Published: Monday, June 30, 2014 at 9:48 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, June 30, 2014 at 10:22 p.m.
PORT ORANGE — After city leaders tabled a vote Monday on tax incentives for Riverwalk, City Manager Greg Kisela quietly turned in his resignation letter and accepted an offer to manage the Panhandle city of Destin.
Kisela’s resignation wasn’t connected to the Riverwalk vote, or unexpected, as he had been approached by Destin officials, where he formerly worked. He will leave the city on Sept. 2 unless council members decide to approve a shorter notice period.
Kisela is the fourth city official to resign in two weeks. Fire Chief Joe Pozzo resigned last Friday, following resignations by the city’s purchasing manager and public utilities director after the discovery of an error led to $411,510 in unauthorized water meter purchases.
“We knew it was coming,” Port Orange Mayor Allen Green said. “This is only the tip of the iceberg. To be able to replace the quality of this manager will be almost impossible.”
Green said he predicts even more resignations.
Council members and Kisela were often at odds over the daily operations of the city but the discovery of an overspent water meter contract last month created further tension between department heads and the council.
Green said he is in the process of finding interim city manager candidates, which must be approved by the council. He attributed the recent resignations to interventions by some council members in the city’s daily affairs and a small group of citizen activists who are heavily critical.
“Who would want to work in an environment like this?” Green asked
Earlier in the meeting, after two hours of debate, the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency board decided to table a vote on whether Riverwalk developers should receive a portion of property tax revenues generated by the estimated $125 million development that includes condos, a restaurant and a marina along the Halifax River. If approved, the city and developers would split an estimated $20 million in tax increment revenue over the next two decades.
City Attorney Margaret Roberts informed board members that before developers could receive any tax increment funds, the city would have to pay off nearly $6 million in bond debt that was previously used to make improvements in the redevelopment district. The board — made up of Green, the other four council members and two residents — decided to have the city’s bond advisor review the proposal before moving forward. The CRA will revisit the vote again on July 22.
Nearly a dozen residents and council candidates shared mixed opinions about subsidizing the development with taxpayer money. After two decades of stalled efforts, several residents urged the board to move forward with the proposal to spur economic development and improve the city’s tax base. Others shared reservations about giving tax money to developers and possibly creating a precedent for future projects in the district.
The project’s lead developer Buddy LaCour said that unlike the majority of tax increment deals, he wasn’t asking the city to float a bond for his project and would be paying upfront for everything from construction fees to marketing condo units, which are estimated to cost $375,000 each.
“We are spending the money,” LaCour said. “There’s no risk to the city.”
Councilman Bob Ford said he was hesitant to approve the tax deal but other board members expressed willingness to consider the incentives upon the bond advisor’s recommendations.
“If we want to get investment there, we have to change the demographics,” said Vice Mayor Don Burnette. “But we have to do it right. We have to be methodical.”