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Palm Coast and the County Look for State Cavalry to Resolve a Dispute Over $2.4 Million

| May 22, 2012

County and Palm Coast governments held a rare joint meeting in an attempt to resolve a dispute over $4.2 million in road construction dollars? From left, county commissioner Alan Peterson, commission chairwoman Barbara Revels, Palm Coast Mayor Jon Netts and city council member Bill Lewis. (c FlaglerLive)

You don’t bring Palm Coast and county governments together over millions in disputed dollars and not expect a contest in one-upmanship.

“So just for clarification, the $2.1 million is the city’s impact fee money the county has,” City Manager Jim Landon said to County Administrator Craig Coffey, as the two faced each other across tables in a joint meeting this morning.

“It’s the county’s money,” Coffey corrected. Respectful people can respectfully disagree, he added.

True, Palm Coast Mayor Jon Netts said, but: “at some point, an ALJ will decide.” An ALJ is an administrative law judge. Netts was putting the county on notice that the city would go as far as litigating this latest dispute, though that may have been more posturing than necessity. The council and commission members around the table had enough desire for compromise.

But much of that compromise depends on the state Department of Transportation coming to both sides’ rescue by finding $2.1 million for the county. That may be a tall order for a state agency that wants local government to contribute some money to local projects. That $2.1 million was to be Flagler County’s contribution for a new interchange at I-95 and Matanzas Woods Parkway. But Palm Coast and the county have had several successes in convincing state agencies to help, particularly when the local governments work together.

One commissioner was adamant that Palm Coast and the county end the mutual sniping over the issue in order to foster a more unified approach. “A lot of this rhetoric needs to stop and we just need to move forward, because this is completely unnecessary,” County Commissioner Milissa Holland said.

By the end of a two-hour meeting, the two governments agreed to metaphorically lock their respective managers and administrators in a room, come up with a joint plan to submit to the state Department of Transportation, and move from there.

Here’s the issue: the county and the city collected so-called transportation impact fees over the years–one-time fees paid by developers on the cost of construction, which local governments use to improve roads. At issue is $2.8 million the county says belongs to it, and that the county has pledged for construction of an interchange with I-95 at Matanzas Woods Parkway.

The city argues that the money isn’t the county’s to use, but the city’s. And the city is concerned about building an interchange at Matanzas Woods when the main arteries leading to the interchange have not been improved. In an emergency such as the 1998 wildfires, that could be a recipe for disaster.

The city, Landon said, hasn’t objected to the interchange until recently. But that’s because the city wanted state and federal dollars to be used for that interchange. As soon as the county started talking about using local impact fees for the interchange, “then you got our attention,” Landon said, because that was money the city thought it was entitled to for other needs. Local impact fee dollars should still be used to improve the street network to get to that interchange, concurrently with construction of the interchange–as long as that interchange is built exclusively with state and federal dollars. That’s what Landon was proposing, and his council supporting.

The Palm Coast proposal got its strongest support from County Commissioner Milissa Holland, who said the state Department of Transportation should be presented with that proposal, and shown that the county and the city are working together. The state would then very possibly produce the money. “It’s certainly worth going and having that conversation with them,” Holland said. “I still think that is a viable option for us to pursue.”

Other county commissioners were more skeptical.

“I’d like to agree to what you said but I cannot,” Commissioner Alan Peterson told Landon. “I think the county has pledged to the state the $2.1. That’s a done deal.” The county pledged to spend $2.1 million of its own on the I-95 interchange in order to secure the remaining dollars from the state and the federal government. Going back on that pledge would demolish the county’s credibility in the state’s eyes, Coffey says. “I think a pledge is a pledge,” Peterson said.

“And a contract is a contract,” Netts countered, referring to the city’s interpretation of the paper trail that would have impact fees spent on city projects.

“It sounds wonderful that we are talking like we can do this together,” Barbara Revels, the commission chairman, said. “But I for one just want to go on the record to say that should we find that we cannot get it replaced and we have to keep our $2.1 million pledge, I’m going to stick with our $2.1 pledge.”

The joint meeting was held this morning at the Palm Coast Community Center on Palm Coast Parkway. The two governments sat around a U-shaped set of tables. Each side made its case. Jose Papa, a senior planner, presented the city’s, going over the history of the impact fees and focusing a city proposal on widening or extending roads in Northeast Palm Coast, especially Palm Harbor Parkway and Old Kings Road. The improvements would ease traffic flows and create better evacuation routes. The improvements are costly, totaling upwards of $15 million. The city is proposing to use $2.4 million in county impact fees to defray some of that cost.

Coffey said the county has its major needs, too, and immediately referred to the disputed impact fees as the county’s, not the city’s, but he also noted: “We’ve spent the lion share of all the impact fees the county has collected over the years in Palm Coast.”

But as the meeting wore on, it increasingly appeared that Coffey was more isolated–and on more than one occasion, rebuked by his own commissioners–as he insisted on sticking by the county’s pledge.

Revels summed up the compromise Landon had presented: the county and the city, through its administration, would take a joint case to the state Department of Transportation and seek out the $2.1 million in new dollars, in order to then free tat pledged amount and, presumably, turn it over to Palm Coast for improvements in the northeast portion of its city.

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10 Responses for “Palm Coast and the County Look for State Cavalry to Resolve a Dispute Over $2.4 Million”

  1. ric says:

    When this project was proposed the citizens all wanted an intrchange but the county snubbed their noses to any stupid idea like that.. Flagler County with your infamiss wisdom can deal with the problem now and stop trying to con the city out of what is rightfully theirs.. Before the original project was completed the county allocated $700,000 for a study to decide if an intrchange was needed. What happened to that money? Let me guess the Taj Mahal..

  2. palmcoaster says:

    Your are right Ric…You had to be there and see County Administrator Craig Coffey taking all kinds of cards off his sleeve and openly supported by Commissioners Nate McLaughlin, Perterson and, BOCC Chair Barbara Revels. If like Peterson says that the county pledged 2.1 million of our impact fees to the project and they have to comply or loose it. Who told them or approve Coffey to do that? Like Mayor Netts said if they have to comply with their sudden pledge for the I 95 Interchange with FDOT, they have to comply first with what is on the “book on Section A”, where reads that the impact fees collected are to be used in the City of Palm Coast mayor roads projects needed. After all were collected within Palm Coast, contradicting BOCC Chair Barbara Revels that wants to keep what is the county’s and what is Palmcoasters too. This time Landon is correct when he warned City Council regarding Craigs Coffey’s wording of any agreement. City always agreed to the Interchange as long as Federal and State Funds wilt pay for it. Then when the county administrator, I understand to his sole discretion pledged local Palm Coast funded and owed impact fees to the federal/state project is when City jumped off the wagon. Where are the meeting minutes that show the BOCC unanimous approval for Craig Coffey using Palmcoasters owed impact fees, for the I 95 federal/state Interchange? Because as I was told there are none… County is trying to saddle the cart in front of the horse…as the Palm Habor and Old Kings road infrastructure with I 95 access by the school can’t sustain safely additional traffic to be generate as is prone to heavy flooding in some of that vicinity besides couple of L shape turns at 40 MPH. I am glad that BOCC Milissa Holland leaves nearby and openly agreed.
    Who owns the parcel needed to be purchased for the I 95 construction at a cost of 1.6 million…? Mori Housini, again, or Ginn owner by the Conservatory in foreclosure now? Who’s getting the sweet deal this time? Why didn’t the county spend in the I 95 Interchange and the millionaire new jail, that they demand now, on the prosperous years about 2005? Were too busy engineering the Taj Mahals…on our pockets then…

  3. Justice for All says:

    Traffic? On the east side of I-95? Roads for evacuation to scare us into thinking we need them? Really? Pave over everything and there will be no more fires. Better watch out for who is building this kingdom and why. If you like Deltona, stick around. If not, get moving.

  4. Don't forget says:

    Wow. Wonderful job guys. Thanks for spending more of our hard earned money arguing over who deserves even more of our money. Talk about asinine spending.

  5. Ridiculous says:

    So let me get this straight….the city wants to use the county and states money to build an interchange in the city Palm Coast that Palm Coast city residents will be using – all the while there are these impact fees that the county has collect from BOTH Palm Coast and outlying areas of the county that would pay for it- but Palm Coast doesn’t want to use that money.

    Leave it up to Palm Coast to want something that’s going to cost $2.1 million dollars, for free.

    Does anyone else on here realize how asinine this sounds. Matanzas Woods is a strictly residential road – with exception of the high school – meaning that almost all of the traffic on said interchange will be Palm Coast residents…..GOD FORBID THEY PAY FOR AN INTERCHANGE THEY’LL BE MONOPOLIZING!!!! How about using some of that money you’re wasting on landscaping the ditches on the sides of the road to put towards YOUR interchange!!

  6. palmcoaster says:

    @ Ridiculous Really. The city maintains our ditches landscaping that we all enjoy while the county spends millions in mammoth Ginn hangars and Cakes Across structures and runway extensions and towers on an airport that the multitude of county tax payers do not use or enjoy and are forced to pay anyway. And do not come up with the story teller that the airport pays for itself because is a shameful lie. Where the grants for it your think come from, Tekerary? We here in Palm Coast may have been born at night, but not last night!
    The 2.1 million of Palmcoasters impact fees were unilaterally decided by your administrator to be pledged for the Interchange (in the middle of an economic crisis), that now can wait. How come we hear from some commissioner that this resurrection of the Interchange and the pledge of our 2.1 million was never brought up for BOCC vote by Coffey? Show us the minutes of the approval meeting! I agree that as the Mayor suggested we may have to even go to court on this one.

    • DP says:

      Hey palm coaster
      The airport is an enterprise fund, which means money collected through lease’s and fuel sales and etc.: remain and or spent on the grounds of the airport, not anywhere else in the county. So as a taxpayer whether “County or CITY” you don’t pay for the airport!!! Now Money was spent from the county along with encouragement or “support” from all the cities to entice business to relocate here. Why? Because we all benefit from increased spending of customers using those facilities and or employee’s living and spending the hard earned $$ in the WHOLE county. Now was it foreseen that the real estate market collapse or economy was about to pop?? Bad business decision??? As for your rant and rave about runways, towers, the shameful truth is the money comes from federal grants and or funding of which is collected on your yearly federal taxes. FDOT grants come from all persons who buy anything in this county and or state. It’s a sales tax, and guess what you pay into it as well, but not with your city or county tax bill. As for the city maintaining those luscious landscaped ditches, it’s a complete waste of MY TAX $$$, we have other issues that need to be addressed. Do we need to widen palm coast pkwy now??? Old Kings Rd., Palm Harbor Pkwy, “NO”, open up the new interchange which would help relieve the congestion on the parkway. The bottom line Palm Coast is not any better than the County as you would say when it comes to spending or being open with the citizens. I can point out some major issues your wonderful city commissioners have done or lied about, but I don’t want to offend you. This interchange was priority 1 for the city in the past, why now isn’t it?? Oh BTW one more?? Where’s Tekerary???

  7. SOCRATESL says:


  8. palmcoaster says:

    @Socrates. As a Palmcoaster I totally agree with you. Please contact BOCC Barbara Revels, Nate McLaghlin, Al Peterson and George Hanns that support their administrator Craigh Coffey on this out of the blue, Interchange revival now and in the middle of an economic crisis when the City does not have the funds for all the supporting infrastructure required first in: Palm Harbor Parkway, Forest Grove Old Kings Road and Matanzas Parkway. All 4 lane widening’s required and flood prevention mitigation leading to the Interchange. Just the first parcel to be bought needed for mitigation immediately next to the Interchange is valued at (in foreclosure now), at 1.6 million. We don’t even know how much all other expropriations required to widen the current 2 or 3, 90 degrees (L shape) turns in a 40 mph speed section, could cost. The $$ needed for the city in just partial supporting infrastructure is about 15 million now, plus more funds in the immediate future for the complete widening of the mentioned roads named above.
    Imagine the additional crime entering from I 95 corridor in the proximity of the school and how many extra millions the current sheriff will demand from Palm Coast to protect our students and residents in that area North of the city? This Interchange resurrected forcibly by the County, I suspect by pressure exercised by the land owners developers benefiting with the sale of their parcels to us, for the project, is not needed right now.

  9. palmcoaster says:

    @DP…Sorry… was supposed to be Tipperary:

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