On Volusia: “We are nobody. . .”

“It’s not Daytona.  It’s Dirtona,” said Enrique Zahn, an east International Speedway Boulevard property owner since the early 1990s who has grown weary waiting for things to improve on the road.”

“We are nobody,” Zahn said.  “It’s controlled by the powerfuls.”

–Enrique Zahn, Daytona Beach, speaking in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Daytona’s east ISB overhaul 3 years away,” Monday, January 27, 2020

Wow.

A spot-on assessment of our current social, civic and economic situation from someone actually in the trenches, a small business owner trying desperately to scratch out a living in the Halifax area’s artificial economy.

This week, we learned that the long-awaited East ISB revitalization project isn’t coming anytime soon – and that is devastating news for struggling businesses and property owners – and anyone else who has been waiting patiently for something, anything, to bring hope to our beleaguered beachside.

So, for at least the next three-years, this stretch of abject dilapidation that marks the city’s main gateway to what was once “The World’s Most Famous Beach” will remain a rotting, graffiti-covered monument to the apathy and neglect that is slowly killing a once vibrant tourist economy – as the real money continues its retreat west.

Tragically, despite the controversy surrounding the roundabout, the East ISB revitalization project was the only shred of optimism left.

Because it’s been almost two-years since the Beachside Redevelopment Committee, which was formed in the aftermath of The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s scathing exposé on the deplorable condition of our core tourist area, presented its bureaucratically neutered findings to the Volusia County Council.

In my view, the BRC – comprised of all the right last names, heavy hitters  like Albright, Bowler, Ghyabi, Lichtigman, Sharples, Grippa and Henry – represented our last/best hope for substantive change.

Unfortunately, when the report was rolled out, Volusia County Councilwoman Billie Wheeler brought a cruel false hope when she enthusiastically vowed that the recommendations (of what turned out to be little more than a time buying political insulation committee) would not be put on a shelf:

“I am fighting with you on this,” Wheeler said. “This is my district, and we do have a plan of action but I want to make sure it is not one of those plans of actions that goes on the shelf, and I can tell you I am 100% committed to doing whatever I need to do in collaborating with this group on getting things moving.”

Bullshit.

Where is that “plan of action” Ms. Wheeler?

Trust me – now’s the time to implement it.  And fast. . .

Call me a soothsayer – but, despite the denials of our Halifax area “Hospitality Gurus” – I recognized early that our struggling tourism industry was in serious trouble – hemorrhaging revenue as the “product” continued to decay – and it had nothing to do with hurricanes or fickle air carriers.

So, as the beachside committee’s report sits gathering dust on some groaning shelf in that dank place where good ideas go to die in Volusia County government – we absorb yet another punishing kick to the gut as we watch our “brand” slowly die. . .

Most places with a sense of pride in place, a strong community spirit and a civic vision –  beyond allowing gazillionaires carte blanche to construct a “New Daytona” in the pine scrub west of town, as they feed greedily at the public trough – would be working collaboratively with residents and business owners to correct the decades of blight and dilapidation that continues its malignant spread.

They would be struggling mightily to protect and curate what remains of our core attraction and manage our most important natural amenity in a way that would enhance our unique traditions while investing in historic beachside neighborhoods and encouraging entrepreneurial investment while supporting existing small business.

Not here.

In a weird reversal of blame that could only happen in Daytona Beach, City Commissioner Quanita May, who ostensibly represents East ISB, goaded desperate business owners on the Boulevard of Broken Dreams – demanding that they throw good money after bad to “overhaul and modernize” – even though most remain in the dark on how much of their property will be lost to the road project – or what effect the disputed roundabout at A-1-A and East ISB will ultimately have on their livelihood.

Look, there’s enough blame to go around – but what we need now is leadership – and hard answers to difficult questions.

To that end, the Florida Department of Transportation prudently scheduled an informational summit to gain public input and communicate with an anxious community on the estimated $23.8 million road project for tomorrow evening.

Unfortunately, the FDOT meeting conflicted with the elegant annual soiree of the Daytona Regional Chamber of Commerce – the very organization that should care, but doesn’t – which means the long-anticipated transportation meeting has been reset for late March.

As a result – you, me, and the besieged business community of East ISB – can wait two more months before we get substantive answers – all so the Chamber of Commerce set can tell us all how good we have it while bestowing something called the “J. Hyatt Brown Enterprise Award” on Team Volusia.

You read that right.

Priorities, eh?

I don’t make this shit up, folks. . .

Mr. Zahn is right.

We truly are nobody to those who make the rules and substitute lavish banquets for civic engagement here on Florida’s Fun Coast.

“Qu’ils mangent de la brioche”

 

Photo Credit: The Daytona Beach News-Journal

 

9 thoughts on “On Volusia: “We are nobody. . .”

  1. Something to ponder…’back in the day,’ the beachside was a place where local residents would go to enjoy a day or evening out, with the beach as the primary attraction. First it was the elimination of night beach driving, then the takeover by the county, including tolls, highly restrictive driving lanes, no-drive and no-park areas and more restrictions that chased local Volusia residents off the beach – and away from the beachside businesses. These full-time residents were the thing that kept the beachside alive and vibrant, so when they left, the restaurants, attractions, etc. were left to die. Look at it another way – “weekenders” from Volusia and surrounding counties won’t go to The Fun Coast because let’s face it – there’s nothing to do in Daytona. It’s a real shame…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Bullseye on this one! Profanity needed to wake up the clowns at City Hall, Daytona and the morons in DeLand.
    I would add that anyone with competence should realize occupancy rates to decline when you overbuild lodging facilities, and increased illegal short term rentals.

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  3. Since you and I have served as municipal department heads, we both know that hiring consultants and appointing task forces are usually done when the problem is obvious and the REAL solutions will be politically unpopular. Then the consultant/task force takes the heat, the elected officials and their moneyed handlers are insulated, and the report/recommendations joins the dozens of others, pages yellowing on a shelf. Look up Government Services Group for more on this…

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  4. In most other Cities or towns in FL, this project would have been approved, engineered, funded in a year. Member the meeting at the Penninsula Club over a year ago?
    Because the attendees were rude to the presenters, the proposed project went to the tail end of the list.

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    1. Its the blight. Who can turn around the gate way to the beach, with abandoned businesses. The condemned gas station. The empty laundrymat. Over priced bug insted rentals. Hotels who viotate simple code enforcement. Min wage workers paying 800 a month rent. Its a web of no escape. With city officals turning a blind eye.

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  5. The best thing we can do to improve the quality of life in Volusia AND strengthen the tax base is to maximize the existing infrastructure we have. Focusing those dollars on the big new developments on the outskirts of town only makes us poorer.

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  6. I would ask why are the property owners on East ISB waiting for the City to do something FOR them? They have generally owned the properties fronting ISB for decades and have done absolutely NOTHING to improve the appearance or generate any new business activity along that corridor. Meanwhile, the City allows the area to continue in its dilapidated state with no apparent intent to to either promote new business or establish any type of beautification rules for the area. What do we have over there now, an Irish pub, a massage parlor, a parking lot, a dilapidated filling station and car wash, and more run-down properties. Apparently, the property owners are just waiting for someone else to pay their freight, so to speak, until the “next great thing” comes in and they can cash out at a premium, probably at the publics expense. Does the City or the County care? Apparently not, as long as they can still make a few bucks off beach access, special event permits and the Ocean Center, but I’m afraid we’ve near strangled that golden goose.. What the Hell though, we’ll just change our focus from the “World’s Most Famous Beach” and move the “next great thing” across town to our new beach lifestyle community where “the rules are different” and it’s “wide, open, fun!”

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  7. Chief,

    Big Boss Chisholm is going to close the approach where 92 meets the drink. Been planning this way now three years plus. Hope he ass is grass on gone before the Central Committee’s next Five-Year Plan develops.

    Holy shit God help us! We are truly led by stooges: those really small frogs in a really tiny pond.

    Good luck to you Barker.
    You’ll need it.

    Like

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