That’s how Jay Gardner, the Flagler County property appraiser, describes it: “A big-box type thing, it’ll be something that everyone in the county will be happy about.” The big store will anchor a commercial development with restaurants and other out-parcel type businesses planned for the land fronting the south side of State Road 100, from just east of Bulldog Drive, going toward the RaceTrac station near Seminole Woods Boulevard.
Gardner knows about the plan–which is still in the due diligence phase–not because he’s part of it, but because he owns the acreage he is selling in order for the plan to go forward. The developer is Matthew Development, the Melbourne-based company that’s developed big stores, restaurants and convenience businesses like Publix, Petco, Bed Bath and Beyond, Target, Walmart, BJ’s (the wholesale club), Wawa and self-storage businesses. Gardner wouldn’t wouldn’t say which one it’ll be, having been sworn to secrecy for now. The company intends to have a decision on the property by December.
Since the article originally published, we have since learned on Tuesday that the big box will be a wholesale club. There are only three such clubs–Sam’s, Costco and BJ’s. Sam’s is in Daytona, Costco is building in St. Augustine and Palm Coast doesn’t have the population density to support either which, by elimination, appears to leave BJ’s as the mystery store to come.
Gardner, under the company name of Flagler Pines LLC, owned the State Road 100-fronting parcel that became Airport Commons, the shopping center that now includes a Planet Fitness and Smoothie King opposite Wawa and Bulldog Drive. Gardner sold that parcel in 2019 for $800,000. He’s only planning to sell part of the 40-acre parcel to the east. In the same stretch along 100, he still owns 39 acres under the name of Flagler Pines and 24 acres under the name of Flagler Airport Industrial.
The plan is coming to light because Matthew Property is applying for a zoning change on both parcels that seeks to switch 40 acres of them from their current agriculture zoning to industrial, a surprising change in the heart of Palm Coast–though that Airport enclave and vast lands surrounding it still remain part of the county, not the city. The zoning application is going before the Flagler County Planning Board Tuesday evening.
“Years ago they were going to change it to industrial, for me, we went through this long drawn out process,” Gardner said. The process stopped when doubts arose about Palm Coast’s position regarding the rezoning. But the rezoning would be consistent with the county’s Future Land Use designation. In other words, it theoretically would not conflict with the long-term intentions of land use there. But there are over a dozen reasons listed in Flagler County’s code that could prevent the switch if the county finds that the rezoning fails to meet certain criteria, from resulting in the loss of “significant amounts of functional open spaces” to creating “isolated or ribbon patterns” of development. The rezoned designation must also be compatible with its surroundings, according to county code.
In this case, Gardner sees the rezoning as enabling commercial development along State Road 100, and either commercial or industrial development “in the back, which wouldn’t bother anybody, the airport certainly wouldn’t care.” But the type of industrial development is not clear. A few years ago the county and a business owner had planned a manufacturing plant on the grounds of the airport itself, much further south than SR100, a plan that drew then Gov. Rick Scott’s attention (and presence) and was billed as heralding 300 jobs. None of it happened. But it was a reminder that industrial uses in land surrounding the airport have been considered.
The county’s staff report states: “Intended development of this parcel is for Industrial development. The owner proposes to allow development of the parcel with multiple uses. The Industrial zoning allows for a range of uses.” The development plan appears contingent on the rezoning going through. The planning department is not making a recommendation, leaving it up to the planning board.
Adam Mengel, the county’s planning director, said the development is likely to annex into Palm Coast, which will be providing water and sewer. Mengel said the zoning change is consistent with a land use amendment that passed a few years ago. “This is the zoning catching up to that land use amendment,” he said.
The rezoning is scheduled to be heard at 6 p.m. at Tuesday’s planning board meeting, then at 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 13 before the Flagler County Commission. Gardner could say when construction would begin, if the deal goes through. “They’re pretty close. I actually feel pretty good about it,” he said. “I think they’re going to move forward, as long as the economy keeps humming.”