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Sniping Over for Now, County and Palm Coast Appear to Move on Matanzas Woods Exchange

| June 12, 2013

Click on the map for larger view. (Palm Coast)

Click on the map for larger view. (Palm Coast)

The latest sniping between Flagler County and Palm Coast has ended, for now, with the two sides appearing to move past their differences over the planned construction of an I-95 interchange at Matanzas Woods Parkway.

But there are still a lot of moving parts, and missing money: Palm Coast has $700,000 to acquire properties required for the Palm Harbor extension. But the majority of the money for construction depends on the county making good on its pledge to pay up more than $3 million that the city feels has been owed Palm Coast all along, dating back to development fees the county took in but never conveyed to the city.

The two governments battled over whose money it was last year until the county agreed to partially make good on the payment with its own money (the first $1.5 million), then wait on a reimbursement from the state Department of Transportation for the second $1.5 million.

Palm Coast City Council members asked several times during a meeting Tuesday what guarantees the city has that the county will come through with that second installment. They didn’t get any. It was hard enough for the city to finally get the formal draft agreement from the county (referred to in lingo as an “interlocal agreement”) setting out the terms of the payments.

City and county sniped at each other for several weeks over that, with Mayor Jon nets and County Commission Chairman Nate McLaughlin exchanging pleas, excuses and promises in letters from May to early June, until Palm Coast finally received the agreement late Friday.

“The City has kept up its end of the agreement, and we don’t understand the County’s delay in seeing this through,” Netts wrote McLaughlin on May 20. “We would formally request that you place this on the agenda of the next meeting of the Flagler County Commission. We truly need your assistance in moving this forward in a timely manner.” The county did not place the item on an agenda. “Timing wise,” McLaughlin responded, “the need for this new interlocal has fallen in the middle of many other key County projects we are working on, all of which require extensive time and energy by limited County staff.” (In fairness to the county, the county attorney had around the same time made a case to the commission for an extra attorney, because of the workload, but was rebuffed for now.) McLaughlin, who spoke of the time the administration had to spend away from the agreement to address “a variety of information given to the media, public and our commissioners to somehow pressure the situation,” promised a signed agreement by June’s end. That was on May 23. Netts, unsatisfied, wrote again on June 4 “to get a draft to us as quickly as possible.”

That finally happened Fiday, with some clarification.

“I can’t guarantee anything right now,” Landon told the council regarding the money expected from the county. “But the proposal I’m getting from the county administration is that within the next few weeks, let’s say 30 to 60 days, we should have an interlocal finalized. Shortly after that, $1.5 million will be available. They have indicated that they’re estimating that the second million-five will be reimbursed from the state to the county and therefore made available to the city within a six-month timeframe, which would allow us to keep moving forward, so we’re talking $3 million within let’s say six months to a year, which will allow us to stay on track with the extension of Palm Harbor. That’s really where our focus is.”

The Palm Harbor extension would stretch from the north end of Palm Harbor Parkway, northwest, toward the Matanzas Woods Parkway interchange, presumably easing traffic flow in Palm Coast from I-95 by splitting the traffic between Palm Harbor and Old Kings Road. The city is confident that it can go ahead with the extension even though all the money hasn’t been lined up. Old Kings Road is also to be widened. None of that money has been secured (aside from the design costs.) The lack of guarantees about Palm Harbor is worrisome to council members in light of the way the south end of the Old Kings Road widening project left the city holding the bag for almost $7 million it did not have *(and still doesn’t have) when speculative planning didn’t pan out.

“We’re not committing ourselves to something that will be a fiscal disaster,” Netts said.

“No, no, absolutely not,” Landon said. “You’re not approving anything that would put you in a bind that oh if the money doesn’t come in, now what are you going to do? What you’ve approved, you have money in the bank for, and then as far as construction that’s going to be a conversation at a future time, and we’ll have a better idea as to the timing of the additional $1.5 million or other funds available.” But even as he was reassuring council members with references to sales tax money and street-improvement-fund money, Landon was conceding that, past land acquisition, all the money is not in the bank, and its acquisition hinges on unanswered questions. “What you’ve approved so far we’re very comfortable we have that money. It’s the future, it’s the construction, but you’re not signing a contract at this time, we’re not bringing that to you.”

“It’s very complicated, there are a lot of moving parts,” Landon said. “That’s why when we brought it to you a couple of weeks ago we tried to bring it to you as a complete package. We’ve been working real hard on having all those different pieces put together. The serious missing piece right now is this agreement with the county on the impact fees.”

Council member Bill McGuire was a bit concerned about the Palm Harbor extension being finished ahead of the Old Kings Road widening. That, in any case, appears to be what will happen. “I’ve still got this moral fear that the interchange project on Matanzas Woods Parkway and I-95 is going to commence, and we won’t have done our projects with Old Kings Road to keep the traffic from dumping at Matanzas High School,” McGuire said.

But one of the reasons the Matanzas interchange has been questioned is its timing: it was planned during the boom years, when heavy traffic might have warranted it. That heavy traffic in the city is no longer building up. The city’s population has been stagnant. The interchange, at least in the early years, is not expected to add significantly to traffic flows, as it might have a few years ago.

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21 Responses for “Sniping Over for Now, County and Palm Coast Appear to Move on Matanzas Woods Exchange”

  1. Charles Gardner says:

    If the proposed road is as shown in red $700,000 might buy 4 properties. Does the city know where relocation housing is available? Surely the Uniform Acquisition and Relocation is applicable here? Do the affected property owners know what is going on? Do they know what they are entitled too?

    • Bill says:

      No homes on those lots so no one needs relocation.

    • Big Joe says:

      Believe me they aren’t offering anything to us poor bastards that live right on the construction path. Basically I have a house with courtside view of the off ramp for the interchange and we all know what that is going to do to my property value. They will pay top dollar for vacant lots but completely dismiss the homes that will be literally right on the ramp. The city development office claims that there will be no need for a barrier of any sort so that means our homes will be in display to all who travel on this road and also opens up the window of opportunity for airborne vehicles to land in my back yard. I just hope my house gets blown away by a hurricane before this construction destroys my property value and I end up being imprisoned in my own home.

  2. Major Tom says:

    Just adds another way for criminals from Jacksonville to slither their way into Palm Coast, do more crimes then slither back out again.

  3. Magnolia says:

    Since our population is dwindling, I’m not real sure why they are going ahead with something not necessary right now. If anything, the busier traffic is likely to hurt home sales. What once were quiet neighborhoods are now to be a freeway connection and right at a high school?

    This doesn’t make any sense. Who sold them the land they will be using and how much did they sell it for? That’s a question I hate to ask but it almost always explains things like this.

    I’m not satisfied with the explanation coming from the council on any of this. These guys spend money like we’re in tall cotton.

    What next? Build a new City Hall? They’ve already jacked up our water rates.

  4. Nanci Whitley says:

    How in the world will Palm Harbor Extension go thru the Conservatory?

  5. John says:

    wouldn’t that cut straight through the conservatory? are there’re people living there or is that a failed idea?

    • John says:

      ahh, never mind…I see there’s an existing road there ( in the conservatory)
      looks like they just have to connect them all together.

  6. confidential says:

    With the status quo in the current recession, population stagnant and actually probably decreasing, high unemployment, businesses folding over ( looks like Perkins and others a good example and all workers lost their jobs there), government tax revenues decreasing….why don’t they delay this Matanzas interchange for better economic times in the future? What is pushing our elected county and city officials to proceed with this project in this supposedly belt tightening times? If I am waiting for better times to get exchange my eleven years old car why aren’t they doing same with this interchange? We are talking millions here…..that we don’t even have!

    Don’t give in to administrators and legal advise and or DOT and Tallahassee pressure. Contact even the governor if necessary to delay this project as WE DO NOT HAVE THE FUNDS! And also the taxpayers pockets are depleted now given the lack of sales in business, due too the high unemployment!

    What are you all elected officials thinking! Stop the rubber stamping!

    • Magnolia says:

      If you go back through Flagler Live’s articles on this, I believe you will find who was paid a handsome profit for this land.

      You need to pay more attention to who is selling the land in many major developments going in here. That should explain things or at least, peak your interest.

      Why are we buying a dilapidated old hospital (have you SEEN this place?) and paying the owner 3 times the asking price for a new jail?

      And why are we ruining beautiful wetlands, tearing out hundreds of trees next to a neighborhood to build more senior housing so the good folks in Grand Haven won’t have to drive to Town Center to see their family members? Just wait til you see who owns the rest of that land across from Grand Haven. So much for the Manager and Mayor telling us that Town Center would be the location of all future development. That appears not to have been the truth.

      Development in Palm Coast pays top dollar, no matter that our population is decreasing.

      None of this is accidental or by chance.

  7. FlaglerSurf says:

    Between this project & the city buying up the billboards in the hammock, I am certain we have imbeciles in charge of this county.

  8. briggid says:

    For people living in the L and F sections (primarily along Florida Park Drive), this would be a very good thing. It would probably take some of the traffic off the residential streets, and it would darned sure cut down time for people in Matanzas Woods just trying to get to a main road. Right now, you’ve got to drive south via Belle Terre, Florida Park Drive or Kings Road, just to get to 95.

    Right now, it takes me 15-20 minutes, on average, to get out of the city, unless I’m going somewhere via US 1. If there’s an easier way to go, without squashing a million trees or using something like “eminent domain” with no recompense to homeowners along the proposed extension, they ought to do this.

    • Magnolia says:

      At briggid: or dump more traffic into the residential neighborhoods. It will certainly make it easier to get in and get out quick.

  9. Ogreagain says:

    People Want it so bad on that side of town? make a taxing district, like they did S.R.100 and old Dixie.

  10. briggid says:

    Why? The main road is Matanzas Woods Rd and it’s A) already built and B) already crosses over I-95. It merely needs *ramps built.*. And then a whole bunch of traffic will disappear off of Palm Coast Parkway and Florida Park Drive (and probably Belle Terre as well). News Flash: taking extra traffic off roads on “the other side of town” is helpful to everyone.

    It would be really nice, too, if we didn’t start taking “sides” based on the area of the city we live in–that’s not really helpful.

    • Magnolia says:

      @briggid: I’m not taking sides. I’m objecting to a freeway off ramp coming right into my neighborhood. I don’t particularly care whether you think that’s helpful or not.

  11. RHWeir says:

    I don’t know it seems like if someone bought a home near a freeway and a main road, they had to realize that sooner or later, there might be a cloverleaf in the works. As it is, we either have to go up US 1 just past the county line or into PC to use 95. It would be nice to hop on at 95 and the parkway and it would decrease traffic on the 30 mph Forest Grove and Florida Park zones. Depends on where the money comes from, the comment regarding the water rate hike was spot on. For a town without a whole lot gong on, it sure is getting expensive to live here. I’d really like to see a Publix or anything go up at Matanzas Pointe as originally planned rather than an on ramp to 95. We don’t have anything up here in L. Come on toss us a bone; a gas station, a carryout, a Winn Dixie, a restaurant, anything.

    • Magnolia says:

      RHWeir: many in the Matanzas area thought they were buying a golf course home. Remember the Matanzas Golf Course?

  12. Working man says:

    All the negativity coming from retired people who don’t work out of town makes me sick. Probably the same ones that drive the wrong way on palm coast pkwy. Be a little more considerate to those who put money into this economy. Nobody cares about the north sections. The golf course is a bust. No businesses whatsoever. The last thing that went up around here was a church. Like we need more of them..

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