Two weeks ago, the Flagler County Commission voted 3-2 to let Captain's BBQ expand its restaurant in the county-owned Bings Landing park on the Intracoastal. The county administration and the restaurant both signed the new lease allowing for the expansion.
But in a meeting the morning of Dec. 3, the commission voted 4-0 (with Commissioner Charlie Ericksen absent) to reconsider that decision, opting to discuss the Captain's BBQ proposal at a workshop on Jan. 7.
The commission's decision to consider voiding the previous vote followed more than a dozen comments by residents who opposed the proposed expansion, or opposed the way the proposal was handled by the county — without a workshop, placed on the Dec. 19 commission meeting's consent agenda, with no previous discussion by the commission before the public.
"We don’t want a bar and a bigger barbecue in our public park — a beautiful, archeological, environmentally sensitive piece of property," said resident Joanne Reuter. "There's an outcry about this."
Another resident called the arrangement "corporate welfare" for the restaurant.
The motion to reverse the Dec. 19 decision was put forward by Commission David Sullivan, who'd voted in favor of the proposed expansion and new lease with Captain's when it first came before the commission on Dec. 19. That vote to approve the expansion had been 3-2, with commissioners Ericksen and Donald O'Brien voting in the minority against the expansion. Commissioner Nate McLaughlin, who'd voted in favor of the expansion, was, the following day, replaced by incoming Commissioner Joe Mullins.
"I agree with the idea of having the restaurant in Bings Landing," Sullivan said at the Dec. 3 meeting. "What I was given as the original plan makes some sense to me. However, I’m not immune to human beings saying they don’t want it done that way … I still favor doing something on the restaurant, but I have come to the conclusion that we do not have enough information."
The other commissioners present agreed with him.
The previous Friday, the Scenic A1A Pride board had also voted to rescind its prior support of the proposed expansion, with board members expressing concerns about the veracity of information presented by the county administration in a previous meeting.
"I’ve talked to both parties," Mullins said. "I have seen a desire for both to sit down and speak about the details. ... I want to see us move forward; I don’t want to see our community divided over something like this."
At the same County Commission meeting, the commission decided to consider firing County Administrator Craig Coffey.
Mullins, making his first motion as a member of the board, proposed firing Coffey, citing what he called repeated mishandling of major county issues including the Captain's BBQ dispute and a possible sick-building problem at the county Sheriff's Office Operations Center. Because of Ericksen's absence, the commission decided to discuss the possibility of firing Coffey at a meeting on Jan. 14.
— Becky Pourchot contributed to this story.