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In 4-1 Vote, County Seals Agreement to Build Tourist-Ready Cottages at Princess Preserve

| December 15, 2014

The cottages are coming: The Princess Place Preserve along Pellicer Creek. (© FlaglerLive)

The cottages are coming: The Princess Place Preserve along Pellicer Creek. (© FlaglerLive)

Nine months after granting approval for the concept, the Flagler County Commission on Monday gave its administration the go-ahead to start building three air-conditioned tourism cottages at the Princess Place Preserve, along Pellicer Creek, as the first step in a plan to build several more and foster a new kind of eco-tourism in one of the state’s most pristine areas. A 1988 voter referendum adding a surtax to buy environmentally sensitive land enabled the county to buy and preserve the 1,600-acre Princess Place preserve in perpetuity.

Some commissioners were concerned about the cottages’ footprint, location and effect on their surroundings.  Some of those details were not available Monday. But County Administrator Craig Coffey, who is driving the project, said the cottages’ impact will be limited.

“I feel like a little bit like it’s the cart before the horse if we’re talking about an agreement and permitting, and I didn’t know if we had fully vetted all of the issues with the site,” Commissioner Barbara Revels said. “I was expecting to see more in this presentation about the site and where it was going to be located and what the implications are.”

“I don’t want to move forward with anything you guys aren’t comfortable with,” Coffey said. “Princess Place, I think our whole staff understands the sensitivity there and are cognizant of trying to do the right thing with regard to sceptic and wells.” He said it will be a “cool place to rent.”

“It seems like we’re moving right into an agreement and permitting and we still haven’t had details discussed,” Revels said, “so I would like to see some of the details come back before we’re actually digging dirt.”

Still, while Commissioner George Hanns also raised some concerns, Revels moved to have the key agreement to move forward with construction approved, and the commission voted in favor, 4-1, with Hanns dissenting.

The first phase of the project, entailing the first three cottages, is a joint venture between Flagler County government at the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Reserve, a conservation sub-agency of the state Department of Environmental Protection that oversees the 73,000 acres of an estuarine area stretching from south of Jacksonville to Flagler County. The Reserve is providing $60,000 from the state DEP this year (though half that may not be produced until next year), and another $346,000 from a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration grant, available after next Sept. 1.

“We have the grant in hand, that’s the lion share of the funds we’re talking about for this project,” Michael Shirley, manager of the reserve, said Monday.

Flagler County is committing $220,000 in land value, labor and equipment—$60,000 of it in cash, $100,000 of it as the land value, and the rest in the form of in-kind work, such as building the roads, in-house engineering, permitting. County crews will build part of the cottages. The rest of the construction will be contracted out.

Construction would start Oct. 1.

All parties involved acknowledge that the project breaks ground on a new kind of tourism and land use in public preserves. “With this project the parties are entering relatively new territory for the county and the” Reserve, the Memorandum of Understanding the county commission approved today states. “The parties have laid out these operational understandings in a  good faith attempt to ensure the project meets the various interest of the parties to include research availability, public tourism usage, longevity and self-funding operations to name a few. It is understood that the operations protocol laid out today will likely evolve over time and that everyone will need to operate in good faith to ensure this quality working relationship and these cooperative attitudes carry forward even after the players of today change.”

The cottages would be rented at various rates depending on the calendar and the parties booking them: the cottages are intended to be used by priority by the scientific community, with the Reserve getting 140 days per cottage to rent out or use at its discretion. Public booking would be available beyond that.

The Reserve’s preferred rates would range between $50 and $60 per night for a cottage on weekdays and weekends, in off-peak times, to $60 to $70 on peak dates. The public would pay higher rates set by the county, which would defray the cost of running the cottages and, in the county’s estimation, yield a modest profit. The maintenance and upkeep of the cottages will be the county’s responsibility.

The county intends to build nine or 10 additional such cottages at the River-to-Sea Preserve subsequently, with that revenue accruing exclusively to the county. That $1 million project would be paid for out of the county’s purse, with some of that money, the administration hopes, coming from a grant from the Tourist Development Council, and dollars generated by the county’s 4 percent sales surtax on short-term rentals and hotel stays.

Monday’s workshop, which was immediately followed by a special meeting where the commission approved the memorandum of understanding, was focused just on that document, however.

“We know what’s in this document,” Hanns told the administrator, “and I’m certainly not going to carry it around with us. The more information the public knows, the less likely someone will turn it around into something that it’s not, and start all of a sudden making comments and statements that are not accurate.”

“This is not cookie-cutter tourism, cookie-cutter park stuff,” Coffey said. “This is a little bit cutting edge, and this is exciting stuff. This is kind of a cool thing you’ll be a leader in.”

That document is below.

Princess Place Preserve Memorandum of Understanding

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18 Responses for “In 4-1 Vote, County Seals Agreement to Build Tourist-Ready Cottages at Princess Preserve”

  1. TomC says:

    The Flagler County Commission will ruin the most pristine, peaceful property in the county. This is disgusting!
    The Commission seems to be owned by the real estate developers.

  2. DoubleGator says:

    Thank you Commissioners for moving forward with this project. I think it is a benefit to all of Flagler County. It begins to shape the image of Flagler, and it is an image which will benefit all. Princess Place is a BIG place and fostering its responsible use and accessiblity is a wise return on the investment the public made. Kudos to all with this winning vision!

    • Camper1981 says:

      Read the hidden notes the county will be on the hook for their maintenance and there will be minimal profit based on the cost and operations. some things are better left alone

  3. sw says:

    “In one of the States most pristine areas” and for what $$ You people are assholes.

  4. Mark Stevens says:

    So how big is a cottage? beds, baths?

  5. HonkeyDude says:

    It was bad enough redoing the road. What’s next the Ol Brick RD? Leave **it alone. Camping only at the preserve! Preserve the Princess in the Preserve

  6. Newbie says:

    I don’t know enough about this to necessarily be for or against these cottages. People are all up in arms about the impact of Salamander’s development proposal in an already developed area in Ocean Hammock, and yet this article mentions refers to Princess Park as “one of the state’s most pristine areas”. Can’t wrap my head around why the Salamander project would have an unacceptable environmental impact and new buildings at Princess Park and River-to-the-Sea wouldn’t.

  7. Camper1981 says:

    It is a shame that such a beautiful preserve will be ruined by adding these cottages wich will take away from the rustic allure of princess place very disappointed.

  8. Rich says:

    In the mid 1990’s the County Commission lobbied for an overpriced tourist project called the Florida Agricultural Museum (at least $14 million and closer to $20 million). How is the return on that investment working out? There is nothing wrong with allowing just camping at the Princess Place Preserve. The cottages will inevitably lead to other things which will ultimately ruin a beautiful and “pristine” area. Not too happy about this. I’m not necessarily a fan of commissioner Hanns; however, I must give him a shout out for being a dissenting vote on this. Kudos to you Commissioner Hanns!

  9. Will says:

    If you read the article, 140 days of use of these cottages is reserved for use for people doing scientific and environmental research in the parks. I think that’s terrific.

    And other times and future cottages will probably be used by folks wanting a back to nature experience, not DisneyWorld. Properly managed it should polish the gem that we have.

    • carl says:

      I read the article and if you truly believe that half the year they will be used for research you are straight being mislead and as far as getting back to nature camping is already a part of princess place adding a larger footprint and air conditioning takes away from nature. If you want cabin style ammenities get a hotel or stay at below campground. princess place was purchased as a preserve not a development opportunity!!!!!!!!!

  10. Dave says:

    I am all for it, We camp out there a lot and now some of our older friends wil be able to join us.

  11. resident says:

    Such a shame! I can’t believe it’ was even considered. Shame on you for this!!! It’s a preserve…..preserve it, not build on it.

  12. It's about time #ecotourismrocks says:

    I’m personally for this! This is a beautiful area and people deserve to camp and enjoy it!. Haven’t any of you people ever camped at a state park???? Stop with your negativity, have faith in the leadership in this county to do something positive. Thanks to the leaders for literally paving the way for ecotourism!!!!

    WHAT DO YOU PEOPLE WANT ? Theme parks? Come on, we gotta have something-let this be it and be happy about it…PLEASE!!!

    • Camper1981 says:

      PAVING the way to eco tourism there is a contradiction. I have camped at the park numerous times and have plenty more reservations for the remainder of the year. If you think cottages will promote tourism then please explain why the cottages at bulow remain largely unused? Final word on this article is it is a PRESERVE by definition should be unchanged.

  13. My thoughts says:

    “Cool stuff” and “being a leader” without the right infrastructure or policies in place to manage the facilities is bad news. This is a good idea with bad leadership. An agreement that says trust us? WOW! And if it doesn’t work out, which there are plenty of examples of that in this County – FLORIDA Agricultural Museum – who knows about that outside of this area?, the failed conversion of the Sheraton Hotel, the Ginn Hangar at the airport, the Cakes Across America building – then what becomes of the property?

    This is also a commercial venture on public lands that were bought with public tax dollars. What will become of any profit from public tax dollars? Will it go towards paying off the ESL bonds? Buying additional lands?

  14. My thoughts says:

    I note that the Creekside Event that the County loves to promote with the Flagler Chamber of Commerce is not listed, nor are any other local events, as possible dates for public promotion. WOW, again. We are still tied into Biketoberfest?!

  15. mark says:

    Please email and get together the many nature lovers, birders, hikers, photographers, kayakers, horseback riders, dog walkers, and all that want to preserve nature and save the animals that live In Princess Preserve. We need to have all the many groups meet at the PURPLE TRAIL where the first place of destruction will begin in the next few months or sooner, as it looks like the entire acreage Purple Trail trees are marked for destruction in the next month. To help the people be aware of what is happening. With enough people that care, the preserve can be saved.

    Please set up your group events to meet at the Creekview Trail aka PURPLE TRAIL.

    We need help in saving this jewel of a park from plans to get a toe hold on the most beautiful part of the park, then the county leader craig m coffey will sell it off and privatize this park so the people will no longer have access to it and all the nature there will be destroyed.

    Please Help!!!!

    Save Princess Place Preserve From Corrupt Officials

    And Developers And Greed Driven Bulldozers

    Soon the most exquisite and scenic area of Princess Place Preserve Park 2500 Princess Place Rd, Palm Coast, Florida 32137, will be bulldozed for three to thirteen + little cabins. These three little cabins plus the ten additional cabins, are allegedly going to be used for a “discounted place to stay” for government employees who call themselves “researchers,” so that the poor little researchers can “conduct research” on tidal flows from these brand new cottages.

    This is a disguise to get a toe hold into the park, so it can be sold off privately and developed as a gated community and to destroy the entire preserve for profit for the few individuals involved in this scheme of destruction.

    A select few individuals in Flagler County, particularly one mr Craig M. Coffey, a/k/a/ Flagler County administrator, cannot wait to start ripping to shreds, the pristine 50 + acres that border Pellicer Creek, a/k/a the location of the Purple Trail for the People, in this soon-to-be-mauled Preserve.

    The plan is to bulldoze over 200 exquisite mature trees, including every 100+ year old Live Oak, Magnolias and other large trees and use a wood chipper to a hot field with no shade, with fantastic views of the water, and prevent this stunning hiking trail, the purple trail, from being used by the people. Keep reading.

    They also plan to pave all the natural sandy roads to make it easy for all the traffic to go to the three plus ten more cabins.

    The so called three cabins is a toe hold to start the devastation of the park.

    The park has the large Island House that could easily sleep 10 – 20 researchers with fantastic views of the marshes, without cutting down one tree.

    The park has a Care Takers Cottage on the eastern point, to the right side of the Purple Trail, that can easily be fixed up for several researchers, and the area by the Care Takers Cottage, is plenty of open land without trees, where another 6 cabins could easily be built without cutting down one tree.

    Mr. coffey says these three plus ten plus little land-desecrating cabins will be able to help the government “researchers” “study” tidal flows and other really fascinating things at an “affordable rate.” Last time I checked, these overpaid, underworked government researchers 1. Have cushy jobs. 2, with full benefits, the ultimate free health care plan, and a “cool” retirement plan. Yet, we the People would receive no discount for staying in the cabins, whenever the “researchers” aren’t “studying” tidal flows.

    Since WHEN, do a few “researchers” – need a damn CENT of a discounted rate on >> anything <>> REAL <<< agenda here.

    Privatize the formerly public land and start selling the prime waterfront 50 acres as luxury waterfront home sites with a huge park as a background, upon which only ONE builder may build. Ummm, lemme think who THAT would be: the same developer who conspired with mr. ecotourism coffey, to cherry pick the MOST VALUABLE acreage in the Preserve back in 2015? Take a wild guess…

    Let’s say they built 50 – 100 homes in this once beloved exquisite work of Nature for, well how about $500,000 to $1,000,000 per home. Isn’t that minimally around $25,000,000 and as high as $50,000,000 to spilt up with all who criminally colluded to deceive the Residents of Flagler County several years earlier in 2015 – to steal this public lane for massive PROFITS? Yes, it is a massive profit.

    Is THAT not the REAL plan mr. cool coffey? Don’t waste your brace trying to take your way out of this one…I would believe you as much as I would trust bernie madoff.

    Lastly folks, coffey and company are planning on perpetrating the same fraud v. the People of Flagler County across the river on the River to Sea preserve adjacent to Marineland. More “researcher cabins,” More destruction of The Land which is preserved for the People and thousands of Animals who call it home, more bribes in cash stuffed envelopes for certain county officials.

    Now what are the People going to do? Let these corrupt officials get away with this? Once these con artists carve up any part of the Preserve, the Preserve will cease to exist.

    Those like coffey and his developer partner are the core reason of what has effectively destroyed the America of my youth: that is CORRUPTION by public officials, from the District Of Criminals [ a/k/a DC ] all the way down to Flagler County, and in every hamlet in this formerly respected country.

    Shouldn’t we, the People, start something here, to clean up the trash that “governs” us, i.e. steals us blind?

    As a side note, here is another example of obvious corruption in Flagler County: I wonder how the $1,095.00 + PER DAY, 365 days per year, for three years “addiction taxi for 30 miles sometimes” program going? The one wherein your current and [ past Seminole County ] co-employee ms. sherman convinced the Flagler County Commission to green light an expenditure of $1,200,000.00 of taxpayer money for THIS reason: over the next 3 years a car owned by a mr. bell would drive addicts and alcoholics from FC jail to a distant place called Volusia County. That is the same mr. bell who singlehandedly drove the multi-million catastrophic failure called the Vince Carter Sanctuary, into the ground in less than 2 years.

    Imagine THAT: mr. bells’ “cool” taxi operation makes over $1,095 EVERY DAY for exactly $1,095 days, or 3 years, running a part time taxi service. For that kind of money, I could lease a Bentley, equipped with a psychiatrist and serve filet mignon to the alcoholic/addict during the ½ hour drive allllll the wayyyyy to distant Volusia County. Without coffeys partner, ms. sherman, bell may not be ripping off the County for $1,095 bucks every day for the next three years.

    Something really stinks down there in Flagler County, and it is not the trash in the dumpsters…


    Please contact all your friends and neighbors to preserve Princess Place Preserve Park, please contact all your facebook friends, email all your contacts, and share this info with everyone. Please set up your group events to meet at the PURPLE TRAIL.

    Without your help, we will lose the jewel of Flagler County: Princess Place Preserve Park.

    Contact Princess Place Preserve Park

    Please email, call, leave voice mails, fax, mail letters, etc.

    Tell them that the people want to preserve the entire Princess Preserve for the people to share in the love of nature.

    Find out when there are meetings, and please come and bring all your neighbors, family, friends…and email all your contacts.

    Thanks for helping to save the Jewel of Florida, Princess Place Preserve!

    Princess Place Preserve Park ph 386-313-4020

    2500 Princess Place Rd.

    Palm Coast, FL 32137

    Princess Place Preserve Citizens Support Organization

    Frank Barbuti at (386) 313-4020

    Commissioner George Hanns at (386) 313-4093

    Flagler County 386-313-4000

    Craig M. Coffey – planning to destroy Princess Place Preserve with his developer and best friend for profit.

    County Administrator


    Sally Sherman

    Deputy County Administrator


    Christie Mayer

    Executive Administrative Assistant

    Joseph A Mayer

    Community Services Director

    Ph 386-313-4033

    Ph: (386) 313-4001

    Fax: (386) 313-4101


    Monday – Friday

    8:00 am – 5:00 pm

    Flagler County

    1769 E Moody Blvd, Bldg 2

    Bunnell FL 32110

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