For a group of retired residents who say they moved to Palm Coast’s E Section for the peace, the quiet and the low crime rate, many of the more than 100 people who crowded a Bunnell planning board hearing last week got so rude and disruptive that they had to be cleared out of the room–a first for Planning and Zoning Board Chairperson Thea Mathen, who’s been a member of the planning board for 12 years.
“We’ve had meetings like that before,” Mathen said, “but we’ve never had people shouting and being disruptive. Ever.”
“I was astonished,” PLanning Board member Jan Reeger said, thinking back on the meeting. “Thea was trying to keep some order, keep the process the way it was supposed to be, I couldn’t believe how people kept shouting.”
The board was considering a special exception to a developer’s plan to build 240 apartments in nine two-story buildings on 30 acres just north of State Road 100 in Bunnell, a few blocks east of Belle Terre Parkway. The project is the plan of Safety Harbor, Fla.-based SR100 LLC. The land is entirely in Bunnell. But the apartment complex’s north side would butt up near Egret Trail and Egan Drive in Palm Coast’s E-Section. Residents there got letters slipped under their doors, Mathen said, misinforming them that the project was in Palm Coast, among other misinformation, and urging them to show up in force to oppose it.
It was a repeat of a meeting before the Palm Coast City Council on March 14 where a large group of K-Section residents turned out to oppose a planned apartment complex along U.S. 1, near Karas Trail. That one would have offered 348 apartment units.
The language opponents of the projects used at both meetings was nearly identical: that apartments would breed crime, noise, traffic and disruption. The claims were baseless: there is little evidence that apartment complexes are more crime-ridden than Palm Coast’s W, P, E, R or any other section. But while city staffers at both meetings presented what evidence they had in their recommendations for approval (not least of it the region’s crying need for affordable housing), audiences were not in the mood: preconceptions ruled. “I was astounded at how many had such a lack of interest in really finding out what was going on,” Reeger said.
The Palm Coast council ended up not so much deciding against the U.S. project as delaying a decision on it. The Bunnell planning board was not so hesitant. At the end of a 55-minute meeting, it boldly, unanimously approved the measuring requesting the exception, opening the way for the project to seek investors. But the meeting was ugly in the extent to which it revealed deep-seated prejudice against affordable housing–and fact.
The Bunnell project would be built a sizable block north of State Road 100, with the fronting acreage given over to potential commercial businesses. The apartment complex would be set back by 130 feet from the E-Section, with conservation land and a retention pond running the length of the set-back. For all that, E-Section residents feared traffic, saying a road will open up between the complex and Easthampton Drive (not so), and that the “criminal element” would affect the quality of life while lowering property values.
“I was actually delighted when I saw this,” Reeger said during the meeting, after a brief presentation on the project. There’d already been grumbles from the crowd. “I have for many years been on a soap box for our county over two issues. One is economic development and the lack of jobs that are available, and the second is the ability to have affordable housing.”
“You want them in your backyard?” came a surly voice from the crowd.
“Would you folks like to have to be moved out of here? Because I can clear this room. No more outburst please. Be polite,” Mathen said. She limited the public participation portion of the meeting to three people speaking against the project, and three people speaking for. No one spoke for it.
Lucy Green Davis, a retired teacher who ran for the school board in 2008, is among the residents of Egret Trail. “Twenty years ago my husband and I decided we would retire to Palm Coast and build our retirement home here on Egret Trail because it was a quiet, dead-end street,” she told the board. “We were happy to believe our street would not become a thru-fare to Route 100, and now you want to change the [character] of this area to permit a multi-family project to be built in our residential neighborhood. To the residents of our community, this will create problems of grave concern. Right off the bat, property values will become diminished, a project of this nature creates increased traffic and noise as well as the expectant increase in crime.” Davis offered no evidence for any of her claims, and repeated the claim that the project would bring more crime. “I would feel very comfortable having an assisted living facility, nursing home, a medical facility or day care for children or adults located on this property.”
But not affordable housing.
Two more residents spoke to applause in opposition, one of them, Carol Gunthorpe, repeating the claim that “East Hampton will be opened into Bunnell.” Then came a resident who suggested the apartment complex should have concentrated policing. “Are we going to have additional police? Because this is a potential, you know, crime zone, OK, with the number of people in such a small area, are we going to address that?” he said to applause. “Are we going to put our men in blue in there to make sure everyone is safe?” He had noted that as a participant in a recent citizens’ academy, he’d ridden around with a cop who’d told him that Palme Pointe, a housing complex in Bunnell, was a “high-crime” area, a claim a member of the board disputed. (The most recent, high-profile crime issue in Palm Pointe involved a deputy in training, who was fired for abusing his authority at the complex.)
By then, a disbelieving Reeger decided she had to intervene with a few correctives.
“Affordable housing does not necessarily mean a criminal scenario,” Reeger said, again getting the crowd grumbling and Mathen gaveling. “There is very few apartment complexes in this county. There is one fairly recently built in Flagler Beach near the Publix, just off of 100, a set up much like this is. When my grandson returned, and he’s not a criminal element, he was unable to find a place to live, because there was a year’s waiting list.”
“How is this going to help us?” A man yelled out.
“We’re not here to help you,” Mathen said. “Quiet!”
“I’m going to say it again for the record: there is no traffic impact. That is a non-point in this discussion,” Reeger said. The crowd scoffed. Mathen gaveled. Reeger tried going on. More grumbling and yelling. Mathen ordered the room cleared. “You folks have been yelling all night, I’m done with it,” she said.
As people were being escorted out, several people came up to board members and apologized for their neighbors’ behavior, eliciting gratefulness from Reeger and other board members.
About 25 people stayed behind by the time a few minutes’ recess was over, though the prejudicial talk was not all on Palm Coast’s side.
“It’s unfortunate what this county did when they planted Palm Coast, isn’t it?” Randall Morris, a member of the planning board, said as things were quieting down. “This wouldn’t happen.”
Shannon Strickland, who co-chairs the board, then proposed lengthening the buffer zone by 10 feet, to 130 feet and writing into the exception the certainty that there’d be no road cut to Easthampton, no more than 250 units built. Reeger seconded his motion, and the measure passed unanimously.
Whether the measure does lead to an apartment complex is an open question: the developer bought the land for $3.3 million in 2005. It’s for sale.
Ben Dover says
Maybe this money hungry pack of thieves running this city , should be happy with their bloated salaries and stop destroying this town,….. we are already like cockroaches crawling all over each other on the streets and in the stores , enough is enough you turned this place into a monopoly board with your side deals , we are SICK OF IT!!!
Gee, what one thing do all those attendees have in common? What do you think they’re really opposed to?
Lmao. Build it and they will come.
Robert Lewis says
I support Thea in her decision. Good for her to maintain order!
The additional residents is concerning. It will increase services of emergency services. As long as the board plans to maintain services and not get rid of their fire department then it’s good. People want to move here. It’s how a community grows. But to sit there and say not in my own back yard is shameful.
The concern should be they build a quality building that’s safe and appealing to the eyes.
Randall Morris has shameful comments. His sentiments are the very reason why the residents of the service district demanded we stop being the cash cow to Flagler and incorporate. Back in those days before Palm Coast was planted our service district was neglected. We had to declare our Independence Day and form ourselves own city.
Money talks and Palm Coast residents walk………Its not about your safety Palm Coast, its about how much money these bastards can pocket. In 5 years the place will be a GHETTO .
It’s hard to believe that the crowd would be so impolite and make such a ruckus for one of the most thoughtful and reasonable county citizens, Thea Mathen. A few more apologies might be in order.
Any idea who put the notices with the misinformation under peoples’ doors?
Born and Raised Here says
Obviously the residents of Cypress Knoll didn’t do their homework when they purchased there home, They should have known the city limit of Bunnell, was there way before Palm Coast was even thought of.
The retirees who are disgruntled in Palm Coast should move to the Villages. The highest per capita STD rates anywhere in the country. Gotta love those seniors!
It’s time to take this city out of the
Older generation. Pass it to the next
Generation .most of you will be up
North in a month get over your selves.
Were growing it is what it is.
You don’t like it MOVE.
We are the strong
The youth united we are one.
Just My 2¢ says
There is a valid concern, however, over traffic. Belle Terre is the only N-S artery in this town. There are connecting streets without stoplights – a high risk of accidents. People drive Belle Terre like it’s a race track.
I don’t quite understand the reasoning to build affordable housing here – where are these people going to work? There are only so many fast food joints and retail box stores to go around. It’s not like there are factories or industries to employ these people. And what happens when these places become Section 8 housing – property values will go down, and the quasi bucolic life of the E section will be no more.
Development must be rational, pragmatic, and ethical — not just for the sake of greed $$$$.
Donnie riddle says
Way to go Thea, my hats off to you !
People are haters where ever you go but I have never seen it so much but here in Palm Coast. I
Pat Patterson says
I moved to Palm Coast from Houston, Texas. It is a known fact to anyone having lived in a large city that apartments decrease property values because of the soaring crime rates that accompany apartment dwellers. Where are the jobs to employ these apartment tenants? No employment, higher crime. Just common sense. Many public officials have a lack of foresight and common sense. Be careful what you ask for. Just glad I don’t live near Bunnell.
Wishful thinking says
Am I missing something? Don’t we need businesses ..cultural enterprises ? Industries to create employment for current residents. We don’t need more apartments to encourage more people to move here when we have no work to offer much above minimum wage. It’s all about greed. Apartments do not belong adjacent to single family homes. Beware of anyone who preaches otherwise. Group should get a tough anti developer attorney with guts
Concerned Citizen says
I’ve known Thea for awhile and I believe she acted accordingly. Good for her for sticking to her guns and fighting back towards these self righteous “E Section Residents”.
Do you homework before you buy and you won’t be surprised when growth happens. And stop being so judgmental!!
Affordable housing is a godsend to some folks and gives them a chance to live in their own place. A lot of us folks aren’t as fortunate as some of you well to doers and are just making it.
Needing affordable housing doesn’t make you a bad person or an automatic “criminal element” LOL. I applaud anyone who is taking steps to put themselves in a better position and you should to.
To all of you “adults” who were escorted out tonight you showed your true colors as a human being and should be ashamed. And most of you don’t even live here full time so get over yourselves.
Flagler Citizen says
So where are all the retail managers making just over $23,000 a year, and all the CNA’s these people will soon need, and all the social workers, and and all the yard cutters, and public works workers going to live? Flagler County is a growing county. It hasn’t ever been “established.” The City of Palm Coast is just getting started itself. If you buy a house on a “quiet” dead end street, you should know it’s probably not always going to be so quiet. My grandparents built a house on a quiet, wildnerness-laden road fronting a canal. It was so nice there–then they went ahead and built a Publix on Palm Coast Parkway, and houses started springing up all over the place. Florida Park Drive used to be a nice quiet drive. But that’s how it goes.
I remember hearing the older crowd harumphing about the county wanting to build a library. I don’t even think the county had but 20,000 people back then. I heard a man say, “The kids don’t even read these days. Why do they want my tax money to build that?”
And the crux of it, is some of these “concerns” are exaggerated. They make it sound like they’re building a homeless shelter (egad, right) right on their porches.
For what it’s worth, take a look around in the woods when you’re driving around Palm Coast. Stretch your necks and look for blue. You’ll find out that people live here, regardless of how well-to-do you think people need to be to live here. They’re in the woods in tents. Or they’re living a block from you in a rented house they can afford through Section-8. They’re seniors. They’re workers. They’re people with disabilities. They’re veterans who are trying to acclimate to a civilian home town–foraging for employers who see their worth through the actual work they did for the past 4 to 20 years, they’re injured workers and business owners who caught a tough break.
Yeah, they might move to “affordable housing,” with administrative assistants, nonprofit managers, nurse’s assistants, people with disabilities, widowed seniors with low fixed incomes, and all the other normal people who need an affordable place to live. Affordable housing complexes are a rather neat way to keep people out of the woods–and even out of your block, if that’s such a concern for you.
C’mon people affordable public housing has no impact on the community or the crime rates. For example just look at Orange County and other municipalities where “public” housing is welcomed. All those stories of murders, drugs, robberies and sexual assaults are racist even if they are true.
I wonder what the Republican majority in Flagler county is going to be thinking? Affordable public housing means Democrats.
…. and, of course, this has nothing to do with race (sic).
The location sounds like it would be close to FPC? Is that correct?
I GUESS THEY JUST WANT MONEY FROM THE TOURISTS AND NOT NEW RESIDENTS.
IF PROPERLY RUN WITH HIGH ENOUGH DEPOSITS THE “CRIMINALS” WON’T WANT TO LIVE THERE .
I THINK THEY WERE A BUNCH OF MISINFORMED PEOPLE WHO FEEL THEY ARE ENTITLED TO LIVE IN THEIR SHANGRI-LA. AND NOT THINK ABOUT THE GOOD IT WILL BRING TO FLAGLER BEACH BUSINESSES.
Adam Frank says
It would have been more civil if Thea didn’ t limit the speakers to only three.That was a bit heavy-handed, and a clear stifling of free speech rights.
its a matter of numbers, if 10% of the population are criminals then 100 out of 1000 are criminals. if you concentrate that 1000 persons in a medium density apartment complex its still a 100 criminals, just in a smaller area. and no i do not have stats to prove my 10% rule-use any percentage you want it wont change
my sister lived in an apartment complex and when she would for work, she would see her gas tank lid open on numerous occasions and her gas tank level lower than when she parked her car. i dont know about other people, but i have yet to have my gas siphoned when my car has been in my single family residence driveway.
its really a matter of those that have and those who want. for some its easy to take than to earn and yes its based on level of income.
if you have a $300,000 plus home in the E section,those that can afford that home will surely purchase in Grand Haven, Wyld Oaks or Palm Coast Plantation just based on perception. I have a hard time believing home values will not diminished or become stagnant. An example would be build a duplex next to your home and see what happens.
and lastly what is this i hear about section 8 housing in Sawmill Village in Bunnell?
.Jimmy 2 shoes says
If the people are shouting , perhaps you should listen!
look at this
why is the largest less safe red area located in the low income section of Bunnell????
Charles Gardner says
In this day and age disruption is the order of the day.
U live in e section time to sell
Cmon man says
Typical grey-haired hysteria. Without getting too political but this is Trumps America. Old folks who are on their way out think they are entitled to the World. Sure they have a lifetime worth of knowledge, however they have no sense of change, nor do they embrace it.
This would be such a great opportunity for the county, I back this project 100% . It’s funny how these people get so hysterical over property they bought 20 years ago, things to change you knw. You can always move again it’s not that big a deal, people do it all the time
If this is government housing, or Section 8 housing, there will not be any tourists to worry about. Section 8 housing gives builders government money to build low income housing. It is generally not great for the neighborhoods nearby. Show me one case where it has increased property values. It just doesn’t work that way.
There is nothing hysterical about being involved and concerned about what is happening in our neighborhoods. These people have every right to be heard. Every right. Shame on anybody trying to deny them that right.
My questions are: IS this being built with government money? And if so, are all rules about building it being complied with? It’s that simple, really. The community has the right to ask these questions, to speak publicly and TO BE HEARD. It a right we all have.
Robbie Sommer says
To those that say the residents of the E section should have done their homework before moving here. That parcel of land was always zoned commercial never residential. Now the city of Bunnell has re-zoned or re-purposed it so multi family units can be built there. You can do you homework today and tomorrow the powers to be can re-zone a parcel of land. I am certain if you had a large apartment complex in your back yard you would be upset also. But what about our hospital? Can our emergency room handle the additional people using it? The wait now is over 3 hours. Do you want your ill loved one waiting almost 3 hours for what is mediocre medical care? If the hospital does not have room in the back for you they stick you in a holding area where you are forgotten completely. It happened to me. Belle Terre is overly congested at present. We are adding more population before the roads and infrastructure to accommodate more people. This is the concern of the residents and eventually it will impact more than just the E section residents. It will at some point impact every resident in this city when traffic is at a stand-still because there are no other arteries to move about on.
So let me get this right… The people that were afraid the apartment complex would break up their peace and quiet. Got escorted out of a meeting because they weren’t peaceful or quiet?
Just because people are older, doesn’t mean that you can crap on them. It doesn’t matter if you bought your house 20 years ago or yesterday. If you can’t find affordable housing, look elsewhere. To tell people who have worked all their lives to sell their homes and move is ludicrous. Go look at Jacksonville. The dencer the population ,more crime exists period. Unless you live in the Hammocks. The statement that the older people are all snowbirds is ridiculous. Saying for all of the seniors to move to the Villages is also ridiculous. Get a.better job or better yet work two jobs (like I did) and stop trying to get a break on everything. Grow the hell up already.
Apartments for “low income” people in Bunnell. Yep, nothing could possible go wrong with this . Can’t wait to see the reviews 5 years after their built and Sec 8 renters fill them up. My advice to the good people of the E-section….SELL NOW…HURRY.
You all are complaining about losing your quiet place. I remember being 10 years old at a county fair when a man was asking everyone to sign a paper to make palm coast a city. I was 10 but thought how bad can it be. I signed im not sure if thats legal but i guess a signature is a signature. My point is when i was a kid there was less then 20,000 people in flagler county. Hell probably less then 15,000 people in after we signed that paper withtin a few years population and quadrupled buisness for everyone was booming but the community was sacrificed for money. No one knew eachother anymore people came down with crime and baggage. Wich is normal i guess in a city to expand but it felt like Flagler county was destroyed. There was murders that no one saw of in our home town ever popping up by the time i was a junior in highschool. 7 years after we signed to become a city. Our roads where so congested our schools where over pacted no one waved no one smiled it was all buisness. I watched this town turn from a place heroin was never a part of. Never. I watched friends kill themselves because the market crashed right after graduation in 07 people could not find good work. They literally saw the fathers fail because of the collapse and saw themselves in the same future. Restraunts where stuggling because familys who made 200grand the previous year made 50 grand this year on the same job. People where losing there homes. 28years i lived in this town. My family was here from the beginning. Before ocean city was called flagler. My great granddad was the engineer who made the bridges in town back in the day. This town used to be about family and what is right and wrong. You guys want to make palm coast great again. Focus on the youth. Creat housing but why not create jobs first. Why not make more youth centers outreach programs. But i also want to see my home become a happy town again. My town was not a bad place. Yall want to complain about a housing complex that cant help single moms or struggling family find security then shame on you. Maybe you all who sit mighty should get out and reach out to the less fortunate and see the struggles or remind yourself of the struggles you went through to get to where you are. We are all just people looking for hope and purpose so respect all. The crime and change is no ones fault but our own for not providing a better life for the youth.
Too soon we grow old, too late we grow smart.
– Somebody Said
IMO, the truth about the difference between what we say and what we do is always revealed by the difference between how people treat themselves compared to how they treat everyone else.
End of sermon.
Just remember, you’re very special, just like everyone else.
The very worse thing this city could do is to start letting apartment buildings be built. How many section 8 apartments will the government demand? This is how it all starts….
Thank you Marshall for bringing some sense back into this conversation. People can live together without being a blight on society. Young people need to start their lives with hope and opportunity. More good jobs are needed in this area. However there are young people who leave because there are no affordable options for housing. They live at home with parents and grandparents rather than starting out in their own homes here in town because their incomes are insufficient for purchasing a house, That does not make them bad people. That makes them just like everyone else starting out. We currently have many employees here in town who travel from Ormond or Daytona because of this situation – teachers, healthcare workers, etc. Well bult and well managed multi-unit properties can be a helpful addition to our community.
Palm Coast is getting more like Queens everyday.Sidewalks growing in numbers,traffic lights at every corner,now low income apartments,great.As far as zoning goes,the city rezones in there favor and almost never for the better for residents.Wake up people it’s all about money,red light camera’s that was for safety yea right and I thought voteing no for the new city hall years ago was the residents showing power yea was I wrong what a waste of time.
They border a commercial mixed use area and Bunnell. I mean what did they expect? They still have the golf course where no good shot goes unpunished and grows some lunker cottonmouths. If the housing is needed and justified, build it.
Worried Grammy says
Thank you Flagler Citizen, I couldn’t have said it better myself. Having children who work for a living but are having to struggle to pay for housing because their salaries are not as high as others (not everyone can be valedictorian) need to have the opportunity to live comfortably. Also a big thank you to Thea who shouldn’t have to tolerate rudeness.
Cmon you are critical of senior wanting peace and quiet. Some day you too will be that old gray haired person that wants to have peace and quiet and you will then understand. No one is exempt from growing old and even the older folks still have a voice. However this is not all about peace and quiet, it is about overcrowding in one concentrated area that can’t handle it and no plan to provide a solution to the overcrowding by our local government. This is the issue that should concern you when you try to find a doctor in Palm Coast and the recording says “sorry we are at capacity and not taking new patients” as most of them are at present. And when trying to drive from point A to point B should take 10 minutes but now takes 35 minutes. While these apartments are being built in Bunnell, these people will have to come to Palm Coast for services and shopping. Services that are already over stretched and at capacity. This will not only affect the “gray haired” seniors but it will affect all of us.
Palm Coast and Flagler County does need affordable housing. If the only jobs around are minimum wage ones, then provide the apartments for families. I lived in an apartment for 6 years with my family before buying my first house. We made many friends while there. Crime was no worse than what we hear going on in the R, P, W sections.
im tired of this BS of affordable housing. i work two jobs to afford my housing. dont be so damn lazy.
Robert Frost, 1874 – 1963
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
‘Stay where you are until our backs are turned!’
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of outdoor game,
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.’
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
‘Why do they make good neighbors? Isn’t it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.’ I could say ‘Elves’ to him,
But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father’s saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.’
Just what we need a 9 story slum. Cheap housing ALWAYS brings the neighborhood down, low rent projects breed crime like the plague. Have you been in the projects behind the old courthouse in Bunnell?
Property values declining.
“Yet in a recent Rasmussen poll, 83 percent of respondents said it was not the government’s job to diversify neighborhoods by income level, while only 8 percent say that this is an appropriate task for government. Now you know why the Obama administration and a compliant press corps have kept this initiative quiet.”
Federal shenanigans. Previous Admin AFFH REZONING using stealth tactics so citizens won’t know. Google National Review AFFH Admission Stealth Video