I felt compelled to respond to this article and some of the comments County Administrator Craig Coffey has stated. It also is imperative I address a comment made by Economic Director Helga can Eckert also with several links for ease of navigation.
When one reads the article, on the surface, this appears like the county is addressing both the proponents and opponents of the Sea Ray expansion with a compromise position. Let’s discuss that in detail.
For over a month, we have been told this is just a parking lot. As a matter of fact, just a few days ago, that was confirmed by Flagler County’s planner: This is just a parking lot. Now we find out by way of Palm Coast Observer, that the new zoning would also allow for office space and a boat transport area. Boat transport could involve very large 18-wheel tractor trailers with very loud back up alarms. And would there be 24-hour access to this “parking lot”?
From the very beginning, when we guesstimated Sea Ray’s existing parking lots were about 3.5 to 4 acres, we knew this residential-zoned property would morph into more than just a parking lot. It had to. It is needed for Sea Ray’s expansion. After all, it is 24 acres, 16 of which is uplands. Yet, all of the “jobs at all costs” individuals keep throwing out this is “just a parking lot.” Sea Ray’s new DEP permit details that the company is moving operations from plants in other parts of the country to the Flagler location. Activities being brought here include resin/lamination operations, gel coat operations, adhesive operations, mold cleaning and preparation operations and miscellaneous operation. Sea Ray needs room on their industrial property for this expansion – hence the need to move the parking lot.
Therefore, this is not just about a parking lot. The crux of the matter is that Sea Ray needs more room to expand. This is residential zoned property to their south they hope to rezone which abuts residential homes to the east. There is mixed use property with a commercial element directly to the west of them with no residential homes abutting their property. However, that property, since it is zoned mixed use, would be more expensive to purchase than residential zoned property in question. Thus, the reason for the request.
Having said that, let’s focus on some of Mr. Coffey’s misstatements. First of all, abutting property owners were told numerous times, this is only a parking lot. In the Palm Coast Observer article, Coffey refers to those that support Sea Ray “but want a parking lot only. We are trying to provide them with some reassurance.”
Wrong, Mr. Coffey. You are now attempting to provide them with a parking lot, office space and a “boat transport area” parking that could be used for very large 18-wheelers thate have very loud back-up alarms, which will be heard from the residential folks directly across from this property. Think Walmart on steroids with very large, industrial-boat-transport, 18-wheel truck traffic thrown in. How many residential properties do you see abutting the Walmart in Palm Coast? This is very poor planning.
Secondly, Mr. Coffey states the surrounding lots are still zoned industrial. Wrong again. If you check the Future Land Use Map of Flagler County, you will see abutting Sea Ray to the west is a mixed-use component with no industrial. To the south abutting Sea Ray is a conservation area and then only a residential component, with no industrial. To the north abutting the canal that abuts Sea Ray there is residential, with no industrial. To the southwest of Sea Ray, across Roberts Road is also a very large mixed-use piece of which a very, very small parcel is industrial. Therefore, there are no industrial lots directly abutting Sea Ray Boats and only two very small parcels left in the entire area on the opposite side of Roberts Road industrial, one of which abuts Colbert Lane, quite the distance from Sea Ray.
Lastly, Mr. Coffey mentions that Sea Ray has not revealed any plans for increased production and the company very likely doesn’t have solid plans that far in the future. Of course they haven’t. No site plan from Sea Ray is required to be submitted until the Future Land Use Map is changed.
However, that statement is in direct contrast to the DEP permit that we have submitted to staff, Flagler County’s Planning and Development Board and the commissioners themselves. In 2013, Sea Ray received a new permit from the DEP to increase their volatile organic compounds emissions up from a maximum of 249 tons to 489 tons per year. The majority of their VOCs are hazardous air pollutants. Styrene is the No. 1 emission of HAPs, which is classified by the National Toxicology Program and coordinated with the Department of Health and Human Services as “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.”
Regarding Ms. Eckert’s comment that “Sea Ray has a track record of being good neighbors and environmental stewards,” I would like to provide some links for the readers to decide.
The first link is from a professor that did a radio commentary at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Tennesee:
Next link is from the RTK network. This information is cross-referenced with DEP permits. Flagler Beach ranks 31st highest out of over 900 cities/towns in Florida in Toxic Release Inventory of Hazardous Air Pollutants because of Sea Ray Boats.
Next link is what are Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPS) anyway?
Next link: what role does Styrene, Sea Ray’s major HAP emission play into this? Approximately 100,000 pounds of release in 2013.
Brunswick, Sea Ray’s parent company, 2013 ranks 19th in Florida in TRI HAP industries out of a very long list of five pages of industries.
To me, living on the east side of Lambert, this is not about a “parking lot” or even office buildings or 18-wheel truck traffic. This is about a major Sea Ray expansion. Sea Ray is classified by the DEP as a major source of HAPs. In addition, this facility is a Title V major source of air pollution in accordance with Chapter 213, F.A.C.
Their boats are pretty, well-made and very high quality. However, the general public needs to know there is a price to pay for this expansion. There is another side to the story that the “jobs at all costs” folks don’t wish you to know about.
We are not anti Sea Ray. We wish for them to grow and prosper. However, do it the right way. Don’t just blow your toxic emissions up in the air for all to breathe as you are currently doing.
There is state-of-the-art technology available to capture up to 95% of their VOCs. However, it costs money to capture these VOCs and HAPs. After all, we are talking up to almost a million pounds of VOCs that would not be released into the air we breathe. Just like it costs more money to buy mixed-use commercial property than residential.
In closing, this is not a Lambert Avenue issue, as the “jobs at all costs” people would like you to believe. Doubling the potential maximum VOC output is very, very significant and goes way beyond the borders of Lambert.
Will it happen overnight? No.
However, imagine a year or two from now our economic engine, which is our beach, reeks of styrene odor? What about our restaurant owners that have spent their life savings building beautiful decks overlooking the ocean for their patrons?
Flagler Beach’s economic engine is our beach. What about the quality of life and clean air for all the residents of Flagler Beach and the surrounding communities? Is that too much to ask of our commissioners? Don’t be fooled by “this is a heavily regulated industry by the DEP.” Remember, the pulpwood mills are also DEP-regulated. How you ever noticed the smell from them?
A resident of Lambert Avenue, Don Deal is a 20-year member of the Flagler Beach Planning and Architectural Board. He also served several years on the Flagler County Long Range Planning Board.