After a nearly two-decade hiatus, the massive Cascades development planned for Seminole Woods is back, and is more than double its original size: up to 850 single-family homes and apartments on 375 acres in the form of a somewhat misshapen pan with an equally misshapen panhandle. If built out to that cap, the Cascades would be, along with Coquina Shores on Old Kings Road–a 750-home development just rezoned for the purpose–one of the largest developments in the city.
The Cascades had emerged two decades ago, when Flagler County government approved a planned unit development. It covered nearly 700 acres and allowed up to 416 single-family homes. That development never went ahead. The housing crash preceded the development. The Palm Coast City Council on Aug. 1 approved on first reading the voluntary annexation of 330 acres from Flagler County, to go with 44 acres already in Palm Coast and pave the way–so to speak–to the renewed development. The annexation ordinance’s second reading is scheduled for Aug. 15.
The proposal is paired with a significant comprehensive plan amendment that would change the future land use from low density residential under the county’s designation to higher-density residential use under the city’s designation. Comprehensive plan changes used to be elaborate processes requiring lengthy state and regional review. The more development-minded Job Bush and the legislature during his governorship changed the process to make it easier for local governments to alter their comprehensive plans. Those changes are now closer to formalities than challenges.
The comprehensive plan amendment is accompanied by a zoning change–from low density residential and conservation and planned unit development to single family residential, multi-family residential (apartments), and preservation: some 65 acres of wetlands would be preserved. It would be the second major rezoning that would convert at least some green land to residential development in Seminole Woods. The city in May approved the conversion of 42 acres of greenbelt-zoned land to allow a 180-home subdivision off of Seminole Woods Boulevard.
Currently, the acreage is bordered by the Grand Landings Master Planned Development of single-family homes to the north, single-family homes to the south, timberland to the east, and conservation land to the west.
The development would result in seven single-family homes per acre on 6,000 square foot lots with a minimum width of 50 feet. The smallest homes would be around 1,200 square feet. Apartment units would start at 650 square feet. But the property is not even platted yet: site plans and the like are still far ahead.
The Cascades development is the work of Douglas Property and Development, under the name of Byrndog PCP LLC, represented by Mike Chiumento, the Palm Coast land use attorney. It would encompass the 44 acres owned by JTL Grand Landings Development.
Carter Environmental Services, the firm retained by the developer to provide an environmental assessment of the acreage, concluded that site “appears to have been managed for silviculture for at least the past three decades,” with pines growing and harvested as recently as 2015. Much of the non-wetlands property has a canopy of planted slash pine with an understory and groundcover of bitter gallberry, saw palmetto, and bracken fern. A “semi-maintained dirt road spans the property from north to south on the eastern portion site,” the report found.
The report found that gopher tortoises–listed as threatened by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission–may be living on the property and will have to be relocated. A survey found two bald eagle nests within a 5-mile radius the property, the nearest approximately 2.3 miles east of the property boundary, but none actually within the property itself.
LTG Engineering and Planning provided the developer a traffic analysis of the projected impacts of the development. But the analysis is premised on the site having only 463 single-family homes. The analysis does not include the total, potential 850 residential units. The 463 homes would add 4,133 daily trips on local roads, including 300 at peak morning rush and 420 at peak evening rush.
The proposals–the comprehensive plan amendment and the rezoning–go before the Palm Coast Planning Board next week. The board will either recommend approval or not, but the binding decision will be in the hands of the city council, which tipped those hands on Aug. 1 when it approved the annexation: the rest may be downhill.
The pace and breadth of development in Palm Coast has been a recurring if ironic sore point for existing residents who, week after week, complain to the Palm Coast City Council of untrammeled growth, road congestion, disappearing canopies and deteriorating roads and other infrastructure, though at least a portion of those residents themselves fill homes that were once the subject of protest by a previous generation of residents.
The city is unquestionably in the midst of a boom: Palm Coast is the 18th-fastest growing city in the united States, its population just past the 100,000 threshold. Perhaps counterintuitively, however, Palm Coast is also underserved in housing, particularly affordable housing and apartments, as are numerous communities around the state and the country: the Florida Legislature last spring approved a $700 million package to alleviate the affordable housing crunch.
While the supply of homes in Flagler County has improved, it remains under four months’ worth, a relatively low level. The monthly average in listings is just over 800 homes. The median sale price of single family homes still above $370,000 as of the second quarter of 2023, according to the Flagler County Association of Realtors.
The city’s planning department is recommending approval of the various steps the developer is applying for. “Impacts to the Palm Coast economy are anticipated to be positive since the project will provide numerous construction jobs over the first few years and will provide additional tax revenues to the City,” the staff analysis states. “Additionally, the residential homes will increase demand for commercial services at US Highway 1 and Seminole Woods Boulevard.”