In my estimation, Tampa-based developer The Framework Group – and our old friends over at CTO Realty Growth (formerly known as the good ol’ boys investment club Consolidated Tomoka Land Company) – have some powerful advocates in the bowels of Daytona Beach City Hall.
Wow, just imagine if long-suffering residents and small businesses had that same level of support and encouragement in the halls of power, eh?
One month after being taken to the woodshed by the Daytona Beach City Commission for dragging a half-baked plan into the light of day just six-hours before the elected officials were expected to vote on a downtown apartment project – one that would have citizens reimbursing the developer $10.5 million in property tax revenue – this week, city officials were back with a “new” plan that looked a whole lot like the “old” plan.
The roll out came with Deputy City Manager/Fire Chief Dru Driscoll essentially serving as Framework Group’s marketing director – singing the praises of the newest iteration of the panacea project in an open memo to his boss, City Manager Jim Chisholm – with claims the apartment complex will, “elevate downtown property values, eliminate blight, have a strong economic impact and possibly become a catalyst for other new development in the area.”
Oh, I could swear that during his presentation last night Mr. Driscoll openly claimed another benefit to the community would be the use of city water to “hydrate workers.”
Really? Now that takes some serious huevos. . .
Drink up, fellas! Time to give something back to the taxpayers, right!
According to the “plan,” in exchange for their “reinvestment” of tax dollars, Daytona Beach residents would receive 88 paid parking spaces for a period of 30 years – and thirty subsidized apartments in the complex set aside for “moderate income” (?) residents for five years.
The term “moderate income” was confusing to rubes like me – who see a benefit in incorporating workforce housing in downtown – yet questioned the viability of publicly subsidizing the Joad family in a posh downtown apartment complex. . .
That was not the only bugaboo with the “plan” that bothered area residents.
Several weeks ago, The Framework Group – through their mouthpiece Jim Chisholm – admitted they could not afford to build the parking garage without some $15 million in public assistance, and many in the community thought it presumptuous of the developer to propose a plan that built in public incentives from its inception.
In my view, the project was wrongly sold as the only viable alternative for the site (it wasn’t) – and many concerned citizens held up the secretive backroom wrangling as a prime example of how certain projects (those involving all the right last names) are ramrodded to completion – while other civic needs are allowed to slowly wither and die (think Main Street, A-1-A, Midtown, etc.).
On Wednesday evening, several citizens approached their autarchic rulers – and, for 2.5 minutes each – spoke eloquently against the massive giveaway, only to have their concerns denigrated as “hype” and “yellow journalism” by Mayor Derrick Henry as he droned on with another nonsensical, coma-inducing, and horribly divisive diatribe.
It became clear to me that this well-orchestrated farce was a foregone conclusion when those who spoke for the project were not similarly lectured by Mr. Henry. . .
In my view, Mayor Henry once again alienated those who pay the bills and watch helplessly as large swaths of their community continue to deteriorate under false “catalyst” promises – while the malleable ‘powers that be’ and those shadow groups who control them – throw even more public money at the revitalization of three short blocks between Beach Street and Ridgewood Avenue.
It was classic Daytona Beach – fits, misdirection, showmanship, and drama – bad Kabuki theater that, early on, included dubious plans for an $18 to $24 million city hall complex.
But no one paying attention really thought Sir John Albright over at CTO Realty Growth would be denied his paying customer – or that The Framework Group wouldn’t get ears-deep in the public trough. . .
At the end of the day, the Daytona Beach City Commission agreed to eliminate the “thirty moderate income apartments” ruse in favor of asking the developer to contribute an undisclosed sum to a yet to be created workforce housing fund and yammered some gibberish about parking spots. . .
Then, just like that, the deal was railroaded through on a unanimous vote.
I hope this will serve as a stark reminder: There are no “new” plans.
Although the scheme comes in different disguises – they are all variations on the same theme.
The goal will always be to use your hard-earned tax dollars to underwrite the private profit motives of those with a chip in the game – and the needs of We, The Little People, remain an afterthought.
Toot! Toot! All Aboard! Take a ride on the Chisholm Choo-Choo!
Hold on tight, folks! The next backroom deal is right around the corner as developers scramble for even more handouts and giveaways before Big Jimmy disembarks this gravy train for good!