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240 Apartments Rising on Palm Coast’s E-Section Rim as Bunnell Approves Higher Height Limit

| January 24, 2018

A rendering of how each of the 12 apartment buildings at Shadetree will look like.

A rendering of how each of the 12 apartment buildings at Shadetree will look like.

When it comes to flexibility regarding apartment buildings and complexes, Bunnell is showing Palm Coast how it’s done. And developers are taking notice.


At a lengthy public discussion on apartments and affordable housing at the Hilton Garden Inn last November, two recurring themes were Palm Coast residents’ resistance to apartment complexes, a resistance not reflected by the City Council, but also Palm Coast government’s resistance to more flexible rules allowing apartment buildings to go up.

One of those rules is the city’s height limit: 50 feet for apartment buildings in most zones, though the city also has a few areas zoned for 60-foot apartment buildings. Developers want those heights to be less restrictive, seeing them as factors that discourage investors from constructing apartment buildings in the city, since they wouldn’t have enough space to cram the needed number of units to make a profit.

To that end, Bunnell is showing the way. Last month the city’s Planning Board quietly and with relatively little controversy approved an exception to the city’s 35-foot building height limit, voting unanimously to approve a developer’s request to add a third floor to a dozen apartment buildings going up on the rim of Palm Coast, abutting the E-Section’s Egret Trail in Cypress Knoll. The unanimous vote allows the 12 building to rise to just over 42 feet instead of the previously allowed 35 feet.

There’s no mystery was to why the buildings were located on State Road 100, grazing the Palm Coast city limits: the buildings will appeal primarily to the Palm Coast housing market. Still, there’s no connection between the development and the E-Section—indeed, no connection between Bunnell and Palm Coast anywhere in that area except through Belle Terre Parkway, reflecting Palm Coast’s historic prejudice against the smaller city (and, to a lesser extent, vice versa). That won’t change with the arrival of the apartment complex, as Bunnell officials repeatedly told Palm Coast residents during a hearing on the height limits in December.

The hearing reflected where the two cities’ populations stand with regards to apartment cpomplexes. Though it was the Bunnell Planning Board, it hardly drew any Bunnell residents. The audience was made up of Palm Coast residents, and specifically, E-Section residents. They were much better behaved than they had been when the same apartment complex was first before the planning board, last March, when they got rude and shouted down a board member/ Board Chairperson Thea Mathen finally cleared the room.

That was the hearing that gave initial approval to an apartment complex on the 30-acre property. But at the time Safety Harbor, Fla.-based SR100 LLC had the property up for sale, and it wasn’t at all clear that an actual apartment building was on the way.

Now it is, with its designs submitted to Bunnell and site plans to be submitted soon. The complex will be called Shadetree at Bunnell. There will be 12 apartment buildings, each with 20 apartments–eight on the ground floor, eight on the second, four on the third. Bottom-floor apartments will have private garage access. Philip Smith, president of the Tampa-based Framework Group and the developer of the property, said the apartments will range from 760 to 1,350 square feet and the average rent will be $1,300 a month—not exactly the most affordable rents in the area, as Planning Board member Jan Reeger noted.

“We’re talking a situation that may be more upscale. It’s not necessarily in my mind a more affordable” rent by comparison, Reeger said. “We don’t have very many apartment complexes, much of the rent in Palm Coast are this or exceed it, and I think there’s a need.” Reeger was the one who’d been shouted down by Palm Coast residents in March when she spoke about the need for affordable housing. They let her speak this time, likely because of Mathen’s opening warning.

“There will be no toleration of any outbursts from the crowd,” Mathen had said at the opening bell, reminding the crowd of the March meeting. “I’m just letting you knowing in advance. I have no problem with clearing the room, OK? Thank you.”

The crowd was so well behaved that Rob Merrell, the Cobb Cole attorney representing the developer, was surprised. “You don’t always get that kind of treatment in these situations,” he said.

He explained the request to exceed the height limit in architectural terms. “What you have here before you is a request to bring some character to the architecture which relates to the multiple rooflines,” he said, to add character. “A simple request to have some portion of the building a little taller. The key here is,” he noted, “nobody is asking for additional units.”

“So we’re only talking about a change basically in architecture, that’s it?” Reeger said.

“That’s it,” Merrell said.

Merrell may have been anticipating resistance to the request to go higher, prompting the veiling of the request under the guise of an architectural rather than economic necessity. Of course, the request is based on economic necessity: the developer needs to fit his units in the allotted space, and he couldn’t do it with two floors. Apartment-complex architects are not in the habit of adding that much cost to designs purely for aesthetic reasons. The additional floor will allow for 48 more apartments. Merrell’s caution may have been unnecessary: the only thing the board members were worried about was the 250-unit limit they’d imposed in March, and didn’t want to see exceeded. It won’t be. The complex will be 10 units short of that.

Merrell said the plans won’t change substantially between now and site-plan submission. “A lot of times when I’m handling zoning cases like this people say well, you’re going to hoodwink me and show me a pretty picture and when I come back and see it it’s not going to look like that,” the attorney said. “I can tell you that as part of both of these processes, you guys have the legal right–and Charlie can tell you–to condition these things such that that’s what you get. So we’ve already designed these, that’s what we’re going to come in, ask for building permits for, so you can condition your approval, if you’re willing, on that basis.”

When Mathen opened the floor to the public, some of the same people who spoke in March spoke again, raising some of the same concerns, at times openly suggesting they wanted more segregation from the development.

“Those who are on eagle Trail, which is what’s next to these buildings, will then have people looking down on them and it’s not compatible with single-family homes that already exist,” resident Carol Gunthorp said.

Lucy Davis, Cypress Knoll, “by allowing increased height, more apartments may be constructed,

“Having a huge number of low-income apartments tends to diminish the value of individual homes nearby,” Lucy Davis, another resident of Egret Trail, said. Then, using terms surprising for someone who’s lived through the segregation era (Davis, who once ran for the school board, is 78, and black) said: “A small separation area does nothing to eliminate others from coming into this area.” She agreed that Palm Coast needs low-rent housing (which the apartments will not quite be, however), “but,” she said, “this location is not in the best interest of those living in Cypress Knoll. My street, Egret Trail, backs up to this property, and I’m greatly concerned as to what may likely occur in the future.” She did not specify what she feared, nor where she thought apartment buildings should go.

Only a few others spoke, far fewer than in March. The developers assured E-Section residents that the apartment complex will, in fact, be gated.

“To the extent that you’ll be able to see this property from anywhere really, because it’s surrounded by wetlands,” Merrell said, “I think it’s going to be gorgeous and I think you’ll like it and you guys will be proud of having it in the city of Bunnell. And I think there’s certainly a market for apartments. That’s why they’re here. So bringing quality apartments to you guys in Bunnell–these guys have done it all over the country successfully, people like their product, that’s why they’re able to bring the rents they were talking about.”

The vote was unanimous, and won;t have to be ratified by the city commission.

Shadetree at Bunnell: The Requested Exception

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23 Responses for “240 Apartments Rising on Palm Coast’s E-Section Rim as Bunnell Approves Higher Height Limit”

  1. Just sayin' says:

    Palm Coast–>”Show me da wae”……”To that end, Bunnell is showing the way”

  2. another vet says:

    $1300 is not what I call affordable housing,especially for young couples just starting out

  3. Just the truth says:

    Zoning in PC is very strange they allow two story houses to be built on a street that has all single story homes. So building these three story apartment won’t matter to them, if your property value goes down but you can bet it sure will.

  4. Concerned Citizen says:

    New development is great and all but what about infrastructure? With the added population growth that is bound to happen and the already happening growth doesn’t Palm Coast need to think about it’s utilities? We already have major issues when it rains heavy or we are hit by major storms.

    What about mitigating traffic? Traffic is already horrible in certain areas 100 is so congested some days it takes 20 minutes or more 20 get from Seminole Woods to Flagler Beach. I know I drive this route every day.

    How about an increase in demand from Public Safety? More people mean a higher need for Law Enforcement and Fire Rescue. Are we planning for that as well?

    And finally but most importantly jobs. How are all of these new people going to afford this spiffy new housing? If you are talking 1300 a month Publix or Walmart might not cut it. And Palm Coast Data has long lost reliability along with Sea Ray.

    I understand growth is inevitable. I also understand that growth can be a good thing. Especially if planned properly. It just seems to me we are pulling the cart before the horse

  5. Realist says:

    They seem determined to ghettoize Palm Coast. Been here a long time. Worked for ITT. Starting to think it is time to leave.

  6. Really, Really says:

    It isn’t even a black or white thing sometimes, its a trashy people thing like “those” who may exhibit the attitude “I don’t care about this place I’m only renting, or my baby’s momma is at least!”

    It’s really funny how these municipalities approve slightly lower rent complexes to challenge the housing market but do their darnedest to block some real jobs/ corporations from coming in and giving some real work to these young out-priced family’s they supposedly care so much for.

  7. The Geode says:

    It’ll take about 3 years before they realize that the jobs in this area won’t be able to sustain that many apartments and they will become “section 8” and low income housing…

  8. DRedder says:

    No wonder there’s so many homes for sale all through the E’s . White Flight

  9. ConstantlyAmazed says:

    This is all in anticipation of “casino gambling” comming to central Florida. The developers & politicians are already hedging their bets and doubling down. Saw the same thing happen in Atlantic City over 40 years ago.

  10. George says:

    Here’s the problem, for $1300 a month you can buy a house. That does nothing for the people working minimum wage jobs in Palm Coast.

  11. Really says:

    So open up the back road in E section already. Its a public safety issue with so many people in that area now. Do it now. its just a matter of time before the backside west of these apartments are developed any way. Lol there goes the neighborhood

  12. Anonymous says:

    WHY do so many comments have to do with things inside of Palm coast when this is a Bunnell development? I get its on the boarder but the infrastructure would be Bunnell’s issue.

  13. terminus says:

    This is great and all but where are the jobs that will allow for someone to rent a unit for that amount? It’s more than my house payment. Palm Coast needs good jobs – not retail – but professional jobs so people can afford a place like this that aren’t retired.

  14. Cindy says:

    I read where the developers stated the complex would be gated..what about fencing around the entire property. Citizens should want more than a gate.

  15. mark101 says:

    I agree with Geode give this place a few years and then when they can’t fill the units, low income housing it becomes along with the crime element. . I would also add that as units stay unoccupied development managers start skimming over a credit check and criminal history goes out the window to fill a unit.

  16. Domain Dude says:

    Well, Well, Well,….

    I do have this to say..

    I own the domain name for this place. Bids are starting at $4500.

    Yes, I’m serious..

    ShadetreeatBunnell.com is mine…

    (Silence)…

    Bids are going to start tomorrow at High Noon..

  17. Mzkitade says:

    Time to move. The statement that it will be built in Bunnell so it won’t have an effect on Palm Coast is rediculous. 1300 is not a lot for multiple people to share the rent. These apartments are a cancer that will eventually impact life in Palm Coast. Time to thing about if you want to take that chance.

  18. OMG says:

    Why so much racism, anger, and hatred over what really amounts to a good news story? I drove past FLorida Hospital Flagler today. I have always thought it to be a beautiful building but I also noticed it was taller than folks around here like their buildings. Should they tear it down? Would that make everyone happy? I drive all over Palm Coast and see the crappy neglected neighborhoods of single story single family homes. Most of them frankly look to be quite ghetto. No pride in ownership, poor exterior and yard maintenance all rule the day. I would not want to live West of I95 to be sure. I bet this new apartment complex will look better than 90% of homes in the lettered sections of Palm Coast. Just saying!

  19. Dolores says:

    We are awaiting another apt complex that will border the k section as well.We wonder why not do a land swap for vacant properties that are in the town center closer to infrastructure and shopping.This county or city also needs to vastly improve public transit.Many of My neighbors and my husband And I attended meetings and the mayor ‘s affordable housing theories were flawed as well. Home ownership will never be attained if folks refuse to budget and save money and improve their ability to secure a loan.This is where the council fails to hold workshops on homeownership and first time homeowner grants instead of being in bed with developers.Buy security cameras and watch out for your neighbors.

  20. OMG says:

    @dolores,

    I like your idea for apartments in Town Center. As for public transportation, it will always be a money loser because the population is too spread out and too small.

  21. DRedder says:

    Why not build apts on Colbert Lane

  22. USA Lover says:

    @ Anonymous….because Bunnell doesn’t care.

  23. Really says:

    @Anon because it will shake up their idyllic serenity and they will ultimately deal with the aftermath

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