Hey, Daytona Beach Shores, welcome to the club!
Last week, we added the citizens in the condo canyons of Daytona Beach Shores to the long list of hapless victims who have had their lunch money stolen by their elected and appointed officials in Volusia County government – the proverbial Scut Farkus of political bullies.
Officials in the Shores were banking on using their limited supply of beachfront property for additional vertical growth to support the communities tax base. You know, the whole idea of managing local resources to meet the collective needs of residents?
The quaint notion of controlling your own destiny through self-governance might work elsewhere, but not in Volusia County.
That concept is as outdated as a creepy Norman Rockwell painting.
Somewhere along the way, We, The People, were out bid.
Here, the ulterior motives of a powerful few trump the needs, wants and desires of local government – and the long-suffering citizens who pay the bills – every time.
For the last several years, county manager Jim Dinneen, with the acquiescence of our elected officials, has been spending public funds to purchase incredibly expensive parcels of beachfront property (both east and west of A-1-A) like a drunken sailor.
In fact, he spent all he could from the county’s general fund, then tapped into our ECHO monies – you know, the program that taxes county residents for “cultural, historical and outdoors projects,” but now serves as Jim Dinneen’s real estate slush fund?
(Which is just one reason no one in Volusia County should ever trust a tax initiative again.)
Last July, the county purchased the Surf N’ Sand Motel in Daytona Beach for $2.7 million.
In May 2015, Volusia agreed to a $1.7 million price for property adjacent to the former Desert Inn (which is undergoing an endless renovation project).
A month earlier, the county bought the former Ellinor Village Shopping Center in Ormond Beach for $1.8 million.
In addition, Volusia County also bought property on Hiles Boulevard in New Smyrna Beach for $370,000; the Argosy Motel in Ormond-by-the-Sea for $1.25 million – along with a lot, and the Jasmin Motel, in Daytona Beach Shores for $2.95 million and $1.4 million respectively.
In total, the county has spent some $12.1 million of our money on seven beachside properties since 2013.
These lands are set to be turned into ‘off-beach’ parking lots – the precursor to eliminating beach driving and parking once and for all.
Look, you can’t offer the Big Enchilada of “economic incentives” – a traffic-free beach – to every foreign speculative developer who blows into town if the lumpen masses keep driving up and down the strand.
They must make it so onerous for residents that we simply give-up and go away. You know, like our visitors did. . .
It looks to me like Jim Dinneen and Company have determined the time is nigh to end the public pleasure of beach driving and set the stage for implementing the wants of the High Panjandrums of Political Power – the uber-wealthy insiders whose mere presence direct our elected representatives and control virtually every aspect of our lives here on the “Fun Coast.”
Per a recent report in the News-Journal, Daytona Beach Shores officials hoped to modify the county’s plan to pave some of the most valuable real estate on the east coast of Florida and put up parking meters.
Apparently, the residents of the Shores had the audacity to request some amenities – a playground, fitness areas, and a picnic facility – in exchange for their collective financial sacrifice.
“We are not crazy about having a parking lot on that parcel,” Shores City Manager Michael Booker said, calling one of the parcels, across from the Red Lobster, “one of the most valuable properties in Volusia County.”
In some weird sleight-of-hand designed to delay the inevitable (while still appearing to give a shit), Jim Dinneen pulled the controversial item from last week’s county council agenda, assuring us that he wanted to give staff more time to listen to “new ideas” from the city.
In this first skirmish over beach access issues since our new council took office, our chairman, Ed Kelley, and council member Billie Wheeler – both former municipal representatives – should have used this opportunity to stand up to Dinneen’s aggression, slap his nose with a rolled-up agenda package, and say enough is enough!
Instead, they telegraphed which side of the ball they plan to line up on when it comes to protecting our heritage of beach driving – or mending fences with the cities, for that matter.
Most smart people could have called this one in November.
Last week, Jim Dinneen explained to us (and our elected officials) exactly what the councils “plan” will be when it comes to beach access issues:
“Our goal is to look long term for the entire county,” Dinneen said. “The key is making sure long after we are gone that people have access to the ocean. That’s the plan of the council.”
And by access, Little Jimmy is referring to hauling your kids, chairs, umbrellas and beach gear across four lanes of Atlantic Avenue from a scorching metered parking lot.
Unfortunately, Ms. Wheeler has already caved to Dinneen’s entrenched “Us vs. Them” stratagem for steamrolling the municipalities.
While stating that she “cares deeply” about the needs of Daytona Beach Shores residents from one side of her mouth, Wheeler immediately agreed with Dinneen’s “100-year beach access plan,” stating that she met with city staff just last week to “communicate and try to get them on our side.”
Our side? Really?
That didn’t take long. You learned your role quick, Billie.
Thanks for nothing.
Want to speculate on which way Chairman Kelley will lean on this one?
Come on, Ed. Surprise us. Do the right thing, for the right reason, and stop Dinneen’s belligerence against your constituents.
After all, wasn’t repairing relationships a core plank of your campaign?
Do you ever feel like you’re just along for the ride?
Because you are.
While Ed Kelley struggles to get his sea legs, this ship of fools remains tragically adrift – and the bilge rats still control the wheelhouse.
Right before our eyes, Dinneen and his lock-step elected lackeys are ramrodding their “vision” of traffic-free (read: private) beaches to encourage “additional development” – even if it takes castrating the growth and stability of every municipal tax base on the beachside.
Trust me. All the pieces are falling into place nicely – this council will take more of our beach – and they will do it using our own tax dollars.
If you don’t like it, talk to County Attorney Dan Eckert. He’s the muscle.
The council’s cheapjack thug. A mean-spirited prick who’s made a cottage industry out of suing his own constituents whenever they dare raise issue with Dinneen’s avaricious beach policy.
At the end of the day, there’s not a damn thing you or I can do about it.
The fix is in.
Unless and until the cities make it abundantly clear that we will no longer tolerate this unchecked aggression from Deland, then we are doomed to remain victims of a system that neither wants or needs our input – only our money.