Law students speak on Florida Park Drive complaints

Date: April 18, 2014
by: Jonathan Simmons | News Editor

Barry University law school students Margaret Stewart and Joshua Mayo, and Professor Rachel Deming, spoke with Florida Park Drive residents concerned about heavy traffic on the residential street. (Photo by Jonathan Simmons.)

The truck traffic roars and rumbles along residential Florida Park Drive with eardrum-numbing regularity — about 528 trucks traverse it a day — and residents whose homes face out on the daily caravans of heavy traffic have complained about it to the city for years.

They say little has changed.

Thursday, two law students and a professor from Orlando-based Barry University gave them some tips on advocating for improvements.

Students Joshua Mayo and Margaret Stewart, who studied the issue as a class project after they were contacted by Florida Park Drive resident Steven Carr, said part of the problem is the road’s designation as a major road, a change made in the city’s latest comprehensive plan.

“You can’t take levels of traffic intended for a highway, and put it on a residential street and expect the residential street to sustain that level of service,” Stewart said during the presentation.

Florida Park Drive was built under ITT as a residential street, they said, but the city designated it a major collector road in 2008.

With about 8,000 vehicles and 528 trucks per day, according to Florida Department of Transportation numbers the students cited in their presentation, the road is expected to be maxed out in less than 25 years, earning a failing FDOT “level of service” designation. It would then have to be evaluated, and its failings addressed.

Much of the traffic on the street uses it as a cut-through from Palm Harbor Parkway to Palm Coast Parkway, the students said, citing FDOT statistics.

Frustrated residents said trucks were belching exhaust into the air, cars were speeding around stopped school buses, and the traffic can get so backed up in the mornings that they can’t make it out of their driveways.

One resident, Ernie Tykarski, placed a sign in his yard last year that listed the speed limit — 30 mph — along with the words, “City officials don’t care, but we do! Safety first, please.” The city informed him that the sign was a code violation and ordered him to remove it.

Carr created a website about the problem at, posting pictures of tanker trucks and heavy cargo rigs trundling along the narrow, mailbox-lined street.

After the students finished their presentation, the dozen or so residents in attendance asked them for advice.

With their professor, Rachel Deming, the students walked them through the basics of submitting a public record request, suggested tactics for speaking with local officials — emailing more than one at once, for instance, if they pass the buck from department to department — and explained two methods of coming to resolution on the issue: alternative dispute resolution, and litigation.

They warned that litigation would be costly and its results binding; dispute resolution would be less expensive and offer either side the ability to walk away

But residents could do much more, Deming said, to bring the issue to officials’ attention and discuss it in a way likely to get a response. Part of the issue, she said, is knowing which issues falls under various officials’ purview, and addressing questions and complaints to the right ones.

Another tactic, she said, is to show up at City Council meetings.

“Each time you come to one of those meetings, each one of you, and voice your opinion, if you’re a continual presence there, that’s going to accumulate to make a difference,” she said.

Residents could frame the discussion in ways that demonstrate concrete benefits of change, she said, by using a financial angle to make their case.

“Think of the cost of upgrading this road to make sure it remains a collector road sufficient to serve the increase that is contemplated, versus putting in a few speed bumps and stop signs to divert the traffic,” she said.

One resident said that would probably keep a third of the traffic off the street.

Another, Cindy Richardson, said it wouldn’t be enough.

“It’s not enforced. Nothing they post is enforced,” she said. “So what’s the difference?”

Another suggested putting a photo-enforced speed limit sign up.

Deming said that of all the complaints about safety and enforcement issues, the one that stood out to her was “that there have been instances of cars passing a school bus. Think about that on your road. That should never happen, and that should be fined heavily and patrolled. “

If officials seem unresponsive, she said, “Then you say, ‘What we’re talking about here is children’s safety, not about what you can’t do.’ Think about changing the question. It’s easy to say, ‘No, I can’t do that.’ So you say, ‘OK, I’m concerned about children’s safety, so what are you going to do to address my concerns about children’s safety?’ That’s a harder question to say no to.”