Maintain canals using impact fee funds
Over the past year or so, I have had meetings with concerned residents regarding the issue of a lack of saltwater canal maintenance and brought these concerns to City Council.
At the Palm Coast City Council business meeting of Dec. 7 and business meeting Jan. 18, the saltwater canals again were brought up in public comment. On some of the recent occasions that this issue has come forward, one of the sitting councilmen referred to the maintenance issue as a boat owners problem and equated the cost to the number of boats, thereby tagging the saltwater canal system as an amenity.
Let’s assume they are an amenity in need of maintenance? A member of the public stood at the podium and stated that there are approximately 4,600 docks and seawalls associated with the 20+ mile saltwater canal system. This makes the saltwater canals one of the oldest, largest and most used amenity in the city. As an amenity, could a portion of the new construction impact fees that are specifically tagged for park and recreation expansion and maintenance also be used for saltwater canal maintenance? I am referring to maintenance of the waterway itself and not privately owned seawalls. There are several municipalities in Florida with saltwater canals that have dredging programs that we could reach out to for guidance.
In the 22 years of the city’s incorporation, the city hasn’t created a budget line item for future saltwater canal maintenance.
High dollar projects aren’t without precedent. Projects have cost millions of dollars such as the renovation of Holland Park and the remodeling of the Community Center. The city has also approved moving forward with a racquetball sports stadium. Phase 1 price tag is above $5 million, and my estimates are much higher. The money for that project will in part come from the general fund and grants, but a large portion will be derived from new construction impact fees. Identifying a portion of the parks and recreation impact fees and finding available grants would mean that the saltwater canals could receive the much needed maintenance with no increase in taxes to the existing home owners.
Additionally, the city has named the canals as part of the strategic stormwater drainage system. (See Editor’s Note below.) In fact, in September 2018, the city approved an increase in the monthly stormwater fee (tax). The increase was tagged as raising additional funds for such things as saltwater canal maintenance.
Some have said the canals should be in a special taxing district for the people living in the canals. By this thought pattern, should the freshwater canals also be their own taxing district? No, these are all citywide issues. Let’s work together to find mutually acceptable solutions.
Editor's Note: Alan Lowe is a candidate for Palm Coast City Council. Also, according to city staff: “The saltwater canal’s influence on the stormwater system is controlled by tidal fluctuations, and dredging below the waterline has no effect on the city’s stormwater system. For these reasons, the city has not, to date, performed any dredging or regular maintenance of the canals.” For more, visit https://tinyurl.com/pcostory.
Saltwater canals benefit all, so use city revenue
In his recent letter to the editor, Brad M. West said general revenues available to our city should not be used for saltwater canal maintenance. He states that there are "far greater priorities."
The gist of his argument is that non-canal frontage property owners shouldn't have to help pay for canal maintenance because they receive no benefit. He further opines that most of our tax revenue goes to the county and schools. He thinks that attractions such as the "splash pads at Holland Park" are revenue generators luring in out-of-towners who then spend "millions" locally (and that's good) but the canals have no value added for visitors or non-frontage property owners.
Let's use his logic and apply it to my family. We never had any children, yet we have to pay a great amount of our tax money for schools everywhere we've lived. We don't use them, so why should we pay? We don't use the trail system so why should we pay? We've lived in town for over two decades and have never once put a demand in for fire department service, so why should we pay?
Using his idea, let's make everything in town a pay-as-you-use plan just like the Hammock Dunes Bridge. If your house is on fire, make sure you have your checkbook out before they start fighting your fire.
What if Brad West or one of his neighbors decides to get a small portable boat and wants to use the canals? Shall we place a canal policeman or a gate at the three entrances to make sure that only canal property owners -— who paid for canal maintenance — use them, too?
Tax revenues are collected and shared among all the city residents for needed maintenance and improvements for our city's amenities, much like an insurance policy is shared risk payments for all those who may or may not benefit.
When we moved to Palm Coast in 1999, one of the major attractions to us was the canals. We lucked out and found a canal home that suited our fancy and paid over twice the average price of a non-canal home back then. Ever since, we've paid higher taxes accordingly. So, it's possible that some of our monies have been going for something that Mr. West supports and/or uses or he deems an attraction to outsiders ever since but we don't use. We want a refund!
City should fund dredging just like it funds parks
I just read Brad West’s comments about the salt water canals, saying the property owners should pay for the dredging of them.
We dredge the fresh water canals funded by the increase in our water bills. The city owns the dredge and workers that operate it.
Some residents are in such a hurry to cut their lawns that they not carry away the clippings properly. Dump and blow it into the canals. This is one of the reasons the manatees are getting sick.
If the canals were deeper, there would be more water flow for rain water, control king tides and storm surge.
When ITT built this, they stated the canals would be kept 7 feet deep on mean low tide. Now there are places that are now only 3 to 4 feet deep in high tides. This was dropped when the city took over. We on the canals pay taxes for the sea walls and docks. This is enough funds for dredging. Has nothing to do with boaters thinking they deserve the funding to dredge.
The city spent millions for Holland Park. The taxpayers pay for the golf course.
Mr. West, do you have a dock or sea wall at your house? If you do, how do you feel about paying taxes on it and getting nothing back for it?
City needs to maintain its own canals
I am writing about the city’s salt water canals which have generated several letters recently.
The city owns the canals, not the homeowners. They were originally built as a part of the Palm Coast infrastructure to attract people interested in a water and boating lifestyle. They are just one piece of the Palm Coast infrastructure, fresh water canals, roads, bridges, swales, the many city parks, ballfields, water and sewer lines. They are all maintained by the city for the benefit of the residents.
The canals have been touted by the city for years as a wonderful asset for Palm Coast. The problem is, the salt water canals are slowly silting in and it is becoming more and more of a problem. They need some maintenance in the form of dredging.
The city has 1,200 miles of swales, 177 miles of ditches, 58 miles of fresh water canals and 26 miles of salt water canals. They all require maintenance. The city spends significant money maintaining the swales, ditches and fresh water canal system but basically nothing on the salt water canals. The swales and ditches drain into the fresh water canals, and most of them drain into the salt water canals, bringing silt with them.
The salt water canals are approximately 50 years old and, unlike the rest of the city infrastructure, they have had near zero maintenance by the city. It is time for the city to invest a little in this piece of city-owned infrastructure.
To those that say this is only a problem for the so-called “wealthy people” living on canals, I would ask that they consider the following. Canal residents paid considerably more for their property for one reason, the canals. As a result they pay much more in property taxes to the city every year. In fact, according to my math, they pay more than double what others in the city pay for similar homes.
If the canals are not maintained to a usable depth, the canal homes will lose value over time and the city will lose significant tax dollars. Would anyone suggest the city stop maintaining the roads? The parks?
A first step would be to look at several dredging options and to get estimates from dredging companies. From there, based upon scope and cost, the city can make some decisions on an appropriate path forward.