It’s time once again to turn a jaundiced eye toward the newsmakers of the day – the winners and losers – who, in my cynical opinion, either contributed to our quality of life, or detracted from it, in some significant way.
Let’s look at who tried to screw us – and who tried to save us – during the week that was:
“The city still lacks an overall strategy as it relates to A1A and the beachside corridor, and this is what happens when you put all your eggs in one basket.”
At this point, however, completion of the project is imperative, Grippa said.
“It would be absolutely devastating to have, in addition to all the old boarded-up buildings, now a new partially completed building,” Grippa said. “That sitting vacant and empty would really hurt the beachside, optically, economically and emotionally.”
–Chairman Tony Grippa, Volusia County Beachside Redevelopment Committee, as quoted in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, October 2018
Tony Grippa was quite a soothsayer, eh?
Despite my penchant for strong drink and its deleterious effect on both the structure and function of what remains of my pickled grey matter, I distinctly remember my gut reaction to a November 2018 article by Eileen Zaffiro-Kean writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal entitled, “Shell Game“:
In my view, that eye-opening exposé of Protogroup and the many questions surrounding financing for its $192 million Daytona Beach Convention Hotel & Condominiums, was a forewarning of things to come – a portent sign that should have triggered official inquiry, heightened oversight, and clear performance assurances.
Not to travel too far down that dark and treacherous road known as Memory Lane, but you may remember that Protogroup’s proposed twin-spires were once touted by some very heavy hitters – including former Daytona Beach Mayor Glenn Ritchey, who reportedly negotiated the original “deal” with the Russian developer – as the next “game changer.”
The great panacea project that would solve all our civic and social ills, serve as the catalyst for reversing decades of neglect and resultant blight, and return the Halifax Resort Area to its former prominence as a world class destination.
But to weary Halifax area residents, it sounded an awful lot like that proverbial egg basket Mr. Grippa described…
Then, as many feared, the wheel came off the cart.
While the south tower s-l-o-w-l-y went vertical, the rusting bones of the languishing north tower remained frustratingly stagnant.
Through the years, concerned residents complained as the on again/off again project blocked traffic on A-1-A, constructed an unpermitted “contra-lane” on Oakridge Boulevard, obstructed beach access, mysteriously swapped contractors, sat idle, ignored deadlines, and refused to respond to questions from the working press, while everyone in a regulatory position seemed to treat the developer with kid gloves – careful not to upset what passed for “progress.”
Then, in September 2022, the City of Daytona Beach issued a condemnation and demolition order citing the lack of construction activity and questions surrounding the structural integrity of the exposed rebar – ordering that the site be cleaned up and that an engineer create a plan to ensure the columns are strong enough to support the proposed 31-story tower – which, if it ever sprouts, would be the tallest structure in Daytona Beach.
Unfortunately, many were disappointed when that order was rescinded, and a new work order issued – good for six months – so long as Protogroup adhered to a city mandate to “keep things rolling.”
Obviously, that did not happen…
Then, earlier this month, The Daytona Beach News-Journal reported that the project had once again stalled out and quoted Daytona Beach Chief Building Official Glen Urquhart:
“When the city agreed in September to give Protogroup another chance, the company was told it would have to show work was well underway on the condo tower by April 9 and undergo a city inspection by that date. Urquhart said the agreement was clear: No progress and no inspection, no more construction permit.”
To Mr. Urquhart’s credit, this week the City of Daytona Beach made good on its promise, pulled the construction permit, and denied the Protogroup’s request for a 180-day extension.
I know, I know, “We’ve heard this ruse before, Barker – just another time-buying exercise by perplexed city officials who don’t have a clue how to clear this monstrous eyesore from the epicenter of our core tourist area and prevent Mr. Grippa’s prophetic words from coming true.”
Well, maybe you infernal naysayers are right.
Time will tell.
But in my role as Volusia’s resident Pollyanna, I am willing to give Mr. Urquhart and his colleagues at City Hall the benefit of the doubt.
For the umpteenth time…
According to reports, if the City of Daytona Beach has the courage to allow this latest punitive action to hold – Protogroup will be required to apply for a new construction permit – subject to current building codes and a site inspection, including the requirement that a structural engineer sign and submit plans demonstrating how the exposed columns will “…be fortified to support 31 stories above them.”
Let’s face it. Barring some Copperfield-level legerdemain, this fetid shit show is going to remain an ever-present splinter in the public eye until the north condo tower either comes out of the ground or the corroded bones of its foundation are demolished and hauled away.
And the public’s patience is waning…
Angel Volusia County Councilman Troy Kent
I have not always been kind to District 4 Councilman Troy Kent in this space.
During his long political tenure with the Ormond Beach City Commission, I opposed his stance on growth management, and often took exception with the development approvals that continue to tax our grossly inadequate infrastructure.
However, I can also remember a time when Mr. Kent worked hard to protect the character of Ormond Beach by supporting building height limits, his willingness to listen to concerned residents, and strong advocacy for beach driving and access.
In my view, as Volusia’s Old Guard continues to walk the crumbling ramparts of this bloated bureaucracy to protect the stagnant status quo from innovation, ingenuity, or reform – it is nice to see Troy Kent’s sense of grassroots representation being resurrected in service to his long-suffering constituents.
Upon taking his seat on the Volusia County Council in January, rather than spout a laundry list of pie-in-the-sky ambitions with no articulable plan to accomplish them – Mr. Kent outlined a set of attainable goals – including free beach access for double-taxed residents, the establishment of a dog friendly section of beach, and returning entertainment offerings to that white elephant known as the Ocean Center.
For reasons that were never made clear, over the past decade, the Ocean Center went from one of east Central Florida’s premiere concert venues to little more than an extravagant (and terribly expensive) home for quilting bees, the annual “State of the County” soiree, and myriad underpublicized specialty events and trade shows.
For instance, did you know that during March Madness the Ocean Center played host to a four-day Division 1 college basketball tournament with the championship game nationally televised on ESPN2?
No one else did either…
Long-time residents of Volusia County have fond memories of attending top tier concerts, sporting events, and productions at Ocean Center – big names, such as Jimmy Buffett, Elton John, AC/DC, Alan Jackson, standup comedians, semi-pro hockey games, rodeos, and professional wrestling events.
Then the curtain fell on high-end entertainment options at the Ocean Center…
The official reasons behind the Ocean Center’s fall from grace with national touring acts were never fully explained to disappointed taxpayers – even as we watched the popularity of the St. Augustine Amphitheater and Ponte Vedra Concert Hall blossom – attracting quality artists virtually every weekend.
Thanks to Councilman Kent’s initiative, earlier this month, the Volusia County Council voted 6-1 to change the restrictive booking model that has caused concert promoters to give Ocean Center a wide berth.
While Volusia County has no qualms showering millions of dollars in risky “incentives” and corporate welfare “gimmes” to attract a no-name airline to Daytona “International” Airport – and gifting tax breaks, infrastructure, and public funds to all the right names – when it came to bringing quality entertainment to the masses, our ‘powers that be’ had previously adopted a disastrous “all for me, and none for thee” approach.
According to Ocean Center Director Tim Riddle, the county’s “virtually zero risk” booking policy – which allowed the Ocean Center to keep all revenues, including lucrative ticket fees and proceeds from food and beverage sales – leaving the event promoter only the net proceeds of ticket sales, “…is not getting a lot of traction out there in the live entertainment world.”
Really? Who woulda thunk it?
God knows how much revenue Volusia County has lost in recent years as tour buses bypassed the Ocean Center for packed arenas in Melbourne, Orlando, and St. Johns County before Mr. Riddle and other senior administrators finally came to the painfully obvious realization that their booking model was flawed?
In my view, none of these highly compensated dullards gave a damn.
Because in the bureaucratic donjon of the Thomas C. Kelly Administrative Building, performance and outcome have never been a metric of success – or failure – for senior staff.
After years of sluggish stagnation and low-hanging fruit – prove me wrong?
In my view, had Councilman Troy Kent merely fell in line and accepted the status quo – you and I would still be required to leave Volusia County to attend quality music and cultural events…
In addition, Volusia County is considering raising beach tolls for out-of-town visitors – and the possibility of charging tourists for off-beach parking – both were suggestions Mr. Kent brought forth as a means of generating additional revenue to alleviate the burden of beach access fees for taxpayers.
During his sales pitch to his “colleagues,” Mr. Kent explained that Nassau County allows resident beachgoers to drive on the beach for free, while charging out-of-towners to take their cars onto the strand.
Unfortunately, this well-thought plan fell on deaf ears…
In response to Kent’s radical idea of affording citizens more liberties and access, Councilman Don Dempsey crowed, “C’mon, there’s no free beach. I’m more concerned about not raising taxes than I am about people driving on the beach for free,” while At-Large Councilman Jake Johansson reminded us helot’s that “Parking on the beach is a privilege. I’m pretty comfortable with paying for that privilege.”
It didn’t used to be.
There was a time before this money-grubbing bureaucracy assumed its iron-fisted control of our beaches when driving and access were a right of all taxpaying citizens – and the “third rail” of Volusia County politics.
I don’t think Mr. Johansson has lived here long enough to remember those freedoms – but Mr. Kent certainly has.
As history repetitively proves, any Volusia County councilmember who demonstrates a smidgeon of independent thought will ultimately be crushed under the bootheel of conformity, forced to kowtow to the foot-dragging strategies of County Manager George “The Wreck” Recktenwald and his lethargic legion of bureaucrats who monitor and control the narrative and steer public policy from behind closed doors.
With this latest revelation of lost opportunities (and revenue) comes the gnawing question:
How many other antiquated policies and sacred cows are being protected in the inner sanctum of Volusia County government simply to avoid upsetting the bureaucracy’s delicate applecart?
Quote of the Week
“When it comes to the Tymber Creek Apartments development proposal, Ormond Beach City Commissioners face two options: approve as presented, or risk the possibility of a higher density development.
Though the public hearing for the development’s rezoning and development order requests was held on Tuesday, April 18, the commission decided to table the items until its May 16 meeting due to the impact of a new law that would allow developers to circumvent local land use and zoning regulations if their developments set aside at least 40% of units for affordable housing.
The Live Local Act, previously known as Florida Senate Bill 102, was signed by the governor on March 29 and will go into effect on July 1. It affects properties currently zoned commercial, industrial or those with a mixed use zoning, and would allow developers to build multifamily or mixed-use residential buildings at the highest allowed density.”
–Senior Editor Jarleene Almenas writing in the Ormond Beach Observer, “City Commission tables decision on Tymber Creek Apartments,” Wednesday, April 19, 2023
It seems every piece of legislation coming out of the 2023 session is designed to consolidate state government’s power and authority over every facet of our lives and livelihoods – from corporate governance to local home rule.
In my view, there is a concerted effort to undermine the ability of county and municipal governments to control their destiny by preempting local decisions to the state – coupled with direct attacks on our inalienable right to the free expression of grievances and criticism of those bold enough to hold themselves out for high office (and do the bidding of their campaign contributors) – yet fold into shrinking violets when We, The Little People complain about it…
Depending upon how you look at it, the Live Local Act was either a godsend for strapped Floridians who have been priced out of an exponentially expanding housing market (in Volusia County, estimates show that some 56.22% of households who rent are overburdened) with many living far below the national median income – or a boon for developers looking for the next lucrative workaround of local land use and zoning regulations.
For instance, I can’t see where this legislation does a damn thing to help stabilize Florida families who are currently struggling to meet monthly living expenses – but you can bet your sweet bippy a few developers of large-scale affordable housing projects are about to make bank…
Did I mention that a recent exposé by business editor Clayton Park of The Daytona Beach News-Journal found that over 40% of current Florida lawmakers have direct financial ties to the real estate and development industry?
Yeah. I know…
In addition to circumventing local land use requirements, the Live Local Act throws $711 million into affordable housing, and provides additional tax incentives to attract affordable housing projects – including changing zoning laws to allow building in commercial and industrial areas – while effectively crushing community self-determination and banning local governments from enacting rent control measures for existing low-income workers.
Ain’t no money in that handout shit, right?
Unless, of course, you happen to be an industrial warehouse, insurance conglomerate, or billionaire with a profit motive demanding millions in publicly funded corporate welfare…
The act also places the Ormond Beach City Commission in an untenable position vis-à-vis frightened existing residents of neighborhoods along Tymber Creek Road:
Either approve the proposed 270-unit apartment complex and shoehorn more traffic onto already packed local roadways east and west of I-95 – or risk the possibility of an even higher density development once the Live Local Act takes effect in July.
With the Florida legislature, it’s always give with one hand and take with the other – so be careful what you wish for, folks.
Oh, I almost forgot – to add insult, last week, the oddly named Ormond Beach “Planning” Board voted 5-1 to recommend the City Commission approve a zoning map amendment, development order, and preliminary plat allowing a developer to build 286 units – including 84 “duplex townhomes” – on 103.45-acres along Plantation Oaks Boulevard north of the Village of Pine Run.
So, while our elected dullards on the Ormond Beach City Commission clutch their pearls for the amusement of anxious Tymber Creek residents – their political insulation committee hilariously titled the “Planning Board” is leaving the backdoor wide open for more, more, more…
In my view, this is one more glaring example of why electing the same compromised shitheels while expecting a different result is the true definition of civic insanity.
And Another Thing!
“Recently, you may have seen headlines in the news highlighting the aggressive push by Sheriff Mike Chitwood to assume control of the law enforcement officers currently working under the Beach Patrol, (Volusia County Beach Safety Ocean Rescue). The Sheriff’s argument for doing so hinges on the looming passage of two state bills that are working their way through the Florida Legislature. If they pass, the sheriff’s powers could be greatly expanded. This is the main reason why he has spent the last few years lobbying in support of those bills. It’s a power grab, plain and simple.”
–Retired Beach Patrol officer and founding past president of the Volusia Waterman’s Association Bryon White, The Daytona Beach News-Journal Community Voice Extra, “Battle Over Beach Patrol,” Sunday, April 16, 2023
“This transition to the Sheriff’s Office has been described as a “power grab” by the sheriff, as if I had anything to do with the legislation that’s been proposed by state lawmakers I’ve never met, spoken to or had any contact with. That’s just another lie the beach union is peddling. The truth is this is part of a larger legislative initiative to establish uniformity of authority of sheriffs and other constitutional officers across the state of Florida.”
–Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood, The Daytona Beach News Journal Community Voice Extra, “Status quo on the beach isn’t sustainable under the existing state law,” Sunday, April 16, 2023
Normally I am a sucker for a good “point-counterpoint” dueling op/ed – a no holds barred debate of competing ideas fueled with simmering animosity – but Sunday’s escalating Battle Royale between the union representing the Volusia County Beach Patrol and Sheriff Mike Chitwood just left me feeling sad…
I know Bryon White and Sheriff Chitwood, both former colleagues, each of whom care deeply about Volusia County.
They are also passionate bareknuckle scrappers with the smarts, agility, and tenacity to hold their own in a fight. However, in this case, I give the advantage to the incredibly popular Sheriff Chitwood – because he holds all the cards.
What saddens me is that this internecine bickering and resulting bad blood seems so – unnecessary.
Like two family members fighting over something neither can control, using words and tactics that can never be taken back.
Now, this growing legislative bruhaha is dividing residents as various factions begin to take sides – and that is the last thing we need in this horribly polarized age where divide and conquer is the operative ethic.
I disagree with Bryon White on one point – this is not a “power grab” by Sheriff Chitwood. The proposed law is not specific to Volusia County and the bills originated in South Florida.
The current iterations of the house and senate bills working their way through the legislative maze in Tallahassee state that there will be an elected sheriff in each Florida county and reaffirms that the sheriff shall have exclusive law enforcement authority in all unincorporated areas, and concurrent jurisdiction within the municipalities.
That’s nothing new – and it certainly doesn’t “greatly expand” Sheriff Chitwood’s powers.
Where the proposed law directly affects the Beach Patrol is in prohibiting a county’s legislative body from establishing or maintaining a separate “policing entity” in any unincorporated area of a county, stating that “Only the duly elected sheriff may provide such policing and police functions in the unincorporated areas of any county.”
The law would also protect the budgets of municipal law enforcement agencies by providing a means for either the state attorney for the circuit – or a member of the municipality’s governing body – to request a hearing before an administrative law judge and challenge any funding reduction of more than 5% as compared to the current fiscal year’s operating budget.
This matter will ultimately be settled by vote of the Florida legislature and Governor DeSantis’ signature.
While the bills are supported by the Florida Sheriff’s Association – I haven’t seen any overt lobbying efforts by Sheriff Chitwood as the Volusia Waterman’s Association suggests.
Unfortunately, it appears the hostility between the Beach Patrol and Sheriff Chitwood is growing more confrontational by the day. In a subsequent article by reporter Sheldon Gardner writing in Sunday’s News-Journal, we learned that Sheriff Chitwood is now challenging the Beach Patrol’s legitimacy.
“The sheriff writes in his column that Volusia County Beach Safety officers might not have law enforcement authority anyway. “The section of the Volusia County Charter granting that authority was repealed in 2020. The legality of every ticket, every arrest, every law enforcement action taken by Beach Safety since 2020 is now called into question,” he wrote.”
Of course, the Volusia County Council disputes that assessment, and in a move to protect the status quo – reminiscent of the former council’s asinine pushback on Amendment 10 which brought the Sheriff’s Office from under the yoke of a politically unaccountable County Manager – “…recently voted to send a letter to its lobbyists and lawmakers to try and get a change to the proposed legislation to exclude Volusia County, and if that effort fails to give the county more time to adjust to whatever changes may come.”
Look, I understand the best instinct of the Volusia County Beach Patrol to fight like rabid badgers to preserve their agency’s identity and proud history of providing law enforcement, lifesaving, and beach-related services to residents and visitors – and Sheriff Chitwood has the right to defend himself (in his own inimitable way) when he feels unfairly attacked.
There is no denying that the Volusia County Beach Patrol brings a lot of experience and expertise to the table – a specialized, well-equipped, and well led agency staffed with triple-certified professionals adept at providing law enforcement, lifesaving, and emergency medical capabilities in a dynamic environment.
According to preliminary reports, Sheriff Chitwood has committed to incorporating a majority of the 58 Beach Patrol members into his agency – with remaining personnel assigned as lifeguards or to other beach safety responsibilities – with no anticipated change in pay or benefits.
How that ultimately shakes out is yet to be seen, and there are a lot of moving parts to sort through, but this week Sheriff Chitwood announced to the Volusia County Council his willingness to cooperate with county officials – while reassuring Beach Patrol members all is not doom and gloom:
“Don’t throw everything away in a panic mode. This is going to be a really good thing. I know I’m a knucklehead, but jeez I’m never going to hurt my employees, for crying out loud.”
My hope is that anxious Beach Patrol officers – and Volusia County residents – will see a more fully formed transition plan soon.
I feel confident that Sheriff Chitwood and his staff – with a modicum of cooperation, collegiality, and compromise from county management – can accomplish an orderly and effective transition without the apocalyptic upheaval that naturally accompanies any substantive change in Volusia County’s lockstep bureaucracy.
Unfortunately, with the busy summer season looming, this building animus could prove a real impediment to the strategic planning, identification and alignment of goals, engagement with stakeholders, and the systemic and personnel integration that will be required to ensure the best possible outcome for all concerned.
That’s all for me. Have a great Jeep Beach 2023, y’all!
5 thoughts on “Angels & Assholes for April 21, 2023”
Please don’t knock Chitwoot or we could be the hood in Orlando that is out of control every night on cable news.
When you quote the DBNJ I shut you down
They are now a dem agenda hate GOP agenda owned by Gannett at $1.85 a share and own the Palm Beach and St Augustine papers.No choice for a non liberal.
Guess they don’t know the demographics.Clayton Park is the only journalist there.Others have quoted 59 out of 156 lawmakets have real estate businesses.Mayor Partington will never get my vote as he moves on as he did nothing to stop Avalon.Partington are you smart enough to see the traffic on Granada.?What did you do positive for this city?.We know about Henry in Daytona .
Barkers glad you are back as Ormond Beach is used as Daytonas suburb and it’s high schools stink
But we get the brunt of bike weekand pay taxes for trash schools not in Ormond. .Time for vouchers for parents to pick schools and the hell with teachers unions
Are these Tallahassee politicians/crooks that create more development for their friends and rich buddies in the Daytona Regional Chamber, local builders and car dealerships ever going to care about anyone other than themselves and wallets??? Nahhh….
Let the driving on the beach fees residents pay be ear marked for beach litter and cigarettes butt cleanup. If we have to keep paying this then let’s see real effort keeping our beaches clean. And why do tourists buy towels, umbrellas, flip flops, boogie boards for their vacation and just leave them on the beach and go home?