When I was young police officer, I once arrested a gentleman who was the consummate traveling confidence man, with an extraordinary talent for scamming others using card tricks, sleight-of-hand, and old-timey games like three-card-monte.
The con man would take the ace of hearts and two black queens then flip them back and forth with great flourish while the dupe tried to follow along. Pick the ace and you won the sawbuck that you and your new friend anted up to make it interesting.
Except, he could manipulate the cards in a way that ensured you were never going to get it right.
The glib showman could talk anyone into, or out of, just about anything – using cunning and distraction (even a fake thumb he carried in his pocket) to get his marks to believe one thing, while ensuring an alternate outcome that always benefitted the bunco booth. . .
I hate to embarrass Volusia County residents with the litany of civic flimflams, shim-shams, confidence scams, hustles, razzle-dazzles, and good old-fashioned political treachery that we have collectively fallen victim to over the years – but, as an example – in a 2017 article by Eileen Zaffiro-Kean writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, we learned:
“In the 35 years since the Main Street Community Redevelopment Area was established, the city has spent about $123 million trying to improve the piece of the beachside between International Speedway Boulevard and Oakridge Boulevard.”
In the past forty-years, has anyone seen the transformative effects of that $123 million?
I mean beyond the hard-earned progress being made by intrepid private entrepreneurs who continue to fight through the bureaucratic hoops and roadblocks to establish a presence that keeps a heartbeat on Main Street?
How about the $40 million in publicly funded “incentives” we gave the billionaires at NASCAR to publicly underwrite the One Daytona “synergistic” shopping and entertainment complex – which now shows its appreciation by charging us a one-percent “enhanced amenity fee” (a sales tax by another name) on all goods and services we purchase there – a complex that will now host a gigantic Costo Wholesale, which should effectively crush the small boutiques and specialty shops that have struggled mightily.
So, where are all the “enhanced amenities”?
Remember the $4 million that residents of Daytona Beach recently gifted to Amazon – the wealthiest on-line retailer in the solar system – for the privilege of placing a warehouse and logistics operation on the most strategically situated property on the east coast, with immediate access to the nexus of I-4, I-95, and DAB, on a promise of $15 an hour scutwork?
But what about the gridlocked traffic on already strained roadways our elected officials conveniently forgot to consider?
How about the thousands of new cracker boxes our “powers that be” have permitted directly on top of our aquifer recharge areas west of a two-lane pinch point on Boomtown Boulevard, or the recent $2.5 million approved for a “custom” courtroom in DeLand (not a courthouse – a courtroom), or the “public/private partnerships,” “agricultural exemptions,” “economic development incentives,” etc., etc., etc.
Now, in what is in my view the latest and greatest bait-and-switch sham in, oh, the last week or so – it is being reported that a group plans to erect 312 new apartments on the site of the former Regal Cinemas in Ormond Beach.
According to a report by Associate Editor Jarleene Almenas writing in the Ormond Beach Observer:
“The complex is proposed to consist of two four-story buildings and one two-story building on the property’s 12 acres. Per city documents, two access points for the apartment complex are proposed, both on Williamson Boulevard…”
Wait a minute. . .
Anyone else remember when a group that included local developer Paul Holub purchased the property under the “215 Williamson Investors, LLC” then requested and received a Planned Business Development zoning designation?
Ahead of the rezoning request, it was reported “…the applicant is asking the city allow a car wash, warehouse, outdoor storage, transient lodging, hospital, museum and a medical marijuana dispensary as possible future uses.”
You know, the kind of enterprises one expects at a planned business development. . .
At the time, the Observer reported “The applicant said the property is not ideal for a big-box retailer and plans to divide it into five parcels, requiring relocation of retention ponds, for redevelopment.”
During the discussion, there was talk of a covered RV storage lot, a pharmacy, a fast-food restaurant with drive-through, a landscaped buffer and retention pond – but I’ll be dipped if I can find any reference to a massive multi-family complex. . .
In turn, the Ormond Beach Planning Board unanimously recommended approval of the “more flexible” Planned Business Development classification which would accommodate the uses suggested.
Now, Ormond Beach residents are about to get gored with the old “switcheroo.”
On Thursday evening the planning board will consider a request from “Southwest I-95, LLC.,” (Wait. What happened to our friends at 215 Williamson Investors?) to amend the Planned Business Development, paving the way for the demolition of the former theater to make room for 312 apartments in an area being blanketed with sticks-and-glue complexes.
I’m not a traffic engineer by any stretch, but I’ll just bet the multi-family development will result in thousands of new “trip generations” per day on already inundated roads and thoroughfares – in keeping with our current shove ten-pounds of shit into a five-pound bag growth management strategy. . .
Look, us rubes (read: Volusia County taxpayers) have grown used to having growth and increased density floated past us with the dexterity of a card mechanic.
In some weird trauma response, it appears we have become apathetic to the repeat victimization – simply tuning out when our local elected officials bandy about terms like “planning,” “zoning,” “concurrency,” or tell us fairytales of “low-impact development,” and “conservation corridors.”
We no longer expect anything but more of the same. . .
Because when we balk – developers threaten they have a God-given right to do anything they want on their slice of the pie citing “property rights,” (theirs, not yours) and the adverse impact on existing residents be damned. . .
A smart friend told me land use and valuation are based on the concept of “highest and best use” – within reason and zoning ordinances – theoretically meaning the City of Ormond Beach cannot allow an industrial medical waste incinerator in your backyard.
(Somewhere I hear a medical waste incinerator executive with a pocketful of campaign donations saying, “Hold my beer…”)
Unfortunately, we live in an era where anything is possible.
In my jaded view, once again, We, The Little People are being bamboozled – in a weird cups-and-balls ruse we cannot possibly win – told to expect one thing, then forced to tolerate more, more, more impacts on our quality of life as amendments, accommodations, and rezoning approvals ensure the profit motives of speculative real estate developers who never seem to give us all the facts up front.
And there are no signs that this massive overdevelopment across the width and breadth of Volusia County is going to slow anytime soon as those with a chip in the game take advantage of an overpriced housing market and unsustainable rental rates even as the market becomes saturated and diluted. . .
For instance, on Wednesday evening a neighborhood meeting will be held to discuss the proposed Tymber Creek Apartments project which could see construction of a 300-unit ten building complex near the busy intersection of Tymber Creek Road and Granada Boulevard.
You read that right.
The meeting begins at 6:00pm at the Coquina Presbyterian Church at 2085 West Granada Boulevard in Ormond Beach.
If you plan on attending, leave early.
You’re going to need the extra time. . .