Commentary: Freedom of speech is a right. So too is the freedom to listen, evaluate and conclude. Study not only the content of the speech but also the motives of the speaker.
Palm Coast, FL – March 16, 2015 – There is nothing like a good fight to wake up the populace, especially if it invokes high voltage elements like jobs, the economy, quality of life and the environment. The fight on this month’s card is about Sea Ray’s land use change application to the county that would allow the company to acquire additional land for use primarily as a parking lot for employees.
Freedom of speech is a right. So too is the freedom to listen, evaluate and conclude. The veracity of speakers’ arguments can often be revealed by discovering their motives. The pros and cons have already been widely distributed, so rather than re-argue the positions of the opposing sides, I’ll take a look at the two parties; Deal, Stocker and Carney vs. Sea Ray.
The hype leading up to today’s final bout, to be officiated by Flagler’s Board of County Commissioners (BOCC), has drawn lots of attention from the media. Following a GoToby.com piece titled Lambert Avenue vs Sea Ray: Valid Protest or Just Plain Silliness?, the story has received plenty of coverage.
Especially enlightening are two pieces in FlaglerLive.com. The first is We Don’t Oppose Sea Ray. We Oppose Pollutants and Debasing Flagler Beach’s Quality of Life. The article enumerates the arguments in opposition to Sea Rays application made by Lambert Avenue residents Don Deal and Roseanne Stocker. The second, Sea Ray’s View: We Are Building a Safer Parking Lot, Not Expanding Production is submitted by Craig Wall, Operations Manager of the Sea Ray plant. Be sure to read all the comments following each article.
As with the recent Salamander Lodge/hotel controversy (which also should not have been so controversial), the opposition got out front by framing the issue to suit their agenda, not the facts. On one side are 675 jobs and the county’s economic well being, but the opposition claims that it’s all bluster, that Sea Ray ALWAYS says they will leave whenever they want something from the county. The reality is that Sea Ray is not threatening to leave, but that certainly is not the same as promising to stay. The plant is a vital factor in Flagler County’s economy and in Flagler Beach’s economy. Several Sea Ray workers reside in Flagler Beach.
On the other side are quality of life, lost property values and the environment; as if we must choose between the two sides. But this argument is built upon a false premise. How do the oppositions’ claims stack up?
- All but one of the 28 homes nearest the Sea Ray plant were constructed after the Sea Ray plant was ALREADY there.
- Sea Ray emits Styrene, legally, in amounts well within permissible limits. Over several years, they have never failed an inspection.
- Sea Ray is voluntarily planning to install new vacuum infusion technology that will reduce emissions. The opposition claims that they are not doing anything to reduce emissions.
- The local Sea Ray plant has continually won company awards as the safest, most efficient and highest quality of manufacturer within the Brunswick boat building family.
- Sea Ray has been up-front in discussing their application needs and plans. They are willing to limit the use of the acquired land to three uses; parking, transportation staging and office building.
- The proposed parking lot will be shielded from Lambert residents by a broad natural buffer of wetlands and a thick hardwood canopy and will be surrounded by a natural raised berm.
- I have frequented Flagler Beach for 15 years. I have never smelled styrene along A1A or on the beach. I have passed Lambert on the ICW without a whiff of styrene entering my nostrils. Drive along A1A or attend the farmers market or any of the several local events. Lounge of the deck of the Golden Lion. Have you see any evidence of tourism suffering? I haven’t.
The opposition is led primarily by three players. Let’s test their veracity.
Deal resides at 1580 Lambert Avenue where he is homesteaded. He built his 5,589 square foot home in 1997, 13 years after the Sea Ray plant opened and while the proposed parking lot parcel was zoned industrial. Deal’s house is on the east side of Lambert Avenue (downwind) and sports a boat dock with lift. Apparently he likes boats. He just doesn’t like boat manufacturing, at least in his backyard.
Roseanne and her husband live in their homesteaded home on the west side of Lambert at 1481 Lambert Avenue. They built their 5,201 square foot home in 1992; eight years after the Sea Ray plant went into operation. The back of Stocker’s property abuts the parcel which Sea Ray wants to purchase. It was zoned industrial in 1992. It was still zoned industrial in 1999 when Stockers added a screen-enclosed pool – in their back yard facing Sea Ray. Apparently outdoor living so close to a boat manufacturing plant is not all that bad.
Don and Roseanne, you built in Sea Ray’s backyard, not the other way around. I find it profoundly selfish to put at risk, even a small risk, the livelihoods of 675 families (many of whom are your own neighbors) and all the local businesses that rely on them as customers, and the employees that work for these businesses and their families, because you are not happy with where you built your homes. Sell and move. Lambert home prices remain strong.
Kim and her husband are homesteaded in their 2,870 square foot home on the east side of the ICW south of the Flagler Beach Bridge which they purchased in 1999, 15 years after construction of the Sea Ray plant. Carneys also like boats. They added a dock and lift in 2006.
As a member of the Flagler Beach City Council, Carney helped lead the charge that culminated recently with the passage of a resolution “strongly” urging the BOCC “to deny” Sea Ray’s application. The council did this without any input from Sea Ray. Sea Ray is not a part of Flagler Beach, thus Flagler Beach has no jurisdiction over the matter. Ironically, Flagler Beach turned down an opportunity to annex Flagler Beach in the past.
When I was on WNZF’s “Free for All Friday,” with Kim and others, she admitted that she had not talked with Sea Ray. When asked why she hadn’t reached out to them to solicit their input, she replied that she shouldn’t have to reach out to businesses, that businesses should call her. Such arrogance is born of the belief that political self-interest is somehow nobler than economic self-interest. What a waste of the City Council’s time and the taxpayers’ money.
Deal, Stocker and Carney may not like the way the wind might blow from the Sea Ray plant, but if they read the comments that follow the two FlaglerLive articles (links above), they will see which way the wind of public opinion is blowing.
Today's BOCC meeting begins at 5:00 P.M. at the Board Chambers, 1769 Moody Blvd. in Bunnell.
Sea Ray PLant and Lambert Ave. showing proximity.
Call To Action
GoToby.com thinks that Sea Ray proposal represents responsible development. Its approval is important to the future prosperity of Flagler County and its residents. We should not let a vocal few highjack our future. Please let your county commissioners know how you feel about this issue.
Charlie Ericksen: firstname.lastname@example.org
Frank Meeker: email@example.com
Barbara Revels: firstname.lastname@example.org
Nate McLaughlin: email@example.com
George Hanns: firstname.lastname@example.org