Letters to the Editor: Residential Development is Not Economic Development

lettertoeditor

While residential development provides jobs and can help attract businesses to a community, residential development does not equal economic development. The sentiment that we can rely on residential development for economic development is a false one that is not sustainable for our City’s long-term financial sustainability. There’s only so much land to build on, so what happens when that land is gone? What if the infrastructure is not in place to sustain the pace of growth? And where do the influx of people brought in by this residential development work? These are the questions many have been chastised for asking. The facts are this: our unemployment rate in Flagler County is 12th highest in the State, and 92% of our ad valorem taxes last year rested on the shoulders of our residents due to the lack of diversity in our tax base and our lack of commercial, manufacturing, and industry.

Perhaps we’ve been relying on residential development as economic development for far too long. This reliance on residential development translates to a reliance on residential ad valorem to largely fund our General Fund, which pays for necessities like Fire, Police, and Public Works. Not only is this a dangerous reliance due to things out of our control, such as market conditions and possible legislation that could get passed at the state level, but it’s an impossible way to keep our taxes low while simultaneously protecting our quality of life.

We’ve been building rooftops; now, we need to focus on industry outside of residential construction. We, as a City, need to continue to work on initiatives to better support our local businesses, such as helping them get Certificates of Occupancy quicker and making them operational sooner. We need to focus on bringing more industry and manufacturing to our City by providing pad-ready real estate cites and incentives to entice larger companies with good-paying jobs to come to Palm Coast. I have had numerous conversations with both our City Staff and our Chamber of Commerce regarding these initiatives, and there is consensus to continue working collaboratively towards these common goals.

While I’m not anti-development, I’m very focused on ensuring we have infrastructure in place to sufficiently handle the influx of residential development. Impact fees are nothing more than shiny pennies, and I refuse to subsidize the cost of new residential development with my current taxpayers’ monies. I simply want reasonable growth that we have the resources to sustain. Our roads, utilities, and water capacity are in need of major improvements, and the publicly accessible figures show that much of the reason for our increased infrastructure needs and costs are due to increased growth. I am pro-growth, but in a smart, calculated manner that will ensure we are providing a strong foundation upon which our City can flourish and preserve the quality of life our residents have come to rely on, appreciate, and enjoy.

Sincerely,

Theresa Carli Pontieri

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