“Did they get you to trade your heroes for ghosts?”
“Hot ashes for trees? Hot air for a cool breeze?”
“Cold comfort for change?”
Wish you were here, Pink Floyd
On Wednesday, the DeBary City Council voted down a motion opposing development on the Gemini Springs Annex. It would have been no more than a symbolic statement, really, but perhaps a starting point to correcting the sins of the recent past.
But no. It seems the majority of elected officials in DeBary just want to “move on.”
I guess they do.
It’s like a hit-and-run driver trying to put as much time and distance as possible from the carnage he caused. Don’t talk about it. Don’t accept responsibility for it. Just get away from it.
Unfortunately, this debacle is not something you can simply ignore, or run away from. This is a criminal quagmire of personal, political and corporate corruption and represents the vilest instincts of elected and appointed officials laid bare.
And it has destroyed the public’s trust in their government.
Even with the white-hot spotlight of public scrutiny shining down, DeBary City Councilman Chris Carson continues to whistle past the graveyard as he insanely suggests that the City can simply “build around” the controversial 102 acres of conservation lands that were recently transferred to the County of Volusia by the St. John’s River Water Management District.
Perhaps it’s time Councilman Carson and the others come to the sobering realization that they are in real trouble here. And so is their community.
With the exception of Mayor Clint Johnson, the City Council is under active criminal investigation by the Office of the State Attorney and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and suspicion about who knew what and when is growing by the hour.
Rather than do the right thing and begin purging City Hall of the half-bright shysters who thought up and perpetrated this patently corrupt plan to surreptitiously acquire and radically develop the Gemini Springs Annex as part of a much larger “transit oriented development,” these clowns act like it’s business as usual.
They fiddle while DeBary burns.
Then, in perhaps the most unbelievable, and undeniable, act of this entire squalid affair, this week we learned that DeBary officials knew as early as April that the Henin Group – DeBary’s most prolific developer – turned nearly 30-acres of virgin forest along the banks of Konomac Lake into a moonscape.
No permits. No environmental impact analysis. No relocation of endangered species.
They just willfully and wantonly – and I believe with a well-formed criminal intent – raped the land and left a fetid gouge of muddy wasteland behind.
Thanks to the excellent investigative journalism of Daytona Beach News-Journal reporter Dinah Pulver, we know that the approximately 64-acre site is earmarked to become a residential subdivision known as Riviera Bella East; however, city and state officials say the Henin Group has not submitted final subdivision plans to the city or applied for an environmental resource permit from the St. Johns River Water Management District.
According to the News-Journal, Henin Group CFO Mike Kalin would have us believe that this is all a big “misunderstanding” – and that the developer didn’t realize a permit would be required to clear the land.
Yes, you read that right.
After being in the property development industry for over 20-years, THE HENIN GROUP DIDN’T REALIZE THEY NEEDED A PERMIT TO STRIP CLEAR 30-ACRES.
Of all the mendacious, deceitful, double-dealing shit that has been forced down the throats of the good people of DeBary, this takes the cake. Hell, this takes the whole bakery.
Many smart people are shaking their heads – and everyone wants to know the score.
According to DeBary’s shameless “Growth Management Director” Matt Boerger, on April 13, Florida Power & Light contacted the City of DeBary to report the land clearing which resulted in silt runoff into a holding reservoir FP&L uses at its nearby power plant on the St. Johns River.
That’s April 13, 2016, boys and girls. Two months ago.
You might remember it was early May when Dinah Pulver first broke the story on the City of DeBary’s hiring of John Miklos – the chairman of the St. Johns River Water Management District Governing Board and owner of Bio Tech Consulting, Inc. – to quietly ramrod the acquisition of the disputed 102-acres of the Gemini Springs Annex.
At that time, the entire city staff – including disgraced former City Manager Dan Parrott – either knew or should have known that the Henin Group had illegally scoured some 30-acres of virgin forest off the face of the earth – and no one said a word.
According to City Councilman Rick Dwyer – who, in my view, has been the only sitting elected official who has shown even a scintilla of leadership since this ugly debacle started – is quoted as saying that he isn’t “at all happy” with either Jerome Henin or city staff.
From the “painfully obvious” file, Councilman Dwyer said, “I’m upset as well that the moment we learned of this we didn’t go out and make sure there were no other activities.”
No one even left the office.
According to the intrepid Matt Boerger (you know, the guy responsible for “managing growth” for the good citizens of DeBary) when he learned of the clearing he told the developer to “get erosion control up along that dam.”
But when Henin dismissed Boerger as the ineffectual piss-ant he is and continued to churn the land into primordial ooze, Boerger got tough.
He “reminded the developer about the permit.”
Finally, in early June the City got around to issuing stop work orders. (After the work was done, and the developer continued to give his middle finger to the lethargic directives of city officials.)
However, the order which stopped construction at a nearby Henin development was quickly rescinded when the company agreed to submit a stormwater pollution prevention plan and also to file a final subdivision plan by June 27.
Man. Those DeBary officials are tough sons-of-guns when they have to be.
Prior to my retirement from law enforcement, my agency had responsibility for enforcing city codes and ordinances, including the issuance of tree removal permits.
If someone took down a specimen tree – such as a historic live oak – without having first received an appropriate permit they faced tough fines and sanctions. Including the angry scorn and ridicule of their neighbors.
One tree is a travesty – 100 trees is a “misunderstanding.”
Interestingly, in defending his company’s actions, Kalin noted that, “We didn’t ignore them. We were talking to the city,” he said. “That’s the city’s power vacuum, that nobody is talking to each other.”
I believe that.
In my view, this is a government so dysfunctional and broken that it is ripe for exploitation.
When a power vacuum exists – one in which there really is no one minding the store – shrewd developers and other unscrupulous bastards who make their very bread-and-butter off the public tit will invariably take advantage of it.
The long and short of it is this: Those who were elected, appointed, and paid with public funds to work in the public interest simply abandoned their sworn responsibilities and let the wolves feed.
Absolutely no one stood up to lead, protect or guide a community in crisis.
We now know that Dan Parrott was a congenital liar and a shameless jack leg – a gutless bum more interested in safeguarding his own self-interests than protecting his community. When the walls started to close in, Dan did what any craven low-life would – he ran out the back door with a sack full of taxpayer money in the form of severance and other lucrative payouts.
Only in government service do you voluntarily quit a job and receive severance?
Since when are public officials under active criminal investigation simply allowed to write the terms of their exit to their personal advantage?
Talk about a leadership vacuum.
When Jerome Henin was running wild on Fort Florida Road – Matt Boerger didn’t have the common pluck to even leave his office. He just sat there – sternly reminding the developer of his permit obligations while the excavators and bulldozers roared.
How about Roger Van Auker? Do you think he was going to step up to the plate and demonstrate some leadership for the citizens who pay his lucrative public salary?
Ladies and gentlemen, Roger Van Auker – DeBary’s own Transit Oriented Development Marketing Director (who was handpicked by Dan Parrott) is the former Vice President and Chief Executive Officer of Henin Realty Group!
I don’t make this shit up, folks.
Now, I’m not suggesting Van Auker had an obligation here (but he did); however, I seriously question whether or not Roger ever left Henin’s employ?
How about Mayor Clint Johnson – one would think that he would have risen to the emergency, took the reins, and actually lived up to his sworn obligation to provide political leadership and aggressively defend his community.
No. Hizzoner was preening for the media on a makeshift junk-boat that he would have us believe he was going to navigate across the open ocean.
He’s been effectively neutered anyway.
The Mayor’s goofy larking about has resulted in an iron boot placed firmly on his throat, now totally controlled by the whims of his fellow elected officials and one vote away from being cashiered.
Where I come from, in the aftermath of the wholesale destruction of environmentally sensitive property, no one – and I mean no one – would have been permitted access to this tract of land.
In my view, this is a crime scene.
Until a forensic examination of the land can be completed by law enforcement, foresters, wildlife experts and the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, absolutely no one should be permitted near the area – especially not the offending developer.
The News-Journal is reporting that Governor Rick Scott’s Wildlife Conservation Commission assigned an officer to the case who was “in training” until Friday.
Apparently, this is the sense of urgency Slick Rick and the boys put on the wholesale destruction of endangered species and their habitat, virgin forest, and environmentally sensitive wetlands.
Now that Mr. Henin has improved his 30-acres on the shores of Konomoc Lake – now that he has made Riviera Bella more marketable with a “water front” component, now that the damage is done – the City of DeBary lets him destroy any physical evidence on the property by leveling it off, sowing grass seed and generally tidying things up.
According to the wildlife commissions spokesman, City officials are scheduled to do another site visit and report their findings back to the FWC.
Do you really think the City of DeBary is going to find ANY evidence of wrongdoing? I’ll bet you a donut they don’t find a single Gopher tortoise or eagles nest within a mile of that mess.
If this isn’t the very textbook definition of governmental malfeasance and misfeasance – at multiple levels – I don’t know what is.
And where in the hell is the federal government?
Folks, if this “Debacle in DeBary” hasn’t exposed anything else – it has splayed wide open the complete ineptitude, incompetence and even open complicity of certain government regulatory agencies.
One would think with as much publicity as the out-of-control chaos in DeBary has garnered in recent weeks, the Governor would have personally ensured that FWC and any living remnants of the former Department of Environmental Protection (if there are any) would be dispatched immediately to investigate.
Not in an administration where greed-heads and habitual environmental criminals reign supreme, and anyone who questions their motives are marginalized and considered a hindrance to “progress.”
Who do we complain to? The St. Johns River Water Management District?
How about John Miklos?
How can good people stand idle?
How can those we pay to protect us and our natural resources abdicate their sworn responsibility?