The west end of the W Section near U.S. 1 is getting new neighbors as the Palm Coast City Council today approved a proposed 256-apartment community on some 92 acres between Woodfield Drive to the north and Wood Acre Lane to the south. The development is about half a mile north of Whiteview Parkway.
In what may be a first for the Palm Coast City Council, when it considers approval of such a large apartment complex, not a single member of the public spoke (for or against) before the council approved the development in a 4-1 vote this morning. The lone dissenter was Eddie Branquinho. Council members themselves had few questions.
The development has drawn little attention and none of the opposition that traditionally barnacles to large apartment complex proposals in the city.
“Not one person spoke for or against the project,” Bill Hoover, a senior planner with the city’s community development department, said of two previous neighborhood meetings about it, where the developers specified that it was “not tax credit housing.” (Palm Coast residents of single-family home neighborhoods have typically reflected a prejudice against subsidized affordable housing.)
The development is part of Palm Coast’s long-range plan to diversify housing options in a city still dominated by single-family homes on quarter-acre lots, at a time when the single-family home’s ideal is under increasing scrutiny.
The likely reason for a lack of opposition is that the development is upscale and mixes elements of gated communities with that of apartment complexes, including a clubhouse, trails and ample nature preserves.
The site is surrounded by residential neighborhoods on three sides, and by U.S. 1’s more commercial and industrial zoning to the west. The 256 apartments will be concentrated in 12 three-story buildings, each with 20 or 22 apartments, and the buildings will themselves be located at the center of the 92 acres, which will remain surrounded by woods. (The acreage is actually zoned for a maximum of almost 800 units.)
The 96 one-bedroom apartment will be 773 square feet, the 120 two-bedroom apartments will be 1,071 square feet, and the 43 three-bedroom apartments will be 1,226 square feet. None of the buildings is expected to be visible from the houses neighboring the development’s more or less rectangular property.
“Our project is intended to be an upscale multi-family community for residents who enjoy being surrounded by lakes and preserve areas,” John Horan, the Flagler Beach broker for the developer, wrote surrounding residents in an explanatory letter in July. Aviara was incorporated in 2019 by a Delray Beach group, listing three groups of investors–Aviara Florida Inc., JMF Investment Group, and Mag Real Estate and Development, all at the same Delray Beach address, at 933 South Congress Avenue.
“The proposed layout of the project retains existing natural features of the site to maximize privacy for existing neighboring homes, especially the single-family homes located north and east of the site,” a city staff analysis of the development states. “Essentially, the existing large lake in the [northeast] corner of the site will be retained which will allow many neighboring residents to continue enjoying this lake view. A small wetland area is also being retained in the SW corner of this lake and south of the club house that will minimize views of the proposed homes by neighboring homes to the north and northeast.” Wetlands to the west of the property will insulate residents of the new development from sounds or sights along U.S. 1’s more industrial zone.
“The views from the second and third floor of this project will be outstanding,” Joe Pasquale, the architect and site designer of the project, already in marketing mode, told members of the city council this morning, on Zoom. The lakes at the site used to be construction borrow pits in the early days of ITT, the company that originally developed Palm Coast (and for whom Pasquale, now a South Florida architect, once worked). “That small lake is gorgeous., it’s almost got a little sandy beach on it as we went through the site,” he continued.
“MAG has set itself apart from other construction companies in that it’s focus has always been on luxury design and construction,” the company’s About page states. “Currently, the focus is to bring the same craftsmanship and luxury design that MAG is known for to larger multifamily development projects across South Florida. The goal is to offer modern, high-quality and competitively priced rental communities to the masses across Florida.”
Horan says he expects Aviara Palm Coast to begin construction by the end of the year, providing for “hundreds” of jobs, and complete the project “near the end of 2022.”
Some 50 people attended the neighborhood meetings the city requires developers to host ahead of development proposals of this size. Two such meetings were held at the Hilton Garden Inn on Aug. 11 (to allow for social distancing). Residents were concerned about planned fencing along the border of the development. But there as at the council meeting this morning, attention focused on details.
Pasquale says new-home sales have increased 42 percent in Flagler County, though he did not say over what period. In fact, the Flagler County Association of Realtors’ latest report, issued this month, finds that for the past 12 months, overall home sales have stayed flat, compared to a year ago, with a 3.4-month supply of homes on the market, down from 4.9 months a year ago. “I think we’re running out of single-family homes there and can’t keep up with the influx of people,” Pasquale said, “so we believe that the market demands something like the single-family home, so we added garages to these units that are direct access to the units.”
The city’s Technical Site Plan review and building permits will be carried out administratively, so the project is not expected to reappear before the council before construction.