The Palm Coast City Council on Tuesday approved a key step toward what will become the first extension of Palm Coast Parkway west in 40 years. The council voted 5-0 to green-light the way for an 89-acre medical campus and associated retail uses.
The land is owned by Allete properties, the developer–through Jeff Douglas of Douglas Properties–of several projects in Town Center. The acreage was previously zoned industrial, and under that designation would have developed as a mirror of Hargrove Grade’s light industrial zoning a few blocks north. It has since been rezoned to “master-planned development,” giving the city an additional measure of control over development there. Tuesday’s step was the ratification of a development agreement, which outlines the actual uses, standards and conditions for development of the property.
The development may include “a mixed-use commercial development comprised of (i) a medical campus, which may include but not be limited to a hospital, medical offices, laboratories, primary care center, urgent care center, a wellness center, outpatient surgery center, educational facilities, other medical-related uses, and ancillary retail and restaurant uses,” according to the development agreement. (See below.) A reference to an allowable sheriff’s operations center was deleted: no such development is projected there, and the sheriff is not looking for an operations center location, having settled on a parcel in Bunnell.
The project is called South Palm Coast Park, though as as Perry Mitrano, a city resident who addressed the council to applaud the proposal, said, the designation is a bit of a misnomer that could confuse residents, since it falls in the area that the city itself designates as West Palm Coast. The city annexed vast swaths of acreage west of U.S. 1 a decade and a half ago and approved three developments of regional impact there: as older lots fill in within the previous boundaries of the city, those developments are expected to sprout. The medical campus, like Sawmill Creek, the residential development at the north end of U.S. 1, are early markers in the city’s eventual expansion west.
The development agreement drew little discussion or questions from council members, with Eddie Branquinho’s exception. “I would like to have some guarantees that we’re not going to build anything other than health-related buildings,” he said. “Any building 100 feet tall in this town, unless it’s a hospital, I don’t see the need for it, I need that to be clear, or clarified.”
The uses on the property are “consistent with what’s found on Palm Coast Parkway already,” Jose Papa, the city’s lead planner on the project,m said. “The market tends to dictate what uses come.” (Any site plan that’s over 100,000 square feet would have to be brought to the council for approval.)
Bill Reischmann, the city attorney, said the development agreement is a contract between the developer and the city that sets out–and limits–uses on the acreage, as outlined in the agreement. Everything else in the agreement will be “interpreted in light of those two terms, medical campus, and that will be enforced by the city, because any development out there has to be consistent, as you see in your ordinance, with this agreement.”
That satisfied Branquinho.
Michael Chiumento, the Palm Coast attorney representing Allete, said the project has been in the works for a year, though Tuesday’s step was only the first before the council, what he compared to a 30,000-foot view of what’s ahead. “This is a medical campus,” Chiumento said, with some retail and commercial uses–classrooms, a bagel shop, “possibly even a hotel to support overnight stays.” He said the 100-foot use would be limited to a hospital. “Obviously we don’t want a 100-foot restaurant,” he said.
Palm Coast Parkway was last widened to four lanes west of Belle Terre Parkway in 1980. Until then, it had been a narrow road called St. Joe Grade cutting through what was still dense pine and scrub forest.
“This is a great project, this is exciting, this is the kind of thing that gets you going,” Mitrano–a former Bunnell city official who lives at the north end of Palm Coast–said. “This doesn’t affect the locals or people in other areas.” When the developer held the required neighborhood meeting for residents adjacent to a planned rezoning or development, no one showed up, underscoring the isolation of the acreage from residential homes. No residential uses will be permitted in the development.
Tuesday’s vote by the council did not approve an actual development, only the blueprint for the way a development may unfold there. The next step would be the submittal of a site plan that includes buildings, building sizes, uses and the like.
One of the city’s conditions is that once the developer submits a site plan, the developer and the city will coordinate the extension of Palm Coast Parkway, presumably ending the current use of that stretch of land across U.S. 1 as one of the more sprawling forests of campaign signs every two years.