In Celtic mythology, the isle of the dead, an island paradise in the western seas where, according to Arthurian legend, King Arthur and other heroes are taken after death
In Volusia County, it’s a place where our quality of life goes to die. . .
Just five months ago, Volusia County residents awoke to an article by The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s business reporter Clayton Park announcing “Latitude Margaritaville is about to get a big new neighbor.”
We were told that an Orlando-based developer – a smiling Swiss named Beat Kahli – who does business as Avalon Park Group and the Switzerland-based SiteEx Properties Holding, was purchasing some 2,600 acres on the south side of State Road 40, west of Interstate 95, from Tymber Creek Road west to Tiger Bay State Forest.
The deal is being hashed out between Avalon Park Group, and the good ol’ boys investment club over at Consolidated-Tomoka Land Company, for an undisclosed amount.
The “plan” calls for building thousands of homes, townhouses and apartments, along with one million square feet of commercial space – immediately adjacent to the massive sprawl that is the faux beach community of Latitude Margaritaville and Mosaic – developments that have consumed thousands of acres atop our aquifer recharge areas (read: the source of our drinking water) off LPGA Boulevard.
Last December, our new friend the Smiling Swiss told Mr. Park, “We are not just developers, we’re town builders.”
Apparently, these “towns” conveniently fail to provide public infrastructure, emergency services and utilities – parasitically drawing off their neighbors existing resources while contributing to traffic and sprawl.
Instead, Avalon Park Group’s practice is to fund required infrastructure through “public/private partnerships,” which, in our experience here on the Fun Coast, typically means the use of public funds to underwrite a developer’s private profit motives.
That includes the variation on the theme proposed by Mr. Kahli, whereby a publicly backed bond would be repaid with property taxes and impact fees – leaving existing residents saddled with maintenance, upkeep and expansion in perpetuity.
I have a problem with that.
By any metric, the City of Daytona Beach has assumed a growth at all cost strategy that continues to place thousands of homes, apartments, shopping and businesses on “Boomtown Boulevard” – constructing “New Daytona” in the pine scrub west of I-95 – while ignoring the festering blight and dilapidation in Midtown, core tourist areas of the beachside and beyond.
Now, to sweeten the deal and make his “city within a city” more tempting to area politicians, Mr. Kahli is offering to replace the pinch-point on LPGA Boulevard – the two-lane bridge spanning the threatened Tomoka River – and construct an overpass at Hand Avenue.
In my view, last year’s no-holds-barred push for a half-cent sales tax increase, a shameless money grab that we all knew would be earmarked for more development, rather than existing transportation needs, should have told Mr. Kahli that we’re not ready for his aggressive style of development – despite what he may have been told by those lame ducks City Manager Jim Chisholm and our doddering fool of a County Chair Ed Kelley. . .
Perhaps Mr. Kahli should understand that Volusia County has gotten development wrong for years.
Our politicians have kowtowed to every whim of developers and builders who own the paper on their political souls, including the almost criminal suppression of impact fees while squandering precious transportation infrastructure funds on ‘roads to nowhere’ and allowing massive growth with little planning, management or concern for our environment.
Now, residents of the Halifax area are legitimately concerned about what thousands of new residents and commercial space massed on the southern border of Ormond Beach will mean for our limited civic resources, roads and utilities – and how it will impact our dwindling quality of life.
For now, it seems only Mr. Chisholm and Mr. Kelley have been given direct access to the hard facts surrounding Avalon Park Daytona – the dynamic duo of deception – and this one is far too important for their unique brand of political chicanery.
Before this project takes one additional step forward, it is time for complete transparency on the development’s transportation planning, our future and existing needs – and clear guidance on how Mr. Kahli plans to pay for it all.
Please join me this afternoon as Barker’s View joins GovStuff Live with Big John beginning at 4:00pm!
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