By Estella R. Fullmer
For Hometown News
NEW SMYRNA BEACH -- Rick Karl, Volusia County Aviation and Economic Resources director, gave a briefing on the direction Space Florida is heading at the Economic Development Advisory Board's regular meeting June 19.
"Now that we have the backing of the cities in Southeast Volusia County, the (Federal Aviation Administration) is going ahead with its environmental and economic analysis study," Mr. Karl said.
The study is required prior to possible building of a commercial spaceport just north of Kennedy Space Center in Volusia and Brevard counties. Mr. Karl said the environmental study is the first step toward Space Florida's goals.
Space Florida is an Independent Special District of the state created in 2006 by the Legislature to foster growth and development of a world-class space industry in Florida.
According to Mr. Karl the economic study is just as important to the project. "It is not just the impact of the launch facilities on the environment that is important. Just as important is the economic climate of the area around the facility," said Mr. Karl, explaining the economy around the spaceport needs to be strong enough to support the facility. "There is a lot of area here, in Edgewater and Oak Hill and points south of the county for administration support and other industry support such as assembly."
If a world-class commercial spaceport is built in this area it will bring new industry and jobs related to the aeronautical fields.
"We have a close partnership with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University now," Mr. Karl said. "Already ERAU has students researching and developing new technology to carry out other tasks aside from space missions."
Mr. Karl pointed out the unmanned systems like Global Hawk that do geo-Earth science studies and former predator drones that are now used to map wildfire hot spots out west. "There are a lot of other venues for industries besides just the spaceport and its operations," he said.
After the studies, Space Florida will begin recruiting companies and industries to the area, and building the facility and surrounding administrative support buildings.
The purpose of the presentation was to inform the board of the status of Space Florida, thank the city for signing off on the resolution to support Space Florida and to ask the board to keep the goals of Space Florida in mind as they plan for the city's five-year redevelopment plan.
In other business, City Clerk Tony Otte explained where the city staff was concerning the recommendations by the Parking Task Force to solve the parking problem along Flagler Avenue and beachside.
"We are currently looking into the costs and feasibility of metered and kiosk parking along Flagler Avenue, Ester Street and in the beach parking lots," Mr. Otte said. "Staff is following up on the report."
Mayor Adam Barringer asked city staff to stay in close contact with county officials.
"They have not raised the cost of access to the beach in over a decade and I think they may be currently looking at a change for people to drive on the beach," he said.
Board member Jack Holcomb suggested, "I see a lot of talk on costs and charges for the parking, but what I would like to see is more structure on where the money goes."
Mr. Holcomb expressed concern the use of the money collected from the parking meters was not specific enough. Mr. Otte pointed out the parking task force had addressed that issue in several of its meetings and offered specific direction for the money collected.
Most of the recommendations by the Parking Task Force will not be acted upon by the City Commission until the staff completes their research and presents options. Mr. Otte did not comment as to how long that process would be, but assured board members his staff was working on it.
Another topic of discussion at the meeting was concerning the Blight Study that was the first step in obtaining a new Community Redevelopment Area agreement starting in 2015 when the current one expires.
"There are three indicators they look at to determine city blight areas," explained Mr. Otte, "a drop in property values, a rise in code enforcement issues and a rise in serious crimes in an area." He said areas defined in the blight study meet all three of those indicators.
According to Mr. Otte, the proposed CRA will include U.S. 1 from South Street to Tenth Street, the Historic Westside Community, much of the Canal Street and North Causeway areas, the airport and Airport Industrial Park, and S.R. 44 to Mission and Wallace roads, including the former Kmart building.
Mayor Barringer agreed the current CRA and the grant money with it has had a positive impact on New Smyrna Beach during the past three years. He praised the use of the grant money and the improvements it brought to Canal Street and Flagler Avenue and the current development along North Causeway.
"What they have done with their area in South Daytona is a model for us to follow," said Mayor Barringer, praising that city's CRA development.