Palm Coast City Council Holds First of Two Votes on FPL Franchise Tax and More During Morning City Meeting

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Today, Tuesday July 18th at 9am, the Palm Coast City Council held their morning 9am meeting. Among the agenda items was the ‘FPL Franchise Fee’ that has been being talked about in recent news. The City Council heard the subject again today, and the City Attorney did mention that in order to table this matter for a later meeting they would need a majority vote. Vice Mayor Danko then made a motion to have the matter tabled to the next meeting which is August 1st at 6pm, so that more residents could be in attendance to have their voices heard. Cathy Heighter seconded the motion to table the matter until a later date. During a roll call vote, Ed Danko voted yes, as did Cathy Heighter, while Council members Pontieri, Alfin and Klufas voted no. The residents in attendance were not happy and were vocalizing their thoughts to the council over this vote.

The Council moved on to hear the presentation regarding the Electric Franchise Agreement between FPL and the City. This Franchise agreement would charge or rent the privilege of using the City’s Right-of-way to FPL, which would be 6%. The City will not be involved in the retail distribution of electricity for the term of the agreement. This would be a 30 year term. FPL currently holds franchise agreements with 195 communities in Florida including Bunnell, Flagler Beach, Ormond Beach, St. Augustine, and Daytona Beach. The next step in the process is for the council to vote on accepting the ordinance and setting the rate between 1.5% and 6%. This is the first reading of two readings regarding this Franchise Agreement. The fee must be set before the second reading, and each year the city council can revisit the amount of the fee and make changes. There will be another public hearing for the second reading of the ordinance before it is fully accepted. Vice Mayor Danko asked if the fee was adopted where would the money go? the presenter stated that the money made by this agreement would be unrestricted revenue, and it would be at the discretion of the city council. The crowd was not happy with the answer provided. Councilwoman Pontieri stated her thoughts on the matter, by stating how this fee could be an important tool for the City when it comes to diversifying the City’s income. Pontieri also stated that the funds collected from the millage rate are also at the discretion of the Council. Her view on the matter was that this Franchise Fee would help to make the City of Palm Coast more recession proof. Pontieri stated that she wanted the pass the agreement but have the amount of the fee be set by residents by having it on the ballot. Pontieri also stated she would like to see the funds used only for the maintenance of our roads. Cathy Heighter asked if this would be able to be put on the ballot. Pontieri said she isn’t sure, but wanted to find out before the next City County Meeting. Heighter asked how much the fees would increase the residents bills, Pontieri stated that at 0.5% it would raise the average bill by about $2-3 dollars. Heighter went on to state that her concern is about the residents already struggling to pay their bills without the additional few dollars added on. Councilman Klufas stated that he feels most people would understand that this Franchise Fee will impact businesses more than residents. Vice Mayor Danko had another comment regarding Pontieri’s comments. Danko stated if we wanted to diversify the City income we would be getting more businesses here. Danko feels that businesses will be pushing the cost on the consumers. Danko stated he wanted to see the agreement as a whole be put on the ballot. Pontieri stated that she has been advocating for diversifying the City’s income since day one, and has seen push back on many different issues.

Public comment was opened regarding the FPL Franchise Fee.  Twenty residents got up to voice their disapproval of the Franchise Fee agreement. Residents talked about how many homes here on are on limited incomes and cannot afford any increases, especially since house insurance, car insurance and property taxes have gone up so much recently. During public comment one commenter asked why the rush to enter this agreement. Pontieri decided to answer this question as it was relevant. She stated that this is an ordinance and as such it requires two passes before the council. She stated that if the fee amounts could not be added to the ballot for the people to vote on she would vote against it in the second round.

Final discussion was then opened, where Danko asked staff what is the deadline for getting it to FPL. The answer was that it would affect the general fund, and there is a deadline for getting something on the ballot would be in April. If it was delayed staff and Mayor Alfin stated that it could miss an entire budget cycle if they waited. Pontieri stated that if she cannot get the amounts on the ballot for residents to vote on, she will not vote it through the second time. Klufas has also stated that he agrees. Pontieri made a motion to enter the agreement at the minimum 0.5% while putting the rate on the ballot where the City Council would be bound by the outcome of the ballot every year. Cathy Heighter spoke up to clarify whether this vote was binding or if it could go away in the future. City Attorney spoke up and said there are two readings, and the second vote is final, so this first vote will not put anything in place. Danko asked what the cost of putting this on the ballot would be. City Attorney stated that you would have to get that information from Supervisor of Elections. The Mayor called a roll call vote, where Danko and Heighter voted no on the Fee, while Pontieri, Alfin and Klufas voted yes. It will move on to a second reading and a final vote at a future meeting.

The council heard a short presentation regarding Nuisance abatements were brought up and the presenters noted that as of tomorrow, the addresses of the nuisance abatements would be disclosed publicly. The floor was opened for public comment where there was none, and the council voted and passed the ordinance.

The council then heard on Coquina Shores Development District was then presented as a funding mechanism to help fund the 650-home development. The CDD would be responsible for its own infrastructure and maintenance, thus leaving the City of Palm Coast free of the responsibility of the cost of this development infrastructure and maintenance. It would be managed by its own 5-person council.  During the review of the petition, the presenter pointed out that staff did find the petition was in line with state guidelines. The developer stated that they will be working on the internal infrastructure, and the City would be responsible for anything outside of that development. There will be a second public hearing for this subject on August 1st at 6pm.

The floor was opened for public comment, and there was none. The discussion was moved back to the dias. Pontieri did reiterate that this CDD development would be self sufficient and not reliant on the City of Palm Coast for their infrastructure. Vice Mayor Danko made the motion to approve, and Pontieri seconded. The vote passed 5-0.

Voluntary annexation regarding land south of the airport, over 300 acres, as part of the City of Palm Coast. The presenter for this subject had to leave before this subject came up and requested a continuance until the August 1st meeting at 6pm. The council agreed to the continuance.

The council heard a presentation was regarding the Coquina Shores Comprehensive Plan and Zoning map. The 505.6 acres has been vacant and was approved in 2006-2007 timeline.  The developers want to change the zoning from mixed used and conservation, to residential and conservation.  Presenter noted that no changes have been made to the plans. Pontieri asked the presenter if this would reduce the conservation area, to which the developer’s representative stated that it would not, it would actually increase the conservation area. Public comment was opened, to which there was none. The motion was made and seconded and passed 5-0. 

 

By Krys DeWind

Krys DeWind has been a Flagler County resident since 2016. She is active in her community and is always looking for ways to better it. She has a community first attitude which is one of the central founding ideals of the Flagler County Buzz.

One thought on “Palm Coast City Council Holds First of Two Votes on FPL Franchise Tax and More During Morning City Meeting

  • Susan Kling -

    I had to leave the meeting at 10:30. I did put before the board that the fact at my property is sinking into the drainage ditch, and the answer that I had gotten from the city worker who saw it was ‘oh well.’ I would love to know what is going to become of this or if someone is going to contact me about it before you know my fence is going down to get to lose my house to before somebody does something. I already had a tree fall during the hurricane, and had to have people from my daughters church come and take it down from over the garage and the porch after chasing down and FPL truck because the tree was leaning on the wires. What the heck I’m 74 years old how am I supposed to take care of the land that sinking into the stupid drainage, ditch, which, by the way they are now calling to sell the houses a canal!

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