The Palm Coast City Councill will make three appointments to its seven-member planning board–the city’s most powerful, non-elected advisory board. Seven candidates have applied, including two incumbents, two existing alternate members of the board, and a member of the county planning board, along with the head of the local chamber of commerce.
The Planning and Land Development Regulation Board, as it’s officially called, is responsible for making recommendations to the council on residential and commercial developments, zoning, long range comprehensive planning and other land-use matters. It does not serve only in an advisory capacity: numerous issues come before the board for a final decision. The board’s influence is substantial. It is also among the most diverse boards in a county whose elected boards, with rare exceptions, have lost their diversity in the past four to eight years.
The board’s work is more constrained and spelled out than the public generally realizes, however, limiting its discretion. It is constrained by law, which prescribes what it may and may not do with land-use applications within narrow bounds. And its work is spelled out by the city’s development department, which does all the heavy lifting on applications, submitting detailed staff reports and associated documents that leave board members with mostly procedural steps. Hearings before the board nevertheless open a wide window into public sentiment, which can, on occasion, sway votes, and give the council a preview of what’s headed its way, assuming the item does make it up that far.
The board meets Tuesday evening, for example, and will hear two big applications–one for an apartment complex of more than 400 units off State Road 100, wets of Colbert Lane, and another at Harborside in Palm Harbor. The latter is a rezoning application for 18 acres that would increase the number of dwelling units. The city’s staff is recommending against approval. The item is expected to draw a large crowd.
Three positions on the board are up for appointment. Incumbents have applied for two of them: Sybil Dodson-Lucas, a retired manager who worked in government in New York, chaired a New York City planning board, and who’s completed two terms, and Christopher Gabriel, 53, a Realtor with Realty Executives Oceanside. The third seat was held by Jake Scully, who recently completed his second term and opted not to apply again. Since Dodson-Lucas, 78, has already served two terms, her re-appointment would require at least a four-vote majority from the council. (The council has five members.)
The incumbents are among seven applicants, who also include Hung Hilton and Suzanne Nicholson, two current alternate board members seeking appointment as regular members. Hilton, 41, is an IT solutions architect. He twice applied or appointment to vacant city council seats. Council members twice recognized him for his sharpness–which he has since displays on the planning board–and the first time urged him to get involved on city boards, as he did, only to twice pass him over. He submitted, however, the scantest of applications. Nicholson, 65, works remote for an interior design company in Pennsylvania.
Other applicants are Greg Blose, Larry Gross and Heather Haywood.
Blose, 42, heads the local chamber of commerce, making his application unusual since he’d be representing a lobbying group, rather than himself or a particular industry, and a lobbying group predisposed aggressively to favor development. His role, in other words, is that of an advocate for the chamber, a role he fulfills frequently by appearing before local boards–like the planning board–to press the chamber’s positions. One of the questions on the application asks explicitly: “[A]re you willing to act as a decision maker and not as an advocate, if required by law?” His answer: Yes, I will act as a decision-maker.”
Blose previously headed the Volusia County Home Builders Association, and was a program director for the state chamber. “I believe both my Chamber and HBA background gives me unique insights into the planning process and [its] impact to the community as a whole,” he writes in his application.
Gross, 64, a 35-year resident of Palm Coast whose email handle is “LovinFlorida1,” is a systems engineer who wants to “participate in helping future growth for jobs at keeping Palm Coast a beautiful place to live.”
Haywood, 34, a Realtor with Grand Living Realty, lists Blose as one of her references (he did not return the favor), and involvement in the chamber and the home builders’ association among her civic experience. But she is also a current member of the county’s planning board, appointed just last February: her term doesn’t end there until 2025. Haywood is “interested in being a larger part of our responsible growth,” she writes in her application.
By code, the planning board must have at least one member appointed from each of the city’s four districts. Districts 1, 2 and 4 are currently represented: Sandra Shank, a Realtor, represents District 4. Clint Smith, a project manager, and Charles Lemon, a retired engineer, represent District 2. James Albano, a builder, represents District 1. Gabriel is represented District 3, Dodson-Lucas District 1. As for the remaining applicants: Blose and Haywood are District 1 residents, Gross, Hilton and Nichols are District 2 residents.
“Since there are members appointed from Districts 1, 2, and 4 currently serving, Council shall make every reasonable effort to appoint from District 3 to ensure the Council districts are equally represented as practicable,” a memo to the council states. The full applications are below.
Meh, reshuffling the deck pretty much. Anyone else feel uncomfortable with Volusia County Affordable Housing Development (Section 8 or whatever the newest soft terminolgy that’s been rebadged into a new Federal/State/County program) experience that goes back to the Clinton-Bush-Obama bailouts ? Daytona & area is such a seedy and crime infested community. Remind me again, what got us into that mess again ? Could it be Clinton => Bush Unaffordable Housing that is constantly being misrepresented/misportrayed as Affordable Housing ? That affordable ship sailed back when Biden-Harris were sworn in. Between all the cash for cars & houses post scamdemic parasites on the financial hardship created by inflation & the Fed Rate Increases. I’d like to know who exactly is qualifying for mortgages or getting the Section 8 housing that appears to be the growth plan being crammed down the taxpayers throats here since the scamdemic shutdown. Just me, but instead of helping families keep their homes, there seems to be a push to displace with unaffordabe roofing & try to find an insurance company that will underwrite new business in FL at this point, the insurance companies that aren’t folding into bankruptcy. Just so that anyone doesn’t think I’m making this up. But with all of this going on, we’re just hell bent for election to continue Flagler county growth as the recession kicks into the next phase of mismanaged poverty for the masses. Maybe these news articles are just the next round of politician’s lies, not the real State of the Union in Biden’s America ?
I call BS says
He is an applicant for all the wrong reasons.
Our City Council will put on yet another puppet..
The City is getting worse by the month.
john graham says
Blose is a shoo-in. The Chamber of Commerce owns the council, and has for years. Why do you think the state C of C sent an enforcer down here when the local C of C went belly-up? Gotta keep the troops in line. Now they can make policy directly without going through intermediaries. Flagler county and Palm Coast’s one-party system is a wonder to behold.
This “head of the local chamber of commerce” is a fella that recently moved to the area when the original chamber went out of business. Literally the local chamber of commerce went out of business. Wrap your brain around that one for a moment. So this fella, smelling opportunity, swooped in and registered his new corporation. Surely with his online degrees and not a single success in creating and running an actual business he could run a county’s chamber of commerce. How hard could it be, amiright? $125 bucks at Sunbiz and you too can be the President and CEO of a county chamber of commerce!
He’s a lobbyist. He’s a professional bullshitter taking all bids. Compare this “chamber” to the surrounding county and city chambers. Chambers that typically have single entry fees with clear and concise equal benefits of such. This fella is all over the place with his membership fees, where the more you’re willing to pay the more you’ll get to hobnob with other “executives”. The Palm Coast and county governments should not allow this partican special interest nonsense to permeate their chamber and allow the misperception of a public service entity. He’s a lobbyist and will lobby for every dollar shoved into his pocket, which will mostly be from the developers and lawyers that have “Trustee level” memberships in his self-fabricated good ole boys club masquerading as a chamber of commerce. It’s an embarrassment to the thousands of real, actual hard working businesses in the local cities and county.
jeffery c. seib says
The sad fact is that whoever is chosen to be on the Planning and Land Development Review Board nothing will change, and the results will be exactly the same. Whatever the city staff, in conjunction with the developer, wants. This is the problem with these citizen committees and boards. The folks on them have no power to do anything other than vote for the proposal handed to them by city staff. The voting record is 100% for whatever is in front of them. But then, the city staff takes that vote and the project involved before the city council and says it been approved by the Planning Board. This is supposed to be one step in the project approval process. Folks can go to one meeting and see this in action. It’s a waste of time and our tax dollars. Give them some autonomy or get rid of it.
Say what you will, but I attended the Chamber lunch with Superintendent Mittelstadt today, which included a tour of FPC’s career academies. Great workforce event, got to meet local students…didn’t see any cash being shoved into any pockets. Lol.