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Salamander’s Hammock Beach Hotel: An Invitation to Future Prosperity in Flagler

| January 31, 2015

view-hammock

The current view from the lodge at Hammock Beach. It won;t be much different when the new hotel is built.

By Tim Hale

The prosperity of Hammock Beach and the prosperity of Flagler County are intertwined. That’s what makes Salamander Hotels’ proposal to build a 198-room hotel in place of an existing lodge at Hammock Beach key to the long-term economic health of the county.


Hammock Beach is the third largest private employer in Flagler county, with some 450 employees. The Hammock Dunes development (which includes Hammock Beach, Hammock Dunes and Island Estates) contributes almost 14 percent of the total taxable value for the county, according to Property Appraiser Jay Gardner. The tax revenue helps fund our schools, emergency services, and so on.

Unfortunately both Hammock Beach and Hammock Dunes are suffering from a national trend of declining golf club memberships and rising operating costs. Hammock Dunes recently responded by raising dues and initiation fees. Hammock Dunes would benefit from an influx of new visitors to Flagler who may be interested in private golf club memberships.

Hammock Beach has two revenue sources: members and resort guests. Unfortunately both are under intense pressure. Memberships have declined by 45 percent since peaking in the previous decade, and continue a slow decline.

Source:

Source: Hammock Beach membership department.

Hammock Beach Resort guest (and condo owner rental income) average daily room rates are also in decline.   This is very concerning since competing regional resort properties are seeing a rebound in their average daily room rates.  Amelia Island Plantation went through bankruptcy in 2009 and was redeveloped in 2010-2011 with premium hotels, a similar model to what Salamander proposes.

Hammock Beach is falling behind competing properties in the region.

These negative trends at Hammock Beach impact the broader Flagler county economy:

If we lose the current jobs at Hammock Beach, Flagler’s unemployment rate would likely rise to 8.8 percent and we would have the highest unemployment rate in Florida.

We need to do something to reverse the economic trends at Hammock Beach.

Salamander’s Hammock Beach Lodge redevelopment project proposes to invest $72 million to implement the same proven business model that is working at other Salamander properties as well as Amelia Island and Kiawah Island today. Salamander is not requesting any financial incentives from the county or the state. A $72 million investment dwarfs the other economic development activities in our county in recent years and would generate significant tax revenue and jobs for our county.

graphic-amelia-islandIt will protect the current 450 jobs at Hammock Beach, create 150 new jobs and an additional 300 construction jobs.  These are direct jobs from the project,  plus another 23 percent in supporting jobs for a total job impact of well over 1,000 jobs.  That represents nearly 3 percent of all employment in Flagler County. The approval and implementation of Salamander’s Lodge redevelopment project could dramatically reduce Flagler’s unemployment rate, possibly into the 5 percent range from 7.6 percent today.

Salamander’s Lodge redevelopment proposal is contained to existing developed land and does not have any negative environmental impact.  The buildings themselves are shorter and narrower than the existing Lodge building and are 15 feet further from the dune.

Because of these reasons (strong economic impact, no environmental impact and reasonable building size with minimal view impacts), there is overwhelming community support for this project by Hammock Beach property owners, as indicated by a Salamander straw poll that found 86 percent of owners in favor.

There are people who oppose the project but many have based their opinion on inaccurate information.  They have been told about “mega hotels on the golf course,” which is simply untrue.  They have also heard about destruction of trees and the old growth canopy in the Hammock.  That is also untrue.  It is unfortunate that some people have misrepresented the scale and impact of this project in an effort to rally support from uninformed citizens.


A $72 million investment that dwarfs all other commercial projects in the county.


To correct those mis-perceptions, I ask people review the actual photos and plans shown below and make their own assessment of the impact, at the foot of the article. These pictures tell the true story.

Salamander’s plan is modest and appropriate for the site.  The proposed land use (golf pro shop, golf cart barn, pro shop, lockers, restaurant, bar, meeting rooms, hotel rooms, member lounge and fitness) is the same land use as today.  The golf course is not touched and continues to be protected from future development.

Some have suggested Salamander build a premium hotel at another location in the county where Lubert-Adler also owns land.  There are two challenges with this solution:

  • The proposed hotel is small because it is meant to leverage the existing rooms, meeting space and amenities available at the larger Hammock Beach building. To move the hotel somewhere else would require a much larger new facility which could stand on its own.
  • The other land owned by Lubert-Adler in the county is on the Intracoastal Waterway in the Hammock and near Bulow Creek. These are undeveloped properties that contain many large, old oak canopy trees along the Intracoastal.  Do we really want to recommend Lubert-Adler disturb these lands instead of redeveloping and improve an existing site that has no environmental impact?

Salamander’s Lodge redevelopment plan is the most important decision in years impacting the economy and future of Flagler County.  Despite exaggerated claims from opponents, pictures demonstrate it is actually a modest plan that can reinvigorate our local economy and put Flagler on the map as a premier destination, without a negative environmental impact.

Please join me in supporting this project and encouraging our County Commissioners to approve it for the future of Flagler County when the county commission meets to consider Salamander’s application Monday evening in Bunnell.

Tim Hale, a Hammock Beach resident, co-owns Palm Coast-based Coastal Cloud. Reach him by email here. He wrote a somewhat different piece for the Observer with his wife Sara Hale, available here. Chris Goodfellow’s more skeptical perspective on the project, published earlier this month, is available here.

The site plan proposes the redevelopment of an existing site with no impact outside of the site:

Current lodge site. Click on the image for larger view.

Current lodge site. Click on the image for larger view.

 

Proposed hotel site. Click on the image for larger view.

Proposed hotel site. Click on the image for larger view.

 

View of current lodge from the 18th hole. Click on the image for larger view.

View of current lodge from the 18th hole. Click on the image for larger view.

 

View of the proposed hotel from the 18th hole. Click on the image for larger view.

View of the proposed hotel from the 18th hole. Click on the image for larger view.

 

Compared to the view today (see the picture at the top of the article), the view of the new hotel will be almost indistinguishable. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

Compared to the view today (see the picture at the top of the article), the view of the new hotel will be almost indistinguishable. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

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23 Responses for “Salamander’s Hammock Beach Hotel: An Invitation to Future Prosperity in Flagler”

  1. S Zander says:

    THEY CAN BUILD IT ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE BRIDGE INSTEAD OF ON A VERY SENSITIVE BARRIER ISLAND. FLAGLER COUNTY WOULD GAIN ECONOMICALLY AS WELL AS PROTECTING OUR ECOSYSTEM (which needs to be way more important than $$$$$$)

    • Will (#1) says:

      S Zander – you’re missing a key point. The extra rooms need to be near the existting hotel with dining and meeting areas. Businesses won’t be attracted to a conference center where they need to take a bus from rooms to meetings and recreation. Everything proposed is within the footprint of the existing lodge and does not damage our ecosystem.

  2. Willy says:

    Seems to me that a trend in lower membership for your golf and country club is your problem, not the remainder of the county’s problem. The jobs brought by this expansion are mostly hospitality based meaning they are low paying and do NOT provide health benefits and retirement. The construction jobs promised are not contracted by local firms from Flagler. Flagler County needs industry based jobs, not another Golf course or resort..

    • Will (#1) says:

      Willy, Salamander’s proposal is an excellent response to the lower membership problem you mention, and they’re doing it without asking for county tax dollars.

      Maybe some of the hospitality based jobs aren’t high paying with benefits, but many of the jobs may be terriffic for a second earner in a household, and good steppingstones for better jobs in themselves too. And as far as construction jobs- I’m hopeful that some of the construction jobs will stay locally – even if outside contractors with special experience are needed for part of the project. Let’s not assume the worst.

      This isn’t another golf course or resort. This is an improvement to the gem we already have!

      • Willy says:

        Will,
        I fail to understand how lower membership at the current resort is anybody else’s problem but their own. Yes I m sure they are asking to upgrade without taxpayer dollars, but at a cost of a different kind to the community and environment of the hammock.

        The company argues the new resort closing would have a negative effect on the unemployment figures for Flagler County. It is unlikely the resort would close up shop should the company’s project be rejected. Another investor would simply buy the resort and do a better job of running it.

  3. Sherry Epley says:

    A very informative article. I certainly do not see any plans for the massive condo towers of South Daytona. Growth, is inevitable. The right kind of growth could benefit our community and county in many different ways. Isn’t it better to have high end, moderate development that would make an already existing resort successful than to have another failed business in our county? If the Hammock resort continues to decline, we ALL lose!

    Why not require that our commissioners and other decision makers go over every detail thoroughly and hammer out a development plan that helps this company be profitable while simultaneously making sure the environmental impact is minimal and the public continues to have reasonable access to the beach, etc. . . instead of rejecting any development at all????

  4. #1 Gator Fan says:

    Great article. No sure what the bru-ha-ha is all about. This business will pay large amounts of taxes and share the tax burden with the home owners of Flagler County which currently have it on their shoulders. Change is coming and you can roll with the flow or get run over. One hotel doesn’t make it Miami or Tampa. By what I read and see about this whole thing it’s a win-win for everybody. The NIMBY attitude is ridiculous. Maybe the hotel your readers stayed in while out of town were not welcome either. Everybody likes concrete and power plants but they don’t want them in their back yards. It doesn’t work like that. Welcome Salamander.

  5. T says:

    Excellent research and presentation! Thank you. I just hope this opportunity gets approved.

  6. Dave Sullivan says:

    Dave says
    Concur we need this kind of tax paying installation in Flagler County.
    If Ocean Hammock fails we will all regret it.

  7. Groot says:

    The expansion means more minimum wage service jobs, which means more renters, which mean more rental homes, which means lower property values. This does not even address quality of life issues for current residents, native flora and fauna and property values in the Hammock. No thanks. If this sort of attraction is desired let them go to St Augustine (outside the state and federal properties), Daytona, Broward, etc…This really is opposite to what the area needs, stronger property values and higher quality of life. We need to attract professionals and retirees with incomes not more service industry workers.

  8. Will (#1) says:

    Well stated Mr. Hale. Short, accurate, and to the point.

    Hope the Commissioners will agree on Monday night.

  9. just me says:

    Amazing how a company is looking to spend over 70 million in this county add some 150 jobs are they ALL full time high pay NO but they are NEW jobs in this county with a horrible employment record. What do those against it have to say one not enough full time high pay jobs yes it would be great if they all where but there not take what one can get do not hold out for the impossible in this. Next they talk about all the destruction of the natural beauty of the hammock LOOK at the site plan its NOT on virgin land. My only concern is that the new site plan also includes the public parking and access at 16th street if its is still public access im all for it if NOT then no way.

  10. Steve says:

    This is indeed a well-researched, well-presented argument that is devoid of the frantic tone assumed by much of the opposition to the Salamander plan. Yes, development is inevitable and beneficial when it is modest in scale and carefully thought out, which the Salamander plan appears to be. I am always amused by people who suddenly become environmentalists when the environment in question is next door. While many of the Salamander opponents are well-intentioned and genuinely concerned about the coastal ecosystem, much of the noise is coming from folks who built or bought enormous homes on or near the dunes, and you don’t need to be a scientist to know how environmentally unsound that is!

  11. Luke Guttmann says:

    You make a compelling argument. I am a longtime homeowner in the Hammock. When the dust settles, I hope that the Hammock community and Salamander’s executive leadership and ownership will work together to make Salamander the nationally preeminent leader in environmentally responsible ocean front resort management. I sense Salamander sees this as a part of its mission and culture. I suggest they put in place a vehicle so that the Hammock community can be a partner with them to achieve this result. Such a result would also serve the community at large to be used as a model for the inevitable continued development in the Hammock.

    • Tim Hale says:

      Mr. Guttman,
      I believe your intuition is spot on. I too believe what you describe is what Salamander aspires to achieve in our community. It is disappointing that their initial actions adjusting their plans to address Hammock feedback (eliminate parking south of 16th Rd, keep building height to a minimum, move the building further from the dune) and their proposal to clone the conservancy funding concept that has worked well in Kiawah was not acknowledged by the Scenic A1A and HCC organizations. I believe these are opportunities we are squandering. I also believe the Salamander team genuinely wants to demonstrate the ‘environmentally responsible ocean front resort management’ concept your describe. We need someone from HCC and Scenic A1A who is prepared to work with Salamander to make this happen, else the opportunity may be missed.
      Thanks for your thoughtful feedback.

  12. Hammock Bear says:

    Is there any guarantee that the proposed hotel would be constructed to survive longer than the current building? 32 Years is a short span for a building in comparison to the over 200 year old buildings in St.Augustine.
    Many Hammock residents were never part of the Poll that is mentioned. Was the Poll limited to a small portion of the Hammock community?

    Salamander proposed building project would certainly lower beach front property taxes so is this project being pushed for a select few? Will this create a need for traffic lights on A1A? How will the proposed Salamander project impact the local infrastructure? These are just a few questions for the public meeting before the vote.

  13. Anonymous says:

    I don’t see a $2 per room fee that the hotel said it would give to a fund for the hammock and to be used for inviromeantal use.

  14. Concerned and say no says:

    Will 16th still be open to the public?

    • Tim Hale says:

      Yes, 16th Road would still be open to the public as it is today. Salamander said they would upgrade the restroom facilities and improve the parking lot. You can see in the photos how 16th Road looks today and with the new Lodge in place – the public access remains.

      • Willy says:

        Mr. Hale.

        While I appreciate your article and pictures Id like to point out several inaccuracies.

        You stated the following in your article-

        “It will protect the current 450 jobs at Hammock Beach, create 150 new jobs and an additional 300 construction jobs. These are direct jobs from the project, plus another 23 percent in supporting jobs for a total job impact of well over 1,000 jobs.”

        You also stated-

        “The approval and implementation of Salamander’s Lodge redevelopment project could dramatically reduce Flagler’s unemployment rate, possibly into the 5 percent range from 7.6 percent today”

        Concerning the project’s job impact to the area, and It’s effect on the County’s unemployment rate your numbers simply don’t add up..

        1) The 300 construction jobs promised may add to the State’s overall job numbers but not so much Flagler County’s. The construction company contracted for the project will probably be from outside Flagler as there are no construction firms based in this county that specialize in high-rise commercial construction. Even if some of the employees are residents of Flagler their jobs will only last as long as the project. Unfortunately they are temporary.

        2) The 2010 census puts the County’s population at 95,696. Wikipedia has the current population estimate at 99,956. That means 7,590 people are unemployed in Flagler County. Your article claims this project could bring the unemployment rate to 5% in Flagler County.

        That means this project would have to generate 2,593 sustainable jobs in Flagler County. Well over the somewhat inflated number of 1,000 promised in your article.

        3) As stated by me previously these are jobs are low wage hospitality and service industry jobs, with no health benefits or retirement plans.

        • Anonymous says:

          Willy, unemployment % is a percentage of labor force, not a % of population. Exclude children and retirees from your calculation.

          • Willy says:

            Anon-

            Great point.. However if you shrink the figures from total population, to total workforce there is still a significant number of jobs needed to dip the unemployment down to 5%.. The resort would have to still create nearly 2,000 jobs..

            Eventually they will run out of beach to develop, and maybe “progress” will stop. Hopefully the County won’t resemble Daytona Beach in the future..

  15. Jack Howell says:

    Mr. Hales presentation is well stated and of superior in content. Several question that I had on my mind regarding this project were answered. No question that the Salamander project needs to be given the green light and approved by the county commission. I believe that this project will produce a significant boost to our economy. I urge my friends on the county commission to do the right thing this evening!

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