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In a Shift, and Despite Glut, State Approves 5,000-Home Palm Coast Development

| May 23, 2011

old brick township palm coast development

Not sprawl.

In Palm Coast and Flagler County, property values are still falling at double-digit rates. Home prices are also still falling. Short sales aside, homes are not selling. Foreclosures are burdening the housing supply. The county’s population has stalled or fallen in the past couple of years. Not only is there no indication that the housing market is returning. There is no indication that either city or county need new development.

Yet the city and the county have on paper close to 40,000 new homes approved between them, and 9 million square feet of new commercial and retail space. The 40,000 new homes break down between five mega-developments, four of them inside city limits (Neoga Lakes, Old Brick Township, Bulow Creek, Town Center) and one of them in the county (Hunter’s Ridge), plus 18,000 undeveloped lots in Palm Coast. Those homes would more than double the population of the county–assuming there was demand for them, and assuming that, between the lingering crash in housing and values, that demand could somehow override the depressing effect a glut of home would have on local housing prices regardless of broader economic conditions.

Those conditions led the state’s Department of Community Affairs, Florida’s regulatory agency for growth management, to reject Palm Coast’s plans for sprawling to its northwest, calling the plan unjustified by current growth patterns. The state laid out more than two dozen objections, rejecting along the way Palm Coast’s claim that annexation of the northwest territories was in and of itself justification for developing them.

But that was before Rick Scott was elected governor, and before the Department of Community Affairs was bowdlerized during the last legislative session to the satisfaction of developers, the Florida Chamber of Commerce and large landowners, whose instincts for runaway growth the agency had been keeping in check since its creation in 1986. DCA no longer exists as it did before the session. It’s been swallowed by the Department of Economic Opportunity, whose mission is not management, but promotion, of growth. Gov. Rick Scott appointed Billy Buzzett, a developer, to lead DCA, signaling its new direction.

At most, DCA will offer assistance to local governments, particularly small governments with aspirations for growth, but no bureaucratic infrastructure to enable it. Bunnell is a local example.

DCA’s shift to irrelevance became clear regarding Palm Coast’s development of Old Brick Township, a planned “development of regional impact” (DRI) that the city approved last summer, but that DCA rejected. Old Brick Township would add 5,000 homes and 1.15 million square feet of retail and light industrial zones to the northwest of the city.

Wilson Green LLC’s Old Brick Township is now on DCA’s approval list, and the city is scheduled to vote on going forward with the DRI in June.

The St. Augustine Record is reporting that the city and the state agency have worked out a more substantial commitment to wildlife protection through a corridor that runs the length of the development. The state is also less concerned with its initial worries about urban sprawl.

Old Brick Township’s location, on a map predating Palm Coast’s annexation of the western portions that nearly doubled the city’s size. Click on the image for larger view.

More controversially: the state had originally rejected the city’s population projections, for good reason. Those projections, over the next 20 years, were based on growth patterns set at the height of Palm Coast’s growth spurt in the middle of the past decade–an aberration in growth patterns, rather than an averaged, long-term norm. The projections were already out of date by the time the city submitted them, particularly in light of the Census Bureau’s latest population figures, which have the city’s population, at 75,000, well short of the 90,000 it expected to register in 2010. (The county is at 95,700.)

The city has itself scaled back its population projections in relation to another mega-project it is leading: a proposed desalination plant, initially planned (again, near the height of the housing boom) at twice the capacity it is planned for now. The city, in other words, doing nothing short than gaming the system to its advantage, applies different population projections to different projects, depending on how those projections can affect the regulatory outcome.

It worked, particularly when the city factored in politics to its advantage.

The Record quotes Charles Lee, Audubon of Florida director of advocacy, on DCA’s switch regarding Old Brick Township: “‘Typically what happens in better than 80 percent of the cases is that, after (DCA) files its initial challenge … those challenges about 80 percent of the time go into settlement negotiations and the department negotiates changes in the project with the developer,’ Lee said. ‘As a result of that, the department ends up becoming satisfied with those changes and ends up signing off on the project.’ Politics might have something to do with it, too, he said.”

Former DCA Secretary Thomas Pelham interpreted the law and the rules “‘very strictly with regard to need and was prone to err on the side of being very restrictive,’ Lee said. ‘If there wasn’t an immediate need shown for the project … he would come out in opposition.’ New DCA Secretary and former developer Billy Buzzett, Lee said, ‘Is more prone to look at the long-term evolution of things’ when building won’t take place for 10, 20 or 30 years. ‘If the design of the project can be made to meet the standards, he’s less concerned about when it’s going to be built and if there is an immediate need,’ Lee said.”

Development on tap:

Scattered within Palm Coast: 18,000 undeveloped lots.

Neoga Lakes, west-central Palm Coast: 7,000 homes, 2 million square feet of commercial and industrial development.

Bulow Creek, south Palm Coast: 2,500 homes, 2.5 million square feet of commercial and industrial development.

Old Brick Township, northwest Palm Coast: 5,000 homes, 1.15 million commercial and industrial development.

Town Center, central Palm Coast: 2,500 homes, 3.4 million commercial development.

Hunter’s Ridge, southern Flagler County: 2,300 homes, 600,000 square feet of industrial and commercial development.


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17 Responses for “In a Shift, and Despite Glut, State Approves 5,000-Home Palm Coast Development”

  1. Mike says:

    So…um…Palm Coast is planning on building more homes…and developing more property…despite the fact that population may be on the decline? Is logic dead here? Is idiocy a prerequisite to being in office in this county and state??? More “if we build it, they will come” nonsense. Proven ineffective before, but let’s do it more!!!

    Now our ghost town will be larger. Swell idea.

  2. SAW says:

    Let me understand this correctly, is this the same Palm Coast that says “do not let the water run when you brush your teeth” ?
    What’s next only flush your toilet once a day , makes eveything very clear as to who is the power in P.C. & Flagler County eh ?

  3. Anonymous says:

    Brilliant idea ! The city of Palm Coast has hundreds of foreclosed homes sitting empty and we are now going to add more “empty” homes to the area? Wow…wonder who the genius is that thought up this master mind ! Can you say….”greed” ? Aha. Im sure these homes will sell to families here making $10.00 an hour average. Good luck with that !

  4. EPC says:

    Maybe they can work at the NEW Walmart.
    SPRAWL MART= Always low wages

  5. Johnny Taxpayer says:

    This is merely an approval of a development, which means the private developer may develop the land at a future point in time. There is not a developer out there that would even think of starting this development anytime in the near future until the real estate market fully recovers (which it will eventually do)… So while the story and the comments would have us believe dirt is going to turn tomorrow, the reality is it’s extremely unlikely that any dirt will turn for many, many years.

  6. lawabidingcitizen says:

    As long as taxpayers aren’t funding it, who cares.

  7. palmcoaster says:

    Johnny Taxpayer be careful what you are wishing for, because the current dirt and muck worked by yours not mine, current Governor and his GOP cronies in Tallahassee can really slap you in the face. Then will be to late to oppose their charades! You forgot Centex and our old beloved Sheraton Hotel, marina and our Players Club? Also you forget that these developers can get any loans they want, even if they won’t repay them because if defaulted, then the banks ask for stimulous monies aka our hard earned tax dollars, as deemed too big to fail. Johnny don’t be so candid please ?. Big Thank You to Flaglerlive for the alert.

  8. PalmCoastPioneers says:

    Historical Perspective:

    When Palm Coast Inc., was first offered at 93,000 acres to us Palm Coast, Inc. was advertised as ‘…the largest planned community in the Nation…’….and….’…the largest ‘New Town’ in the World…’. as written in ..’ …and Approach to a New City: Palm Coast’..’ by Dr. J. Norman Young and Dr. Stanley Dea….
    Our neighbor recently came over and said…’…Guess what Palm Coast , Inc.,…is now…’
    Her Reply:
    ‘…Plam Coast , Inc. now may be the largest land mass in the Cosmos….’

  9. Rob says:

    The taxpayers may not be funding the development .


    The taxpayers will be funding the police, fire, water etc, services that will be necessary.


    No property taxes are not sufficient to pay for such services.

  10. Heather Beaven says:

    Old Brick Road is one of the only slivers of remaining underground railroad. It should be reserved for something that causes people to gather to celebrate that rich heritage. Brave people walked that path so that they could be free. Free people, at their own risk, offered help to them because it was the right thing to do. The idea that it will be a leap frog neighborhood is beyond disappointing.

  11. WTF? says:

    I don’t pay enough for my water & sewer…please let me pay more!! Rob, you are sooooo right!

  12. Justice for All says:

    There are 2,000+ condos approved east of I-96, north of State Road 100, so the glut is larger. We are all going to pay for this (unless you can sell now and get out). Roads and schools in addition to police, fire, water, parks……..government self perpetuates. Gonna need a new City Hall.

  13. SAW says:

    You all should have voted YES on # 4 (Hometown Democracy), but you all fell into the Chambers well financed trap, set by the builders, realtors, and other players etc. When and if this does go down, those same peopl will take your tax money for the infrastucture, and fill their wallets.

    Oh yes, and don’t forget your local “Tea Party” was also on board with it’s chairman, who by the way is also an official with the Chamber, they fooled you again.

  14. Sherry Epley says:

    In addition to additional taxes needed to supply services to over developed areas, a glut of housing typically forces current property values much lower. Over building does not benefit communities, it only lines the pockets of developers. . . who, by the way, usually live in much more “exclusive” communities elsewhere.

  15. Connie says:

    Is everybody that runs Palm Coast simply crazy or just mentally challenged? We have thousands of homes under water now, mine included. No jobs, continued announcements of loss of jobs. I have a 3 and half hour commute a day when I don’t stay over to keep a job. I am due to retire in 2 yrs and I am only about150k underwater. Predictions are that PC homes may break even by 2035 guess what a lot of us that are caught in this will be dead by then. I am tired of fighting this losing fight. Water rationed on when we can water now, constant threat of fires, I have a real nice house that I can’t enjoy, with crime invading more and more each day in the area, people that are coming into the area that take no pride-Can I interest anyone in a really nice house with a loan of 240 and worth about 90 if I am lucky? Simply won’t be able to afford this when I retire and I am tired, real tired of 14 hr days 7 days a week. And then I read some junk like this! STOP these DEVELOPERS get them out of PC NOW. The ones that sold to us to start with over priced the homes, sold us a bunch of junk My house start going down 2 month after I bought it in 05. I am 64 years old and I am ready to get off this boat. PC is not what I was sold – it was a safe peaceful thriving growing area that was rated the No 1 place to live. Well maybe someone can start that falsehood again and drive some business our way.

  16. Layla says:

    We need to vote out our current Council and fire the City Manager. These guys have never met a builder they didn’t love.

    Enough is enough. We need a moratorium on building ANY NEW HOMES until we have exhausted the inventory we have now.

    We don’t have the water for this and we don’t have the services for this.


  17. Brenda says:

    Looks like the Obama administration is rubbing off on Palm Coast too! Can we not DO Something about this group of so called officials. Lets get them all out of office but with replacements with more brains than greed please.

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