The Palm Coast City Council on Tuesday approved four related measures that will advance the opening to development of 12,000 acres on the west side of U.S. 1, from the Matanzas Woods Parkway area, including a $25 million state grant contributing to the cost of a $31 million connector road, dubbed a “flyover,” that will cross above the Florida East Coast railroad corridor.
Other measures include spending $450,000 to design and calculate the cost of relocating Florida Power and Light infrastructure for the extension (FPL calculates that cost at $3.3 million), a $420,000 land purchase from Forestar Real Estate Group, and the providing of an easement to Forestar. The FPL appropriation rankled some of the council members, especially in the manner in which FPL explained the cost to the city.
“We’re not a small city anymore. We give them a lot of money,” City Council member Theresa Pontieri said of FPL. “They’re a very large service provider for us, and I think we deserve a little bit better.”
The city believes that one or more western-extension roads are needed to promote development in that part of the city. So this one could be only the first. “Opening these quarters will promote economic activities in Palm Coast and Flagler County,” said Carl Cote, the city’s engineering and stormwater director. Last June the council approved a $5.7 million contract with England-Thim & Miller for design and engineering services on the project. That design is 90 percent complete, with some, but not all, the necessary rights of way purchased or obtained, and approvals for the project from FEC, whose own right of way is being crossed, in progress. The completion date for the flyover is set for Oct. 31, 2026, according to the terms of the agreement with the state.
Palm Coast secured $25 million in a legislative special appropriation last year, to be provided through the Florida Department of Transportation, for the flyover. The city will spend spend $6.5 million of its own for the project. Because of the city match, the state’s contribution is all but guaranteed, up to the $25 million obligation. The city’s portion is drawn from transportation impact fees, the one-time levy on new construction designed to defray the “impact” of new development.
The long-term goal is for a loop road that will go from Matanzas Woods Parkway over the railroad, curve south through the west-side expanse, then loop back east and cross the railroad again, with another flyover, at Palm Coast Parkway and U.S. 1, thus opening that corridor.
At a County Commission meeting on Monday, Commissioner Dave Sullivan, during a discussion about roundabouts, said he’d “heard that the Route 1 roundabout that we put in recently is going to go away, because it didn’t work.” He was referring to the roundabout at U.S. 1 and Matanzas Woods Parkway. Sullivan was not correct. A transportation department spokesperson confirmed that the roundabout at U.S. 1 and Matanzas Woods Parkway is staying–and doing the job of reducing severe crashes. There has been no fatalities at that intersection since the roundabout was built several years ago. The roundabout that appears to be on its way out is the much smaller roundabout–a roundabout almost to nowhere–west of the U.S. 1 roundabout, which, according to Palm Coast’s design plans, will be replaced by the flyover intersection.
The $450,000 to FPL is only a non-refundable deposit on what will be the much larger sum of $3.3 million to relocate electrical infrastructure. The $450,000 will be applied to the total cost of the infrastructure transfers, and the city intends to use state grant money to cover those costs.
FPL cautions strongly that even the $3.3 million is only an estimate that, according to Thomas Colucci, FPL’s relocation coordinator, “does not include the cost to relocate any distribution facilities, facilities belonging to another utility or potential third-party costs associated with the relocation, such as survey work; acquisition and recording of easements; clearing easements of trees and obstructions which are calculated on a case by case basis as part of the overall cost of the relocation.” Colucci made his points to the city in a letter last September. So the final bill could increase substantially.
Colucci’s letter was oddly curt, considering that Palm Coast is among the company’s largest customers in the county. “This estimate is not an offer from FPL to perform the requested work and should not be construed or used as such for detailed planning purposes,” he’d written. “It is provided only to assist your decision-making, and will remain valid for 90
days from the date of this letter.” (It has been more than 90 days since the letter’s authorship.)
“This is a ridiculous letter to me,” Pontieri said, noting that FPL was charging the city $450,000 just to provide a more precises estimate of the final cost. “FPL is already taking, like, two months to fix streetlights for us. So to give us this ballpark, nonbinding preliminary estimate at $3.3 million doesn’t really allow us to budget appropriately in my opinion. Then we’re going to go ahead and give them $450,000 just so that they can give us a proper estimate at what this will cost. I just find this to be incredibly unprofessional on behalf of FPL. And I would hope that in the future, this is not the type of communication we get from FPL, and that we can perhaps get something that’s a little more reliable without having to pay half a million dollars for it, that we can properly budget with our taxpayers monies as well. So whoever wants to relay that message to FPL, or you can just tell us where we are in the meeting and they can just play the tape. But I expect different from FPL in the future.”
“They’re in a position of power here and that’s the problem,” Council member Nick Klufas said. “It’s their sandbox, their shovel, we’re playing with all their rules. So yeah, the same frustrations also when they replace poles without giving the city the option to at least discuss undergrounding some of the infrastructure. I find that also kind of not very team player-ish, but here we are and the lights are on. Thank goodness.”
Mayor David Alfin wondered what kind of “line in the sand” could be drawn against FPL. He suggested approaching FPL through the city’s lobbyist in Tallahassee. “This is the moment in time when if you want to squeeze them a little bit, trust me, this is the right time to do that,” the mayor said.
“If they turn out your lights, we’ll know the answer,” Council member Ed Danko said.
Cote said the FPL portion of the project was “critical” to its overall advancement of the flyover project. He cautioned: “FPL is in an easement. They don’t have to move. We’re asking them to move. This is their process. So that number could go up. It could go down. But with the information they have today, they can’t give us a better number until they do design work, and they can’t do design work until they spend money or we give them money to begin the design process.”
The council approved all the flyover-related measures, the FPL “deposit” included, in unanimous votes.west-side-measures