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In Reversal, County Approves 50-Home Development That Will Change Complexion of Hammock’s Jungle Hut Road

| June 18, 2019

It'll be more hut and less jungle along Jungle Hut Road.

It’ll be more hut and less jungle along Jungle Hut Road.

In mid-March, the Flagler County Commission voted to deny Jacksonville developer Ken Atlee’s request to rezone a 12-acre parcel at Jungle Hut Road and State Road A1A in the Hammock. The rezoning would have enabled building up to 87 houses on lots 50 feet wide, though the developer was proposing 54 homes. Commissioners did not like how tightly packed houses could be built there either way, and rejected the application in a 5-0 vote.

Atlee did the next-closest thing to suing. He directed his attorney, Sid Ansbacher, to pursue mediation through a special magistrate. County Administrator Jerry Cameron offered to mediate informally first. The developer agreed. Only those who’d addressed the matter at the March meeting were invited to participate in the May 23 meeting, and of those, only three did so. The press was never informed. The meeting was not publicly advertised, though both could have been since the normal rules of formal mediation did not apply.

(County Administrator Jerry Cameron said while the press could have been notified, the substance of the mediation would still have been confidential, under law, though he said “it became informal by mutual agreement” once the two sides agreed to go ahead without a special magistrate. Cameron said the interpretation he got from the county attorney was that the informality did not nullify the law’s strictures. But the law does not state as much. It only addresses mediation with a magistrate.)

The developer then submitted a new plan based on mediation’s results.

County Planning Director Adam Mengle warned the commission: “A rejection would result in possible scenarios there of other more formal mediation processes that could come forward [as] possible legal action.”

The threat of litigation made explicit, commissioners with little comment Monday evening voted 3-2 to approve the development, which will result in 14 more lots, or homes, than if the county had stuck to the parcel’s original zoning designation.

The mediated agreement to the so-called Beachwalk development included a few adjustments: reducing the subdivision’s lots from 54 to 50, increasing the landscape buffer along Jungle Hut Road from 10 to 20 feet, shifting a few lots within the subdivision to accommodate the wider buffer, adding a footpath, altering the inner road that formed what commissioners had described as “a raceway” within the development to a road that ends in two cul de sacs, and contributing a relatively nominal sum to the county ($25,000) to enhance the scenic corridor at Jungle Hut Road. The development is expected to add 570 trips per day on surrounding roads.

The homes will be built by Richmond American Homes, which Atlee described as “traditional style” homes with asphalt shingle roofs and “more of a traditional homes, typical of the things they’re building in the area right now as well. They’re going to be building some up towards Marineland and the Matanzas Shores area as well.” The homes will be priced in the $350,000 to the $450,000 a home range.

The commission had previously been concerned about safety: there’s only one way into the subdivision, and only one way out. That has not changed: the single way in and out is off of Jungle Hut Road.

A central criticism of the original plan was a dearth of open spaces. There was just 1.6 acres of open spaces. That was increased to 2.77 acres, thanks largely to the additional buffer. “What we really have tried to do and what we believe we have succeeded in doing is we have added an acre, or just a hair under an acre, of open space,” Ansbacher said.

Atlee was requesting a zoning change, from commercial-residential to “planned unit development” in order to enable the development as Atlee plans it. Nothing in law requires the commission to change a zoning designation at a developer’s request. But a denial does require the government to show that it “accomplishes a legitimate purpose,” as a 1993 Florida Supreme Court decision put it. Flagler County’s ordinance

“While obvious improvements were made,” the Scenic A1A Pride committee’s chairman, Dennis Clark, wrote County Attorney Al Hadeed, the committee, which has reviewing authority on development plans in the region, “found that this development did not meet the PUD definition for innovative design. We have concerns about the high density due to small lots and lack of open space. We would like to see significant trees identified and worked around. We support the exclusion of short-term rentals.” The committee voted 7-0, with one abstention, to approve Clark’s wording. (Short-term rental regulations are currently in the county’s hands and in the hands of homeowner associations. But the Legislature has been attempting to repeal that authority and abrogate it to itself since 2015, and is expected to do so again next year. Should the Legislature succeed, the subdivision’s association may have no say in forbidding short-term rentals.)

Clark had also been at the mediation and acknowledged in comments to the commission that the applicant “did a lot of work to improve this PUD.” But it was not enough.

“What this is, is a large housing development that wants to put itself on a small amount of land,” an opponent told the commission during the public-comment period. Citing the previous zoning designation, she said the developer within that designation “couldn’t have 50 houses, they couldn’t have these size lots. So we have all this density, and the only way they could get around having all that density is to say oh, we’ll be a {PUD. But a PUD is something else. It’s for something creative and innovative. This is a housing development with a big pond. With 50 houses.” She said all the issues the commission had initially objected to remain: the lots are still very small, and there’ll be little room for new trees to mature.

Never one to much hide his contempt for opponents of plans he represents, Ansbacher let out a long sigh followed by a long pause before responding to the few people who addressed the mediation agreement. He had claimed that “we are not going to have short-term rentals,” as if legislative pre-emption of local ordinances and covenants were not possible. He defended various changes, such as the different placement of a pond in place of a lot that would have fetched good money, and pointed out the irony that, under the previous zoning, homes or sheds could be built within 120 and 20 feet of Jungle Hut Road.

Commissioner Greg Hansen was not comfortable with the single-point of entry in and out of the subdivision. The county’s rules require at least two access poijnts. To get around that, the county will have to approve a waiver.

“Are we subject to litigation if there’s a fire and a bunch of people die because they can’t get out?” Hansen said.

“I’m sure the county attorney will say you’re always subject to litigation, that’s something we always face, yes, sir,” Mengle said. He had not spoken that disclaimer when he’d warned the commission 30 minutes earlier that the county could be sued if it did not approve the zoning change.

Two commissioners who’d voted against the plan previously–Donald O’Brien and Dave Sullivan–wanted an emergency-access road included as a condition of their approval. That was added to their motion, which got a 3-2 vote, with Sullivan, O’Brien and Joe Mullins in the majority, Hansen and Charlie Ericksen in dissent. The action resulted in ending further legal proceedings, including a special magistrate hearing. It also means the commission will have to ratify Monday’s decision through approval of the planned unit development at a subsequent meeting.

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32 Responses for “In Reversal, County Approves 50-Home Development That Will Change Complexion of Hammock’s Jungle Hut Road”

  1. Concerned Citizen says:

    Shame on Donald O’Brien and Dave Sullivan for reversing your votes. You had a chance to slow down the wanton destruction of greenery in this county. Ya’ll just have to build don’t you? I wonder if money was exchanged? Why so scared of taking it to court?

    What I want to know is how is the County supporting this development with outdated infra structure? You’re going to have more homes than sewage and water treatment can handle? How do you plan exactly to fit 87 homes on 12 acres? I’m no builder or mathmatecian but that doesn’t sound feasible.

    Also. Why is the County Administrator weighing in on Commision voting? Does he know the builder? He seems eager to get this going. And what about possible violation of Sunshine Laws? This seems like it was kept in the dark until once again Flagler Live got it.

    This sounds like another Real Estate deal our BOCC has no busniess being involved in. I hope Flagler Live investigates this furthur. We already know we can’t trust our BOCC and other county officials to do the right thing.

  2. Steve Vanne says:

    What a shocker. Money talks….

  3. wow says:

    And within a few years FEMA will be paying thousands of dollars to repair them all. What a ridiculous place to build houses.

  4. Jan says:

    A few comments:

    – My husband and I both spoke against the development at the March meeting (and my husband spoke for both of us last night). We would have attended the mediation -the date was changed twice, and I we were out of town on the date it was held (those who spoke out against it were certainly not consulted on the mediation date). The fact there were only three wasn’t because of lack of wanting to be there, believe me.

    – Very disappointed that the commissioners voted against its own Flagler County Comprehensive Plan. See Section 7, Coastal Protection and Preservation which includes: “protecting coastal development and populations from hazards to life and property by limiting density increases on the barrier island” (page 11)

    – Hope the developer and potential residents of Beachwalk check out the wastewater treatment plant which is across the street before closing this deal or purchasing property. I ride my bike, walk, and/or drive my car several times a day on Hammock Dunes Parkway. There is a bad odor that frequently wafts across Hammock Dunes Parkway, and right over the land this development will occupy.

  5. John dolan esq. says:

    Overpriced macmansions for the rich guys and built in a flood zone. Pushed ahead of local wishes because of rich lawyers in jax. Thanks local gov.

  6. daddybear says:

    what a croc! that area should be left alone with no development to preserve the beach area. TOO much traffic will impede the turtle nesting area as well.The area already has too many lower income transient homes/trailer parcels….perfect example look at the shady lane north and south area as well as magnolia rd division which has many off shoot roads with varying degrees of lower income people that have no other place to go.Then again that could be the county’s main purpose to drive them out….

  7. all thumbs says:

    And you guys had all your attention on Captains Barbecue! Ok, lets see you all go out and picket them now too.

  8. Facts says:

    BCC better start pre planning traffic lights on A1A between Jungle Hut and 16 RD. Too many vehicle accidents occur now. More traffic equals more accidents. Get it done now!

  9. Concerned Citizen says:

    I wonder if we can get the same interest up to protect this piece of land. Like everyone did with Bings Landing?

    Let’s get out there with petitions and protests. Let’s block this builder from coming in and tearing up this scenic area. We can show him we aren’t afraid of these big city builders and their law suits. I’m down if ya’ll are. I bet the interest for this piece of land won’t be nearly as much as Bings.

    Let’s get out there and remind our two faced secretive unethical BOCC and apparently special interest driven County Administrator that they work for US. On the same topic let’s start calling our State Attorney’s Office and the FBI. If we hound them enough maybe we can get a Federal investigation going into our apparently corrupt BOCC.

    We need investigations and we need accountability. I’m pretty sure there are Sunshine laws violated here. Why are Flagler citizens afraid of our BOCC and other leadership? I’m not and have dropped my emails and phone calls. It takes a community though. We need to hold these elected and appointed leaders accountable. Then VOTE THEM OUT!!

    To the Flagler County BOCC

    I hope you realize you’re numbering your days in office. We have elections coming up and I fully intend to not vote for any incumbents. And it sounds like we already need a new County Administrator. If we aren’t careful we will wake up one day and be annexed to Duval or Saint Johns.

  10. Barbara says:

    Sad pretty soon only those who can afford a half million dollar homes will be able to enjoy the beach and natural areas that Palm Coast has to offer or had to offer when we moved here 25 yrs ago. Keep building folks and soon our natural areas will be only for the enjoyment of a limited few, like someone else said that area should be left alone with no development and preserve the beach area. IMO for all to enjoy.

  11. Agkistrodon says:

    I know where there is a 1 acre plot, wooded, maybe you could build 10 house there too…..Y’all are in so much trouble financially speaking, you’ll do anything to try and get out……..I guess those aren’t the right trees for “tree city” county, or whatever the hell you want to call it. I call it “bovine effluent”.

  12. Outsider says:

    Face it folks: it’s over. Flagler Beach, a once sleepy beachside town has been ruined by greed and the ever-increasing desire for tax revenue to support a burgeoning bureaucracy. The Hammock is no different. With the recent arrival of out of town commissioners who’s sole purpose is to clear the way for developers, The Hammock is up for grabs. The representatives no longer represent the people who live here but the people who want to turn this into Palm Beach, leaving us choking on car exhaust at every traffic light and blinded by a sea of neon lights illuminating a never ending supply of gas stations and big box stores, creating a different sort of paradise for those accustomed to commuting the Harlem River Expressway. The same people who are willing to cede three quarters of a park to a barbecue joint will give The Hammock away to the highest bidder. It’s a real travesty.

  13. palmcoaster says:

    There goes the Hammock! We just barely finished our fight against expansion of the Bings Landing BBQ and one more FCBOCC total disregard for our quality of life, the Hammock preservation as well as against the Friends of A1A Committee. This giveaway to developers never ends in Flagler County and Palm Coast based in the BS of lergal implications…such a croc of ..! The county and Palm Coast sue its residents to silence us but sure tends the legal royal carpet to developers… obvious reasons!

  14. Percy's mother says:

    It’s in a flood zone.

    Good luck to those who buy in that development, but then again, it’ll most likely be people from up north who know nothing about the area. They’ll find out quickly enough when a hurricane either skirts the coast, which is what’s happened up until now, or we have a direct hit. The whole area will be under water.

  15. Hammock Bear says:

    Trust is gone with the Commissioners. Proposed development of proposed size should have two exits and entryways.. That would be Common Sense. Does the FD have a say in all of this? Best option would be double the lot sizes and reduce the total of homes to be built. Green space Has to be provided. If this project is approved the way it is presented now, then it is simply rape of the land in the light of greed. Lack of notification of meetings that the Public can attend is a huge No-No. Wake Up Everyone !!

  16. KJ says:

    Oh wow, what a tremendous mediation, “There was just 1.6 acres of open spaces. That was increased to 2.77 acres”, what an acomplishment. I hope the same concerned citizenry who have defended Bings Landing will continue to fight this disaster. What we need is a champion of means who can hire the damn best attorneys and fight these bastards from ruining what little bit of green remains in the Hammock. Please vote the yes voters out of office also.

  17. Gary says:

    It is all about the money I smell the good ole boy system and crooked people..just keep on cutting down these clearing the land.

  18. Gary. says:

    Stop the construction in Palm Coast. Stop the destruction in clearing of the land. What I see and when I smell is the good old boy system at work…. Some crooked politicians are getting paid so contractors are going to build homes…as of 2017 palmcoast population was over 87k……

  19. richiesanto says:

    I lived in a neighborhood once that was richmond american homes. These houses were a disaster- walls not plum, cracks in foundations etc. First hurricane comes and these houses will fall apart. Then the Hammock residents are gonna raise some hell

  20. flaglerflyer says:

    I should probably not bother to reply – but I will anyways. The county has zero authority to stop this development. This vote was simply about the number of houses that could be built in this area. Even if the county had voted against allowing additional homes and prevailed in litigation, homes would still be built on this property as that is what it is currently zoned for.

    I love Flagler Beach and the surrounding area the way it is. Buy like it or not, change is inevitable.

  21. What good is a long-range plan says:

    If the BOCC and legal counsel lack the courage to stand behind it? The threat of a lawsuit was the same rationale used to justify the Colbert Lane zoning change to allow an unneeded RV storage lot. This also may be an intended comeuppance to the Hammock for embarrassing the BOCC over the bbq shack debacle. Good thing elections are coming — with their track record of ignoring voters, perhaps voters should ignore any incumbents seeking re-election.

  22. deb says:

    large housing development , a whole lot of us say NO. Just continue to screw up the property in the hammock without any thought for those that actually live here. It just proves, money will buy any Commissioner.

  23. K says:

    This is such BS!! As if we didn’t lose enough trees because of Matthew, are you now telling me that the county approved cutting down 523 out of 577 hardwood trees in the HAMMOCK? Do they know the definition of HAMMOCK? And NOT the ones their lazy asses hang out in! Look it up. You all just destroyed it. AGAIN. PS… nice job on the absolute clear cutting of what was left of the HAMMOCK at the end of Bay Drive. Awesome. I know who I’m NOT voting for this next time. So disappointing. I loved living up here until you assholes decided that it would look better as a paved parking lot. You suck.

  24. Carolyn Weiser says:

    Ashame. This entire area was so peaceful, now it is beginning to look like the NOVA area we moved from so no thank you, we won’t be permanently settling here or investing money in property. The amount of traffic and noise is ruining the area. There will be lights necessary, increased accidents and just an overall sense of congestion and stress; the very thing people used to love about this part of Palm Coast is being destroyed.

  25. Optimist says:

    50 homes on 12 acres! Sweet! I’m McLovin the new McOptimism in the all new Super Sized McRealEstate McMarket. It’s like nobody McLearned a thing in ‘07. New yuppies born everyday. Borrow, Build and ….. well, You know the rest folks!!! Come to Palm coast and bring your money!! Oh, also have a solid plan for black mold prevention!

  26. Jane Gentile-Youd says:

    Disgraceful, uncaring, irresponsible, stupid and thoughtless decision once again by the board . Individually most of the board are nice guys, but once they are all together they become total jackasses and vote against those who put them in office. Very disturbing. Just when you think they are going to make an intelligent decision they sock it to us …as usual.

  27. deb says:

    Hansen you need to do something right for a change and fight this for the voters you represent. Say NO to this project.

  28. snapperhead says:

    No one goes there nowadays, it’s too crowded.- Yogi Berra

    Listen up commissioners…i’m against any further development……. unless it’s where I want to live and approve of. How dare you allow a 50 house development next to the mega Hammock Dunes, Ocean Hammock and Sea Colony developments.

  29. AB says:

    This is a maritime hammock with its own micro-climate, flora and fauna. Developers, and their endless greed, are coming in and wiping it out. We were doing 55 mph on A1A, now down to 50, which means we’re now all trailing the clueless, in long caravans, at 38 mph. Soon, thanks to the greedy, we’ll be stopping at numerous red lights, going to congested beaches, more drastically rationing water (where’s it all coming from?), paying higher taxes, shopping in congested stores, and the Hammock will look like just another cookie cutter place. No more character. I’m from South Florida, and tried to get away from all that, but greed and money always, always wins. All my life I have disliked developers. I wish the Commissioners would, for once, try to preserve a place as special as the Hammock, and not turn it into another anonymous town. That will, apparently, never happen.

  30. What Else Is New says:

    Can we just remove more trees, plant more houses, elect more developers to sit on the BOCC? Good bye, Hammock. Hello Houston. Come the next storm, watch for flooding.

  31. mark101 says:

    Our commissioners what a disgrace. Nothing but lies from Hansen

  32. Ken Yu majin says:

    The almighty dollar wins again. So many vacant homes, why build more? And in a flood zone? Moronic. Any residential property built in a flood zone must at least be built on stilts and must have a washout at ground level. Charge 6-10 times more insurance to homeowners of any property built in a flood zone from this point forward. Remember to vote in local elections so we can vote the whole lot of them out. This insanity needs to stop.

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