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In Setback for Sea Ray, Flagler Beach Votes 3-2 to Challenge Land Use Change Over Parking lot

| August 6, 2015

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Most of the people who addressed the Flagler Beach City Commission in a special meeting today supported the commission’s proposal to challenge a land use change allowing Sea Ray to build a 24-acre parking lot. (c FlaglerLive)

Flagler Beach city commissioners were divided. At times they spoke derisively about Sea Ray and the county commission for ignoring the city’s concerns. At times they called it all a done deal that defies further opposition. In the end, they voted 3-2 to take a challenge to the state of a county land use amendment enabling Sea Ray Boats to build a parking lot on 24 acres south of its property off Colbert Lane in Palm Coast.

The most important question the commissioners wanted answered was whether the city had standing to challenge any decision, from any angle, that could stop Sea Ray Boats’s decision to build a 24-acre parking south of its property off Colbert Road.

“Yes we can make an argument that we have standing,” City Attorney Drew Smith said. But the option is limited. “It would be us challenging as a property owner within the county, not as an adjoining jurisdiction,” he said. “We’re not talking about a parking lot, we’re not talking directly about Sea Ray. We’re talking about the county’s amendment to the comprehensive plan,” and whether that amendment is consistent with the broader comprehensive plan. The challenge would have nothing to do with odors, carcinogens, pollutants, property values or much of anything else opponents to the plan have talked about.

The city had 13 days, counting from today, to file a challenge. “This isn’t a process that drags out for a year or more. It’s on a speedy trial type docket,” Smith said. That’s the case so a developer isn’t being held back. “It’s going to be fairly compressed when you compare it to litigation.” He cautioned later: “the deck is stacked” against the city. “It is a high hurdle,” Smith said. “It does not mean you cannot prevail.”

Commissioner Jane Mealy, the most critical of Sea Ray among city commissioners in the last months, again cast doubt on the company’s veracity while saying the company has not been transparent with its plans despite the company’s publishing its perspective in local media. Mealy on several occasions held a copy of Sea Ray’s most recent article and sarcastically referred to the company’s manner of communicating with the city commission. There were no company representatives at the meeting. She also dismissed the occasionally repeated claim that this is “an emotional issue.” It’s “all based on facts,” Mealy said, citing the issues with styrene and Sea Ray’s history.

Fellow-Commissioner Steve Settle called her comments “on point” while regretting that the county and the company had not sat down with the city to consider a compromise. We’re sitting here tonight with only one option,” he said, and that is to challenge the county’s amendment. Commissioner Kim Carney said challenging the comprehensive plan will likely not be successful. Nevertheless, she said she supports the challenge.

“This is not the challenge we need to make,” Commissioner Joy McGrew said, calling it all a “done deal,” preferring to focus on a more realistic way of responding to the county’s and the company’s moves. Sh said opposition would be warranted “if and when Sea Ray plans to expand” industrially. Commission Chairman Marshall Shupe joined McGrew in opposition to the challenge.

While several commissioners were critical of what they saw as the county’s refusal to meet, Al Hadeed, the county attorney, had explained on July 9 to Bruce Campbell, the Flagler Beach city manager, why such a meeting would not be legal. “The biggest hurdle, a legal one, to any proposed joint meeting on the pending land use applications is that there is no procedure in our land development code that allows for such meetings as part of either the review or approval process,” Hadeed wrote. “So in my mind it does not matter how the proposed meeting is framed (informational or interagency, etc.), it would be argued as violating the applicant’s right to a land use process governed by quasi-judicial standards.”

That email was never mentioned today by either commissioners or Campbell, who was in the meeting.

Fifty people turned up for the special meeting in mid-afternoon at Flagler Beach City Hall.

Former Flagler Beach Mayor Alice Baker started the public comment segment—after a poem from Stan Drescher, the city’s poet laureate—with an impassioned plea against Sea Ray. She was followed by a former St. Johns County Commissioner whose home is on the market in St. Johns, as he and his wife—a cancer survivor—are considering moving to Flagler Beach. “I came to this meeting because I’m very concerned about the increased emissions” and the decreasing quality of life or property values that may accompany Sea Ray’s plans, he said.

So opposing comments went, largely recasting the many comments that have been made in opposition to Sea Ray in the past several months, at half a dozen public meetings before three different local government panels. The comments were recast within the context of the city’s potential challenge, with these opponents now seizing on that possibility—and urging the city to do likewise.

The most common thread among those opponents was criticism of Sea Ray’s emissions and, as Roseanne Stocker put it, the company’s documented plan, stated in a Department of Environmental Protection permit, to, in her words, “step up production.” The company has repeatedly denied plans to expand industrial production. “A successful challenge would be Flagler Beach’s way of saying No to growth at any cost,” Stocker said, reminding commissioners of the city’s ranking, in pollution emissions, in the top-30 towns out of more than 400 incorporated cities in the state.

“Don’t let Flagler Beach become as polluted as China,” one resident of Lambert Avenue said. Or, as Rick Belhumeur, a city resident and member of four or five city and county advisory boards, put it: “Comprehensive plans are there for a reason.”

David Ferguson, the former Palm Coast City Council member, was first to speak in defense of Sea Ray’s plans. “I’ve never smelled styrene, but I’m not going to dispute whether some people can smell it,” he said. More to the point, he said, recalling what he called his frustrations while on the council, “each place within this particular county has its own particular, provincial issues.” He drew a few groans when he claimed that some people want Sea Ray to shut down, then went on to speak about the county’s need for a diversified economy while the tourism tax, or bed tax, is “setting records.” Sea Ray, he said, “is not affecting it very much.”

Ferguson was quickly rebuked by a Flagler Beach resident, who told the commission it should not be listening to anyone from Palm Coast to decide a matter that affects Flagler Beach.

Bill Mills, a Flagler Beach and Lambert Avenue resident—and the founder of the annual Wings Over Flagler fly-in—said he had no objection to keeping the press on Sea Ray’s case to monitor pollutants and ensure that the company is honoring its promises. But, he said, in opposition to the city’s planned challenge, “let’s make sure that we’re spending money wisely in areas that we know we can fight, where we know we can keep them in check.”

Lea Stokes, a former chairperson of the Flagler County Chamber of Commerce’s executive board, said that while the city can challenge the comprehensive plan, there’s been no talk of the cost of the challenge to taxpayers in what she considers an unwinnable fight. Another resident put it simply: “The smell is always going to be there as long as the plant is there.” He was not suggesting that the plant should not be there. Rather, he said, property owners nearby bought their homes over the past 30 years knowing what industrial property was near them.

In all, 19 people spoke, all but four speaking in support of a challenge, or in opposition to Sea Ray’s planned parking lot. The meeting, which started at 2:05 p.m., ended at 3:22 with the vote.

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27 Responses for “In Setback for Sea Ray, Flagler Beach Votes 3-2 to Challenge Land Use Change Over Parking lot”

  1. Schottey says:

    These are terrible people to have in leadership positions. One day, Sea Ray (or some other company seeing this nonsense) will make the decision to stay far far away from Flagler County and these dolts will be to blame.

    • Howard Duley says:

      Man, did you hit the nail square on the head. If I was Sea Ray I would pull up stakes and let the workers find jobs at McDonalds or delivering pizza. We could use more burger joints and pizza shops.

  2. PeachesMcGee says:

    First, the land in question doesn’t belong to Flagler Beach.

    Second, SeaRay has been here longer than those “concerned” citizens.

    Lastly, in this economy we cannot lose 650 jobs. Since when did a rich person care about anything but their trivial lives in their trivial glass houses.

  3. Jack Jones says:

    Is it normal to have a meeting like this during the day so that people who work can’t attend?

    • LRM says:

      Valid point Jack Jones. All public meetings should be held in the evening.

      • Anonymous says:

        True Jack Jones. Also, Why does Flagler Beach continue to try and downgrade Flagler and run off young families that can’t find jobs. Sea Ray has been there and supported Flager for Many Many Years. Yes, on a windy day, there may be a slight odor. That odor will not hard anyone. Not a sole. the exposure limit and amounts are way to small.
        Sea Ray is an Environmentally Friendly Company and work closely with all their regulators, including the DEP. I know, because I was the Environmental specialist there for many years. They are up front and run a tight ship. They need a parking lot, that’s all. It will not generate emissions, just a place for cars to park. We have molds that have no chemicals on them, just steel molds that we need to put aside when not in use. when we use our current parking lot for that, where do our Team Members park. They need to work, Flagler needs the economy, they are off a side road on Roberts road, not down town Flagler Beach. Let them work. Think of your children and grandchildren down the road who may need a job one day. Why not work for a Fortune 500 company just down the road from you instead of having to deive to Orlando for a descent job. Let the people work, give them a parking lot and keep a good neighbor. You never know who may come in their next. Someone who doesn’t care about you, your environment r anything else, doesn’t take much to kill all the fish with oil spills from people who are NOT responsible for what they we. Sea Ray is responsible . Let them have their parking lot.

      • Sonya Matthews says:

        Why must Flagler Continue to downgrade their own city by cutting out places for their families and children’s families to work. Taking money from your economy, that have has managed to stay aflot through thick and thin and keep people working for years.
        Yes, on a windy day, there is a slight odor. No big deal, it blows right away and it will not hard anything. The odor you smell as to be calculated by time weighted average, exposure limit, etc and you can do that with a slight odor. A dead animal in the road has an odor. but it goes a way when the animal is picked up, the styrene odor goes away as soon as the wind shifts, its only there a second. We are not talking about making odors, we are asking for a place for our employees to park their cars.
        Our boats have very large molds and when one is not in use, we have to put it in the parking lot out of the way. This takes up parking space for our employees. The molds have no chemicals or odors, just take up room. If we can keep them in our current lot, then employees will have a designated area to safely park their cars. They don’t want to loose their jobs. They want to work, over 600 families in your county will be effected if Sea ray were to have to move. What about all the years of Charity that Sea Ray has given to the community,. Not because we had too, because we work hard to create a safe work environment for our Team Members and work closely with all regulators o keep up to par on all regulators and make sure our environment is safe for our wildlife, waterway’s and the future of our children. Let Sea Ray continue to build Boats, let them have a safe parking area for the tea members, and they will continue to be a pillar of Flagler County and do their part to keep the economic growth going, which in turn is what will keep Flagler County growing.

  4. Original Floridian says:

    Time for “new blood” where Flagler Beach City Commissioners are concerned. Here we go again, if a challenge takes place ALL FB taxpayers will pay and WE don’t even get a VOTE, AGAIN!( as in the case of the much needed, LOL, Fire Truck FB just had to have, and still waiting to be built).FB Commissioners have made FB the joke of the County.

  5. Justanotherthought says:

    They’re not building a nuclear power plant…’s just a parking lot. Move along.

    • Anonymous says:

      All of these folks jumping on the Deal train have nothing better to do then spend the money of F. B Residents to fight and tell stupid stories that CAN NOT be verified by anyone about them breaking any laws. Cancer from the fumes??? lol, lets shut the farmers market down on Fridays and Saturdays,, do you know how the fertilizers used to grow those veggies cause CANCER!!!!!! Oh my God people wake up!!! It is 31 people trying to kill 700 families.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Bill Mills has the right idea. The constant is change. Watchdog approach may not be feasible in the long run. Compromise. Dare l say it?

  7. m&m says:

    These idiots should not have a say in this. The county ruled and that should be final. These idiots are trying to drive out the only industrial busness we have. If I were Sea Way I’d go ahead with thier plan and f=== Flagler Beach.

  8. James Pringle says:

    To the Citizens of Flagler Beach, when your City Council looses it’s fight to prevent our parking lot from being built I hope you see fit replace your City Council members with more competent personnel. To the majority of the residents on Lambert Avenue, you chose to move next to Searay, they did not move next to you.

  9. Michael says:

    FB wasting more money, when they are short on funds due to the lawsuit they will talk about adding parking meters. They will lose, they know they will lose yet they do it anyway, typical government arrogance.

  10. Patriot76 says:

    It’s ironic that Lambert avenue residents claim Sea Ray has impeded or infringed on their quality of life while they happily tread on the hard work of 650 employees and a company that has worked efficiently and expeditiously to meet EPA standards and even exeed expectations comparative to so many private corporations who fail to do so. We should reward good corporate behavior and yet Flagler Beach remains unyielding in their seriously flawed legal argument.. Ten years ago the County Commission made the mistake of rezoning the area away from industrial without following normal protocols and due diligence.

    We can’t hold Sea Ray responsible for a public government screw up especially considering that Lambert a avenue residents who are most affected have further invested into more property in the same location while the has been ongoing. It really does amaze me the level of stupidity and inconsistency with their arguments. Any review board and judge will look at their argument from a quasi-judicial point of order and throw it out. They really are out of order, out of line, and out of time

  11. scrub jay says:

    Its another way to draw attention away from the real problems of FB!!!

  12. Swizz says:

    The funniest thing is they can’t challenge the comp plan amendment because of odors, noise, etc. All they can do is appeal the future land use map change by arguing it’s inconsistent with the overall county comprehensive plan. I’m doubtful they will be successful and its most likely a waste of money. Time will tell.

  13. Dave says:

    If I were SeaRay I would find me another location in a country not, Flagler and take all the jobs with them. That will mean there would be no more taxes to be paid by SeaRay to this city or county and no jobs for people that live here.

  14. Geezer says:

    I don’t think that Sea Ray greased the proper people.
    Look at the Palm Coast Home Despot (sic) and the shopping center it sits on.
    I understand that the land used was formerly a wildlife sanctuary.
    (correct me if I’m wrong) Now it’s a nuts, bolts, and screws sanctuary…….
    Expensive ones at that!

    The homeowners (who were there first) who are behind the complex,
    used to have a beautiful lake view. Now they have the “Home Depot Harbor” view.
    Just drive down Boulder Rock Road and stop to admire the lovely view.

    Maybe those lucky homeowners can buy paddle boats to row to Home Depot.
    Too bad Sea Ray doesn’t build those….just like the fact that they can’t expand
    employee parking.

  15. Sue Mendenhall says:

    Somehow I could see this happening in Palm Beach or Jupiter. But lowly Flagler?

  16. Denise Woodward says:

    To Flagler Beach Commissioners. You are deliberately filing a lawsuit you know you cannot win? Blocking Sea Ray Boats from being able to expand a parking lot? You have a revenue problem and are looking to place parking meters to help increase revenue. How many small businesses will lose their revenue because their customers decided to go up the road to park for free? You are also expanding a public parking lot within your own city limits..hmmmm. How hypocritical. You are going to force all your residents to pay for a lawsuit that 51 residents of Lambert Dr. (make that 49, I know of two households on Lambert that are Sea Ray employee homes) insist their quality of life will change vs. 680 employees quality of life should Sea Ray finally say enough is enough and pack up to leave. Those of us who work for Sea Ray pay taxes, we vote, we use the beaches, we spend our money at beach side restaurants and shops. Some of us are residents of FB, Palm Coast, Crescent City, Bunnell, St. Augustine..All of us need our jobs. How many people that live on Lambert Dr. and in Flagler Beach own boats?? Maybe not Sea Ray boats but boats regardless. You want the comforts of life as long as they are built somewhere else. You want the revenue of the residents but could care less as to how they are suppose to earn a living after you scare the businesses away. Shame on commissioners.. Flagler Beach residents need and deserve better then you.

  17. Concerned says:

    I’ve lived in FB for 40 years and it’s always the stupidest things these people dream up to fret over. For years they’ve fought every chain restaurant that has wanted to open here, but they love to have their little local ones on every corner. They fight everything progressive, even tried their best to fight the big bridge. This commission, as all the ones before them, are an embarrassment. As a resident of the beach, I apologize to all the other residents of the county for the ignorant leaders over here.

  18. Very Concerned says:

    I was very concerned when I heard three people committed suicide in Flagler but now I realize it was only political suicide. Good luck on the next election.

  19. TOM JONES says:

    I wonder if they tell how much tax money will be spent to fight a parking lot.It is sad that a bunch of yankees have turned a fun loving little Florida town into hateful and self serving sh*t hole!

    • Geezer says:

      My favorite song of yours is “It’s Not Unusual.”
      “The Green Green Grass of Home” is another favorite.

      Anyone who originates north of the Mason Dixon line
      is not to your fancy, I assume. Many a self-serving sh*t
      hole is populated with like-minded folks.

      But still I listen to your records.

      • tommy jones says:

        i know a lot of people north of mason Dixon and agree they move down her to get away from that kind of crap don’t change everything just enjoy it as it is!

  20. tommy jones says:

    You are so right the attorneys will get large amount of tax payers money to stop a parking lot let’s hope they show us how much it costs so people can vote those morons out.

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