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Woodlands Residents Fear Radical Changes as Grand Haven Proposes New Developments

| August 14, 2012

The Woodlands is one of Palm Coast's oldest subdivisions, an island of quiet and green that residents fear may be jeopardized by proposed changes to land uses on its southeastern flank, from conservation to commercial. (© FlaglerLive)

The Woodlands is one of Palm Coast’s oldest subdivisions, an island of quiet and green that residents fear may be jeopardized by proposed changes to land uses on its southeastern flank, from conservation to commercial.
(© FlaglerLive)

Residents of the Woodlands, one of Palm Coast’s oldest and quietest sections, are upset. The developer of Grand Haven is looking to plant a 200-bed assisted living facility near their midst, potentially—and radically—changing the complexion of the old neighborhood. It will go before the Palm Coast Planning Board Wednesday evening, at 5:30, to make its case. The city administration’s planning staff is recommending approval.

Grand Haven is asking the city government to change the land use designation of 3.5 acres that parallel the southeast edge of the Woodlands from conservation to mixed use, thus enabling the development, which would stretch south to Wild Oaks. One access road to the assisted living facility would dump on Colbert lane, the other would dump on Blare Drive, a two-lane road that snakes into the Woodlands from Colbert. Like all roads in the Woodlands, Blare is unmarked by white or yellow lines. There are no sidewalks. There are few lights, and on that side of Blare, when night falls, it is pitch black.

The change, which would take place on 25,000 square feet, is part of a larger redrawing of land use maps, which would also enable the addition of 111 homes and the development of 176,570 square feet on non-residential development in the area. Some buildings might rise some 60 feet, according to site plans examined by residents. But the developer is also projecting a few hundred new jobs for the area.

The proposed land changes and developments would stretch in a triangle south and east from the intersection of Blare Drive and Colbert Lane. Click on the image for larger view.

The proposed land changes and developments would stretch in a triangle south and east from the intersection of Blare Drive and Colbert Lane. Click on the image for larger view. [/caption]Grand Haven’s project is part of its colossal development (approved by Flagler County government in 1988, before Palm Coast was a city), which stretches south along Colbert. The development’s 1,901 housing units have all been permitted. The development originally foresaw 85,000 square feet of commercial use, which has not yet broken ground. The proposed land use changes would more than double non-residential or commercial land uses. The nursing home is part of that commercial development. It would accommodate what has become standard in assisted living facilities nowadays: independent living, assisted living, and a memory care facility—that is, a lock-down facility for people who suffer from Alzheimer’s and similar memory-obliterating diseases.

Woodlands residents have been gathering petitions and circulating fliers and narratives about the proposal in hopes of building opposition.

“I feel like the developer really tried to sneak this in,” Diane Bixler, a Woodlands resident who’s monitored the issue and rallied public awareness on it, said, describing how residents on three streets impacted by the development did not originally receive letters informing them of the proposal (as they should be), and inviting them to public meetings. Grand Haven last week held an “emergency” public meeting in advance of the planning board hearing, Bixler said, to ensure that it was within the requirements leading up to such land use changes. The approach raised suspicions.

“This area is residential and was not designed for commercial use,” a two-page document sent to city officials on Aug. 5 reads.  “Currently, children have to walk in the streets to and from the multiple school bus stops that load and unload every day. At the corners of Blare/Black Alder and Blare/Blaine, children are waiting for the school bus every morning and they are all over the street. You may not know, but there are no sidewalks in this subdivision. People walk their pets in the street; children are all over the street on their skateboards, bicycles, or just playing. Our elderly population has to walk in the street just to visit their neighbors, or walking for their health.”

Razing a substantial part of what until now has been a de-facto natural preserve on the Woodlands’ southeast flank aside, the principal worry is the road that would lead in and out of the nursing home and onto Blare Drive. City staff considers the impact on traffic manageable, even though traffic, by the city’s analysis, will increase by some 258 trips at peak afternoon rush hour. Those trips are for the entirety of the proposed development area, not just the nursing home. “The net increase in vehicular trips does not cause the failure of any road segments within the study area,” the city claims, even though the roads in the Woodlands, Blare included, are fraying.

“As the residents of the Woodlands, we have done our homework and have gained knowledge as to what a large construction project such as this involves. The construction will take a year or two and will involve large, heavy truck and equipment moving in and out of our already crumbling and ill kept streets,” the residents’ petition states. In addition, the 200 patients will require nursing and security support staff. Further, they will have visitors that will be coming and going each day through our subdivision.”

The Woodlands looking west, on Blare Drive. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

The petition adds: “The beautiful woods in question for the rezoning application also house a myriad of wildlife. Each day we see 20-30 deer and as many or more turkeys in those woods. Not to mention bobcat, eagles, owls, gators and snakes that live there. Where will these creatures go? Very simple, they will move into our subdivision.”

Aware of the disruption to wildlife and the loss of conservation zoning, the developer is proposing to rezone one of Grand Haven’s own parcels to a more restrictive conservation designation. “This nearby parcel is located a few hundred feet to the west, and contains the same habitat types (Hardwood – Conifer Mixed and Mixed Wetland Hardwood),” the city’s staff report states. “The habitats on this site contain, respectively, the same dominant species as the proposed Mixed Use parcel.  Like the proposed commercial site, this parcel is contiguous to and contains similar habitat to the large and significant Graham Swamp system.”


Woodlands residents are unlikely to be reassured. “The taxpayers of Palm Coast have helped fund a beautiful town center development that is predominantly for commercial use. Use it. Don’t put a nursing home facility in our residential area,” their petition states.

Below is the full staff report that will be at the core of the presentation to the planning board Wednesday evening. And below the report is the full text of a flier circulating in the Woodlands, written by Diane Bixler, a Woodlands resident, summing up the issue for residents, in preparation for Wednesday’s hearing.

Palm Coast Planning Staff Report:

Palm Coast Staff Report, Woodlands/Grand Haven Development

Diane Bixler’s Informational Flier:

Wednesday, August 15th, 5:30 PM at the Palm Coast Community Center, there will be a Planning Board Meeting. On the agenda is a proposal by Grand Haven Realty to change a small portion of land into commercial, adding to the total land for commercial already in existence, in exchange for turning a larger chunk of land into conservation.

The purpose behind this land usage change is to construct a 200-bed unit for independent living, assisted living and a memory center for senior citizens along Colbert Lane between Wild Oaks and Blare. The current proposal is for several multiple-storied buildings to house this project along Colbert with two entrances/exits. One will be located off Colbert, the other will be located off Blare. The traffic study completed will not allow for any modifications to either road to accommodate the increase in traffic.

The outcome of the Planning Board Meeting will determine whether this idea goes before the City Council for their final vote. At the Planning Board Meeting, residents will be allowed to speak concerns or sing praises and to ask questions for clarification.

I implore you to learn more about this proposal, determine your own opinion and make your voice is heard. If you would like specific information about the proposed land changes and the subsequent buildings, one contact is Larry Torino at 386.986.2473. He is the City Senior Planner and he will take the time to explain what is being proposed to you in detail. If you go to his office at 160 Cypress Point Parkway, he can show you maps of the proposed changes. The company behind the changes is Grand Haven Realty. The president is Jim Cullis and he is the one who will likely be making the presentation at the hearings. His office number is 386.447.0800 ext 0415 and his cell is 386.569.8823. His office is located at 7 Sandpiper Court.

Many in the Woodlands’ neighborhood have expressed concerns and are coming together to oppose this project. A petition has been started and will be making the rounds within the Woodlands. If you feel strongly against this project, there are specific steps you need to take in order for your voice to be heard. There is strength in numbers and through organization.

Write to your mayor & councilmen and clearly express your thoughts and opinions. Remember to use facts and refrain from expressing negative emotions. Negativity and “rants” will not be considered seriously.

Mayor – John Netts
Councilmen – Bill McGuire, Jason DeLorenzo, Frank Meeker, Bill Lewis
City Manager – Jim Landon
They can be e-mailed by clicking on their name’s link or through the city’s website.

The address is 160 Cypress Point Parkway, Suite B-106, Palm Coast, FL 32164.
Phone is 386.986.3700 & Fax is 386.986.3781.

Attend the Planning Board Meeting on Wednesday, August 15th, 5:30 at the Palm Coast Community Center. This is your opportunity to make a statement and to be heard. There is strength in numbers. It’s important for you to attend!

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24 Responses for “Woodlands Residents Fear Radical Changes as Grand Haven Proposes New Developments”

  1. Magnolia says:

    Palm Coast has been pushing this project through, despite objections from the surrounding neighborhoods.

    If your city officials don’t care about the integrity of our neighborhoods, they need to be fired. They work for you, not the builders.

  2. Kendall says:

    I’m not surprised the city is willing to entertain pillaging one of the few untouched areas remaining in Palm Coast. This is extremely unfair to the homeowners in the Woodlands.

    Just another reason we need to overhaul our city government and leadership.

  3. Nancy N. says:

    This community needs more facilities like this to serve our large aging population of retirees. Everyone wants them but no one wants them by them. Remember that when it’s your turn to sign up for one and there isn’t one available to serve you because you said “not in my backyard!”

    • Anonymous says:

      There is plenty of room for them in the completely leveled acreage along Town center Blvd! Why do they need to destroy such a sensitive habitat that was deemed preservation for a reason when that land is just down the road sitting empty and wasted?

  4. Clint says:

    Hey…I may need to go into that assisted living facility in the near future. Could you build it with the rooms facing a bike path and some woods so I can sneak out and cuss at all the spandex people .

  5. question says:

    Wonder why I think Grand Haven is going to get whatever it wants.

    Hope alternative suitable sites are thoroughly evaluated…ones that don’t hand over conservation areas to the highest bidder…at the expense of the Woodlands and established wildlife habitats.

  6. Lonewolf says:

    Progress is always difficult.

  7. Andrea Levy says:

    No one mentions that the a parcel of land on the corner of Blare and Colbert is already zoned “commercial”. The owner can build to whatever the limits are of that piece of property. Grand Haven is willing to give swap a one piece of land (for development) east of Blaircastle for a larger piece of property on Blare Drive itself. This property on Blare would be zoned “conservation”, right now it is zoned “low density”. Grand Haven could build 20 houses on this property There is going to be change in this neighborhood, swapping one smaller piece of land for a larger piece of land is probably the less painful solution. I live in the Woodlands, I live on Blare Drive and I was at the meeting last week. . It seems that the owner/developer did not do a good job of presenting this idea.. Hysteria is going ruin our neighborhood, the inability to countenance ANY change will ruin this neighbor for thw worse. I’m a Democrat and an ardent convervationist, I can’t believe I’m defending a large developer, but I understand what the consequences of not understanding what the developer is proposing.

  8. Eileen says:

    The TOWN CENTER DEVELOPMENT was built for this! Why are they wanting to build this in our nice quiet neighborhood?

  9. Sue Dickinson says:

    What is the requirement for notification of residents? My neighbors seemed to have recevied them but I did not and I am on the same street they are.

  10. Steven Sobel says:

    Just how close to the Graham Swamp Trail are they trying to build? It’s one of the most scenic paths for nature lovers in Palm Coast, on the boardwalk you can be completely surrounded by the natural environment. We should be enlarging and protecting our conservation areas, not bulldozing them.

    While I understand how residents of the Woodlands would object to increased traffic, all of Palm Coast should object to development that makes this a less livable city. Why did we build that expensive boardwalk if we are just going to let it be ruined by greedy developers?

  11. Deep South says:

    Many communities are in dire need of a face lift, and the Woodlands is one of them. Also many of the Woodlands residence are original residences of this community and will probably become a resident of this assistant living facility someday. I think it would be nice to be able to stay in your community for the rest of your life.

    • Magnolia says:

      It isn’t up to anybody but the residents to decide what is best for their community. Palm Coast is LOADED with retirement facilities. Why is it necessary to build more, and particularly a high rise?

    • Anonymous says:

      How many of the residents of the Wodland do you think would be able to afford the project monthly cost of $2500-$3500.00? Why not aske them.

  12. Matt says:

    Steve..the area they want to rezone is directly next to the Graham Swamp Trail and any potential development would be right along the boardwalk from the looks of the rezoning map change request.

    There is land currently zoned commercial all over Palm Coast. (i.e. Town Center) for this kind of facility. It would be irresponsible of the city to allow wetlands to be rezoned in order to squeeze this large of a development between the Woodlands and Wild Oaks. 60 foot buildings have no place in that area of Palm Coast along Colbert.

  13. Justice for all says:

    This will be the second time the Woodlands was shat upon. CVS was the first by eliminating the buffer tract that was previously there.

    There isn’t much difference betwen an assisted living facility and a dormitory and there is NOTHING, once this is approved, that keeps it from becoming apartments instead of assisted living.

    If the developer is allowed to flip the conservation designation to land that isn’t as environmentally sensitive, it is just a matter of time before THAT land is developed. A conservation designation will not preserve anything.

    Hang in there, Woodlands!

  14. Patty says:

    If you read Andrew’s post you will see that it is already zoned commercial. The developer could put in a strip mall that could rent to ANY kind of business. I would rather is an assisted living go in instead of a bar or restaurant.

  15. Matt says:

    Yes, there is land on colbert already zoned commercial. Let them use that!!!…Dont let them rezone wetlands and don’t fall victim of the tactics of giving back land that will never be developed anyway. One acre lots in the woodlands…yeah right??…they would never do that. Especially since that land is basically a swamp. If builders had an interest in building on that piece of land they are bargaining with, then someone would have built on it during the Boom. No one touched it b/c its is not economical to build one acre lots in the middle of the woodlands on land that is very wet and most likely not even buildable to begin with!

    As for the commercial land currently on colbert. How come no one has built on that either??..Even during the boom..nothing in this area. Too much wet lands is why!! and we need to keep it that way. Bottom line, they already have commercial on Colbert, stick with what is there and leave the rest as is! It was zoned wetlands for a reason!

  16. Ben Blakely says:

    Palm Coast officials just want more taxes to spend!

    The officials will sacrifice anything and everything to get more money they can spend and waste. Local government officials need to be REMOVED.

    The land is classified as conservation. How dare the politicians think they can change conservation land into revenue land.

    Remember…..politicians spend and spend till they run out of YOUR MONEY!

  17. Homeowner says:

    Yes they will build around the Woodlands eventally. If it truly remains an assisted living facility that would be the lesser of the possible evils. The problem I have is the entrance on Blair Drive. We have enough cut through traffic on Blarecastle. This is just going to make more traffic and put the kids in the area in more danger.

  18. JOHN R. says:

    The various administrations have been unable to say no to any developer since 1999, especially when the developer waves the prospect of increased property taxes. A positive signal for the proposal will be if the developer is represented by an influential law firm in Palm Coast. That will be the beginning of the end of Palm Coast East as we have known it .

  19. Andrea Levy says:

    What if the City made the Woodlands a special taxing district, which would raise our taxes, but allow the City to buy the land?

  20. justice for all says:

    @ patty and matt – Adult congretate living and nursing homes are already allowed in the commercial zoning district, but apartments are not.

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