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Ormond Beach Observer Monday, Dec. 2, 2019 8 months ago

1 letter: On Volusia's proposed sales tax and reach for aerospace industries

Former civil engineering firm owner discusses what comes with job growth and infrastructure.
by: Guest Writer

Dear Editor,

Volusia county officials have been discussing ways to bring aerospace business into the county. A county wide sales tax has been proposed as a funding mechanism to improve the infrastructure. The county was informed they will miss the opportunity to attract the space industry if construction is not ready to start in 12-18 months.

I owned a civil engineering/surveying firm for around 18 years. In my experience, it is impossible in this situation, to have a contractor under contract for a public improvement project within 18 months. Many issues need to be addressed and legalized long before construction documents commence. The sales tax must be implemented first. Capital improvement plans need to be implemented or updated, planning and zoning issues need to be addressed, potential improvements need to be identified and justified, projects need to be defined and prioritized, right-of-way and easement requirements need to be identified and obtained, permits will be needed, plans and specifications need to be completed, budgets need to be set... The list goes on. The area has already missed the opportunity to entice the space industry. The time to start was at least five years ago. A single jurisdiction could perhaps complete it sooner, but not a county with several cities. If that’s the only purpose for a sales tax, we can drop the subject now. The sales tax is not needed.

Assuming adequate time was available and the tax was in place, we need to ask ourselves what specific infrastructure is needed; will the entire county benefit from the infrastructure improvements and do the citizens want growth that will come with any rapidly growing industry?

Infrastructure is a very broad term. It can be roadway systems; drinking water treatment and distribution; sanitary sewer collection, treatment and disposal; storm drainage systems; emergency services; libraries; fiber optic; communication systems... Again, the list goes on. Our elected officials need to identify precisely what infrastructure our tax dollars will fund.

Benefits associated with infrastructure improvements should be identified. For example, sewer and water projects will only benefit those living within a given city planning area. Furthermore, upgrades to Daytona’s sewer and water systems will not benefit DeLand, Ormond Beach or those living beyond areas of impact. On the other hand, certain roadway system improvements will benefit most residences. Major job growth is ultimately a competitive process. Major job growth is generally discouraged in the county by their zoning laws. Cities, however, encourage major job growth in specified areas with their zoning laws. The county should not be the major stakeholder for major job growth. Each city controls their own growth and each city will be competing for major job growth — competing for your tax dollars. Volusia county should certainly be part of the process, but not for funding. This belongs to those competing for big business, the cities within our county.

Major job growth will lead to rapid growth throughout the county. Land will be developed for residential and commercial uses. The population will expand rapidly. House prices will increase rapidly. We need to ask ourselves: Will average wages will keep pace? Can our children afford a home here in the future? Do we want more traffic? A balance does exist. But are we prepared for what will come with a rapidly growing aerospace industry?

Full disclosure: My wife and I were able to retire early here because of rapid growth in our hometown (and sound financial decisions). Development put food on our table, but it was too much too fast. In one generation, housing became unaffordable. What cost $90k 23 years ago, now costs $340k. General wages have not kept pace. Traffic is a mess. Crime is on the rise. Government planners could not keep up. Volusia county has thus far been controlling growth and has found a balance with a great quality of life it offers. From an outsider, you have a great thing going here!

Scott and Tricia Stanfield 

Ormond Beach

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