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Hidden Lakes Opposition Muted as Palm Coast Council Approves Rezoning For Potential Apartments

| November 8, 2017

The turning lane on Old Kings Road has been there for years. It just needs a development to point to. The Palm Coast City Council just made it easier to sell the land to a potential apartment or condo builder. (© FlaglerLive)

The turning lane on Old Kings Road has been there for years. It just needs a development to point to. The Palm Coast City Council just made it easier to sell the land to a potential apartment or condo builder. (© FlaglerLive)

There were whimpers from Hidden Lakes, the sprawling new subdivision of more than 300 homes off Old Kings Road, but in the end not more than limited opposition to a rezoning that opens the way for a potential but modest apartment complex off Old Kings, nearer State Road 100:

After just seven Hidden Lakes residents spoke their opposition to the rezoning, mostly on speculative or unfounded grounds that were soon proven incorrect, the Palm Coast City Council Tuesday evening voted unanimously to approve the rezoning in the first reading of an ordinance. The second and final reading is in two weeks.

The rezoning actually lowers the permissible development intensity on 12 acres stretching mostly east to west on the east side of Old Kings Road, just north of the yet-to-be-developed Kings Pointe commercial zone. The property owner for the 12-acre parcel—Flagler Pinoneer Group, registered to Chevrolet dealership owner Tom Gibbs and Judy Gibbs, according to Department of State records–is looking to make it more appealing for a buyer.

Enabling apartments or town houses there, or condos, would make it so. Charlie Faulkner, who represented the land owner at a planning board meeting earlier this month, said there were potentially four interested buyers, but he did not go into further details. The rezoning would allow for an apartment complex of up to 136 units, though city planners say developers rarely use every available unit.

Planners also say that a new RaceTrac gas station is in the works for the Kings Point development. That would be the very first commercial development in that large northeast corner at State Road 100 and Old Kings Road. The lots have stood empty for almost a decade, victims of the housing bust.

Some council members and Hidden Lakes residents raised questions about the infrastructure in the area, and whether it could handle an apartment complex. But that will not be an issue. “When we widened Old Kings Road,” City Manager Jim Landon said of the 2010 project, “we put that infrastructure in there to handle this. Infrastructure is not an issue at this location whatsoever, other than that we built it and they haven’t come yet. That’s probably the biggest issue.”

Still, for about 15 minutes, seven residents of Hidden Trail—a development at least a mile and a half north of the area being rezoned—addressed the council in hopes of killing the rezoning.

One warned that Old Kings Elementary school is already past capacity, “so when you add this multi-family into there, their students will get priority to go to Old King Elementary, and the other students will have to be bused north to Belle Terre Elementary.” He’s right, the school is more than 100 students beyond capacity, but that’s largely because the school has essentially overbooked itself through “choice,” the state-law allowance granting parents the freedom to have their child attend any school of their choosing. Many choose Old Kings, and not because they’re zoned for it. The district is grappling with such overbooking, given that several other schools are 2,000 students below capacity (combined).

The 12 acres that would be rezoned for apartments, outlined in yellow. Click on the image for larger view.

The 12 acres that would be rezoned for apartments, outlined in yellow. Click on the image for larger view.

Carl Murphy, another Hidden Lakes resident, said he used to teach a social studies course he described as “Americanism versus communism” and said it “showed the difference between American representative government and the politbureau,” the policy arm of communist regimes. He’d been to the planning board meeting, he said. “What I saw at that in my opinion was a politbureau because everything was decided before the first person got up to speak.” He then claimed an apartment complex would bring “a flood of traffic” at rush hours, though planners showed with numbers that between an apartment complex and, say, a development like Hidden Lakes, Hidden Lakes is four times more likely to add to traffic (as it is in fact doing) than an apartment complex.

Susan Murphy, another Hidden Lakes resident, described traffic on Old Kings Road as “getting more and more,” never noting the fact that her development is the source of at least part of that additional traffic. She then alluded in coded language to what makes “apartment dwellers” undesirable: “We all have probably experienced, had some bad experiences with apartment dwellers. I know I have,” she said. “I was an apartment dweller at one time, but I treated that apartment as if it was mine. The problem with apartment dwellers most of the time, not all of the time, they have no skin in the game, and for those of us who own homes, who chose to move here and make this our forever home for whatever days we have left, we have all of our skin in the game, and this is important for us.”

When apartment complexes are proposed anywhere in Flagler County or Palm Coast, the almost inevitable result is an organized opposition from whichever neighborhoods are near the proposed development. The opposition always makes the same claims: traffic will increase, infrastructure will not suffice, and “undesirables” will move in. What opponents usually mean is that they don’t want b lack, Hispanic, other minorities or working class people living near them. Opposition is more apoplectic when there’s a chance the development may entail subsidized housing.

Toby Tobin, an “apartment dweller” himself and a Realtor, was one of two people who spoke to the council in favor of the rezoning, noting how unusual it is for such measures to bring down the potential development intensity rather than raise it. “It’s also hard for me to understand how there’s an issue with an apartment,” Tobin said. “If you were to think of an apartment house or an apartment structure, where would you put it in Palm Coast? If you were given free choice to pick any vacant piece of property in Palm Coast, this is probably one of the very most appropriate places to put an apartment complex. It’s near the hospital, it’s near Target, it’s near the beach, and the traffic is handled with fairly recent upgrades to our infrastructure.”

Toby Tobin. (© FlaglerLive)

Toby Tobin. (© FlaglerLive)

Tobin had appeared a few months ago before the council to urge it to resist opposition to an actual apartment complex proposal for the west side of U.S. 1, just south of Belle Terre Boulevard. The council had at first put the brakes on the development, but finally relented.

“I’d like to point out to the people who have spoken before me,” Tobin continued, “that if your logic had prevailed over the last 10 to 12 years, you would not have a Target, you would not have an Epic Theater, you would not have an Island Walk complex and you would not have a Hidden lakes or a Toscana. If that’s really where you think you want to go, I can’t change your mind, but I certainly urge the city council to not pay too much attention to your request.”

He walked back to his seat to the sound of a few hisses.

Gretchen Smith, a Palm Coast resident and the political affairs director at the Flagler County Chamber of Commerce, provided an unspoken perspective: that of the constant stream of visitors or potential new residents who stop by the chamber to get a pulse of the community. “Every single day it seems like,” Smith said, “we get newcomers to Flagler County, senior citizens, people who had great jobs and have retired now, they’re moving here, they’ve fallen in love with our area, and they say, ‘Why are there no patio homes, why are there no town homes, why are there no apartments? Because honestly, we’re retired and we don’t want to buy a house.’ Here we have another opportunity in front of us. Flagler County is growing. We get these people in every single day. They don’t want to buy a house, they want to have no overhead, and this seems again a great opportunity.”

The landowner was represented Tuesday evening by attorney Jay Livingston, who said there will be no issue of additional taxation for people along Old Kings Road. “These particular landowners have been paying not only the interest initially when the project was first started,” Livingston said of the original widening of Old Kings, “but the assessment since then. So they have been contributing as much as anybody possibly could toward the infrastructure that supports their lands. And now we’re actually taking some burden off of it with the rezoning.”

Impact fees, the one-time levies on new homes and businesses that exceed $10,000 for a single family house in Palm Coast, are intended to defray the cost of new developments, including roads, parks, water and sewer, and so on.

Sewer-wise, two lift stations do the job in that area: the main line has been upgraded and can handle many coming developments. A smaller lift station on the periphery of the developable land would have to increase its capacity, but that would be the developer’s responsibility. As for Old Kings Road’s capacity, Landon, the city manager, said, “whether it’s a four lane or two lane, I drive it all the time, you never have any problem with having any backups. Only place you might have right now would be at Palm Coast Parkway and that’s in design to improve that intersection.”

It’s also worth remembering, as city attorney Bill Reischmann put it, that “there is no pending project.” That may happen in the future. That time is not known, nor is the nature of the complex that would be built—whether apartments, town houses or condominiums.


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13 Responses for “Hidden Lakes Opposition Muted as Palm Coast Council Approves Rezoning For Potential Apartments”

  1. Ethel says:

    When reporting, it’s important to state facts without your personal bias or dislike for parties you’re quoting. This and the last article on this topic had very negative bias towards some residents you quoted, and you made assumptions and interpreted with ridicule and disdain for the local residents who had concerns. All sides had important points and deserved a professional journalistic reporting. Save your personal feelings for your personal life. Readers deserve better.

    • FlaglerLive says:

      Ethel, you or people who address public bodies on public issues (or public officials for that matter) are entitled to your opinions. You are not entitled to your own facts. When false statements, and statements based on prejudice (which are by definition false) or worse, bigotry, are made, that will be pointed out. We live in a time when the prejudicial has been elevated to validity on its face simply because it’s spoken, and because news outlets have generally reported the spillage unfiltered by fact-checking, context or correctives, thus enabling more bullshit to pass off as “important points.” But false statements are never more important than as markers or indicators of what may explain a person’s indefensible opinion. Equating that with validity would make reporting complicit in reinforcing and disseminating falsehoods. “Personal feelings” have nothing to do with it, unless you are referring to some of the people who addressed the council. Perhaps the ridicule is a bit more pronounced than it should be, but it’s difficult to dignify ridiculous pronouncements with a neutrality that would itself become tendentious by not underscoring the ridiculous. You may be used to less responsible reporting that transcribes whatever is spoken as “fact,” or at least as unchallenged statements. Precisely because readers do deserve better, you won’t see that level of irresponsibility here.

  2. woody says:

    Why is it when the city want’s to change zoning to fit certain needs it’s not a big deal?If the citizens want it changed oooooh boy fugetaboutit.

  3. Born and Raised Here says:

    Having lived here my whole life, and approaching my Golden Years, and am starting to find it difficult to keep up my my 10 acres. Maybe a nice townhouse would be nice for the wife and me.

  4. AnotherBitesTheDust says:

    We moved here 7 years ago from Newark, NJ looking for a quaint town/city and thought Palm Coast fit our criteria (low crime, homeowners, good quality of life) but unfortunately the last couple of years Palm Coast has gradually gone downhill. Over development, crime rate raising ( also take a look at Flagler’s Sheriff Daily Log. The city/community has been looking unkept, just drive around. Piles of trash on driveways, curbs, city property, business, parking lots, graffiti. My block has become an embarrassment!

  5. PcFC says:

    Seniors often prefer retiring to an apartment without the headaches of home ownership. And as people grow older and are alone apartment living seems to keep them more actively involved . I really do not see why the people of P.C. think that renters come as labeled the bad seed. Do you realize what 1st,last, security, utilities, moving expenses add up to probably 3-5k So let’s not look noses down to quickly what is the average size of a social secuity check.

  6. anon says:

    How about what republicans are doing here in Florida to undermine quality senior care?

  7. Paul says:

    Sewage backs up into peoples homes and into the streets from the lift stations every time it rains hard, but our fine politicians keep jamming more residents down our throats. How about we fix our city’s problems instead of just making them worse.

  8. palmcoaster says:

    I am glad to learn here thru FL that the sewer system 2 lift stations in the area of the “approved” future multi-housing development has been upgraded and the 3rd one will be funded by the developer, because we have two lift stations in Clubhouse Drive and Palm Coast Parkway within a block of each other and anyway we get flooded with over flow of sewer with every storm and the line of brownies tank trucks and the noise of the pumps emergency read lights and whistles go on day and night for weeks at the time. That is our $1 concern by the thousands of homes adjacent to them. Needless to mention the damage done by the tank trucks in the neat sod of the right aways that we are still waiting to be replaced as is an eyesore welcoming anyone.

    Also we have to understand the frustration of the Hidden Lakes residents this time and any others that invest in their expensive homes in nice secluded areas after doing their research and after few years the people we elect to office approves the rezoning for multi family housing next door. I also consider that unfair even if is to cope with a need. That rezoning could have been approved elsewhere. I am the least individual to be a bigot, but I live the daily reality of condos around the block from us built by ITT on PC Parkway that today thanks to their slum landlords house many of the hopeless drug addicted that our sheriff rounds up day in and day out thank to our calls for help. Also some of the same type of felons lease those town houses off Palm Harbor. As simple as to look at the sheriff commander report and read to find out. Reality is too obvious to ignore when it comes to some multi-family housing. Hope this one approved against existing residents wishes would be and outstanding one type like the one Tobin bought, that by the way have plenty of vacant units selling some in foreclosure.often as the record shows.

  9. Anonymous says:

    The bottom line is it’s all about $$$ I don’t trust any one I have seen too many times our community representives do back room deals and they will say it’s for the good of the community. The trust is gone, it’s all about the $$$

  10. BMW says:

    All too often people judge renters as ‘peasants’. Unlike some home owner communities, a well managed rental does extensive credit and criminal background checks on all tenants and occupants over the age of 18 years old. Further, there are laws in place to remove violators much easier than home owners.

    This is a small density proposal and a concept very much needed in the area. With an aging population, there is a need for nice rental options for those moving to the area to assist family members during their aging process. And, a maintenance free option for those tired of maintaining a home.

    The more important question is what level of construction is being proposed and how experienced of a property management team will be in place to maintain the value of the community in years to come.

  11. palmcoaster says:

    Woody above correct. You can only achieve a rezoning only if a significant VIP, well connected with planning boards, developers, realtors and their boards, local Chamber of Commerce and owned a large local prosperous business that we all support thru the years, in this case an automotive dealer. Also when a government attorney of the approving entity says that if rezoning not approved will be legal issues raised against the government agency decider…I do not believe it.
    Why this rezoning was not put to the nearby affected residents vote, before going to planning, council and their cheering individuals for approval..? I do not believe that anyone is judging tenants (just by a mere slip of the tongue minor human error) to the contrary we sure welcome and value good tenants in Palm Coast as I have known many of them in my home town PC since 1991.

  12. Kevin says:

    Reading the FlaglerLive response to Ethel reminds me of Shakespeare’s line in Hamlet: “The lady (Flagler Live) doth protest too much, methinks.” There was nothing I read in any residents’ comments that were bigoted so for FlaglerLive to infer that says more about them than the residents who spoke out in opposition. The challenge by residents of owned homes in a nearby neighborhood to this zoning change request is legitimate based on the topic of changing the zoning from what would be a comparable land use of owner occupied homes vs more transient rental apartments. Citizens/residents/property tax payers have every right to challenge a change in zoning that will impact their investment in their property. They bought their properties based on an area being zoned one way and now the vacant land property owner wants to change the rules of his investment game to suit his financial needs and the board should listen to the other side who also have a bested economic interest. You are wrong Mr. Toby to suggest to the council that these residents’ opinions should not be paid attention to. This is America and the legitimate opinions of everyone should be listened to and considered in a public deliberation.

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