Letters to the Editor: Palm Coast Mayoral Candidate Mike Norris Talks Paradise Lost

Letters to the editor

Palm Coast Mayoral Candidate Mike Norris submitted his letter to the editor this week. Letters to the editor can be submitted for publication by any local Flagler County resident. Letters to the editor are a great way for members of the community to voice their opinions, we do not edit these letters in anyway. To submit your own letter to the editor, email them to us at editor@flaglercountybuzz.com.

Paradise Lost for Profit – Mike Norris

With the closing legislative session, we are witnessing what happens when city leaders’ priorities are skewed by special interests. Some of the foremost experts in urban development and land use optimization have been shouting from the rooftops for years about how to properly use our most vital resource….our available lands. Density within cities should be focused on the city center. Municipalities, along with counties’ tax base expansion, are better served when they invest their dollars in pedestrian friendly, mixed-use development in the urban core, rather than urban sprawl. For more than 2 decades our residents have been promised a thriving downtown business district with the civic activities associated with properly planned communities. Urban sprawl only adds to the increasingly congested roadways with little resources being dedicated to solving the problems that currently exist.

Our city leaders’ priorities for the last 2 years have been to create more urban sprawl, while neglecting our failing existing infrastructure. While they stated that the city’s budget priorities given to the state government were not ranked in any particular order, it’s apparent that their requested funding and received funding was skewed for urban sprawl. First on their list of priorities was continuing to support transportation access to the west, while funding for expansion of Wastewater Treatment Plant #1 was at the bottom of the list. On the governor’s desk right now is a budget that allocates approximately $80 million for the Matanzas Woods Parkway/Palm Coast Parkway Loop Road. At the bottom of the list is Wastewater Treatment Plant #1 which will receive $1 million of the $35 million requested for expansion. This comes at a time, when just a couple of weeks ago, our city council was and continues to toy with the possibility of raising our water bills to pay for needed expansion of the treatment facility. For the time being, the city council has agreed to raise the impacts fees on developers, with the mayor being the lone dissenting vote against. Rapid development has, as you know, impacted our water systems. You are a witnessing a windfall for developers, while the existing residents are left with the aftermath of a city that is getting too big for its britches. Not to mention that Palm Coast will receive no money for the improvements on Old Kings Road, north or south in this year’s budget. A vital road in our transportation network which needs to be expanded.

We continue to see flooding in existing residential neighborhoods due to poorly managed
planning. Our road system, stormwater system, and water treatment systems decline…all in the name of profits disguised as “progress”. My priorities as the next Mayor of Palm Coast, if successful, is to return responsible governance to our city and improve our quality of life, while attracting industrial growth and employment opportunities for our residents. I am committed to improving the quality of life in our city by focusing on five key areas of concern:

Revitalizing existing infrastructure. Our city’s infrastructure is aging and is being strained by the upsurge in growth. We have to get back to the basics and prioritize resources to address critical systems that support our residents’ well-being. This includes safe and well-maintained roadways, a fully functioning storm water system, and safe water. Our priorities for state revenues should be concentrated towards shoring up existing infrastructure before expanding our city’s boundaries.

Attract industrial growth and employment opportunities. By promoting the strategic
location of our wonderful city. This means increasing industrial zoning in the city, specifically to attract industries seeking to capitalize on access to an active railroad system, the I-95 corridor, and the close proximity of the Jacksonville port. Approximately 25,000 residents commute out of our county each morning for work, that’s 23% of the total population of the county. A significant portion of which are career minded professionals who are unable to find employment that provides livable wages, because those types of industries are just not available in our city and county. We need to significantly diversify our economy in order to ease the tax burden of our residents. Some 90% of our city’s revenue comes from residential property taxes, which is unsustainable without undue burden on our citizens. The only way to correct these shortcomings is to aggressively promote and recruit industries that manufacture products and services on a
larger scale which will provide higher wages. We are ideally positioned to accomplish these goals while maintaining the “Old Florida” feel that makes our city such an ideal place to live.

Increase public safety and security. We have to focus resources towards our failing and
congested roadways. With the significant increase in growth, along with the age of our
roadways, we have to make improvements and maintain this vital part of our infrastructure as top priority. Citizens’ concerns regarding dangerous streets and roadways have to be addressed to ensure the safety of our residents. We will continue a proactive relationship with the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office to ensure root causes of criminal activity are adequately tackled. This includes improving lighting and surveillance systems, partnering with the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office to increase patrols and investigations, and investing in social programs that help at-risk individuals and families.

Smart growth and expansion by promoting sustainable development. This means balancing economic growth with environmental responsibility, encouraging the development of green spaces and parks, and creating pedestrian friendly neighborhoods that reduce reliance on cars. With the passing of the Live Local Act, we have to ensure that we use the pedestrian friendly city concept to encourage the development of the town center area of the city. No further expansion of the city boundaries should happen until our existing infrastructure is capable of sustaining the exponential growth of what could be a doubling our city’s footprint.

Empower the commercial development of the town center. By supporting the growth of
businesses in the central business district. This can include working with centers of influence to bring the long-awaited development of Town Center into the thriving business district it was meant to be, and promised to the residents of the city. The use of public/private ventures can be used to expediate development by using properties owned by the city in partnership with developers to create attractive retail spaces. We have to have a commitment by centers of influence and developers to ensure we create an appealing commercial business district at the heart of the city. This could include cultural and civic venues that would attract both economic growth and civic pride.

This article was submitted by

Mike Norris
CPT(Ret), USA
Candidate for Palm Coast Mayor
norris4mayor.com 386.264.9164

 

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.

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