Editor’s Note: The following is a letter to the editor submitted to AskFlagler by Palm Coast City Councilwoman Theresa Carli Pontieri. It was submitted in response to lobbying efforts by the Flagler Homebuilders Association (HBA) regarding flooding in lots being developed in Palm Coast. As with any such submission, this piece reflects the opinion of its author and not necessarily AskFlagler as a site. Read the HBA’s response here. Read the HBA’s response here.
Chris Gollon – Managing Editor, AskFlagler
By: Theresa Carli Pontieri, District 2 Palm Coast City Councilwoman
Like many hot button issues facing our community in the past, I have been inundated with emails regarding my Motion for a temporary pause on new infill lot building until the City can update its Technical Manual. Unlike the emails I’ve received in the past, this onslaught of email came from the Flagler County Home Builders Association (HBA). In the interest of transparency and clarity, I sent the below response, which I share with the public—not to discourage the HBA from reaching out to me in the future, but to shed light on the reasoning for my very strong stance on this issue and why I know it’s in our community’s best interest.
My Response: Thank you for your correspondence in the templated email outlining the HBA’s concerns regarding a temporary pause on new infill lot building while the City updates it’s Technical Manual. I’ve greatly considered your email. Please allow this email to serve as a response in turn to each of your issues, as well as an outline of my concerns for my residents.
First and foremost, while I was the one that motioned for the temporary, 90-day pause on new infill lot building, my motion carried unanimously from all Council members, showing the level of concern we universally have for our residents. That should speak volumes to you as vital members of our community that affect peoples’ lives on a daily basis in what you do as professionals.
While your email states that my proposal would “cause an immediate and direct effect on more than 9,000 lots in our city and will have a detrimental and resounding impact on the home building industry in our region,” the actual facts are that in the City of Palm Coast, as of today’s date, there are 64 applications for building residential permits waiting to be issued for infill lots. By contrast, there are 126 open, unresolved cases for infill lot flooding in our City due to new builds constructed adjacent to these flooding properties. To say that this pause would have a detrimental and resounding impact on not only our City, but also our region, is not only an exaggeration and an irresponsible statement that could actually do more harm in itself than the actual pause, but it also ignores the fact that nearly double the amount of residents are experiencing flooding to their most important investment than the number of current applications pending approval for permits.
Next, your email states, “[t]his moratorium banishes and impoverishes the people most capable of finding solutions for this issue: the builders.” The definition of “banish” is to send away or punish, and no one, certainly not our Council, is sending away or punishing any builders through this action. We are simply doing our jobs, which is to protect the members of our community while we update known deficiencies in our Technical Manual. Furthermore, we initially approached you, the Builders, for your input to our proposed changes to our Technical Manual back on November 17, 2023. We did not receive a response to those proposed changes until three days after I made my Motion, to wit, on January 5, 2024. I asked repeatedly from the Dais for both the City and the HBA to move quickly on this matter, as real people are feeling real negative effects daily—not suspected ones—due to infill lot building. My requests were not heeded until after my Motion was made and passed.
Your email also accuses me of “holding new home construction as ransom” and states this is not the “appropriate means to alleviate the need for” updates to our Technical Manual. At this juncture, I have to vehemently disagree, as my Motion has proven that it was the only means to get these updates to our Technical Manual finalized. Prior to my Motion being made, it doesn’t seem there was any sense of urgency to get these updates finalized and instituted. But magically, after my Motion was made, which could have an impact on the building industry, movement was made on the Technical Manual, which we will hopefully approve at this Tuesday’s Business Meeting, alleviating the need for any pause to new infill lot building.
Your email then goes on to accuse my Motion of being “ill-conceived,” as it will not only delay construction, but will impact the private sector, city employees, and multiple jobs lost, as well as future commercial development. I’d like to see the research and statistics behind such a statement, as this pause would have minimal effects on strictly new infill lot building for a limited period of time. Our city employees have plenty of other inspections and work to do, therefore, I am very skeptical that such a statement has any validity, and if multiple jobs and commercial development will be impacted by a 90-day (max) pause on new infill lot building, then we are doing something else wrong and have industries in this City with a foundation built on twigs, rather than cement. I’d say larger issues are at play that need to be focused on rather than my Motion.
Your email concludes by stating you recognize that I am dedicated to “making decisions that benefit our community as a whole,” and you hope I’ll be moved to do the right thing. You can rest very easy, as you’re correct. I do base all of my decisions on what I think will benefit our community as a whole, and I will be moved to do the right thing. For that reason, if the proposed changes the City has made to the Technical Manual will not—in the opinion of City staff—alleviate the flooding that our current residents are experiencing, I will be in favor of the 90-day pause on new infill lot building until said changes are implemented. If you do not think this is good for the community as a whole, ask yourself this question: “How good is it for future building, growth, and commercial development if our City earns a reputation of flooding due to poor building practices and outdated stormwater regulations?” I would gather that the long-term repercussions of such a reputation is what you, as the HBA, should be focused on, rather than a Motion that would impart a 90-day pause in order to protect the current stakeholders of our great City—the residents.
Thank you for your engagement.