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Hammock Beach “Dragging Their Feet” Over Dunes-Repair Agreement, Vexing County

| March 5, 2018

Repairing the dunes along the Hammock Beach golf course is a critical part of the county's broader dunes-reconstruction project, but it's also the only part of the project yet to be cleared for construction.

Repairing the dunes along the Hammock Beach golf course is a critical part of the county’s broader dunes-reconstruction project, but it’s also the only part of the project yet to be cleared for construction.

Since Hurricane Matthew carved out much of Flagler County’s dunes officials in county government, with Flagler Beach officials and residents and their associations along the shore have been working to secure agreements to rebuild dunes and a seawall. It’s taken a while but it’s also gone well, with the dune rebuilding now proceeding at about a mile a month, construction on a seawall in painters Hill starting last week, and the reconstruction of the southern portion of State Road A1A starting later this year.


All segments of dune reconstruction are critical for the protection of property and residents behind them. Residents have been pressing to have as much of that work done before hurricane season begins on June 1.

But one segment of the dune wall in the Hammock has yet to get the approval of the one property owner without whose signature the project can’t go forward: Hammock Beach Property Owners Association.

That agreement is part of a mosaic of agreements in that area that would result both in reconstructed dunes and the establishment of special taxing districts so the property owners benefiting from the reconstruction are paying their share of the rebuilding cost. That share is estimated at $4.4 million between three entities (the county will have to borrow the amount, then get paid back through the special assessment districts), with Hammock Beach’s cost at a little over $800,000. All agreements are in place except that with Hammock Beach, along whose shore 50,727 tons of sand are waiting to be dumped, out of the 639,000 tons getting dumped along much of the county’s shore.

The county and Hammock Beach have been wrangling over the agreement for weeks. The first version Hammock Beach drafted was unacceptable to the county, and there were fears that there would ne no agreement.

This morning, County Administrator Craig Coffey submitted the proposed agreement with Hammock Beach for the county commission’s approval—even though the agreement is only “90 to 95 percent” completed, Coffey said.

 “What troubles me is that they appear to be dragging their feet,” Commission Chairman Greg Hansen said, “and if they don’t sign we’re not going to get the sand there and we’re not going to be able to protect the residences because of legal wrangles over the language. It doesn’t make sense to me.”

 “I’m just leery of agreeing to something that isn’t final,” Commissioner Sullivan said, particularly since Coffey does not plan to submit the completed agreement once it is final, unless the final result includes a deal-breaker that would need the commissioners’ review.

In essence, Hammock Beach is holding the broader project hostage to the ongoing negotiations. The reason: “They have legal issues they are concerned about—just as we are—and they’re trying to deal with legal issues that don’t concern us. Some of their legal issues deal with the [golf] course,” Coffey said. (Hammock Beach is worried that the dunes will hurt the aesthetics of its prized gold course.) Hammock Beach also controls one of the homeowner associations involved, where there may be potential legal issues for the club. “So they’re trying to protect themselves on that front,” Coffey said. He called the language in the contract “comfort language” that Hammock Beach wants to include to protect its interests in case there’s litigation.

But the county can’t be put in a position to entertain any other party to the agreement aside from Hammock Beach, even though other parties will benefit from the dunes.

“Our agreement is with LRA,” Coffey said, using the acronym legally associated with Hammock Beach. “It is not with the HOA that’s being assessed, although we agree to recognize the benefits that are received for property owners behind the dunes and I think that’s a valid statement, that’s part of the agreements we made along Marineland Acres and everywhere else—that the dunes not only protect the beach properties, it protects everyone behind it.” However, the county “can’t legally tie any other entity other than the LRA to the obligation.”

Even though the agreement was not ready to sign, “we’re asking you to approve the agreement in concept,” Coffey said, so as not to delay construction once Hammock Beach ratifies.

Jim Ulsamer, a property owner in the Hammock who’s been working toward securing that and other agreements with the county since two weeks after Hurricane Matthew struck.

 “You could say we were possibly the linchpin for establishing a good private-public relationship to get this thing done,” Ulsamer said of the relationship between the county and homeowner associations. “So here we are, we’re on the 2-yard line, first and goal, and we’re so close to getting this done. So the draft agreement that I saw has some language in there which talks about a preferred construction schedule, and you’ve already touched on this, it says for that critical stretch which includes areas north of 16th [Road] but a good part of the 18th fairway, which is in front of a lot of the homes in our community, that there is a special carve-out that they prefer this work be done either before the end of March, and if not, defer it until October. I am here to say that after all the work that we did, after us pushing, volunteering upfront that we’ll put $1 million into this to help you get your matches from the state DEP [the Department of Environmental Protection], that after all this work to fall short of having our residents protected prior to the hurricane season is completely unacceptable to the people in our community.”

He spoke of dealing with homeowners who have been “really concerned with whether the club was going to get on board,” Ulsamer said. “They wanted to sue us, they wanted to sue you guys, they wanted to sue everybody and we held them at bay, So I’m here to say get that agreement signed. I think you can trust them to carry on and tidy it up. But I want some assurances that this work is going to get done.”

As uncomfortable as they were doing so, commissioners approved the agreement unanimously moments later.

The Proposed Agreement With Hammock Beach (2018)

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6 Responses for “Hammock Beach “Dragging Their Feet” Over Dunes-Repair Agreement, Vexing County”

  1. John dolan says:

    You rich guys can pay for the privilege of living at “la fin de la monde”.Stop whining and get out your checkbook.

  2. Trumpster says:

    Drove down A1A from St. Augustine to Palm Coast and saw a lot of the dune restoration work. It isn’t going to work, 18 feet wide 12 feet high of loose sand will be gone with the first Nor’easter. With the next hurricane I venture to say 25% of the houses will be gone. This foolishness of the Republican Conservative that they can pray away destruction just shows how dumb they really are. To top things off the County has burnt a lot of the vegetation near Washington Oaks that would have slowed down and defected storms approaching A1A, now any storm will simply wash across the roadway with nothing to slow it down or divert it..

  3. John says:

    Just when I thought the situation could not get any worse …. I read this article today in Flaglerlive.com.

    According to Flagler County Commissioner Greg Hansen, the Hammock Beach Resort … “appears to dragging their feet” ….

    The owner of the Hammock Beach Resort (Lubert Adler) is the only large property owner that has not signed a dune restoration agreement with Flagler County to date. Their obligation appears to be approximately $800,000 over 5 years.

    Again their priority seems to be, to maintain and enhance the ocean views from their golf course, rather than to protect the interests of Hammock residents.

    Originally word leaked that their intention was to reduce the size of the dune restored in front of their property by 25%, 8 cubic yards of sand per liner foot, rather than the 10 cubic yards of sand per liner foot, that the Resort neighbors were including in their agreements.

    Now, some residents of the Hammock are hearing rumors, that the Hammock Beach Resort, is negotiating to pay for only 3 cubic yards of sand per liner foot, on areas adjoining the golf course, to improve the views.

    If the Hammock Beach Resort owner (Lubert / Adler) does not sign a dune restoration agreement immediately, there is a significant risk, that their 1 mile of dunes, will NOT be restored, until AFTER the 2018 hurricane season. The health and safety of Hammock residents seems to be secondary to maintaining and enhancing the views from their golf course!

    The following was posted online about 1 week earlier.

    DUNE RESTORATION ALERT

    I was worried when every HOA and large property owner along the beach, except the Hammock Beach Resort Hotel, reached an understanding with Flagler County, in principle, a long time ago.

    When the Hammock Beach Resort, with all the corporate resources of their management company (Salamander) and their investment fund owner (Lubert-Adler) waited until the dump trucks were a few miles away, and the clock almost run out, I worried. When I read quotes, in multiple Golf magazines, sourced from the Hammock Beach Resort Hotel, that their priority was to maintain and improve the views from the Ocean Course, I worried but was still hopeful. I even maintained my composure after reading the recent article in the Hammock Observer.

    When I recently heard that the Hammock Beach Resort was expected to finalize an agreement with the County, possibly by the end of this week, I kept my fingers crossed. I knew, even if they signed an agreement, in the short term, the devil would be in the details. I was skeptical but I hoped for the best.

    Earlier today, that hope disappeared.

    I heard from an authoritative source, that the Hammock Beach Resort will agree to pay for 25% LESS sand (8 cubic yards versus 10 cubic yards per linear foot) than Ocean Hammock, for example. If this information is true, can you imagine walking north, along the beach, and seeing the size of the restored dunes decrease by 25% !

    If this is not true, I ask the Hammock Beach Resort to communicate to the public that they will be signing an agreement committing to 10 cubic yards of sand per liner foot, or greater!

    I also wonder what other details are in the finalized contract, that will be signed at this late date? I wonder if the optimal vegetation, for example, will be planted on top of the dunes, to stabilize them, or whether vegetation will be chosen that optimizes the view from the Ocean Course? I wonder if other details are problematic?

    If my information is correct, these smaller dunes will provide relatively less protection, and increase the flooding risk to areas west, north and south of the Hammock Beach Resort. If my information is correct, you can forget about selling your house, down the road, for an optimal price.

    I hope my information is wrong. I hope the Hammock Beach Resort is committing to paying for 10 cubic yards of sand per linear foot, or the amount dictated in the their plat agreement, whichever is greater.

    By the way, thanks to the Hammock Observer, for being the only body, to communicate to the Hammock community, the fact that the Hammock Beach Resort had not finalized an agreement with Flagler County, as of last week! These questions would not be coming up, at this late date, if communication on this subject had been forthcoming.

  4. kevin says:

    The property owners in the Ocean Hammock Property Owners Association have already been assessed and started paying a surcharge on our HOA fees to pay for the dune restoration. Without the work being completed any future storm damage will be exponential. If the work gets done before the next climate change created storm and it all washes away at least we will have held the line, without the restoration the next storm damage will advance further inland.
    One thing I don’t understand is why our beach restoration involves trucking in sand instead of using barges with vacuums which suck the sand from just offshore where it has been pulled out from the shore and flowing it back to the dunes. Take a look at how they build islands and new land in Dubai, they use this technique very effectively and the sand is the same sand that naturally occurs. Some of the trucked in sand may be of a different make-up from inland sand pits which may not stand up to the tidal flow like the coquina sand that Mother Nature put there.

  5. John says:

    You questions are excellent. I attended a meeting last night (Tuesday 3/6) at the Hammock Community Association.
    There was an excellent dune restoration presentation at that meeting that would have answered all your questions and more.
    The work taking place now before hurricane season, is a short term emergency measure. It is being done from start to finish in less than 1 year.
    Longer term, it was explained, it would be better to bring in sand from miles off the coast, at significant cost savings, on a regular schedule, more of an ongoing maintenance measure. That process takes 18 to 24 months just to obtain the necessary permits. Flagler County has already initiated the process to obtain those permits.
    I believe a copy of the presentation is on both the Flagler County website and the Hammock Community Association website.
    Suggest you review that presentation to obtain a more comprehensive explanation.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Very good points, permitting takes years to do what you have mentioned. The good news , the permitting process is underway as reported by Commissioner Hansen in the HCA Meeting of 3-6-18.

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