A record 96 percent of respondents in the latest survey of Palm Coast residents consider themselves safe in their neighborhoods, 85 percent find the quality of life good or excellent, and 92 percent intend to remain in Palm Coast over the next five years, also a record. Some 95 percent of residents who have interacted with the fire department found the experience good or excellent.
On the other hand, code enforcement remains the bête noir of a slight majority of residents, the city’s response to stormwater issues like swales doesn’t get much higher marks though 88 percent rank it as a top infrastructure need, and half of respondents are still concerned with speeding and reckless drivers.
Those are some of the numbers culled from the city’s latest biennial “home-grown survey,” as City Manager Matt Morton described it in a workshop with the city council on Tuesday. “These surveys are aimed at informing council, validating the [strategic action plan] and the priorities you’ve established, the satisfaction and an understanding of our community,” Morton said.
The surveys can serve as a more tangible marker of resident opinions than the unpredictable tenor of public comment segments at city council meetings and workshops, when issues of the day or more individually focused concerns–if not those of some candidates running for office, as was the case last fall–can create the impression of greater dissatisfaction with city operations and services than is actually the case.
But outside the survey questions, the survey’s own open-ended comment sections appended to most survey questions yielded 137 pages of single-spaced responses–opinionated, direct, and encompassing far more issues than the survey questions did. Those included many compliments and words of satisfaction, but also pointed to sharp criticism of city conditions or operations, from a sense of overdevelopment to complaints about taxes (though tax rates have been static for years), too-steep water bills, too-dark streets, lack of activities for children and seniors, lack of cultural opportunities, and so on. (Example: “More culture, better choices, better intelligence.” The full set of comments is below.)
Every other year the city contracts with a national firm to conduct the National Citizens Survey, a more scientific approach that paradoxically gets a far lower level of responses. The “home-grown survey” is drafted by the city and approved by the council, with more targeted questions and a much higher rate of return.
Some 7,060 people started this latest survey, 2,970 completed it–still a significant return rate for a survey consisting of no fewer than 40 questions, each with four to five possible answers. There were issues with the technical side of the survey, with residents getting kicked off the survey or finding answers either invalidated or locked out. The city worked to resolve the issues as they arose.
“We did experience some feedback that there were some technical issues that we worked to resolve with residents, and received some of that feedback in communication and response to emails and social media posts throughout the month,” West said.
The technical problems may explain the extent to which the survey respondents skewed to older people–people with more patience or time on their hands, thus significantly under-representing younger, working people.
Two-thirds of those completing it were 55 and older, only a fifth have children 17 or younger–rates similar to the 2018 survey–and 90 percent were homeowners (the Census Bureau’s latest numbers show a 74.3 percent owner-occupied housing rate for the city). All but 560 had at least some college education or more. And all but a dozen of the 560 had completed high school or a GED.
“The National Citizen Survey is a very static instrument,” City Administration Coordinator Denise Bevan said in comparison, with 1,700 households targeted, of which just 30 percent complete the survey, or some 400 respondents.
“The National Citizen Survey always frustrated me because it was such a small pool of residents,” Mayor Milissa Holland said, “and I don’t know if it necessarily tracked the general population using these statistics that we received. It was very prescribed, and so this gives us the ability to customize it and make sure we’re really responding to what we want to hear from our residents.”
The city acknowledges that its own survey is not scientific but rather a “snapshot” view of local perspectives, with numerous caveats and a pretty large margin of error. “Anything 7 percent or greater is basically significant, knowing that we are working with a non-scientific survey,” Bevan said.
In other words with 35.24 percent of respondents finding Palm Coast a good place to work in the last survey, while still woefully low, is a statistically valid improvement over the 2018 figure of 28 percent, or 26 percent in 2017. Oddly, respondents returned no similar satisfaction with Palm Coast as having employment opportunities: only 16 percent rated that category good or excellent, down from 20 percent in 2018 in a possible reflection of covid’s effects, but it was 15 percent in the 2017 survey, too. At least it’s up from 8 percent in 2015, when the city was still struggling out of the Great Recession.
In an open-ended question about priorities, a plurality of respondents (21 percent) cited providing job opportunities first, with protection of natural resources second (25 percent) and protecting Palm Coast’s small-town character third (13 percent). Protecting the water supply, improving traffic capacity or providing higher education opportunities each ranked at or below 7 percent in priorities.
The low response regarding higher education appears to contrast with the city’s focus on Town Center as ground zero for its new partnerships with the University of North Florida and the University of Jacksonville, both of which are opening local operations. But that low number may again be a reflection of the overwhelmingly older people who responded, and who tend to be more interested in their own recreation and shopping opportunities than in the education of the people who may be taking care of them soon.
The overall economic health of Palm Coast is now rated good or excellent by 60 percent of respondents, up from 46 percent in 2015 and 50 percent last year. That may appear to be a surprise, but given the overwhelmingly older demographic of respondents, it’s also a reflection of the relative insulation of retirees from the job market’s vagaries of the last year: had the survey question included a question about satisfaction with such things as DoorDash, the home-delivery services for restaurants and grocery store, the response might have topped 90 percent. That assumption is validated by the survey’s findings: 1,800 respondents out of 3,000 saw no change in their work (or retirement) status, and just 134 reported losing employment and 57 were furloughed.
Other categories get better “good” or “excellent” ratings: Business and services get a 57 percent satisfaction, up from 50 in 2017, shopping opportunities get 50 percent, down from 55 percent last year and the same as 2017, but that number’s change is within the margin of error. Palm Coast as a place to visit? That’s at 71 percent, up from 67 in 2019 and 63 in 2017 (lower numbers likely influenced by hurricanes those years), but down from 2015, a hurricane-free year, when it was at 74.
Palm Coast residents have always given it high marks for appearances, with that satisfaction number hovering near 90 percent, as it did again this year, with quality of life close behind at 85 percent, a statistically significant improvement over the 77 percent of 2015 and the 75 percent of 2017.
A plurality of respondents (34.5 percent) are interested in preserving the city’s natural environment–significantly more so than those interested in workforce development (25 percent). Just 5 percent are interested in “diverse housing options,” a reflection of the city’s darker underbelly: as illustrated by numerous public hearings about proposed apartment complexes and comments included in the survey, homeowners in Palm Coast remain prejudiced against affordable housing, falsely but frequently associating the low-income housing with crime and just as frequently tinging the association with racist assumptions.
“GET RID of Workforce ASAP,” one of the more unhinged respondents wrote in a comment appended to the survey and rich in falsehoods. “It’s part of Great Reset by World Economic Forum and is seeking to invade the governments all over the states to collect information and shall be one of the tools to subjugate us all by 2030.” Another comment along those lines, with a reference to Town Center near Epic Theaters, read: “No more high density housing! This place is building up enough. The area by epic is ruined.” The commenter did not explain what was meant by “ruined,” Town center being more vibrant today than it was two years ago, and no less peaceful.
“Not appreciating the low income housing going up in Palm Coast. I believe that will bring down the actual character of the community. Would love to see this stay a quiet retirement area as it was intended,” yet another commenter wrote. “Too many new people will make this a crowded area, more crime, and less desirable. Not liking what Town Center is turning into.” In fact, crime has steadily and steeply declined over the past four years.
In contrast, a plurality of respondents listed the development of the city’s Innovation District, which overlaps with Town Center, as their priority, with the development of other industrial or commercial sites getting less interest.
The survey reveals a number of curiosities when analyzed more closely, among them the revelation that, for all its recent and quite expensive renovations, Holland Park is bested by Waterfront Park as the single-most likely destination of respondents, with Holland Park in second place–though again, that may be a reflection of the survey respondents’ age and not necessarily of reality: Waterfront park, accessible only by car, is a favorite among older people, its amenities limited to sights and sounds and serenity. Holland Park, in the thick of the F Section, teems with young families, children and teens, its enormous playgrounds, basketball courts and tennis courts seldom empty of players, its dog park a pseudo-community center and its pavilions their own social beehives.
The survey also found that despite an intense focus on Palm Coast Connect, the city’s web interface with residents, it still ranked next-to-last, just above snail mail, as residents’ preferred means of communications with the city. Phone calls and emails were first and second. “Palm Coast Connect is a poor way to communicate with the city inhabitants, the water bill is sufficient enough‐ by mail or email,” one commenter wrote, as did another: “Get rid of palm coast connect, its awful,” and : “I ranked the Palm Coast Connection low on communication preference because I haven’t the faintest idea of how to interact with it.” There were a few supportive responses, but for every one of those– “Continue to promote Palm Coast Connect. It’s a very efficient way to get answers or report a concern”–there were five negative ones.
The survey also seems to have inexplicably missed asking any direct questions about one of the major municipal services the city provides: policing, through its contract with the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office.
The city is surveying residents separately about its garbage and recycling services. But the survey included a couple of questions about that: most residents are still wanting recycling, and 61 percent consider it very important or essential.
The survey drew criticism from Council member Ed Danko, who said he got some 20 calls from residents who complained about technical issues, and others who “felt that this was a leading type survey,” he said, “a guided survey is what that’s known as in the business, where they had a choice of six items, and if they picked one, the rest would populate in order, and if they didn’t go back and change it, but there was no place in a lot of these questions to put ‘other,’ check other, or not interested, or whatever. There was no option other than the questions and the answers we provided on most of these things. I know we did have a comment section at the bottom.” Danko suggested providing a none-of-the-above option in the future.
The copious set of comments contributed by survey respondents, however, suggests that residents’ input on their own terms was not inhibited by the questions.
“That’s why we do this, right?” Holland said, “it’s also to understand the response from the public on how we’re doing, areas of focus that we need to do a better job at.” In coming weeks Bevan will be meeting one-on-one with each of the council members to gauge their priorities, ahead of the council’s next goal-setting session, with the survey serving as one of the points of reference.
The full report on Palm Coast’s latest survey of residents:
MIKE OConnell says
Once again I see there was a survey taken in Palm Coast and once again I did not get to take one was looking for it in the mail .I think your survey is a joke and don’t believe one word of it.
It comes in your Email
The survey was a joke. It didn’t work properly on line and when you picked up a copy at city hall, they just printed out off the computer. But some of the questions had drop boxes which of course didn’t happen on the paper copy. Invalid survey because only 3000 resident’s opinions counted with like what 86k residents in Palm Coast? Dumb city council. I wouldn’t be surprised if the 3000 were the employees of the city.
Percy's mother says
TR’s reply sums it all up:
The survey was:
1. A joke.
2. The online survey DID NOT WORK properly, (automatically populating answers and numerical values that were not input by the individual completing the survey).
3. I was one of the first to take the survey (day it came out), noted the fact that the online survey was automatically populating answers and numerical values, and provided feedback about that exact issue in the space left for comment. The issue apparently was never fixed.
So, since the survey automatically populated answers and numerical values, the survey should have been discarded, and not used for Holland to continue the propaganda that all is GREAT in Palm Coast. Since the survey was flawed, the 3000 Palm Coast residents who actually DID NOT GIVE UP IN DISGUST, didn’t have their REAL feedback statistically valued.
The survey was basically more propaganda for the benefit of the powers that be (Mayor aka an autocrat aka very controlling).
As TR noted, “THE SURVEY WAS A JOKE”. Smoke and mirrors as usual, local, state, national.
Would the Mayor and/or Matt Morton like to be a guest on WNZF’s “Free For All Friday” to address the issue of the survey NOT WORKING (automatically populating answers and numerical values)? . . . and as well as due to the flaw, why the survey wasn’t thrown out/discarded?
How can there be any credibility in this place?
John the Baptist says
It looks to me that less than 1% of the population of 93,000 residents responded to this survey. This does not look good for the the city staff that wrote this survey. It had many errors and questionable responses. In the world of business a 2% or higher rate is acceptable. This is what happens when you let those that think they are the “Jack of all trades” get involved. Hate to say it but the city media/communications team dropped the ball on this.
Monte Cristo says
Yet another survey, and another and another.
Why can’t the City Council just manage? Tell us what good for us with leadership.
Once again, we have a City Manager that is weak. Guided by the Mayor. He shrugs off what the other Coucilmen ask until they stop asking.
Contracts given with no bids and services like code enforcement are either bullies or merely ineffective.
Weak leadership from a Mayor that hasn’t held a real job until the Coastal Cloud and let’s not go there, that has no business experience yet had to hire a City Manager with minimal experience (How did he make the short list) so she can lead him by the nose.
I love this City but the people at the top are the worst I’ve ever seen.
To those thinking of moving to Palm Coast; If you’re over the age of 55, experienced a loss of hearing and a decline in cognitive abilities, Palm Coast is just the place for you. For some of us who haven’t made it that far and hold civil liberties to heart, living in Palm Coast is an Orwellian Twilight Zone. A surreal, suburban utopia. The near constant droning sound of multiple flight schools penetrating our rooftops would be enough to drive Vincent Van Gogh to cut off his other ear if he were only alive to experience what it’s like living here (and nowhere near the airport.) Oh, but wait! I almost forgot. You can take a trip to the beach or the park and get away from it all right? Good luck as the paradise you’ll seek is most likely located outside of a residential area, therefore, permitting students to fly the same heard of buzzing cash cows even lower before 80% of the same students drop out and move on to another career. I’ll bet that instagram photo wearing the headset in the cockpit was worth it though as 90,000 PC residents beneath them have no other choice but to listen and inhale leaded avgas farts. Don’t bother complaining to the FAA though, as they will likely assign a flight instructor from an offending flight school to “investigate” and dismiss their own actions as legal under their own set of outdated rules and regulations.
But if you’re feeling up to it and want to take a quick drive and roll the dice for some much needed R & R, go for it. You’ll most likely pass through Flagler County’s geofence of license plate readers quietly sharing your location information to law enforcement and the DHS’s local fusion center. Here is where the real fun begins! In order to justify budgets, salaries and “cutting edge” technology costs they need a boogeyman list. If you’ve managed to be lucky enough to fit a biased algorithm on steroids from a private security contractor whose business model is to generate such a list, then tag… you’re it! Now you and your family can enjoy soaking up the sun while being hunted like a wild animal by some real useful “patriots” defending our country from other Americans who are flagged as “potential” threats. Don’t worry, they’ll throw a few real felons on the list to make it look good and catch a few bad guys along the way however, a few won’t justify the scope and scale of operational costs so relax and welcome to the party. Enjoy your new life. Welcome to Palm Coast. Don’t let the high suicide statistics scare you away.
Question to HotelCalic : was the airport there before you bought your house, if so, is the airport suppose to close because you didn’t think ahead ?
Gina Weiss says
Bob please let’s not have anymore debate about which came first the chicken or the egg. At this point we are all trying to coexist with our airport. We all fully know that the airport was here when we purchased our homes but did not expect the MAGNITUDE of the flight school air traffic without noise abatement in place. We have all hashed this out over and over again and it is time we move on to improve the quality of life for all our community residents. There are more houses being built in our area and more being purchased by young families as well as retirees especially with people leaving other states for a better life. Lets all try to work together to help one another instead of constantly beating each other up. Again if anyone would like to have a voice in this matter please join the team.
Gina Weiss says
I would also like to add that we have lost some very nice neighbors in our community, one who fought for us and worked very hard to help find some solutions to this issue and we thank him from the bottom of our hearts for helping us put this on the table. So lets just continue his work. I’m sure that Flagler County and Palm Coast want to see our community thrive and not want to see it as a revolving door community which is not good for developers ,realtors, and most importantly our residents.
Do not agree, as I searched for my spot in this area I took notice of the airport AND housing stock &
development plans in that area, my 1st impression was problems ahead. I choose a different area with also nice neighborhoods BUT not airport headaches.
Gina Weiss says
so Bob, kudos for you, are you affiliated with the airport in any way? Did you READ my comment about noise abatement? Do you know something we don’t? Seems to me you want to drag and rehash this topic all over again and we are not going back to the bad old days. Residents are not only complaining in our area BUT ALL OVER PC and even in Flagler about these flight training schools training over their homes. With your argument did the people who bought their homes near the new Garden development also not check twenty years prior? Did the residents who bought their homes close to I95 not expect to hear the traffic? Maybe we should make you the official insider rep, for people buying homes here since you are such an expert on where to buy and where not to buy! Point being anything can pop up anywhere without the public’s awareness and again in case you missed my the point, residents were not aware of the MAGNITUDE of the FLIGHT SCHOOLS day and night training without NOISE ABATEMENT in place because once again sign offs were done with no public notice, no public address under a stack of numerous agendas and rubber stamped. Stay nice and cozy wherever you are and peace out bro!
yes I read your comments (sounds like you have finally finished your 2nd year of residency);
no I am not affiliated with the airport;
no I am not a comment troll as you appear to be;
no I am not interested in your “we” appointment to a whiner “insider” group;
no I do not have problems on Belle Terre — because I use my blinker so those cement trucks
you whine about going to the residential projects you mentioned;
no I don’t think a new resident like you has a good grasp on this area’s history, especially
when wearing blinders and ear plugs are your favorite clothing;
Gina Weiss says
Bob: 2 more questions: Do you fly? How do you stand on dolphin captivity? Inquiring minds would like to know! By the way get your facts straight, I owned my home here for over 15 years and I am not a new resident, this is not my 2nd year of residency so YOUR trolling is incorrect and I do use my blinker. Also check out the 1st amendment, Freedom of Speech, “we have the right to “WHINE” as your interpretation puts it!
Do the survey again, isn’t fair couldn’t get in to do it kept getting kicked off.
I experienced no problems filling out the survey. I’ve never had any problem filling out a City of Palm Coast survey. Im not sure why people are having problems.
Gina Weiss says
Hotel Cali: OMG I must congratulate you on such a entertaining analogy of the ongoing flight school saga, you did make me laugh even though this has not been a laughing matter in our community who has endured what you have described. Thanks to all who have gone to the FCBOCC meetings and spoke openly about this situation and thanks to Jerry Cameron who initially put it on the agenda. As a result a new committee has been formed, headed by Heidi Petito which comprise airport officials, pilots, professors and community residents in regard to putting forward and publishing noise abatement procedures so that our community can coexist with our airport and to continue to have open discussion among the committee and our community. If anyone is interested in joining this committee please contact Ms. Petito at the FCBOCC, she is a wonderful person and is always open to hear ideas and suggestions .These flight school deals go back years and initially were made without public knowledge or community input and kept hush hush until our community saw and heard these planes soaring over our heads constantly all day long. Deals were also made with county officials who are long gone and those who are no longer on this FCBOCC, you will be surprised if you research the names of those who had signed off on this matter. Our community is experiencing some improvement in the number and frequency of air flight school traffic as a result. We are hoping it remains this way and look forward to future improvement with noise abatement.
Michael Brown says
Residents care about natural beauty, not bringing in industry– that’s clear
The Voice Of Reason says
I too had trouble online with the survey. It was defective when I tried to offer my input. I’ll put my 2 cents worth in here. Both Belle Terre and SR 100 need a traffic lane added both directions, especially Belle Terre. Turn lanes too. Regarding the airport, thank you Heidi, Gina and all the others that worked to improve this issue. This airport must regulate flight school operations when possible, (weather permitting), with regards to touch and go operations, spreading take offs EVENLY in all possible directions, and limit night training to certain nights and time cut offs. The neighborhood to the SW of the airport has suffered miserably with the vast majority of take off activity, (LOUD NOISE and real air pollution). It can and should be spread out in all 4 possible directions. (weather permitting). Lastly, the repaving on the mainly used runway has created an illusion of peace. It will end soon. The HUGE amount of new residents are in for a RUDE awakening if it goes back to what it was like prior to the meetings and repaving.
Gina Weiss says
Voice of Reason: Thank you for your input enlightenment, and expertise. I am going to add another 2 cents while we are on the Belle Terre lane issue. We definitely need turning lanes. It is so dangerous trying to turn into our section when there are cement and Mack trucks up on our arses blowing their fog horn because we slow down to make a turn. At the intersection near Starbucks the speed limit sign reads 50mph, if you go the opposite way towards Publix and past Walgreens the speed limit is 45mph. When approaching the curve in the road on the Starbucks side of Belle Terre you come to a curve that reads 35mph, some cars slow down some do not as they try to intimidate you by riding your arse and if that’s not enough to scare the daylights out of you they will pass you at great speed while ahead are oncoming cars like they are playing chicken. I reported this to a dispatcher at the sheriffs office when a cement truck recently almost ran me off the road as I proceeded to turn into my section. The gentleman told me that he would have someone call me but that never happened, he also told me that they would set up one of those traffic speed vehicles but this never happened, he seemed more annoyed that I was calling. My opinion is that 50mph is way to fast to come barreling down this area as we all know people are going way above this speed limit they are probably going 70mph or so. Maybe 50 mph was good when we were not so populated as we are now a growing community and we have much more traffic with more people living in our area. This speed limit needs to be reevaluated for our safety as we have children walking home from school, school buses dropping off children, people jogging, walking their dogs, riding bikes, crossing to go o Starbucks and other areas to shop.
My biggest problem is the amount of houses that are becoming rentals. That in itself is not bad but to many become subleted and the owners don’t know or care. Cars are parked in swales and on front yards trash is left out for days, I have called code enforcement many times but there seems to be no result. Makes me wonder why I pay my taxes
1st AMENDMENT RIGHTS says
WOW BOB! You are having a b–ch fit because you “DISAGREE” for a little solace for the people surrounding the airport community Heidi Petito , her team of experts , Gina and the past residents who worked tirelessly going to meetings, should just throw all their efforts out the window? According to the Master Plan maybe the developers should have bought up all those hundreds of homes and acres of land and not have developed on those sites which are still being developed with more homes and businesses, not to mention the dangers, I see more and more people in this community walking and driving to stores and businesses therefore there is even a greater need for some kind of control as Hotel Cali had mentioned, or do you prefer for people to be silent as you try to shame and humiliate those who were blindsided and sucker punched because they were not given the opportunity to raise hell and make their voices heard before these flight schools were signed off to profit those in cahoots.
SASHAY AWAY says
Does this mean that BOB is not going to join the team?
Glad I read this as part of my research in relocating to Palm Coast.