Ending an oddly lengthy and competitive process, the Palm Coast City Council today appointed new members and two alternates to its seven-seat Planning and Land Development Regulation Board, the powerful volunteer, advisory panel that oversees land use and often is the final stop for development applications.
The council was to make the appointments at its Sept. 20 meeting. Three seats were up for appointment. Seven candidates had applied when the process started last month, among them–in another odd twist–Greg Blose, who heads the reconfigured local Chamber of Commerce: he was applying in his role as the face of the chamber, ubiquitous at local government meetings.
Among the six other candidates, two of them were incumbent members of the board (Sybil Dodson-Lucas, Christopher Gabriel), two others were incumbent alternate members, who were hoping to be appointed as full-fledged members (Hung Hilton, Suzann Nichols). Alternate members often have to fill in for a regular member who’s not able to attend.
On Sept. 20, the council made just one appointment, returning Gabriel, 53, a Realtor with Realty Executives Oceanside, to the District 3 seat he’d held for one three-year term. Council members decided to interview other candidates, one on one, outside of public view, before making additional appointments at a subsequent meeting. That was today.
In the interim, Blose had withdrawn his application. That left five candidates, two of whom–Hilton and Nichols–addressed the council today.
Hilton and Nicholson were appointed regular members of the board. Nicholson, 65, works remote for an interior design company in Pennsylvania. Hilton, 41, an IT solutions architect, has twice unsuccessfully attempted to win appointment to the City Council, once getting bested by the late Jon Netts, the second time by John Fanelli, who is serving until November.)
“Please serve well,” Council member Eddie Branquinho told the new appointees, “and remember, you’re representing the people of Palm Coast, not anybody else.” It was an oblique way of saying: special interests need not apply (though in fairness to many volunteers, the planning board and other advisory boards in the city and in other governments don’t lack for individuals representing special interests.)
Hilton’s and Nicholson’s appointments meant their alternate seats were vacated, and had to be filled by two of the three remaining candidates: Sybil Dodson-Lucas, Larry Gross and Heather Haywood. For Dodson-Lucas to be appointed, she’d need four votes, not three, since she has already served two full terms on the board. A third term requires a super-majority.
Council members chose Gross, 64, a 35-year resident of Palm Coast and a systems engineer, and, after two rounds so the four votes could be secured, Dodson-Lucas, 78, who’d cut her teeth in the role chairing a planning board in new York City.
The planning board meets monthly, on the third Wednesday, at City Hall.
It so happened that earlier in the meeting the council had proclaimed October National Planning Month, recognizing its planning staff in the bargain. Planners in local governments are like writers on a TV show: as indispensable as they tend to be marginalized: if panels like the city’s planning board or the council have it relatively easy most of the time when making land-use decisions, it’s because the legwork is usually complete by the time applications reach the dais.
“Tell me, how many designations and how many hours of extra work these folks have put in to earn this title of professional,” Mayor David Alfin asked Ray Tyner, for many years the showrunner behind Palm Coast’s planning department.
“Hundreds of thousands of hours of dedication, of our employees here,” Tyner said, standing to one side with the mayor and looking at his nine fellow-planners in the city, the development director, Jason DeLorenzo, and a guest star, Adam Mengel, Tyner’s workhorse equivalent at the county. “When I said special, they are truly special. It’s not an easy profession. They adhere to our land development code, make sure that all of our codes are being implemented correctly, looking at long-range planning, making sure that 30 years out we work with utility to make sure there’s water, transportation planning, park planning. It’s a very comprehensive profession.”
I’m pretty sure the Chamber guy has 7 kids. His hands are full enough.
And the developers stores are in place, in the county and now in the city. Time to order THE RUBBER STAMPS.
Just what we need – realtors to screw everything up !!!!!
jeffery c. seib says
Unfortunately, there is another side to the Planning Board that the city keeps under wraps. The basic facts are these. The planning Board is supposed to be an independent citizen ‘quasi-judicial’ group that considers all development projects that are brought to the city government for approval. Members are selected from categories based on their professions that the city staff has set, such as real estate, construction, business owner. How can anyone think these folks would vote against any project. They don’t. The city staff hands them a piece of paper saying they (the staff) recommends approval, and it’s approved. They have a 100% record of approving everything that city staff puts in front of them. City staff weeds out applicants to eliminate any disagreement or controversy before they get to the city council. All the apartments approved. Now people can check, they have a new group that will rubber stamp mayor Alfins “westward ho”. The codes and comprehensive plan sections that deal with environmental areas are given no attention although they do say a lot, but don’t do a lot. City staff takes the Planning Boards ‘recommendation’ to the city council as proof the project is good for our community. Much more autonomy would make it what it was originally intended to be, not the Frankenstein they have made it into.
America First 81 says
More RUBBER STAMPERS to Approve More kb (KARP BUILDERS) type developments WITHOUT reviewing how more houses will effect Traffic, Police, Fire, Water, and Sewage! The Carpetbagger Developers are DESTROYING Palm Coast’s Beautiful City Life! STOP the Realtor/Mayor’s Westward March and SAVE Flagler County’s Beautiful Farms, Ranches, and Forestland!