrying about the possibility, based on the city’s published goals, overly broad and easy to misinterpret though those can be. One of those goals reads, “research and provide presentation of findings for a Special Assessment District for saltwater canals and seawall repair options.” It’s been part of the city council’s ongoing priorities and discussions. One took place in early summer. The latest took place last Tuesday. In both instances though, there was never a specific proposal to establish a taxing district.

“We heard some chatter in the public that the city was adopting a special assessment district,” Beau Falgout, the city’s interim manager, said. “There’s nothing on the agenda next week to establish a special assessment district. We’re at the beginning stages of this process.”

Nevertheless nothing was ruled out, and all options are being analyzed so the council can decide in the near future what is and what isn’t on the table. That includes a special taxing district.

“We are looking at all options, making sure that we have a comprehensive approach, and having that  decision-making coming to council with all the right information,” Denise Bevan, who’s coordinated the city’s goal-setting process, said.

Special taxing districts for infrastructure projects that benefit private property are not illegal. Flagler County government established just such a district earlier this year along a segment of shoreline in Painters Hill to protect private properties from erosion. The county is building a sea wall. Each homeowner affected will pay an additional $100,000, spread over 15 years. The charge will be tacked on to each homeowner’s annual tax bill. But homeowners who are not benefiting from the sea wall are not included in the district.

“The legal basis for the establishment of a special assessment district through case law and statutes would place severe limitations on a proposal where you would not have any benefit,” Bill Reischmann, Palm Coast’s attorney, told the city council. “Similarly, there are a lot of practical issues” as far as going through the standard code enforcement route, before imposing a district. That works well if someone isn’t mowing the lawn, for example: the city can mow it and bill the homeowner. “It doesn’t work as well when you have to redo a sea wall that may be $10,000 or $15,000,” Reischmann said.

“Way more than that,” Holland said.

“It is a blunt tool, so there’s going to have to be some refinements that’s going to be done in the systematic evaluation of the solution to this,” Reischmann said.

The council appears opposed to any kind of tax district that would somehow include homeowners who are assuming their own sea wall repairs–but not to a tax district in principle.

“If you own the property, that seawall is yours and you have to maintain it, that’s your responsibility,” Jack Howell, a new council member, said in an interview, “and code enforcement should come in and give you notice that your sea wall is in disrepair and you have so many days to start fixing it.” The alternative is fines, liens, then foreclosure. “It’s not right to have a tax district for everybody, You’re paying for everybody’s sea wall. That’s insane.”

Holland said the city could look at connecting homeowners with so-called Pace funding (the Pace Funding Group is a California-based financing company focused on green projects). She said the mechanism is used in South Florida. The financing is added to homeowners’ tax bills.

“So the focus of the conversation has been this: how do we look at this comprehensively,” Holland said, “because you might have done your due diligence and done it correctly, but if you’re repairing your sea wall and the neighbor isn’t doing their due diligence or doing the right thing, it’s degrading your investment as well. So we’re not necessarily solid in saying, let’s set a taxing district, but let’s look at this comprehensively: where are our sea walls in disrepair.” Making others pay “was never the conversation,” though she made a distinction between the cost of repairing sea walls and the cost of dredging the city’s canales. That necessity ties into the city’s stormwater system, which applies to a much broader swath of property owners.

“But absolutely, 100 percent, it is never the intent to penalize or double, you know, tax any resident for any type of infrastructure,” Holland said.


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9 Responses for “A Special Taxing District To Repair Palm Coast’s Privately Owned Sea Walls? Not Exactly.”

  1. atilla says:

    Jack has the answer. If the city follows the rules like Jack said then and don’t cave in, the result should be a no brainer.

  2. deb says:

    . Hey over in Marineland Acres we homeowners here all were taxed up to $600 a year by the county per lot to support a drainage project. So Enjoy your tax by the city. Its the PRICE of living close to the water of any type. And its appropriate to tax the home of the impacted property NOT the whole city. . I would think maintaining repair of your seawall would #1 prevent erosion of your property into the canal and #2 prevent surge to some extent,.

  3. palmcoaster says:

    I really like Councilman Ret. Colonel Jack Howell clear and straight to the point stand for what is right and us.
    Just the wording city used in the 12/11 agenda page 5 “tax district” for salt water canals and seawall repairs options, in the current study is pretty concerning and self explanatory to all affected. After her comprehensive general idea that the caved seawalls affect us all, Mayor’s Holland last paragraph is somewhat reassuring. But like Ronald Reagan said “trust but verify”.
    See the concerning wording on the 12/11/18 workshop meeting agenda page 5 again as was used in a past July meeting as well.
    “Measurement In coordination with CME, research and provide presentation of findings for a
    Special Assessment District for saltwater canals and seawall repair options (CODE ENFORCEMENT) 10.00%”
    Lets be alert and informed and hope for the best.

  4. Flatsflyer says:

    I have had several CE Inspectors tell me they are not allowed to enter anyone property, they must do all observations from the street. Maybe the city needs to buy a boat to inspect sea walls. I understand that Bobby Ginn’s old Sundown is for sale.

    The city knows about the asbestos problems with the old corrugated sea walls and does nothing about them, everyone knows and understand the life threatening problems with asbestos yet our old sea walls are allowed to contaminate the land and water in 1/4 of the cities land mass. Twice a day with tides the city contaminates our canals, the ICW and the oceans with deadly toxins.

    Can’t help but wonder if Erin Brockovich is still around and still pursuing environmental issues with big brother types of eneties. She made Hinkley, California famous for pollution, maybe she could do the same for Palm Coast?

  5. thomas says:

    I cannot afford Holland and her ideas.

  6. Ms. Pinion says:

    I like the remarks made by Jack Howell, I don’t understand where the Mayor is coming from; as home owners
    we can obtain our monies where and how we wish to make repairs to our docks ?? Why Pace ??? and why added to tax bill ??. This makes me think of the RED Light rip off. Corporations are in the business to make money off of us, please let us not set up ” A CORPORATE. WELFARE Program “. Having just visited the Pace website it protects the city rather nicely as the costs would be added to the property owners tax bill. Does this mean that the taxes and financing would be deductible? Regardless, this entire scenario looks like it would be nearly impossible to work, by that I mean there are very few contractors that are available to do the work and the last number I heard was a cost of $200.00 per foot to replace or install a new sea wall, even cap on a sea wall runs $125.00 per foot.

  7. BMG says:

    What’s the gripe with considering PACE? It’s been successfully utilized in South Florida and offers homeowners an alternative. I doubt many homeowners have an extra $50k in cash laying around for a new sea wall and it still puts the burden on the homeowner. I think the mention of PACE is the out of box thinking we need from our elected officials.

  8. beachcomberT says:

    A “study committee” or a “task force” is always the first step toward a future tax. Palm Coast is heading in that direction. Code enforcement is the fairer way to force action by individual property owners. But what about shoreline acreage used for parks, playgrounds, boat ramps or other public purposes? Does that get protected just by the coastal district owners or all of Palm Coast? The other detail that bothers me is why is a particular South Florida finance company being eyed to handle the potentially lucrative lending business? Who invited them? Was there competitive bidding? Seems like any local bank, credit union or home equity lender could structure a loan, and possibly at lower interest rates.

  9. Born and Raised Here says:

    If you chose to build and live on a canal, than it’s your responsibility to maintain the upkeep and repairs needed on your seawall. You must protect the environment.

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