For some strange reason, in Volusia County, elections change the face of the Council, county managers come, and they go – but the fundamental symptoms of a much more virulent and deeply rooted disease remain.
My suspicion is that the political kabuki that passes for our manner and means of governance is deftly manipulated by shadowy outside forces – with the strings and cables only becoming visible during times when official leadership is required – or it becomes necessary to hold a political insider accountable.
Then, utter paralysis ensues.
Don’t believe me?
Then take a long look at how consecutive councils sidestepped the matter of raising impact fees on their political benefactors in the real estate development community – while attempting to place the financial burden for transportation infrastructure improvement on the backs of every man, woman and child in Volusia County in the form of a sales tax increase.
Earlier this year, those of us paying attention stood in shock as everyone who is anyone in the Volusia County Inner Circle joined for an invitation only cocktail party at then still very much under construction Hard Rock Hotel in Daytona Beach.
It was quite the soiree – replete with a live band, goofy ‘rock star’ laminates, a VIP “guitar smash” and an on-the-beach professional pyrotechnic display – all on the first evening of sea turtle nesting season. . .
The problem was, in the view of many locals, the hotel clearly failed to meet the performance standards set by Volusia County by the contractually set deadline.
On February 23, 2018, then County Manger Jim Dinneen accepted the following missive from Hard Rock International, which he claimed met the exacting standards required by Volusia County before the hotel took ‘410 linear feet of our century old heritage of beach driving and access:
“Please accept this letter as notice that the property at 900 N. Atlantic Avenue, is a beach side resort and full-service hotel under franchise agreement with Hard Rock International. Moreover, the luxury design of the hotel meets, and upon opening the operation of the hotel will meet, Hard Rock International’s aforementioned brand standards and franchise requirements, and comply with all operations and service requirements of Hard Rock. . .”
As evidence that this was a complete fabrication – and in no way depicted actual physical conditions on the property – I took the liberty of taking documentary photographs on February 24, 2018. You can view those here: https://tinyurl.com/yakpzluv
Yet, the party went on without us – even as our elected and appointed officials shit on every performance benchmark, date certain, and amenity standard they promised us before collectively kowtowing to the arbitrary whims and notions of the developer.
In Volusia County, the one certainty is that history always repeats itself.
Now, Volusia County has rolled-over and completely abdicated its enforcement responsibility as Russian developer Alexey Lysich and Protogroup (or whatever it’s called this week) continue to violate the terms of a “Use, Easement and Access” agreement with Volusia County which ensured public beach access during construction of the monstrous Daytona Beach Convention Hotel & Condominiums project in exchange for closing the Oakridge Boulevard approach for construction purposes.
When the intrepid Paul Zimmerman, president of Son’s of the Beach, Florida’s premiere beach driving and access advocacy, brought the issue to the attention of Volusia County – his concerns were met with exactly what we have come to expect: Vociferous denials from the developer and complete paralytic inaction by our elected and appointed officials in DeLand – followed by a “Ah don’t know what yer talkin’ about” from our dimwitted County Council Chair, Ed Kelley.
Now, we’re seeing the classic Volusia County strategy of sidestepping responsibility by laying the blame on the municipalities.
Last week, the City of Daytona Beach wisely opposed a plan by Mr. Lysich to erect a weird pedestrian bridge over an active construction site, citing the very real public health and safety danger to the public that was apparently obvious to everyone but interim County Manager George Recktenwald.
After Councilwoman Billie Wheeler complained – for the third time in two months – to county staff about the clear breach of the access agreement, Recktenwald had the stones to tell her that it seems the city is “unwilling to work with the county” to resolve the issue.
According to Recktenwald, “The city, which we have partnered on for many projects, I don’t think has been much of a partner in this case here. This is the first time in my 21 years (with the county) I’ve ever encountered that another government didn’t support us or work with us.”
I’m going to call this tactic taking elected officials for a ride on “The Georgie Go-Round.”
The fact is, Volusia County has been at war with the municipalities for over a decade – in fact, I cannot recall one “partnership” – from the issue of homelessness to the debacle in Daytona Beach Shores – that didn’t dissolve into a shit show of political bullying.
Now, County Attorney Dan “Cujo” Eckert – who works like a rabid dog when he’s suing the eyeballs out of Volusia County taxpayers with our own money – has turned into a toothless lapdog when it comes to holding Protogroup to account.
According to a recent article in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, when pressed by Councilwoman Wheeler, Dan cooed, “. . .he understands the source of the aggravation and that he “wishes” the developers would have resolved the beach approach problem sooner.”
Further, Mr. Eckert has virtually thrown up his hands, claiming that absent terminating the agreement, “the county has done all it can do.”
(Except issuance of a stop work order to demand compliance with the agreement.)
So, like clockwork, County Chair Ed Kelley has stepped forward and demonstrated that whale-turd level of whatever the antithesis of leadership is when he described the easement contract with Protogroup as a “poorly-worded, hastily written agreement.”
(If so, then who wrote it? And more important – who do we hold accountable?)
Now, according to Old Ed, “The only thing we can do is kill the project and tell them they have to stop the building.”
Hey, Eddie – we’ve had enough of your hillbilly hysterics.
The purpose of a contractual agreement is to establish legally enforceable provisions before things get started – like construction of a massive 30-story condominium project in the middle of our main tourist district – that will protect the public’s interest.
And if it takes a stop work order to make that happen – then it’s time Volusia County live up to their responsibility to their constituents, show some resolve, and protect our civic right to unfettered access to our most precious natural amenity.
Photo Credit: The Daytona Beach News-Journal