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Palm Coast Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2017 1 year ago

County commissioners accept city conditions for taking over land near airport

The county owns 116 acres of land near the airport, but the land falls within the city of Palm Coast's limits. The county wants to take it over.
by: Jonathan Simmons News Editor

Flagler County wants to take over jurisdictional control of a piece of land that is owned by the county government but sits within the city of Palm Coast's limits. Palm Coast is willing to make a deal, and the county on Aug. 21 agreed to the city's conditions after some debate.

The 116 acres of undeveloped land sits next to the airport, and the county wants it for a runway safety zone. The county has asked the city in the past to turn over there land, and been stymied by city council members' unwillingness to relinquish control.

City council members ultimately decided they'd agree to the process of turning over the land, called a deannexation or contraction, if the county would agree to certain stipulations — chiefly, that the land would stay vacant; that any vertical development in the future would be subject to city, not county, regulations; and that if the county sells the land, or if there's private development on the land, that it would revert back to city control.

City officials sent county officials an interlocal agreement with those conditions Friday, Aug. 18, for consideration. 

"I just don’t understand what they’re afraid of," County Commissioner Greg Hansen said at a County Commission workshop Aug. 21.

"I think we ought to nip this in the bud before it gets into this back and forth business," Commission Chairman Nate McLaughlin said. "I'm not interested in the interlocal. I'm saying, let's just ask them to contract the land, and if they want to say if we don't use it, it reverts back — Well, they don't even own it, we own the land, that's the thing. The ownership is our ownership. So, I think a simple vote, up or down vote: contract it; don't contract it —"

"Mr. Chairman, I agree," Commissioner Greg Hansen said. "I think we ought to send it back to them and say, 'Just either do it or don't.' Let's not get pissy about this."

Commissioner David Sullivan was concerned about the ramifications of turning down the potential deal. 

If that happens, things would largely stay as they are, county staff said. But, said county Deputy Administrator Sally Sherman, having the land inside the city's limits means that any time the county wants to make any changes — for instance, installing fencing — it would need a city permit. 

"That may create a challenge," she said. 

County Administrator Craig Coffey said that having the land inside the city's limits is a source of potential tension between the county and the city.

"We didn't want a constant source of fighting between us and the city about this," he said. "Whether it be stormwater issues or tree issues or wildlife issues. Because they can come back and try too assess this for stormwater or something like that, and we'll fight about that; and they could get us about the height of there grass, and fight about that. ... That would be the real reason for contracting the property and getting it outside the city."

Coffey said the interlocal from the city "is not perfect; not;s not simple, but really, it gets the job done."

McLaughlin thought the agreement's stipulations created a "slippery slope" that would complicate similar deals in the future, and that a future City Council might interpret the clause about the land reverting to the city under certain conditions as meaning that the land would become the city's property, rather than simply reverting to the city's jurisdictional control, as the language is intended to mean.

"I think we need to simplify," he said. 

But when the issue came up for a vote at a special meeting after the workshop, only McLaughlin and Hansen voted against the deal: Commissioners Donald O'Brien, David Sullivan and Charlie Ericksen voted in favor. The proposed agreement will go back to the Palm Coast City Council for final approval.

UPDATE: This story has been updated to reflect the outcome of the County Commission's vote to accept the city of Palm Coast's proposed agreement.




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