Angels & Assholes for December 8, 2017

Hi, kids!

It’s time once again to turn a jaundiced eye toward the newsmakers of the day – the winners and losers – who, in my cynical opinion, either contributed to our quality of life, or detracted from it, in some significant way.

Let’s look at who tried to screw us – and who tried to save us – during the week that was:

Asshole:          Consolidated-Tomoka Land Company

Looks like the “Good Ol’ Boys Investment Club” d/b/a Consolidated-Tomoka Land Company, has a problem in the expensive pine scrub off LPGA Boulevard.

Or do they?

For months, I’ve screamed like a scalded banshee about the ultimate environmental impact of building an 8,000-unit faux beach community on sensitive wetlands and recharge areas near tributaries of the Tomoka River – a watershed that is incredibly important to the life of the Halifax area.

If you haven’t noticed, those little fenced-in compounds you see along LPGA Boulevard just outside the main gate of Jimmy Buffett’s under-construction utopia are the City of Holly Hill’s potable water wells – and the City of Daytona Beach’s wellfields aren’t too far away.

These pumps tap into the Floridan Aquifer and represent our sole source of drinking water.

According to a report this week by the intrepid Dinah Voyles Pulver in the Daytona Beach News-Journal, our friends at Consolidated-Tomoka Land Company illegally dredged, filled and destroyed 163-acres of wetlands on land that is now being developed by Minto Communities as Latitudes at Margaritaville.   

 In turn, the United States Environmental Protection Agency fined Consolidated-Tomoka $187,500 – and ordered them to mitigate the ecological damage by restoring or “creating” some 132-acres of wetlands.

In keeping with the “we do as we want” arrogance that pervades the high perch of certain Volusia County elites – Consolidated-Tomoka began work on the EPA ordered palliation effort without the required permission of the St. John’s River Water Management District.

No problem.

Remember – the rules are different here.

Naturally – and despite the slimy controversies and unanswered ethical questions – Consolidated-Tomoka hired Orlando-based Bio-Tech Consulting to manage the mitigation project.  You may remember that Bio-Tech’s president, Long John Miklos, just happens to be the chairman of the St. John’s River Water Management District.

You know, the very government regulatory agency responsible for protecting our drinking water?

When the permitting snafu was discovered by the SJRWMD, the agency notified Minto Communities – who also uses Bio-Tech as its “environmental consultant.”

Apparently, on November 8, Consolidated-Tomoka applied for permission to complete the work as ordered by the EPA.

According to the News-Journal, “When Consolidated-Tomoka agreed to the EPA’s settlement, the federal agency also stated the company couldn’t get mitigation credit for restoring and creating the wetlands. However, the application to the water management district from Consolidated-Tomoka and Bio-Tech asks the district for state mitigation credit for the work. The application seeks 46.72 credits for the work, which Consolidated- Tomoka could use in exchange for wetland impacts to other properties.”

Again – no problem.

 The bureau chief of the SJRWMD’s regulatory program, Michelle Reiber, said the state doesn’t have the same restrictions as the federal government when claiming mitigation credit for the work.

Wait a minute? 

Consolidated-Tomoka is seeking approximately $6-million in credits for a $2-million-dollar mitigation project and $187,500 fine, after being specifically prohibited from receiving those credits by the federal government?

I guess that’s how environmental crimes are prosecuted here in the Sunshine State. . .

And since when does an asinine “help here, hurt there” state mitigation “credit” strategy trump federal environmental protection regulations and decrees?

Wanna hear the kicker?

Consolidated-Tomoka recently announced that it plans to get into the lucrative mitigation banking business!

Yep.

The environmental miscreant-turned-conservationist stated it plans to seek permits for a “mitigation bank” by placing 2,500 acres it owns adjacent to Tiger Bay State Forest into conservation through a mitigation bank.

According to reports, the current price for environmental mitigation credits in the region ranges between $100,000 and $150,000 per credit.

Per credit.

Wow.  You do the math. . .

Did I mention the rules are different here?

Because they are.

The Tomoka River has been designated an Outstanding Florida Water by the state’s Department of Environmental Protection as “worthy of special protection because of their natural attributes.” 

Studies have found that these waterways require special restrictions on development and other activities that may degrade water quality or disturb the waterway.

In a 1995 report by the University of Florida’s Center for Wetlands to the St. Johns River Water Management District regarding the importance of habitat protections zones on the Tomoka River and Spruce Creek, research indicated that further development of the area would be detrimental:

“Both the Tomoka and Spruce Creek rivers exhibit some undisturbed stretches along their water courses, intermingled with development. Yet, because of increasing urban growth pressures within the region, continued development, loss of habitat, and decline of aquatic resources may be expected.” 

 “Data collected by the Volusia-Flagler Sierra Club (1989a, 1989b) in support of Outstanding Florida Water designations for the Tomoka River and Spruce Creek, point to two rivers with fair to good water quality and relatively intact faunal populations.  Data developed in the course of this study show increasing development pressure, which can only mean further declines in habitat value and water quality.”

Yet, the Margaritaville development and others were approved anyway.

And don’t give me any bullshit about buffer zones and set asides.

I find it interesting that the Tomoka River – which naturally drains some 119 square miles from Port Orange to Ormond Beach over its nearly 20-mile flow – is also designated a federal manatee sanctuary, something Jimmy Buffett has worked hard to establish and support over his long musical career.

I guess when it comes down to it – Mr. Buffett is no different than any other speculative developer.

Screw the manatees – they don’t buy lots.

Angel:             City of Daytona Beach

 Kudos for the City of Daytona Beach’s efforts to build a fire under the architectural firm – and many others – who are responsible for planning and permitting efforts for the long-awaited First Step homeless shelter.

The city-hired architect’s timeline put the shelter’s opening off until late 2019.

Earlier this week, the News-Journal called for an end to the procrastination, impediments and bureaucratic stagnation that is jeopardizing sustainable funding and compromising citizen confidence in the process.

Now, it appears City Manager Jim Chisholm has put his sizable wingtip in the ass of those foot-draggers.

On Monday, a meeting was held at City Hall with city-hired architect John Hall and other officials responsible for ramrodding this important project.

According to Mr. Chisholm, “We made some headway on things.” 

 I’ll bet we did.

Let’s face it – Daytona Beach has become the very visible epicenter of the problem – but the municipality has also emerged as the recognized leader in pushing for shelter operations and workable homeless eradication strategies.

I would also like to commend Chief Craig Capri for his compassionate efforts to police the designated “safe zone” – a city-owned vacant lot off Clyde Morris Boulevard – where homeless people can congregate (but not camp) during overnight hours.

Now, Chief Capri has agreed to relax restrictions and allow the homeless to erect temporary shelters for protection from the elements.

In my view, that shows a true willingness to compromise – and a commitment to help those less fortunate.

We are truly fortunate to have caring professionals with the flexibility exhibited by Chief Capri – it is the very essence of community-based problem solving.

Asshole:          Volusia County Chairman Ed Kelley

 The not so subtle sales pitch for the proposed one-cent sales tax hike to fund transportation infrastructure has officially begun.

On Wednesday, our doddering fool of a county chair, Ed Kelley – who ran on a campaign promise of repairing Volusia County’s fractured relationship with the municipalities – approached the River-to-Sea Transportation Planning Organization to push for a massive increase in matching funds paid by the cities for TPO subsidized transportation upgrades.

In short, the TPO receives some $5-million from the federal government each year to assist Volusia County and its municipalities with community transportation needs, such as sidewalk improvements, roadway upgrades, trails, traffic lights, etc.

Volusia County’s TPO is one of only two in the state that requires matching funds – currently 10% of the project cost – from the local government seeking funding.

It’s not clear why this mysterious requirement exists.

When asked by the News-Journal why the River-to-Sea TPO makes matching funds a prerequisite when others do not, the board’s chairwoman – the scary smart County Councilwoman Deb Denys – all but mumbled, “Duhhhh, I dunno.  It’s always been that way?”

Now, Chairman Kelley wants the TPO to increase the match requirement to an incredibly prohibitive 25%.

In an interview with the Daytona Beach News-Journal, Old Ed jabbered, “I felt this would make better utilization of the funds that are available and it will make people really consider: ‘Is the project worthwhile?’” Kelley said. “If it’s not worth (a city) putting more money into it, why is it worth taking money from the (federal government) to do your project?”

Say what?

(I don’t make this shit up, folks – but I hope Ed repeats this statement to himself the next time a private corporation approaches the County Council for yet another multi-million-dollar government handout. . .) 

Now, its not clear exactly who Eddie was speaking for – himself, or the Volusia County Council – but the purpose of his visit to the TPO was immediately apparent to anyone paying attention.

While Mr. Kelley has no earthly idea what he’s talking about, County Manager Jim Dinneen understands the strategic importance of using veiled threats – such as pricing local transportation infrastructure assistance out of the reach of small cities – as a means of ramrodding the proposed one-cent sales tax increase.

Regrettably, our addlebrained County Chairman is a mere political sock puppet – a hapless dupe whose lips are deftly manipulated by Mr. Dinneen like some demented ventriloquist.

Look for more of the same going into 2018 as Little Jimmy and his handlers begin staging another production of their tired Kabuki – dramatically performed with equal parts apocalyptic prophecy and open threats against the municipalities – all designed to wring additional dollars from a tax-weary constituency.

Just. Vote. No.

Angel:             Joe Giddens

The Barker’s View Sports Page is proud to welcome Coach Joe Giddens back to Mainland High School in 2018!

In 1995, Coach Giddens played alongside the legendary Vince Carter to win the state 5-A Championship – now, he’s returning to the school after coaching the past 15-years at Spruce Creek.

What a wonderful homecoming for Coach Giddens – and a great opportunity for the Buccaneers basketball program!

Quote of the Week:

 “I didn’t take the statement by the architect as definitive, but more as tentative.”

 –L. Ron Durham, Daytona Beach community relations manager, candidate for the Volusia County Council and unfortunate “point person” for the languishing First Step homeless shelter, speaking in the News-Journal after the city-hired architect let it be known the shelter will not open until fall of 2019.

Unfortunately, there was nothing tentative about architect John Hall’s timeline, and members of the First Step board – and the community – were collectively shocked when they heard it.

Trust me.  Everyone from County Chair Ed Kelley to South Daytona Mayor Bill Hall took the schedule as definitive.

We all understand that there are a lot of moving parts at play – but a two-year delay is profoundly unacceptable as our increasingly visible “homeless problem” continues to fester.

My hope is that Rev. Durham will see the detrimental impact this growing debacle will ultimately have on his burgeoning political aspirations, stop attempting to explain these ludicrous delays, demonstrate strong leadership and get on with the business at hand.

We’ll see.

Well, dudes and dudettes – that’s it for me.

Hope everyone is having a wonderful Christmas Season!

 

 

 

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