A South Florida architect and resort developer is proposing to build a 97-room resort and 10 walk-up town houses for short-term renters in Flagler Beach on the rectangular vacant acreage in the heart of city best known for its weekend farmers’ market, which has not been active in the past year. The resort, 35 feet tall at its height, would vastly change the complexion and skyline of downtown, though it would also be a return to form of sorts.
The 1.3-acre lot was once the site of the Flagler Beach Resort, its four-story stony stature lording it over sparse surroundings from 1925 to 1972, when it was demolished. But it was never a marvel of architecture, its boxy facade and slit-style windows evoking more of an institutional feel than a beach resort. The difference between then and now is a city–and a city center–that has grown substantially, with vacant lots the exception rather than the rule, as in the hotel’s heyday. But there’s no question as to the permitted use: the land is zoned for unrestricted use for hotels and motels.
Cooper City, Fla.-architect and resort developer Joseph Pasquale of Anjon Resort Homes submitted the application on Nov. 18 for a special exception to build the resort. Pasquale’s site plan proposes a 116-space underground parking garage. The resort would include an “oversize lobby” according to the plans, with an interior gallery, event room, restaurant, cafe, pool and sun and viewing decks. “The architectural template combines features exhibited in the charrette document and mixed-use district character area depicted in the Downtown Design Guidelines,” according to the application. Some two-way traffic would be changed to one-way, and parallel parking along the property would be changed to angled.
A traffic analysis produced for the developer anticipates a maximum of 702 additional weekday trips generated by the resort and its town houses. (The town houses would be let either as short-term rentals or as permanent rentals, and managed by the resort.) The analysis, however, pegs the average number of residents in the town houses at 2.72, the more conventional number for residential homes, rather than a higher number associated with short-term rentals.
The property is owned by Zoee and William Forehand. It is valued at just under $1 million, according to the Flagler County Property Appraiser, and is selling for more than that, Dennis Bayer, the Flagler Beach attorney representing the Forehands in the transaction, said today, though he was not authorized to be more specific for now. The property had not been actively listed though the Forehands had entertained some interest from various parties recently. Bayer said closing could take place within 60 days. Due diligence is ongoing. Zoee Forehand will be making a presentation at the hearing on Tuesday.
“I think it’ll be a huge lift for our downtown business as well as our tax base,” Bayer said. “I think it’ll be a game-changer as far as business in Flagler Beach, in a positive way. That used to be a hotel back in the day, it’s what used to bring a lot of the tourists and the visitors to our community.”
It is almost certain, however, that the proposal will draw fervent interest from residents and businesses as it goes before the city’s regulatory bioards in the next few weeks. The first public hearing is scheduled before the Planning and Architectural Review Board on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. in the commission chambers at City Hall, 105 South 2nd Street. The City Commission holds its own hearing on the matter the evening of Thursday Dec. 10 at 6 p.m. or later, at the same location. The public response is already churning.
“From what I’m seeing on Facebook it’s pretty negative,” Jane Mealy, who chairs the city commission, said this morning. City Commissioner “Rick Belhumeur posted a notice about tomorrow night’s planning board meeting, there were some 30 comments I think, of the 30 I’d say about 25 of them were negative, but I’m pretty excited about it. I haven’t had time to study the plans yet because I was busy reading city managers’ applications.” (The city is in the process of hiring a new manager to replace the late Larry Newsom.)
There may develop somewhat of a dichotomy between residents and city officials, with residents tending to see the proposal more negatively and city officials and businesses more positively. “I hate predicting what local government is going to do on a local project. All the feedback we’ve had so far has been positive,” Bayer said, referring to city officials. “For the most part the feedback has been positive.” He said the development complies with rules, including environmental concerns: there are no wetlands on the parcel, and it drains properly. Flagler Beach’s planning and development staff is recommending approval of the development.
“I think that walking along on 100 towards A1A to see something pretty like that instead of an empty lot would be an improvement,” Mealy continued. “In the initial discussions I had with Larry Torino over a month ago”–Torino is the city’s planner–“because this was supposed to be on the last Planning Board meeting, he felt the developer was looking at the surroundings and trying to make it fit in with what’s already there, not making this huge imposing thing. It’ll be an huge change at first, because we’re used to this empty lot. But I think it’ll be an improvement.”
Veterans Park is the square just to the east of the parcel, fronting A1A and the ocean. In the old hotel days, the hotel controlled that piece of land as well, ensuring that guests had a direct view on the ocean. When the Forehands deeded the land for a park to the city, they reserved air rights over the park, ensuring that nothing would be built there that would block the view from the other parcel. That’s still in effect.
“We were never allowed to, as a city, build anything more than 18 inches high,” Mealy said. There’d previously been hopes for a bandshell at Veterans Park, but the plans were blocked because of the height restriction. “Apparently this new architect has designed some changes to the park as well, that I guess Zoee has gone along with, but not height wise. I think he’s going to put a bandshell in but a collapsible one, which will be wonderful for us when we get back to First Fridays, and then some designs with seats in circles instead of the old benches we have now, some kind of design like that. So he really is looking big picture.”
As in all land use matters, regulatory boards must follow what’s in their codes. They may not arbitrarily block a project if it doesn’t violate zoning and development rules. “The planning board is going to have to go by what the rules are,” Mealy said, and if parking, stormnwater, and height regulations are met, “I’d think they’d have to go along with it.”
The property is at the southwest corner of the intersection of State Road 100 (Old Moody Boulevard) and South Central Avenue. Anjon Resort Homes is a family-owned business that currently features two properties it’s developed in Flagler Beach, at 1205 North Central Avenue, and at 716 North Daytona Avenue.
The old hotel was built by Dana Fellows Fuquay and George Moody. It opened on July 4, 1925. Its most famous visitor was Charles Lindbergh, who touched down with his plane in Flagler Beach because of fog in 1931. He stayed the night at the hotel, which remained more the exception than the rule so far as resort development was concerned in Flagler.
“The very fact that Flagler Beach has lagged in resort development gives it a certain advantage for those low-budget vacationists who enjoy being near the ocean,” a New York Times article headlined “Flagler Beach Has More Sand Than People,” reported in 1969. “There are no chain motels and none that can be classified in the luxury class.” Lodging rates at the time were in the $4 to $10 a night, or $29 to $73 in inflation-adjusted dollars. A walk on the pier cost 65 cents, or $4.75 in today’s dollars, and monthly passes selling for $5.20, or $38 in current dollars (the city has clearly not kept up).
A second hotel was eventually operating a few blocks south of the resort–what had been the Luna Vista Apartments, named after George Moody’s daughter, on Oceanshore Boulevard and South Third Street. It was demolished in 1979.