Residents of the Woodlands, one of Palm Coast’s oldest and quietest sections, are upset. The developer of Grand Haven is looking to plant a 200-bed assisted living facility near their midst, potentially—and radically—changing the complexion of the old neighborhood. It will go before the Palm Coast Planning Board Wednesday evening, at 5:30, to make its case. The city administration’s planning staff is recommending approval.
Grand Haven is asking the city government to change the land use designation of 3.5 acres that parallel the southeast edge of the Woodlands from conservation to mixed use, thus enabling the development, which would stretch south to Wild Oaks. One access road to the assisted living facility would dump on Colbert lane, the other would dump on Blare Drive, a two-lane road that snakes into the Woodlands from Colbert. Like all roads in the Woodlands, Blare is unmarked by white or yellow lines. There are no sidewalks. There are few lights, and on that side of Blare, when night falls, it is pitch black.
The change, which would take place on 25,000 square feet, is part of a larger redrawing of land use maps, which would also enable the addition of 111 homes and the development of 176,570 square feet on non-residential development in the area. Some buildings might rise some 60 feet, according to site plans examined by residents. But the developer is also projecting a few hundred new jobs for the area.
The proposed land changes and developments would stretch in a triangle south and east from the intersection of Blare Drive and Colbert Lane. Click on the image for larger view. [/caption]Grand Haven’s project is part of its colossal development (approved by Flagler County government in 1988, before Palm Coast was a city), which stretches south along Colbert. The development’s 1,901 housing units have all been permitted. The development originally foresaw 85,000 square feet of commercial use, which has not yet broken ground. The proposed land use changes would more than double non-residential or commercial land uses. The nursing home is part of that commercial development. It would accommodate what has become standard in assisted living facilities nowadays: independent living, assisted living, and a memory care facility—that is, a lock-down facility for people who suffer from Alzheimer’s and similar memory-obliterating diseases.
Woodlands residents have been gathering petitions and circulating fliers and narratives about the proposal in hopes of building opposition.
“I feel like the developer really tried to sneak this in,” Diane Bixler, a Woodlands resident who’s monitored the issue and rallied public awareness on it, said, describing how residents on three streets impacted by the development did not originally receive letters informing them of the proposal (as they should be), and inviting them to public meetings. Grand Haven last week held an “emergency” public meeting in advance of the planning board hearing, Bixler said, to ensure that it was within the requirements leading up to such land use changes. The approach raised suspicions.
“This area is residential and was not designed for commercial use,” a two-page document sent to city officials on Aug. 5 reads. “Currently, children have to walk in the streets to and from the multiple school bus stops that load and unload every day. At the corners of Blare/Black Alder and Blare/Blaine, children are waiting for the school bus every morning and they are all over the street. You may not know, but there are no sidewalks in this subdivision. People walk their pets in the street; children are all over the street on their skateboards, bicycles, or just playing. Our elderly population has to walk in the street just to visit their neighbors, or walking for their health.”
Razing a substantial part of what until now has been a de-facto natural preserve on the Woodlands’ southeast flank aside, the principal worry is the road that would lead in and out of the nursing home and onto Blare Drive. City staff considers the impact on traffic manageable, even though traffic, by the city’s analysis, will increase by some 258 trips at peak afternoon rush hour. Those trips are for the entirety of the proposed development area, not just the nursing home. “The net increase in vehicular trips does not cause the failure of any road segments within the study area,” the city claims, even though the roads in the Woodlands, Blare included, are fraying.
“As the residents of the Woodlands, we have done our homework and have gained knowledge as to what a large construction project such as this involves. The construction will take a year or two and will involve large, heavy truck and equipment moving in and out of our already crumbling and ill kept streets,” the residents’ petition states. In addition, the 200 patients will require nursing and security support staff. Further, they will have visitors that will be coming and going each day through our subdivision.”
The petition adds: “The beautiful woods in question for the rezoning application also house a myriad of wildlife. Each day we see 20-30 deer and as many or more turkeys in those woods. Not to mention bobcat, eagles, owls, gators and snakes that live there. Where will these creatures go? Very simple, they will move into our subdivision.”
Aware of the disruption to wildlife and the loss of conservation zoning, the developer is proposing to rezone one of Grand Haven’s own parcels to a more restrictive conservation designation. “This nearby parcel is located a few hundred feet to the west, and contains the same habitat types (Hardwood – Conifer Mixed and Mixed Wetland Hardwood),” the city’s staff report states. “The habitats on this site contain, respectively, the same dominant species as the proposed Mixed Use parcel. Like the proposed commercial site, this parcel is contiguous to and contains similar habitat to the large and significant Graham Swamp system.”
Woodlands residents are unlikely to be reassured. “The taxpayers of Palm Coast have helped fund a beautiful town center development that is predominantly for commercial use. Use it. Don’t put a nursing home facility in our residential area,” their petition states.
Below is the full staff report that will be at the core of the presentation to the planning board Wednesday evening. And below the report is the full text of a flier circulating in the Woodlands, written by Diane Bixler, a Woodlands resident, summing up the issue for residents, in preparation for Wednesday’s hearing.
Palm Coast Planning Staff Report:
Diane Bixler’s Informational Flier:
Wednesday, August 15th, 5:30 PM at the Palm Coast Community Center, there will be a Planning Board Meeting. On the agenda is a proposal by Grand Haven Realty to change a small portion of land into commercial, adding to the total land for commercial already in existence, in exchange for turning a larger chunk of land into conservation.
The purpose behind this land usage change is to construct a 200-bed unit for independent living, assisted living and a memory center for senior citizens along Colbert Lane between Wild Oaks and Blare. The current proposal is for several multiple-storied buildings to house this project along Colbert with two entrances/exits. One will be located off Colbert, the other will be located off Blare. The traffic study completed will not allow for any modifications to either road to accommodate the increase in traffic.
The outcome of the Planning Board Meeting will determine whether this idea goes before the City Council for their final vote. At the Planning Board Meeting, residents will be allowed to speak concerns or sing praises and to ask questions for clarification.
I implore you to learn more about this proposal, determine your own opinion and make your voice is heard. If you would like specific information about the proposed land changes and the subsequent buildings, one contact is Larry Torino at 386.986.2473. He is the City Senior Planner and he will take the time to explain what is being proposed to you in detail. If you go to his office at 160 Cypress Point Parkway, he can show you maps of the proposed changes. The company behind the changes is Grand Haven Realty. The president is Jim Cullis and he is the one who will likely be making the presentation at the hearings. His office number is 386.447.0800 ext 0415 and his cell is 386.569.8823. His office is located at 7 Sandpiper Court.
Many in the Woodlands’ neighborhood have expressed concerns and are coming together to oppose this project. A petition has been started and will be making the rounds within the Woodlands. If you feel strongly against this project, there are specific steps you need to take in order for your voice to be heard. There is strength in numbers and through organization.
Write to your mayor & councilmen and clearly express your thoughts and opinions. Remember to use facts and refrain from expressing negative emotions. Negativity and “rants” will not be considered seriously.
Mayor – John Netts
Councilmen – Bill McGuire, Jason DeLorenzo, Frank Meeker, Bill Lewis
City Manager – Jim Landon
They can be e-mailed by clicking on their name’s link or through the city’s website.
The address is 160 Cypress Point Parkway, Suite B-106, Palm Coast, FL 32164.
Phone is 386.986.3700 & Fax is 386.986.3781.
Attend the Planning Board Meeting on Wednesday, August 15th, 5:30 at the Palm Coast Community Center. This is your opportunity to make a statement and to be heard. There is strength in numbers. It’s important for you to attend!