Volusia County residents are losing their heritage, our taxes go up every year, and spending is carried out with little regard for those paying the bills. You would think the Volusia County Council chambers would be filled with angry tax payers. They are not. That is a green light to the current members to continue doing business for the area developers and business people who have an entirely different vision for our county than nearly any resident I talk to.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand the meetings occur at times where most people are busy working. I don’t blame my neighbors and friends who have lost confidence in government, at almost every level, to speak to their concerns. Daytime meetings are very difficult for most of us to attend.
A few have never quit going to represent our heritage and best interests. The recent County Council meeting provides a good illustration. On the agenda was another giveaway of expensive beach front property the citizens of Volusia County own. Oh, it was not called a giveaway, in fact it was presented as a great deal requiring a local developer to pay handsomely for the promise every sitting council member has made: to increase beach access. It was a carefully presented scheme that would have revealed to any aware county resident just how much trouble we are in. I wish you could have been there.
Representing the people where four men, regular thorns in the VCC’s side: Mike Dennis, Ken Strickland, Richard Waters, and David Lee Davis. Each rose to speak in the mostly empty chambers. One by one they asked the council to provide real beach access and to slow down the process for opening the Hard Rock in light of the very real concerns for public safety that have been exposed by the many pictures provided by Paul Zimmerman, President Son's of the Beach. Each spoke respectfully and clearly.
Men willing to stand with a community that says it is outraged simply cannot stand alone. Most Council members did not take them seriously. The spokesman were only a minor slow down on the road to fulfill their promises to the area’s leading campaign financiers. The privatization of Volusia County beaches are well underway. And you are paying for it.
Only Councilwoman Billy Wheeler asked any relevant questions of attorney Alex Ford representing Summit Hospitality. Her concern was that the new beach access would be more visually appealing and easy for people to use. Every other council member simply seemed irritated any constituent would rise to question the wisdom of their plan. Fred Lowry and Pat Patterson looked board and just wanted to get on with the plan. Heather Post, in a friendly way, told the speakers she did not understand what their problem was now. They were getting, in her opinion, more beach access and someone else was paying for it.
I don’t usually swear in public but the words Bovine Excrement come to mind. This plan was a fraud, a way to help a leading campaign contributor get the county property he needed to improve his motel. There is no beach access gained by this 50’ of county property being given to the Summit. There is no way to provide any real beach access at this location. Everyone knows it.
Volusia taxpayers may get a 4’ sidewalk, 5’ with landscaping and a bench if Mr. Ford takes Mrs. Wheeler's advice, to a walkway over the seawall. There will be no parking for anyone who might want to use this sidewalk. Any room for parking there will soon be the property of Summit for exclusive use by their guests. Good for them, great customer service is important and rare.
This narrow sidewalk will be hemmed in by motels on both sides and no parking will ever be available to residents in this location.
However, if you are brave enough to cross four lanes of traffic on busy A1A, carrying all your stuff and keeping granny and the kids from meeting the front end of passing vehicles, you can utilize your new celebrated beach access. That is if you are given permission to park for that purpose in the Bellair Plaza parking lot. It would be a shame to haul all your stuff and family back across A1A to find your car was towed. Folks, it is virtually impossible, or at least supremely difficult, for anyone to use this- some time in the future- sidewalk for beach access.
Here is more good news you missed the council selling. You won’t be paying for the sidewalk. Summit will be glad to build it for you sometime in the next 3 years. They guess it will cost $100,000 which, to their credit, is cheap for anything done by this county council and their vendors of choice. Then, and this is rich, also sometime in the next 3 years Summit will pay the County $300,000 dollars toward another beach parking lot somewhere “in the area.” That may signal danger ahead for the few homeowners that still reside there or any family owned hotel that is not contributing correctly to the right campaigns.
The $300,000 may sound like a lot of money but have you priced ocean front property in Volusia lately? While it may be a good commission for the realtor, that money won’t come close to buying enough land to be a meaningful parking area. And then how many more millions of your money will the county spend to actually remove whatever is on the property, add paving, stairways to the beach, lighting, bathrooms, and signs to list all the warnings for actually enjoying the beach?
What happened is that we gave valuable property away to a developer who, to be fair, is upgrading his property. But, at what cost to Volusia taxpayers.
The money, coming sometime in the future, was a cheap trick orchestrated by our county manager with the approval of all 7 council members. There was not enough people there to stop it. You will once again be on the hook for millions so the council can say they kept their promise of providing more beach access. It is an election year which means it will be a very expensive year for taxpayers. You are already seeing some of the beach ramps the council closed previously now being opened with great fanfare to prove they keep their word. What a system.
We would have been much better off to lease the property at fair market value and used the monthly payments to clean up the trash left in the ever increasing no drive zones.
It was discouraging to watch the council members who either really believe they closed a great deal for their constituents or are quietly laughing behind our backs as easy marks. Yes, Daytona Beach is open for business. Taxpayers are carrying the load while others celebrate the next step in the master plan.
I wish there was another way but we have to do more than complain on social media. Change comes when we are tired and it feels hopeless, but we keep working anyway. There are communities changing the status quo. We can be one of them. How?
1. Change the County Council. There are three regular council members up for reelection and the At Large seat is open. We need to fill all four seats with citizen representatives who will be your voice and vote your principles and values. That means we need to find people to run in New Smyrna, Deltona, and At Large. If you know a good woman or man call them and ask them to run. Maybe you are ready to serve in this way? But let’s find citizens, not career politicians with big names and the same backers.
2. I need your support in Zone 1 even if you don’t live in West Volusia. Every council member affects every other zone. Please support my campaign. Ask me for our bumper sticker that says "Stop the Tax Increases", which is also a current battle. We mail them out to contributors of any amount just to say thank you.
3. All of you who regularly express your frustration on social media please continue bringing light to the public. Keep it positive, keep it clean, and we can reach a larger audience.