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Opinion
Ormond Beach Observer Friday, Feb. 2, 2018 7 months ago

'We were upholding our oaths': the true story behind the Tomoka annexation

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The real lesson learned is that corporations will leverage city governments against one another.

Jeff Boyle

Guest Writer

As one of the "anti-sprawl" commissioners who served with Bill Partington, I appreciate his explanation (in his editorial in the Jan. 18 edition) of the 2002 Daytona Beach annexation of 3,072 acres west of our city.

Some clarifications: The landowner, Consolidated Tomoka Land Co., did not "negotiate" bringing its unincorporated property into Ormond Beach. Instead, the company demanded waiver of our wetland rules as a condition. More relaxed rules mandated by the water district allow wetlands to be destroyed and "mitigated" by the purchase of remote lands outside our city in distant land banks. (Ormond Beach today has abandoned our old rules and adopted these less restrictive district mitigation rules). 

Candidates elected to Ormond commission seats between 1995 and 2001 pledged to uphold our wetland rules against corporate pressures, staying true to the will of voter majorities, and to previous landowners who had developed under Ormond rules in good faith.

When we would not yield to the company's demand, Consolidated Tomoka annexed into Daytona Beach. We were not "imprudent" in that rejection. We were upholding our oaths.

Mayor Partington correctly identifies a strong Ormond passion against urban sprawl. We had created a plan that changed our density requirements, not wetland rules. Instead of requiring minimum one-acre lots that would exacerbate sprawl, the landowner would be allowed to concentrate residential densities on higher ground, leaving existing low ground wetlands intact, the city benefitting from shorter infrastructure and shorter roads.

In that scenario, the landowner won his required units, the environment won, and the city won. Company representatives rejected this approach for a better bottom line in Daytona. (Paving over wetlands contributed to the recent flooding disaster in Houston, an area sharing our latitude, with its own ocean to the east.)

At the same time, Daytona Beach reneged on a long-standing unwritten agreement to observe a general boundary line south of Hand Avenue. Ormond had been allowed to annex 80 acres for Aberdeen on the Daytona side of the line, and we had agreed to allow that city a future annexation of 80 acres on our side of the line. Instead, Daytona Beach unilaterally annexed thousands of acres of Consolidated Tomoka property directly west of our community and won when we took them to court. Lesson learned: Get interlocal agreements in writing. (Bill and I had not yet arrived when this omission occurred.)

With ICI developments planned beyond Margaritaville on LPGA and State Road 40, we're looking at more than 10,000 total new homes, not the 5,000-9,000 our mayor contemplates in the annexed territory. Add another 3,000 homes approved by Ormond Beach for Ormond Crossings on north U.S. 1.

I'm puzzled by the assertion that Ormond Beach would today have surplus development revenues to regulate or mitigate development had we yielded to the landowner demands in 2002. Waive a key regulatory rule so you'll be able to impose regulation later? The development probably would have happened faster in Ormond Beach, by a company with a track record of "no compromise."

The real lesson learned is that corporations will leverage city governments against one another. We saw that when Bray and Gillespie promised a beachside Disney World if only we would abandon our building height limits and let them build to the sky like they could in Daytona. Ormond Beach voters spared us economic disaster when they wisely overruled Bill Partington and three other commissioners in 2006.

New Smyrna Beach (where citizens and government work in partnership) succeeded in downsizing a new Marriott Hotel on the beachfront. Here in Ormond, years ago we were able to negotiate downsizing the beautiful apartments behind Walmart, protecting the fragile Tomoka River while mitigating high density noise for nearby Broadwater and traffic on SR 40. When citizens, governments, and corporations work together, everybody wins.

Finally, it is wrong to suggest that the City Commission will be able to find an "alternative east/west relief route" to Granada Boulevard/S.R. 40.

We have only one bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway, and any relief routes feeding it would have to destroy established residential communities.

Jeff Boyle, of Ormond Beach, was the Zone 1 city commissioner from 1996 to 2005.

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