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Port Orange is dying. Over the last decade, our once beautiful City has been eroded almost beyond recognition. Traffic is unbearable. Pollution is widespread. Government does not listen. I’m Derek LaMontagne, and I founded SavePortOrange to change that, and bring back the small-town charm of a City we all love, the City I have called home for over 25 years. Although I did not win in my run for Mayor, I am relieved that over 75% of you voted in support of the Volusia Forever ballot initiative on Nov. 3rd to protect our environment and quality of life through the most transparent program Volusia has to offer. Read on below to learn more about the most pressing issues we are facing as a City, the current Council’s failures, and how you can contribute to our citizen-inspired plan to fix them.
In 2018, Mayor Don Burnette and the Port Orange City Council hired out-of-town attorneys to bully a group of residents who questioned the need for the wasteful, dead-end, and unwanted Yorktowne Blvd extension that would have exposed hundreds of elementary school children to the traffic, noise, and pollution of a major highway. Current mayoral candidate Derek LaMontagne bravely challenged the City in court as they inexcusably tried to expel the citizens’ public health and traffic experts, and remove all mentions of “air quality,” “noise,” and “traffic” as areas of public consideration when building a road. Today we know that worsened air quality contributes to countless more deaths during a respiratory pandemic.
Current City Council wants to keep “air quality” unmonitored around school as it builds an unnecessary dead-end road . . .
Critical wetlands are quickly dwindling for the imperiled Spruce Creek waterbasin between Port Orange and New Smyrna Beach, FL. The St. Johns Water Management District has yet to deny a single permit in the area, and the most recent state water quality study (from 2008 by the FDEP) concluded that the water was impaired, and protections (a BMAP) need to be implemented immediately. However, neither the state, county, or city of Port Orange has complied and instituted stronger protections or funded updated studies, leaving Spruce Creek waterway to suffer.
Current City Council recklessly approves wetlands destruction of a vulnerable, unprotected, and impaired Spruce Creek.
Over the last decade, hundreds of acres of healthy forest and wetlands have been lost in Port Orange, and many of these areas in the worst ways imaginable — techniques known as “high-impact development.” Clear-cutting entire fields, dumping mountains of impervious fill-dirt, ignoring nesting animals, and burning any leftover debris is common practice under current City guidelines, but the city can do better. The City needs to improve its Land Development Code to demand low-impact development practices are followed, for the sake of our air, water, and future.
Bulldozers and man-made fires have raged in and around Port Orange as a “quick and dirty” fix to our tree “problem.”
Upon updating the city’s website, all data before 2014 is no longer easily accessible to the public. Not only that, but when citizens request the data, they are charged heavy fees. Fees have increased under Mayor Don Burnette, whereas candidate Derek LaMontagne believes all city info should be provided free of charge. The City Council has also participated in anti-sunshine practices, including “shade” meetings when discussing how to litigate against its own citizens. Candidate LaMontagne strongly opposes secret discussions away from the eyes of the people governing officials are supposed to represent.
Port Orange city attorneys threaten its own citizens for speaking out against government waste.
In 2017, a group of non-profit volunteers led by current mayoral candidate Derek LaMontagne received permission from numerous entities, including the city, to plant a memorial park around a local, barren retention pond. However, a few months later, the city “inadvertently” removed a couple dozen healthy trees planted in honor of NYPD and other heroes. The trees were found strewn into the banks of the lake, or simply chopped down, seemingly out of “convenience” for the mowing crew, a crew that had previously promised to leave the garden alone. The City still has not replanted the trees to this day.
Candidate LaMontagne hopes to use best scientific practices to improve the quality of all the city’s retention areas.
As a volunteer on the city’s Environmental Advisory Board for 6 years, candidate LaMontagne saw first hand the underhanded tactics used against the people of Port Orange. When asked pressing questions by the Board, city staff would promise to disclose answers at the next meeting but would not. When the Board followed its duty and asked to put items of grave importance on the agenda, city staff would illegally stifle that right, and prevent the Board from hearing it. Furthermore, during City Council meetings, citizens are consistently given only 3 minutes or less to discuss a topic, whereas lawyers from the applicant get unlimited time. Candidate LaMontagne does not believe in restricting a citizen’s right to public comment, and a more fair and open format to City meetings is needed.
Many city boards have little to no power at all, and only exist to give the appearance of oversight.
Fiscal Problem #1: Port Orange City Council supported the ill-conceived Half-Cent Sales Tax which Voters Rightly Rejected as an invitation for more sprawl
In 2019, the Port Orange City Council under Mayor Burnette spent numerous city resources, including city website advertising, supporting the developer-backed and economy-stifling half-cent sales tax put forth by Volusia County Council. Not only that, but the vote was held during an off-year in the Spring, and for the first time in county history, was done by the entirely non-transparent manner of Vote-By-Mail. It ended up costing the County half a million dollars, and an untold amount for Port Orange. Candidate Derek LaMontagne strongly opposed the tax.
Port Orange refused to take millions in required fees from millionaire developers, and instead wanted you to pay more in sales tax. Luckily it failed.
Multi-million dollar projects like Riverwalk are expensive and overbudget, but the biggest fiscal mistake of Port Orange comes from not collecting fees from large, out-of-city developer corporations, making local residents bear the burden. Project like the Pavilion received waivers to their impact fees and have the gall to overcharge a 1% “convenience fee” to customers for the “honor” of shopping there. Projects like the Altamira (BJ’s) shopping center waived a quarter million dollars in tree mitigation fees alone. Residential developers are worse, and by some estimates owe the city millions of dollars in uncollected fees. Not collecting these have cost the city dearly, but if new leadership is elected, this corporate welfare will stop.
Mayoral candidate Derek LaMontagne will ensure a level playing field for all businesses, and fight to remove the Pavilion’s 1% Convenience Fee.
$500,000. That is the value in wetland mitigation credits the city needlessly gave away in 2012 to help get the permit for a southern extension of Williamson Blvd. Port Orange received absolutely no money in return, despite this road being entirely within a “special district” boundary exempt from city responsibility. And yet, despite the special district getting the tax benefits and city getting nothing, the city willingly provided additional water/sewer to the area, all at our expense. The County, City, and State ended up paying over $15,000,000 for a road experts testified was not needed and not designed well, a cost that the developer had promised to pay but never did.
Florida tax-payers are owed $15,000,000+ for an inappropriate use of taxpayer funds for Williamson Blvd.
Why run for office?...
A Message From Derek LaMontagne
If you are asking yourself “why does he want to be mayor of Port Orange, anyway?” the answer is simple — I don’t! That is, I wish I did not have to, but based on my decade-long observation of the city and the atrocities it has committed, I feel it is my duty to stand up for what is right so that the unscrupulous and immoral practices I have seen come to an end. I have always felt the need to serve my community, and through careful study have informed myself of the role of the job. I am no politician, but I am willing to do what it takes to protect what I love. The recent and current City Councils has already taken so much from so many of us, I believe it is time to restore our quality of life and to give power back to the people. I hope you can help me do this, as I want to hear your ideas at all times, and promise to be responsive to the people I represent, people like you. Please let me know if there are any issues that you feel should be addressed by the city, and I’ll make it happen.
I’m looking forward to listening to you.
Candidate For Mayor of Port Orange, Florida
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