The small neighborhood of five streets branching out from Apache Drive and north of Malacompra Road is one of those rustic Hammock grids that give the Hammock its name: stately old trees curving over dirt roads, large lots that mix handsome properties with distinctly less handsome ones, and that feel of country somnolence that gives the lie to the fact that the neighborhood off of State Road A1A is technically considered part of the Palm Coast utility zone.
Whatever its designation, many, but not all, local residents like their neighborhood the way it is. They like their unpaved roads and want to keep them that way. But against sharp opposition, the Flagler County Commission on Monday voted 4-1 to pave some of the roads anyway.
The county got a $1.7 million state grant through the Florida Department of Transportation to build 0.7 miles of paved roads with drainage and a retention pond. Th initial plan was to pave all five streets–Apache Drive, Seminole, Cherokee, Osceola and First Avenue.
Residents were informed of the plan in 2019, when the county took a survey of residents, held a zoom community meeting and an in-person meeting with residents, reducing the plan to 0.55 miles and eliminating Cherokee and Seminole Avenues and most of Apache Street from the project, along with the cost, which is now $1.4 million.
“You work with what you have available and what we’ve got available is DOT funding and the limitations that are there,” Commissioner Andy Dance, who voted against the project–and who is a landscape architect–said. “Problem is DOT brings in a backhoe when a shovel is suitable, in my opinion. If I was a resident there, I would be looking for a less intrusive solution.” But he acknowledged that the county’s ability to navigate the transportation department’s grant was limited, and that the project was far down the road of execution. “I think future solutions should should be more sites sensitive and and not just all rely on DOT to solve the problems.”
The vote took place after two rounds of public comments featuring Hammock residents who were all opposed to the project.
“We have a problem in the hammock. We don’t want our roads paved. And we’ve brought proof to the commission that we don’t want this,” Julia LaRue of Seminole Avenue said. “Because what’s going to happen out there is going to be butchering or trees. Plus we don’t want to pay for roads. This is our community. You all work for us. Please, please stop it.”
“They’ve been fighting this for eight years,” another resident of Seminole Avenue said. “This is ridiculous. I don’t know why they want to pave them, what’s behind this. It’s flooded once in 100 years from my understanding, so it’s not in a flood zone. And anybody that votes for this. I’mm going to vote against you guys when it’s time for your seats up. We can’t have people on here that don’t listen to us. We really don’t want this done. It’s a lot of money. It’s a million and a half that they’re going to spend on these roads, and for what? Put it into some news programs that are so needed.”
“We have a piece of heaven. I don’t want to see it go and all my neighbors don’t want to see it go,” Irene Allen of Cherokee Avenue said. “We didn’t move to the city. We moved to the ocean.”
“I heard a lot of things about Seminole and Cherokee. I wonder who’s telling you that we’re paving those roads,” Commissioner Greg Hansen told the opponents at one point. “We’re not paving those roads. And you know I’ve been out there and I’ve walked them with you, and I got Seminole removed from the plan. I got Cherokee removed from the plan. I got two-thirds of Apache removed from the plan. So why are you up here complaining about paving those roads?”
That left other streets where opponents were just as vocal. Marty Jewel, an Osceola Avenue resident, presented a petition with 184 signatures, 69 to 70 percent of residents on Osceola “strongly opposed to the paving project,” she said. She said Osceola Avenue doesn’t have flooding issues, other than when Hurricane Matthew’s effects washed over the area and devastated trees. “We are unique,” she said, “we do not want to become just another paved community.” She said the big draw to the area is the way of life there. “We do not want to lose it.”
Faith al-Khatib, the county engineer, put the project in the larger context of the county’s ongoing Marineland Acres drainage improvement plans, designed to reduce chronic flooding there. “The same issue happened here to this area. After Matthews, a lot flooding area has been been happening there. One of these areas was First Avenue and Osceola. And you can see with the nature there, most of these trees died after Hurricane Matthews. A lot of residents that year, they came to us and they asked us to expedite and do some kind of drainage improvement in that area, which we did. We applied for a grant funding.”
Al-Khatib said the county decided to move ahead with paving and drainage improvements based on its findings from a survey of residents. She said 31 residents were surveyed on Osceola, only about half responded, of whom nine told the county to go ahead with paving. She followed that with letters to each home address, explaining what the plan was specifically, and spoke of conversations with residents who said the opposite of what opponents of the paving were saying on Monday.
The county was conflating drainage and paving by necessity, as it saw it, even if residents may have been more eager for drainage than paving. Commissioner Andy Dance wanted to know the feasibility of separating the two issues.
Building a drainage system without a road would only enable further erosion, al-Khatib said, citing how the county did just that on Bay Drive, only for erosion to muck up the works. “I don’t know if it’s feasible or not but our recommendation to go on and pave and proceed with our plan,” al-Khatib said. “i know we love the area but there is a need to do certain improvements there.”
Dance could understand the county’s position. But residents hadn’t come out to petition for the road-paving, they’d come out only to petition against it. “The dilemma is being able to design something to fit the area,” Dance said. “But because we rely on DOT money we have to design based on their safety design guidelines. And that limits that creativity, unfortunately. But until there’s a different funding mechanism that the county controls and can do those improvements, we have to follow DOT guidelines and that results in more trees coming out and all the other safety designs.”
Commissioner Donald O’Brien called it “a safety issue from the standpoint of drainage and making sure that we’re doing what we can with money that’s available for us to protect these properties.” But when the floor was again opened to the public, Osceola Avenue residents disputed the claim.
“What are you talking about safety? We don’t flood. We have sand. It drains,” a resident said, echoing others.
Once again we have our elected commissioners completely ignoring the will of the voters with the exception of one. Thank you, Commissioner Dance, for being the only voice of reason on this board.
I cannot stress enough that we need to vote out the good old boys who don’t represent our interests, but rather the interest of their donors/friends/business associates. I don’t get the voters of this county, they keep doing the same thing over and over and hoping for a different result. Many of us moved here to enjoy nature and are sickened by the constant lack of careful stewardship of our precious natural resources.
Mullins and Hanson are up for reelection, good Lord people get out and vote in the primary and get these two out. With the next cycle, we can kick Sullivan and O’Brien to the curb.
Keep Flagler Beautiful says
Folks, if you haven’t figured it out yet, this should be the light bulb over your heads come election day. The majority of Flagler County’s Commissioners are hellbent on ravaging our precious green space and native land, the very things that make our part of Florida so special, to developers. They will come up with any argument to justify their pro-destruction vote and give away our irreplaceable environmental gifts to their buddies. Most of the commissioners are developers or real estate speculators themselves. Tuesday, August 23rd, is primary day. JOE “NAPALM ALL OF FLAGLER COUNTY” MULLINS HAS GOT TO GO. Tell your friends, tell your neighbors. He’s a rotten carpetbagger with a disgraceful record, both in the way he votes and the way he deports himself personally. He thinks he’s above the law and we are the dirt beneath his shoes who also happen to pay his salary through our taxes. Vote Leann Pennington in the primary, and if scumbag Mullins happens to make it through to the November 8 General Election, vote for Jane Gentile-Youd. It should be easy to remember: Anyone but Mullins.
Mark K says
This is just horrible. Trees cut and the shade and comfort they provide removed. Roads paved and turned into the frying pans.
Keep voting Repubs locally and nationally we will not be a country. We will be a country of the past. We will be Russias puppet.
Keep Flagler Beautiful says
When it comes to county commissioners, their party affiliation should not even be a consideration. Most are in it to serve their own purposes and to curry favor with fellow developers, no matter what party they represent. We should vote on their track record or, in the case of new candidates, what their platform is. I’m a registered Republican and would NEVER vote for a single person on that commission except Andy Dance.
Well said and so true. The RepubliCON Party has become an autocratic and Fascist party and only represents their monied donors. Look at what has happened in this state by the Fascist decrees of Ron DeSantis. Their is no dissention or objection to his decrees allowed. It is his way or the highway. He has turned this state into one big Fascist Cesspool.
Repubs may be bad people but who running and ruining the country.
Most of the problems the country is currently experiencing are related to the horrible policies of the failed Trump administration and his band of sycophants. This includes his disastrous trade policies and tariffs that hurt American businesses as well as
His deal with the Saudis to cut oil production to raise the price of crude oil that was down to near zero $ due to the fact that no one was traveling and burning fossil fuels during the
pandemic. This had a disastrous effect on supply and petroleum products including gasoline driving up prices and contributed to the runaway inflation that we are now experiencing. The big oil companies loved this act as it raise crude oil prices and restored their profitability. Now they are raking in record profits and their greed is unprecedented in the history of this country.
His disastrous deal with the Taliban to end the Afghanistan war resulted in the loss of US servicemen due to him and Mike Pompeio agreeing to releasing hundreds of Al Quaida prisoners and terrorists who participated in the airport attack during our evacuation.
Joe Biden is doing his best to fix the many problems he inherited from DJT’s failed Administration but it will take some time to recover from them.
Julia LaRue says
Once again we the people are told what needs to be done for our benefit. Commissioner Hansen said our roads, Seminole and Osceola, are not going to be paved, so why are we here. Like we have no skin in the game! I was told at a meeting with the Project Manager for this paving job that YES our roads are going to be paved after more grant money is applied for and awarded. (Seminole and Osceola and the rest of Apache) We are a community and we help one another. The MAJORITY consensus in our neighborhood (proof in writing given to the Commission) is we do not want any of our roads paved! Vote, please, for anyone new! What is sitting on the Board of County Commissioners now, ( other than Commissioner Dance), will not listen to their constituents. This has been ongoing since 2019! STOP THE MADNESS!
Why do you want to ruin this beautiful area?Why don’t you listen to the people of Flagler County?I don’t live in that area,but love the beauty of A1A and the Hammock.Who has a stake in this project?
Julia LaRue says
Sorry for not putting this at the beginning of my letter. Thank you Flagler Live for the article! We need everyone to know about our issues here.
Marti Jewell says
Thank you Flagler Live for publishing this article. Also, thank you Commissioner Andy Dance, for getting what the residents of Osceola Ave., are saying. This paving project is a total waste of money. Our sandy streets do not flood! In fact, they drain and dry, before some paved streets with swales ., without runoff in our yards. We do not have water standing in our yards, IT IS SAND, it is not mud, it drains. We are trying to save our trees, scrubs, wildlife and a way of life, we moved here for. Once it is gone, it is gone, forever.
If we have another hurricane like Matthew, this project is not going to prevent the same outcome for us. One thing, that will surely help, is if the drainage ditch on Malacompra Road is kept clean and maintained.
“We the people” are speaking against this project. You, our elected officials, work for us, even in the Old Hammock. Use the grant where it is needed. This can be stopped! Do the right thing, STOP this paving project.
The more developed, the more that area will attract developers. It’s all about growth, not flooding. a paved road floods the same as a dirt road if the sea level is lower & drainage is poor. I lived close enough to Hollywood, FL (A1A/Collins Ave.) paved roads, flooding every new full moon cycle and it came from storm water drains, not the rainy season, although if that coincided it would flood just the same. Just go into the Tomoka Loop during a full moon, paved roads flooded. And flooding ruins asphalt roads just the same, because the sand shifts & erodes from the sides of the road. Biden Build Back Better isn’t better, it’s unaffordable. Those folks bought those properties like that because it was their pristine natural road. Look at Flagler Beach, paved road in A1A wiped out with a storm. The same, not the same ? Either way, those residents don’t want paved roads.
The dude says
OMG Biden caused this??!??
You are a hoot my friend. I love these little yelling at the clouds sessions of yours.
Jimboo: Biden has nothing to do with this thread. Other than that, I agree with you.
Miami Beach’s Collins and A1A average around 3′ in elevation, so any King tide or storm will bring the water up though the storm drains onto the street. I’ve seen the lids of storm drains rise up with the pressure of water pushing out. Most of the outfalls have duck bills that are supposed to let water out, but not back in again. However, oysters grow on the duck bills and hold them open. The same will happen here, so you’re right. This is not about drainage, it’s about developers, their friends, and of course, money.
More and more of our beautiful oaks will crack and come down. This will counteract their cooling effect, and the paved roads will create more heat. Our maritime hammock will cease to exist. The commissioners do not give a damn what their constituents want and they do not give a damn about the Hammock.
Mullins for Governor says
For the life of me, I can’t understand why you knot heads in the Hammock don’t want these dirt roads paved. You just don’t get it! The issue is not really about the dirt roads. County Commission Chairman Joe Mullins wants one of the newly paved streets to be renamed Mullins Way. Now Hammock people, get your head out of the dirt and support Joe on this needless project. After all, look at what he has done for you. And, for that matter Flagler County. If you don’t believe me, then ask Joe. He will set you straight.
Mullins number one fan! says
Amen, I support your war of terror. I have been to that area, it absolutely does not flood. It’s on a sand ridge, a geological remnant of the former coastline. It’s a scam- paving for dollars.
Timothy Patrick Welch says
Maybe they enjoy the old Florida feel…
Some enjoy nature and the old way of life, as apposed to a manicured concrete jungle.
An issue like this will never please everyone. Those who are opposed always seem to speak the loudest. I sympathize with the County Commissioners. There is no way in which they will please everyone. Personally, I ride my bike on 1st Avenue when I go to Publix for small stuff. As a result, I would prefer that the street were paved. On the other hand, a neighbor of mine likes to take long walks, which include 1st Avenue, and she prefers the softer gravel & sand.
It is obvious that an underground drainage system requires paved streets. Otherwise the sand & gravel street material would just wash into the pipes and silt them up. Also, there is the matter of sea level rise. Whether these streets were flooded by hurricane Matthew or not, some future hurricane will. Paved streets are far more passable when flooded than those of gravel and sand.
ULTRA MAGA says
Thank you Flaglerlive for telling the TRUTH about the TERRIBLE voting records of Mullins and Hansen! Both are WRONG for Flagler County! Time to get these two RINOs OUT of Flagler County!
Beach cat says
Thank you for this informative article! Flagler County commissions continue their march toward Miami’s Collins Ave. Our Hammock treasure is slowly becoming a wasteland with cookie cutter houses. Publix was built nestled into a woodsy area. Across the road, the tacky pizza building reminds one of those roadside hamburger joints in the countryside, while Roadies is nestled in a woodsy area. Responsible construction can happen. Hammock residents are the experts. Our commissioners continue to prove they have little concern for preserving The Hammock treasure.
Miles C. says
Horrible, also last time I check asphalt doesn’t absorb water, DIRT DOES! All this is going to do is create more drainage issues, because the once dirt road that absorbed the water is going to push it into residences yards.
As it is now, there are not enough swales on A1A to prevent water runoff from the blacktop. Water runs right down the dirt road and on to owner’s properties. Adding more asphalt and drainage pipes will not remedy this, only exacerbate it. Simply make FDOT re-engineer the swales and problem solved.
Let’s not forget how the cars will speed down asphalt roads, and our beautiful oaks will no longer hang over the roads like a natural tunnel, cooling our Hammock down much better than in town. But the commissioners have friends in the construction business, so they are going to do us all a favor by destroying our neighborhood. It’s just business, you know. Besides, they live somewhere else.
Marti Jewell says
Thank you Flagler Live for putting this issue out there. Also, thank you Andy Dance for hearing what the residents of Osceola Ave., are saying. This project is a total waste of money, for something that is not a problem. Our sandy streets are drained and dry much faster than so many paved streets, which are flooded after a hard rain. We are fighting to save trees, scrubs, and wildlife and a way of life, we came here for. Once it is gone, it is gone forever. I do not disagree that there are areas that could benefit from paving, we are not one of them.
“We the people” are speaking, NO PAVING ON OUR STREETS. You our elected officials, work for us. This project can be stopped and should be. Do the right thing!!