Palm Coast - 2020 came with its fair share dark times, but it delivered some bright spots too along the way.

The Community Development team worked with local businesses to navigate COVID-19 changes in addition the normal operations that take place daily, and also welcomed the announcements of two educational institutions to Palm Coast's Town Center.

Most recently in December, Jacksonville University, a premier private university located in Jacksonville, Florida, partnered with the City of Palm Coast to build a Palm Coast Campus and bring in-demand healthcare graduate programs to Flagler and Volusia counties. The new Jacksonville University Palm Coast Campus and the school's Main Campus in Jacksonville are two anchors of what the school expects to become an education corridor stretching throughout Northeast Florida. The campus is expected to enroll up to 50 students in its initial cohort in fall 2021, with a total in-person enrollment between 100 and 150 students within 24 months. The campus will create between 20 and 30 new jobs, including both faculty and staff positions.

Just two months prior to the JU announcement, the University of North Florida, celebrated its entry of MedNexus in Palm Coast. MedNexus is designed to be the nation's first comprehensive, university-based medical and healthcare nexus, partnering with local medical centers and connecting healthcare providers with university students, faculty and researchers. Other partners include Daytona State College, AdventHealth and Allete Energy. Through public-private partnerships, it will have its first courses offered in January 2021 and the first Nursing cohort to begin fall 2021 in Palm Coast.

For much of the spring and summer, there were many changes at the state level regarding COVID-19. Community Development staff routinely visited local businesses to relay that information and assist if needed.

Additionally, staff processed more than 15,000 permit applications, including 1,306 homes and ten new commercial buildings, which is recording more permits compared to the previous year despite City Hall being closed for seven months. These permits have a value of over $490,000,000 of investment and reinvestment in the community.

In 2020, more than 50,000 inspections were completed and 67 development project applications were processed. The team performed several inspections virtually with safety in mind and an Alexa skill was added for efficiency.

Other projects include the design and creation of the planning division map that shows what development projects are in the works in the city, a new checklist for development applicants and reviewers, plus state approval for a building division internship program.

Looking ahead in 2021, the Community Development team will launch a customer satisfaction survey, automatically included within permit communications, to gauge residents' thoughts on how the city is doing to provide essential services. They will also integrate 'field service lightning,' a type of scheduling feature through Salesforce technology, to help streamline inspection routing. 

And finally in the new year, the Community Development team will be making a concerted effort to re-energize the City Council's Business Friendly initiative by hosting three customer service charrettes. In these meetings, staff is asking business owners, building contractors, and planning professionals to attend the daylong events to help leadership determine a baseline level of service and improve processes. Each group will be asked what is done well, what pain points are in the city's process, and what suggestions will be needed for improvement. Participants will provide feedback and discussion through live polling and breakout sessions.

While this is not an exhaustive list of all the important work happening in Community Development, it captures some of the highlights of planning the future of Palm Coast.

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