The Palm Coast City Council unanimously approved an expansion of the Grand Landing development, the gated community growing at the south end of Seminole Woods Boulevard, including approval for a commercial zone that may include apartments in the somewhat distant future. Should the commercial zone include apartments, those plans would have to go before the council if and when they’re drafted.
Grand Landings is a 774-acre subdivision branches off the south end of Seminole Woods Boulevard. County government approved it as a planned unit development in 2005. Palm Coast annexed it two years later. Some 200 homes have since been built. It’s approved for 749 single family homes, with 150,000 square feet, or 26 acres, of commercial uses. Concentrated along Seminole Woods Boulevard.
The subdivision is owned by JTL Grand Landings Development, a Dallas-based company represented in Palm Coast by Town Center developer Jeff Douglas and Michael Chiumento III, the land use attorney. Grand Landings sought to increase the number of homes by 141, for a total of 890 homes, and have an option to develop part or all of the commercial area as multi-family residences or apartments.
In June Grand Landings sought to expand its Master Plan Development (MPD) by 119.2 acres, to 894 acres, and increase the allowed single-family homes by 401, to 1,150 homes. The plan ran into opposition from residents and was tabled. The developer revised plans, dropped the additional acreage and reduced the number of additional homes sought.
There were new concerns: that the multi-family zone–about the size of the Island Walk shopping center, what was formerly known as Palm Harbor–might have buildings five story high (as is permissible in acreage zoned for apartments) but Grand Landings agreed to limit heights to 35 feet. The developer also agreed to add a second entrance for construction to the west of the development, toward Citation and Belle Terre Boulevard. “So construction will no longer need to be coming through the front gate,” Chiumento said. (Citation Boulevard will be extended 600 feet, and there’s an existing construction entrance further south.)
Referring to the commercial zone, Chiumento said “the developer wanted to have some flexibility into the future, not really believing that we’re going to need another Publix plaza of that size at the entrance of the subdivision, but to provide some commercial for the neighborhoods, so they don’t have to travel all the way” to the center of town. “We envision a mix of multi-0family, whether it’s town houses or condominiums or even apartments out front, along with the commercial.”
City staff found that the request met all development standards and was consistent with municipal policies, including transportation requirements, and along with the Planning Board, recommended approval of the revised plan.
There were further concerns among residents who addressed the council. “Basically what we have is what we’re going to get,” Robert Myer, a resident of South Coopers Hawk Way, said, complaining of the size of current amenities that he said the developers has no plan to improve aside from an open field–a small pool and fitness center with only 10 parking spots. “How well do you think this current amenity center will serve 2,500 residents?” Myer asked. He spoke of the needs for the homeowners association’s meeting and working space.
Larry Lehtonen of North Starling Drive, the treasurer of the HOA, didn’t oppose the addition of single-family homes, but objected to the addition of multi-family homes, saying that could be in conflict with HOA rules. “Our committee as of this date is all single-family, detached homes or lots much larger than 45 feet,” he said. (The development’s lot size has shrunk over the years, in accordance with development amendments, though the developer has not necessarily built on smaller lots.) He asked that all additional homes be limited to single-family, and that the commercial zone not be included in the association.
It is not unusual–it is actually routine in Palm Coast and Flagler–that when a developer presents a plan, any plan, that might include apartments or multi-family homes, opposition of some form inevitably follows. Neighborhood residents who live in single-family homes turn out before local government boards and make various claims, almost always unsupported (and at times tinged in the coded language of prejudice) that apartments will hurt their property values, will bring crime, will badly affect traffic patterns, and so on.
Residents’ reaction to Grand Landings’ plans was less overt, but some residents brought up the fear of seeing their property value go down if lot sizes are being reduced, and Joyce Jones, president of the HOA, said explicitly: “we certainly don;t want apartments up front that bring in a lot of rentals.” She wondered why that amendment was being presented today if plans for the commercial zone were so far in the future, and why the HOA had not had a voice in what proportion of the commercial zone would be devoted to residences as opposed to shops.
But Chiumento stressed that, regarding the commercial zone, “the 26 acres is not part of the HOA. It is outside of it, and it will not be part of their governance, it will not be using their internal roads and that type of thing. This is a gated community. That commercial on the outside will be suited more for the people in the area down there in South Palm Coast, and how it is accessed by the community, the Grand Landings community, can be discussed at a later time when we actually have a plan.”
Council members had little comment, though Jack Howell addressed the amenities. “The recreation center and the swimming pool, obviously that’s not big enough to serve what’s coming,” he said. “As time goes on, you’ve got to have pl;ans to meet the needs of the people.”
“By all means residents have legitimate concerns in that, and the president herself can attest to this that when she purchased her home there was no planned amenity,” Douglas, the developer, said, describing how the original amenity was built. “As you develop a project, you want to match what the demands of that project is,” he said: if more retirees than families are moving in–or vice versa–the development’s amenities must be reflective of the demographic. But that demographic can’t be guessed. “It’s a decision we make as we approach it,” Douglas said. “To sit here today and to pick it, the only guarantee is that it won’t be right.” He assured the council that the residents’ concerns would be heard and addressed in time.
The vote was 4-0 to approve on first reading, with a second reading of the ordinance scheduled for council action later this month. Mayor Milissa Holland was absent.