Palm Coast’s Palm Harbor neighborhood may witness a radical transformation with a pair of proposed developments along the city’s Palm Harbor golf course and at the old Palm Coast Marina. The developments would total 120 hotel rooms and 318 multi-family units–town houses and condos, as the city prefers to describe them, staying away from the term “apartments.”
Both developments would be comparatively smaller than what had once been planned for the two areas. Both would include the ceding of significant property to the city, but also the return to the developer of some $1 million in utility impact fees paid years ago, but never spent on improvements. Both are on a fast track and slated for planning board and city council discussions and action in the next few weeks. A timeline for groundbreaking is less certain.
City Manager Matt Morton describes both developments as “the second golden age of Palm Coast,” restoring some of the original ITT amenities to the city. ITT was the original developer of the city. “When ITT was here they had put in motion a promise to people to come here, enjoy a tremendous quality of life, beautiful weather, a nice community, some great amenities–a promise of a better life, and I think a lot of people bought into that, and that’s why Palm Coast is here.”
The heart of ITT’s pitch had been the quarter-acre lot, many of them, in the old part of town, along canals–or the golf course at Palm Harbor. The two proposed developments do away with the quarter-acre lots but not the proximity to water and golf.
The golf course development would result in five, three-story buildings and 120 multi-family units (the city is calling them condos and townhouses rather than apartments, as at Canopy Walk) across from the golf course’s driving range. The developer, whose 16 acres there include the driving range–which the city has been leasing for a few dollars a year–would cede that acreage to the city, ending the possibility of that land being developed, or the golf course going without a driving range.
Morton pointed to previous entitlements that would have allowed a developer to build up to 16 buildings and have 39 additional units–and to have built on the driving range. The new plan would reduce that density and add 90 parking spaces for golf course users. The developers will be seeking approval of a master-planned development, asking for the higher-density, multi-family approach. “The alternative to this would be single-family homes spread out throughout the acreage,” he said.
The 9-acre marina development would include a complex made up of a 120-room hotel and 193 multi-family units with some commercial square footage. The city would gain ownership of the marina, which means the city would have to run it. While the developer would get back the $1 million or so in previously paid impact fees (without interest), he would have to pay impact fees again at the time of construction, and at today’s rates.
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Both developments are the concept of Atlanta developer Jim Jacoby, who’s long had close ties to Palm Coast and Marineland, where he once owned the dolphin attraction, still has land holdings slated for major development, and has worked closely with Palm Coast Mayor Milissa Holland. He is working with partner Sam Alley, who’s been the developments’ point man with Palm Coast government. Jacoby’s group bought both properties from Centex Homes in 2016, for $5.5 million.
“So Palm Coast will finally have a coast, maybe a technicality, it will be a municipal marina instead of a private marina,” City Manager Matt Morton said this morning. The city has not analyzed what it would take to run the marina, or whether it would be its own separate “enterprise fund,” but Morton said it would not require the addition of more staff and could be done in house.
“And so connection to the water, which I think was always part of the identity of Palm Coast, ensures that our local and national boating community is served, helps us regain some of our status as a boating destination,” Morton said. “We’ve actually talked to and heard from residents about in those days when ITT owned the marina and the hotel was there and the regattas, Palm Coast was a destination, you’d take your boat to Palm Coast for a day, whereas now everyone leaves for St. Augustine or points beyond.”
The marina currently is heavily used, with a shortage of boat slips. But there’s not been much investment there, Michael Schottey, the city’s spokesperson, said. The city is banking on state and federal grants to finance some future investments there.
Morton in an interview this morning kept making a distinction between “multi-family units,” which is usually a reference to apartments and condominiums, and the term “apartments,” especially with a lot of apartments already going up in Town Center.
“We were clear on this one, on both developments, that no one wanted to see apartment buildings coming in,” Morton said. “We wanted to see people invested in the area, living, working, people who are going to enjoy this type of community, be their friends and neighbors, not in an apartment, where you seem to have more influx and outgo in an apartment type situation, short-term living.”
“We didn’t want a giant, sprawling development, we didn’t want apartments near a golf course,” Schottey, the city’s spokesman, said.
The marina development when originally conceived included four buildings, three of them eight stories high, totaling 378 condo and hotel units. An eight-story high building was built. The proposed development is on a slightly more modest scale, with the hotel and the condo buildings topping off at five stories each, with a smaller, three-story building that would include five apartment or condo units above retail and office space. The marina’s total commercial space would be around 18,000 square feet and would have room for two restaurants.
The city doesn’t doubt that there will be some resistance to the developments. City letters are going out to property owners surrounding both developments this week alerting them to the hearings ahead. However, multi-family developments are defined–and even single-family developments–when they are located in a densely populated area, or an area intimately associated with a neighborhood’s character and history, the reaction from residents has been swift and vocal. In this case, however, residents have been waiting for years for the redevelopment of the marina area, and the concern around the golf course has tended to be more about its viability, and its effects on neighboring property values, than on potential developments.
On occasion, the appearance of survey flags and markings on golf course land caused residents to surmise that the golf course itself was at risk of being built over. That’s not the case at hand with the Jacoby plan. But that plan would undoubtedly change the complexion of the neighborhood, cleaving the golf course itself with imposing structures and plenty of asphalt.
“It’s easy for me to say but I hope people see what a tremendous opportunity this is to end a couple of conversations,” Morton said. “One, that we’re preserving the bulk of the land, it will be golf course, it will preserve the property values, it will preserve the view, and rather than our beautiful driving range and a significant portion of our golf course amenity and cart path being chewed up by 11 buildings, it will now be a driving range, and open space.”
If the city is expecting any push-back, it also appears to be more deliberately managing the roll-out of the proposal, with Morton and and Schottey briefing reporters on its details this morning. In the past, such proposals have tended to explode on the scene with little public preparation, leaving the city in a more reactive mode. The current approach suggests the administration is hoping to use transparency to its advantage, controlling some of the messaging on a high-profile proposal while anticipating what questions may arise.
Jacoby is wanting both projects to proceed through the regulatory process in tandem, seeing the economic viability of the two developments as interdependent, Morton said. The proposals go before the city’s planning board on Nov. 20. The planning board may only recommend approval to the council. Based on the same tentative schedule, the council takes up the matters at a workshop on Nov. 26 and would approve the developments on first reading on Dec. 3, and on second and final reading on Dec. 10.