On Ormond Beach: A Shock to the Conscience

I frequently receive heartfelt calls and messages from residents of the Halifax area who are increasingly dissatisfied by the direction our local political “leaders” – from New Smyrna to Ormond Beach – are taking us.

Especially in terms of irresponsible development.

In Ormond Beach, many remain horrified by the sight of the shocking scene of the environmental abattoir that now encompasses both sides of Granada Boulevard.

Recently, to make way for a commercial project spearheaded by local developer Paul Holub, a beautiful hardwood hammock populated by majestic old growth oak trees was clear-cut – I mean decimated and churned into sawdust – to make way for another convenience store, a chicken wing drive-thru and a mystery grocery.

An intrusive, noisy, high-traffic and completely inappropriate commercial beehive plopped at the exact interface of a long-established residential neighborhood and the Granada corridor.

Many times, all it takes is one highly visible insult our collective conscience to awaken the sleeping masses to an important civic issue that, under normal circumstances, many would shrug-off as “politics as usual.”

But this is different.  There is a visceral component to the devastation.

What happened to those historic trees and wildlife habitat was wrong.

I recently spoke with a citizen who lives near Mr. Holub’s muddy quagmire on Tomoka Road who, due to his homes proximity to the project, has real concerns about how the radical change in topography will affect flooding issues in his neighborhood and beyond.

The gentleman told me that he called a long-time Ormond Beach city commissioner who – astonishingly – dismissed the citizen’s concerns, then crowed that he had never made a mistake during his over 15-years on the dais of power.

Other neighbors that I’ve spoken to report similar responses to their concerns about the project – and it appears no one on the all-male revue that is the Ormond Beach City Commission seems to see a problem with this wholesale destruction of a natural space that has galvanized our community.

And that, my friends, is the crux of the problem we face.

During my service in municipal government, I learned that all people really want is to be listened to.

They want to know that those who they elect to make decisions that directly effect their lives and livelihoods care enough to hear their concerns – then factor that input into the legislative process.

It really is that simple.

The problem is, in government as in many pursuits where imperfect human beings are granted extraordinary power over others, a mild superiority complex – over time – morphs into unbridled hubris.

This isn’t universally true – I know several long-serving politicians who respect the high office they have ascended to and hold their sacred responsibilities to constituents above their own self-interests.

But it is increasingly rare at all levels of government.

The problem begins when the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker transition from engaged citizen to elected policy maker and begin the slow process of setting themselves apart from their constituents.

Very important people begin to fawn over them, they are invited to social events that they wouldn’t have been allowed to wash dishes at before the election – and the symbiotic relationship based upon, “I need your campaign contribution.  Good, because I need your vote on certain issues. . .” begins to blossom.

Once they sell their souls and compromise their independence – some politicians become everything they hated.

Soon after they assume a position of power, the media takes notice, and our newly minted royals are quoted on the front page of the newspaper, no matter how inane – or untrue – their every utterance may be.

They begin to buy into their own schtick.

Add to that the trappings of the office, and the near-constant kowtowing of the sycophantic lickspittles who often populate low-level government offices and elected officials begin to believe they are “different” from the rest of us – which reinforces an overweening sense of infallibility.

The checks and balances of self-doubt begin to evaporate and the “I’ve never made a mistake” pathology takes root.

In Volusia County, the Donor Class have perfected a political strategy of funneling massive amounts of money into the campaign coffers of their hand-select candidates for local offices early in the process – a tactic which scares away otherwise viable candidates without the financial wherewithal to mount an effective challenge.

In short, the electorate begin to feel that the outcome is a foregone conclusion – they are inundated by glossy mailers touting the bought-and-paid for candidate’s attributes and see professionally produced television advertisements of the wannabe and his perfectly coiffed family frolicking on the beach – and the voters natural instincts are dulled.

After all, if an astronomically successful billionaire believes Joe Schmoe is good for our community – who am I to disagree?

And the cycle continues.

It is heartening to see that from the utter shock of the Holub debacle has grown a grassroots effort in the form of CANDO II – a group of concerned Ormond Beach residents who are committed to environmentally responsible growth and accountability in future land use decisions.

So far, one quality candidate has emerged in Ormond’s Zone 3 race to challenge the status quo – who just happens to be – believe it or not – a woman (I mean, its an elected office – not the Ormond Beach Rotary Club, for Christ sake).

In fact, Sandy Kaufman – a veteran Volusia County Deputy Clerk of the Court – recently announced that preserving our greenspace and ensuring that the devastation seen at the Granada Pointe site never happens again is the very foundation of her candidacy.

Good for you, Ms. Kaufman – we need more like you in the mix.

I hope other citizens with a true desire serve their neighbors make the difficult decision to run as well.

In my view, the only way we can overcome the current political climate that has placed the whims and wants of political insiders over the real needs of residents is the power of the ballot box.

I fear it’s now, or never.

To quote Sheriff Mike Chitwood – Volusia County (and, I would add, many of its municipalities) – needs an enema.

In my view, it is time for voters to return a sense of humility and service-above-self to the Halls of Power in Ormond Beach and beyond.  We can do this by electing servant-leaders who have proven – by their actions, not the size of their campaign account – a willingness to work hard in the best interests of our county and communities.

 

 

Photo Credit:  The Daytona Beach News-Journal

6 thoughts on “On Ormond Beach: A Shock to the Conscience

  1. Dear Mark:

    It is now or never as far as beginning to vote out or vote in – and we will need to pack patience. It may only be one seat at a time in every local election every two years, but I believe if we shock the powers that be by winning a few , it won’t take forever.

    I don’t want elected officials to simply listen – I want to see action. No matter how ‘nice’ the individuals in the total power structure are purported to be , the only thing I want and will vote on is the actions they take – not as Ken Strickland says, their “happy talk” or just giving residents a pat on the head – as in: “There, there, don’t worry your sweet little heads. Daddy knows what is best and you couldn’t possibly understand”

    In my opinion we need to start asking much tougher questions and requiring a whole lot more from developers, elected officials and staff before and not after the facts. They are running roughshod over residents and neighborhoods.

    Case in point: The Gone Trees in Ormond.

    And now this: at our last Seabreeze meeting it was reported by a homeowner that since the HR was built that their yard is now flooding during rains where it didn’t before. He wasn’t going to say anything to the city or HR because he wanted to be a “good neighbor” . Well, as you might imagine that won’t be my response if that same thing happens to me when the Lotus Boutique Hotel and the Renaissance and its Garage are developed as we are located right smack in the middle of both on Wild Olive.

    Hope to see you tomorrow at SOB Fundraiser and thanks for all the wit, knowledge, and research you share.

    Weegie

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Men never do good unless necessity drives them to it; but when they are free to choose and can do
    just as they please, confusion and disorder become rampant.”

    Niccolo Machiavelli

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I understand the concern and I wholeheartedly agree however as Shakespeare puts it… Therein lies the rub… What people do with private property is not necessarily anybody else’s business if it has been pre-approved for development. I am sure that the person that purchased the property to begin with had exactly what is happening now in his mind. Hoping he would have a wonderful retirement when he sold the property.

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    1. Yes, of course there are property owner rights. But what about the rights of the incumbent property owners – like the residents in nearby subdivisions who likely be adversely impacted by the developments? Are you aware that in 2015 the property was rezoned from Residential/Office-Boulevard to Commercial-Retail: From low-density to high-density?

      A property owner has the right to develop their property – as zoned. This is on the City Commission for “changing the rules” on the people who purchased their homes under the original zoning, as well as the rest of the City.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Barker’s View hits the nail on the head once again – I shared it on FB & Twitter. I can’t stand what the CC and mayor of OB are up to – it’s absolutely disgusting. I agree 100% with Julie Sipes – of course you can develop/build on your property; however, NOT at the peril of others properties in the surrounding areas due to the fact that the mayor/CC CHANGED THE RULES after you already bought/built your home & community with the understanding it was ZONED FOR SOMETHING ELSE. Oh, no problem, we’ll just put in 7 feet of fill and change the retention pond – wait until the big hurricanes come & see who gets flooded! Who will be able to GET flood insurance? Who WANTS to live in a home that floods? Oy vey – don’t these people get it? You can’t mess with Mother Nature & that’s what these people are doing – all to make a buck & they are NOT changing for the better of our “economy” – they’re putting in stores with MINIMUM WAGE jobs where if they left the ZONING THE WAY IT SHOULD BE we could have had nice businesses with SALARIED jobs. You can’t talk to the boobs on the dais – THEY HAD THEIR MINDS UP BEFORE WE SPOKE. That was patently clear and if you don’t believe me, ask ANYONE who went to speak to them about this situation! Thank you.

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