Almost a year ago, the Palm Coast City Council unanimously voted to close Slow Way, a tiny street the length of a residential lot that connects Slow Drift Turn with County Road 325, at the southwest end of Seminole Woods. The city administration had argued that the street was drawing unnecessary truck traffic, vehicles were crashing into a stop sign, and nearby residents had asked for the closure for years.
The council never expected the backlash the closure would provoke. “The question is, what justifies the closure of the slow way? The answer is nobody has identified a reason that has any data to back it up,” one resident told the council last June.
On Tuesday, the council was again unanimous–to keep the street open. It was not a formal vote, but a consensus reached at a workshop. Mayor David Alfin had not taken part in last year’s debates, and was part of the unanimity to keep the street open.
The administration last year had proposed closing the street to vehicle traffic but not pedestrians and bicycles. It would have installed barriers that could have been opened for emergency access. But the public outcry at times seemed louder than any traffic on Slow Way. Residents complained that a meeting held by the side of the road before the council’s vote had been poorly advertised and drew few people. They complained that closing the road would cause long detours and unnecessary hardships. Some also complained about it remaining open, because of the ruts they’d keep finding in their yards and the hazards of truck traffic in a residential neighborhood (although one resident attributed the ruts to a Waste Pro garbage truck).
In February 2021, the council voted on first reading of an ordinance to close the road. Tuesday’s decision was to not bring back that ordinance for second reading, in essence putting the matter to rest for good.
Two factors made the difference. First, the outcry that led to last year’s decision to close the road was driven in large part by the fact that a portion of Seminole Woods had closed for construction, forcing traffic through the small neighborhood and onto Slow Way, so traffic could use th county road to reconnect with U.S. 1. When that portion of Seminole Woods reopened, traffic in the neighborhood slowed. Second, the city’s and the county’s installation of no-truck signs appears to have brought truck traffic to negligible levels.
Michael Grunewald, the city’s traffic engineer, presented a traffic count that showed daily traffic volume ranging between 54 and 58 vehicles in July, October and December, with three trucks recorded using the street in July and one each in October and December.
The county cooperated with the city, putting up a no-truck zone ahead sign at the roundabout on County Road 305 and from the county side of Slow way, in addition to the signs the city installed. No-truck signs were installed at the entrance to the neighborhood at the two Sloganeer Trail and Seminole Woods intersections, on Slow Drift Turn and on Slow Way. The council had asked the administration to evaluate the effectiveness of the signs over a six-month period.
“In July, three trucks. Three trucks. I don’t know of any other street that takes less than that,” Council member Eddie Brqnauinho said. “October, one truck. December, one truck. If it doesn’t answer the questions that we had, I don’t know what will. I think it should stay open. And this right here should neither be motive for us to discuss it any further. I think it should stay the way it is. And I already told you the main reasons. One reason was safety, emergency vehicles. This will cause no problems the way it is, and if you close it, even though minorly, according to some people it will create a problem.”
Council member Victor Barbosa said most residents don’t want to see it closed, “although there’s just like this place, there’s a couple of other places where the people living on the corner find cars at their door,” he said. “If we could direct the city staff to come up with a guardrail or some kind of solution to protect the people that are in a certain corner like this.”
In the end all council members concurred, with Barbosa’s proposal getting support from Nick Klufas and Alfin. Klufas wants the administration to explore “some type of barrier barricade that doesn’t impact the stormwater drainage on the corner.” He said in these situations, the “outpour and outcry” stems from corner property owners who end up dealing with traffic issues other property owners do not. Alfin said the use of “some stone and rock” as on Old Kings Road North could be an option. So while the ordinance will not return to the council, Alfin asked that the solution to residents’ concerns be brought back.
“I should have and would have liked to see the FCSO comment,” Alfin said, referring to the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office, “because this is a traffic issue. It predates my election to to the mayor’s seat, but I don’t remember hearing the sheriff weigh in on the safety of this corner. So certainly in the future if we are considering safety issues brought forward to us by the public, I would like to have a representative of the sheriff’s office come here to give me their comment.” But absent crashes in the area of Slow Way–which have not been reported–it is not likely that the Sheriff’s Office would have had data on which to base an opinion one way or the other about Slow Way.