Proposed Palm Coast Building Moratorium Fails


PALM COAST, Fla. - The Palm Coast City Council's business meeting on Tuesday was eventful for more reasons than one. The day's festivities all traced back to one singular issue: a proposed moratorium of construction on lots who may be susceptible to flooding issues. The idea was put forth by Councilwoman Theresa Carli Pontieri to great public controversy, particularly a strong resistance from the Flagler Home Builders Association.

Both Pontieri and Annamaria Long, an executive officer with the HBA, submitted opinion pieces on the matter to local news outlets. Pontieri initially advocated for a 90-day moratorium, bringing multiple housing developments to a grinding halt for three months. She softened on that stance by shortening it to 45 days, but still pushed to resolve issues with the flooding before major work was done on those sites.

Pontieri did go on to make her motion for a 45-day moratorium. It did not receive a second, which would've given the Council a chance to discuss it (and wouldn't lock either Pontieri or the councilperson who seconded it into any particular vote). Even the mere mention of a moratorium tends to raise alarms throughout the business community, as evidenced by the harsh resistance given to former Councilman Eddie Branquinho when he floated the idea in 2022. The main opponents tend to be the same parties: the HBA, the Palm Coast-Flagler Regional Chamber of Commerce, and stakeholders in major contracting companies.

"You can't just turn the spigot off, and then turn it back on 90 days later, or 45 days later," Danko said. "These folks have to keep working." The efforts to bring further scrutiny to the potential flood-stricken lots was not entirely unsuccessful. Vice Mayor Ed Danko strongly opposed Pontieri's moratorium idea, but did make a motion to establish a citizens' advisory board to develop solutions to be reported to the City Council. Pontieri seconded this idea, and the motion passed unanimously.

Mayoral candidate Peter Johnson.
Mayoral candidate Peter Johnson.

All the while, members of the packed audience were audibly reacting to the conversation frequently throughout the meeting. Residents are instructed not to speak out unless it's their designated public comment portion, but charged issues such as the proposed moratorium often lead to a more loose decorum among both those in attendance and the Council themselves. One such audience member was Peter Johnson, a 30-year-old resident and current candidate for Palm Coast Mayor. Johnson has made himself a recurring presence at meetings, often making public comment to lobby the Council and get his own stances out in the air to boot. It's a common practice among candidates for a Council seat.

On Tuesday, Johnson was accused by Danko of repeatedly disrupting the meeting with verbal objections to the proceedings. Even Johnson himself he made the occasional remark, but he's also correct in saying he wasn't the only one. At one point Mayor David Alfin left the room briefly, passing the gavel off to Vice Mayor Danko to run the meeting in his absence. As Danko and Pontieri debated the crowd again voiced its displeasure, causing Danko to scold those who were speaking out. "We do not interrupt this proceeding," Danko said, voice raise. "If you do, I will have you removed from this room." Multiple Council members say Johnson then mouthed "I dare you" to Danko. He then called for a Flagler County Sheriff's deputy to escort Johnson out of the meeting.

In an interview after the meeting, Johnson accused Danko of choosing to kick him out due to political differences between the two. He said he believed Danko to have done so as a result of a different exclamation by a different audience member, and that Danko had chosen him either maliciously or in error. Danko responded to that claim by asserting it was Johnson's "I dare you" moment that led to the ejection, not the moment Johnson had thought it was.

Danko also went on to further criticize Pontieri's efforts to enact a moratorium. "I think Councilwoman Pontieri is just grandstanding to be honest with you," he continued. "I don't know why. I was the first member of Council to get involved in this and bring this to our Council and our staff's and our city manager's attention. And this has become a major priority for the city."