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Opinion
Ormond Beach Observer Monday, Nov. 15, 2021 2 weeks ago

4 letters: On freedom of speech, Avalon Park and the airport

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What are your neighbors talking about this week?
by: Guest Writer

Proposed airport expansion

Dear Editor:

Why is the city pushing extended runways and a busier airport when it continues to approve and encourage new residential development on the airport’s doorstep? New homes, townhouses and apartments are slated for construction within the 5-mile county airport overlay district, including the latest proposal, Tattersall at Tymber Creek, a mile from the airport.  (Is the developer aware of the expansion and disclosing this to prospective buyers?  Are they being told this expansion will accommodate jets and larger aircraft?)

Residents opposing the extended runway say they knew they were locating near an airport when they purchased their home. But did these homeowners know the city would enable an expanded airport that would accommodate jets and larger aircraft in greater numbers? Did they have any way of knowing a small-town recreation and flight training airport was slated for conversion to an executive airport by a master plan approved without a public mandate?

The City Commission airport policy is a contradiction, approving new residential development while at the same time creating a noisier, busier airport that will negatively impact the quality of life of that development, as well as three dozen existing subdivisions, three elementary schools and a middle school.

Meanwhile, the city permanently closed River Bend Golf Course to accommodate airport expansion, forfeiting a tangible community asset that paid about $100,000 annual rent to an airport awash in red ink. What additional damage will a larger airport do to the small-town character of Ormond Beach?

Why must citizens continue subsidizing an airport that produces little economic return from the few who use it? Why do our elected officials continue to tout vague economic benefits when years of actual numbers of dollars contradict such claims?

Devera Roach

Ormond Beach

Avalon Park

Dear Editor:

Mayor Partington and Commissioner Selby continue to blame “poor decisions” by “past commissions” for the Avalon Park mega-development on the city’s western doorstep.

Facts: The Consolidated-Tomoka Land Company leveraged one city against the other in 2003 and Daytona Beach broke a long agreement with Ormond Beach in annexing 3,000 acres west of our city. Consolidated-Tomoka demanded we weaken our wetland rules to bring them in.

Facts: “Past commissions” were elected by constituents who wanted to keep our wetland rules and who knew growth does not pay for itself. Bill Partington was part of the 2009 commission that abolished our wetland rules.

Mayor Partington says “past commissions” failed to “negotiate and reach a reasonable deal.”

Facts: Consolidated-Tomoka turned down a good faith offer to amend our density rules, allowing the same number of units condensed on higher ground while preserving low-ground wetlands, shortening the city’s lines of infrastructure. Three members of the 2002 City Commission appeared at a Daytona Beach commission meeting to ask them to honor the existing annexation agreements between our two cities.

Questions:  Why has the Ormond Beach commission agreed to provide water and sewer services to Avalon Park in Daytona Beach? Why did we annex Plantation Oaks, roughly 1,500 manufactured homes that will receive our water, sewer, police, and fire services with no city control over the development and little revenue in return? Lastly, given the commission’s track record, it is doubtful they would’ve held the developer to a higher standard.

Instead of finger-pointing at past commission decisions, the current city commissions should re-examine its own decisions that will accelerate and enable the massive Avalon Park and Plantation Oaks over-developments west and north of our city. 

Stacy Day

Ormond Beach

Understand the Constitution

Dear Editor:

I was surprised to read the Nov. 11, 2021 Observer, concerning the article titled “School Board considers changes to public participation" the School Board attorney and School Board Chair Linda Cuthbert seem to be in favor of. They are quoted as saying a rise in public challenges pertaining to the public’s civility and decorum when speaking before the board within the last several months. Apparently, this is uncomfortable to them. They should look at our Constitution of the United States and the protection it provides to its citizens when addressing public officials. 

The First Amendment protects the right to criticize public officials. In 1931, Justice Hugo Black expressed it eloquently in Bridges v. California, when he wrote, “It is a prized American privilege to speak one’s mind, though not always with perfect good taste, on all public institutions.” 

Komaa Mnyofu spoke at the public comment portion of a meeting held by the Board of Education of Rich Township High in Matteson, Illinois. After several minutes, Mnyofu criticized some school officials by name. At that point, the president of the board of education ordered that Mnyofu’s microphone be silenced and that a security guard stop Mnyofu from speaking. 

Mnyofu sued the board of education and its president in federal court, alleging they violated his First Amendment free-speech rights by prohibiting him from criticizing school officials. He contended that the board unconstitutionally restricted speech based on content. 

“The right to criticize public officials is clearly established,” he wrote in Mnyofu v. Board of Education of Rich Township High School District 227. “Additionally, the right to speak at public forums or designated public forums free of content-based restrictions is also clearly established.” 

I would suggest before the School Board goes down this road, they understand the Constitution of the United States and the ramifications of their updating of public participation and decorum by the public.

Ron Hoopper

Ormond Beach

Airport expansion will result in negative impacts

Dear Editor:

Here’s a few more observations on the negative impacts of the Ormond airport expansion, and other local government decisions.

I regularly boat the Tomoka River. Recently I stopped to converse with a fisherman in Thompson’s Creek. We had to pause our conversation many times while small planes passed overhead. I started timing them. Incredibly, one plane flew over every 52 to 65 seconds for just shy of two hours.

These were training flights, the same planes over and over. They begin 7:30 a.m. to 8 a.m. most mornings, and are most active in the morning and evening, when most folks are home. The flight pattern is 360 degrees around the airport. It negatively affects the quality of life for all of the surrounding communities.

What kind of guidelines control the number of training flights per hour? What kind of guidelines control the height aircraft fly over homes? Tomoka Oaks and the trails regularly have helicopters and planes flying ridiculously low over the neighborhood. Does the city support having a jet flight school at the airport? Jets already regularly use the airport, so what purpose does spending all that money building an extension serve? Some jet pilots take off with barely a sound, others scream out at maximum throttle. Are there any noise restrictions on takeoff? Who enforces that? Some of the jets taking off have 9 or 10 windows to a side, which means at least 20 passenger capacity. How large a jet do you want landing here? We don’t need a passenger hub here.

Citizens are limited on noisy behavior, businesses in Ormond Beach are regulated on noise and music, so why is the airport allowed to create an unlimited nuisance to the surrounding community, and why is the city seeking a massive expansion of that nuisance?

It’s hard to understand where our community is headed. We spend millions to decorate sidewalks, instead of buying a 150-acre park or beachside parking for all citizens. Hundreds of thousands of dollars are paid to consultants to tell the city what to do. We elect folks to make those decisions, not pay someone else. There is a continuous commercial assault on our parks at Granada Bridge that benefit a few businessmen. Parking and traffic needs are ignored at the expense of us all. So we watch the shredding of the fabric that made us a desirable place to live.

J.R. Miller

Ormond Beach

Send letters up to 400 words to [email protected]. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.

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