Below is a Q&A with Larry McKinney, who is running for Port Orange City Council. The questions asked were submitted by Volusia County Moms readers.
District 4 Candidate McKinney: I am opposed to the destruction of mature trees for any reason, even more so when it’s done without contemplation for the environment, future generations and aesthetics.
Volusia County Moms: What is your vision for what should be done with the Riverwalk area?
District 4 Candidate McKinney: I’ve had experience with riverwalk developments in both Augusta Georgia and Evans Georgia and know that given the right attention, focus, and even incentives, that remarkable and extraordinary uses that benefit the residents and the developers are achievable. My vision for the area is one of conservation, aesthetic beauty, high quality commercial space, and public access to all open areas. If condominiums are inevitable given the property rights of the owner, and the need to build vertical in order to finance the overall development, then I would seek commercial development on the first two floors so that the public had complete access and further that the condominiums be built in such a way as to leave open space between the towers that would enhance the view to the river and public marina, park and restaurants. If condominiums are built, I believe that they should have architectural significance and add to the beauty of the area in their physical appearance. We should strive to create an authentic, walkable environment that supports bringing our community together as opposed to the usual building structures that would simply fill the space.
Volusia County Moms: Are you for commercializing it, building condo’s, or creating a park space that everyone can use?
District 4 Candidate McKinney: Ideally a public park with the proper and appropriate commercial space that would benefit and draw tourists and residents alike is desirable. Unfortunately, neither the city nor the developer own everything outright or that would have already occurred. The developer owns the most significant portions of the tract and even has a legal interest in the road. While the rhetoric is high and positions are entrenched I don’t believe they are warranted.
Volusia County Moms: How do you plan on getting all of the empty commercial buildings filled with active businesses?
District 4 Candidate McKinney: There is a saying in the development business that “parking lots follow roof tops”. The reason there are strip malls with parking lots is because Port Orange has enough residential roof tops to warrant the commercial investment, and, because the owners of those properties have the right to develop their property as they see fit as long as it conforms to the land use code. Filling empty buildings is not a science and requires patience. Many times the developments occur because the investors feel they will be succesful. When they are not, they simply cut their losses and close. Is it the city’s responsibility to actively work to fill up the commercial space of private developers? Or should we let those private investors fall on their pocketbooks so that they have the incentive to expedite new tenants? It’s complicated to a degree. Would you rather increase the City budget to pay for the economic staff, or would you rather pay for code enforcement to fine the developers? I have a great deal of experience in economic development and think there is an appropriate balance. Given the resignation of our city’s lead economic developer, Shannon Lewis, it’s that much more important we have a councilman with my career experience in economic development.
Volusia County Moms: Will you vote against approving more strip malls getting built before these are even filled in?
District 4 Candidate McKinney: I am not pleased with continued development when we haven’t filled what we’ve built, but I am more opposed to the government dictating what private landowners can do with their property. If a private landowner has the right and it meets our codes I will not vote against it. However, I will not approve variances from our code in order to accommodate it either. We seem to do that as almost a matter of convenience and forget what the intent was to begin with.
Volusia County Moms: What are your thoughts on balancing growth of the city with still maintaining natural areas, which is why some of us chose this city in the first place?
District 4 Candidate McKinney: Growth is inevitable in life, in families, in cities and in our nation. Without growth there is stagnation and decay. Properly managed it can lead to a fulfilling quality of life with parks, recreation, arts and museums, meaningful employment, higher education, and families bound together. Maintaining natural areas is critical to our environment and our quality of life. Balance is essential to achieving what we all want.
Volusia County Moms: Can we get something healthy or educational business-wise, rather than another pharmacy, frozen yogurt shop, or Urgent Care? How about a bookstore? A Whole Foods Market?
District 4 Candidate McKinney: I would love to see those kinds of businesses as well but the free market dictates who builds what and when. In some cases, like Daytona Beach for instance, incentives were offered to attract Trader Joes. If we really want something bad enough but the investors don’t feel it would be viable, incentives don’t make a bad deal better though, so we have to wait on the markets to make the final decision. That doesn’t mean that we can’t actively reach out and encourage them. Sometimes investors are simply unaware of our market when they are building nationally and internationally. With that said, I would encourage city staff to actively recruit businesses that promote education and health and wellness. Healthy living starts in the home.
Volusia County Moms: What can be done to better control people who are doing illegal U-turns at the target/BJ's area? What can be done to alleviate the horrible traffic pattern that has resulted from commercial expansion between Clyde Morris and Williamson on Dunlawton and then Taylor road. The traffic backups there are awful.
District 4 Candidate McKinney: Unfortunately the road and the traffic pattern were dictated by the state so we didn’t get any say. Having said that, I am not prepared to let the situation remain and so we should begin a responsible dialogue immediately. Ultimately, I am not opposed to suing the state if they can’t accommodate our needs. Making our intersections and roads as safe as possible is a must.
Volusia County Moms:I would like to know what is being done to curb/eliminate the people who illegally scrap and process metal out of their homes, in residential neighborhoods.
District 4 Candidate McKinney: I am aware criminals are stealing metal from air conditioning units and we continue to pursue their arrests. As for the homeowner, I am not aware of any laws that would prevent them from scrapping metal unless it violates code and we are able to prove it.
Volusia County Moms: What are their plans to give equal sports fields for ALL sports not just baseball? How about a community sports complex where our soccer and football teams can play, practice and host tournaments. Take a look at what Ormond Beach offers to their community! Also, another basketball gym for basketball games or tournaments should also be on the list as there is only one full size court in the entire city. Are there any plans to build another or bigger gym?
District 4 Candidate McKinney: For the past five years, I have met with the County Manager and our City Manager about the possibility of a multipurpose complex. I have had experience with many parks like this including the public financing of Patriots Park in Georgia. Today that park is a major draw all over the southeast and generates significant income for the community. We have the land, we have willing partners, we simply need the leadership to do it. While I requested the upgrade of All Childrens Park for baseball, and helped raise the $500,000 to make it happen, it was because our 13 and older kids were leaving Port Orange to play ball in New Smyrna, South Daytona and even Ormond. Now that we have fixed that problem I am equally prepared to help raise money for any and all recreational programs for our youth. It keeps them occupied and engaged, out of trouble, and builds life long lessons.
As you can see I have a lot of experience, energy and passion and it would be an honor to serve the citizens of Port Orange as their District 4 Councilman. My website is www.electlarrymckinney.com and my facebook page is www.facebook.com/electmckinney