Palm Coast

Palm Coast City Council Balks On Water Rate Hike


PALM COAST, Fla. - The Palm Coast City Council on Tuesday voted 4-1 for a plan that avoids a proposal to raise the water rate on its residents for the time being. The decision came in the face of strong public opposition to the proposal, as is the case almost any time a significant cost of living increase comes before the Council.

The majority in the vote was formed by Council members Theresa Carli Pontieri, Ed Danko, Cathy Heighter, and Nick Klufas. Mayor David Alfin was the lone no vote. The plan would've increased the rate by 18% over the next four years, plus a 36% increase to the water impact fee and 25% increase to the sewer impact fee.

Palm Coast city staff urged the City Council to approve the increase in order to address infrastructure concerns both for the current workload and as Palm Coast expands. This concern was echoed in discussion on the matter, but was ultimately not the deciding factor. A counter-proposal was raised by Councilwoman Pontieri, who suggested raising impact fees instead to address the strain created by accelerated growth.

Pontieri received cautious support from Flagler Homebuilders Association Executive Officer Annamaria Long, whom she'd previously clashed with just months earlier over a proposed building moratorium. Long outlined a scenario in which her organization could back Pontieri's plan, hinging on certain aspects of the plan being palatable.

The ties of individual Council members to the real estate industry has played a role in this conversation as it does any time an issue involving development is discussed - which is nearly always. Both Alfin and Heighter are realtors, as is Danko's domestic partner. The split opinion amongst those members was reflective of a split in the larger community over the roles existing residents should pay in funding growth versus developers. Even Long's own tentative support of increased impact fees is uncharacteristic of major development groups when these matters arise.

To Alfin's point, increased impact fees can be passed along to home buyers, and Palm Coast is not quite world-renowned for offering new homes on a budget as things stand now. That's what fueled his dissent vote against Pontieri's proposal. That plan will be finalized once a study can be conducted on the possibility of offsetting water rate increases for those who consume less, giving residents some agency in keeping their bills low.