For the Flagler Beach City Commission, the vote approving the site plan for the once and future hotel soon again to anchor the heart of the city after a 50-year absence was almost an afterthought Thursday evening.
“The final product is something you can be very proud of,” Manoj Bhoola, manager of Elite Hospitality, the Ormond Beach-based firm developing the 100-room hotel, to be called Compass, told commissioners. Elite recently completed a Margaritaville hotel in Jacksonville, and has developed other hotels in St. Augustine and Daytona Beach.
The unanimous vote was a foregone conclusion. “Don’t let working the bugs think that it’s a detraction from this,” Commissioner Eric Cooley said. “You have a very nice project here. And the finished product is much better than I would have thought it would have been. You did a great job.”
But commissioners were nevertheless concerned about parking and especially concerned about the effects of a vague plan to extend impacts on a vast swath of beach parallel to the project zone: the property extends that far–not construction per se (no construction is allowed) but plans of some sort.
Whether at the planning board or in the plans presented the city commission Thursday, there were no details about those plans on the beach-side. Only an ominous indication, drawn in outline on a slide, that there will be some sort of activity on the beach tied to the construction of the hotel. That worried Cooley and Commissioner Jane Mealy. It should not have surprised the developer, who knew city officials wanted more details about those plans as far back as late 2020.
“If we are going to approve it, since there is nothing about what’s going to be built, I would like us to make sure we address this verbiage that that will have to be a separate approval,” Cooley said. “We can’t approve something we have no data for, and that’s going to have a significant impact on our beach. The verbiage bothers me, by saying that is part of the project site, which is the site plan that we’re approving, when it’s never been discussed, It was never brought the power board, it’s not in the packet, there’s no detail.”
The developer had been cautioned about Cooley’s very concern in a previous step before the planning board in December 2020. At the time, that board’s Roseanne Stocker stressed–looking at understandably vague plans then, though the vagueness now was no longer defensible–that she did not want the customary public use of the beach be infringed, even where the hotel property extended into the sands. At the time, she was concerned about the possibility that a portion of the beach would be made private. That would be illegal under current law and a local ordinance.
Mealy, whose service on the commission is matched by an unparalleled memory for detail, made that very point: “It was slipped through during one of the PAR board discussions,” she said, referring to the planning board by its acronym. “A little radar went off in my head about something on the beach. I know we have regulations about no sales on the beach, we’ve had other restaurants wanting to put chairs, and rent them out or whatever, various projects that have come up over time that we’ve always said no to because of our regulations. This is the one thing that bothers me about this whole project. I love the hotel. I love all the work that you did with it, all the cooperation that went on between the developer and the city staff. But this is something that that won’t fly with me at all. We have–what’s the legal term for open beaches?”
“Customary use,” City Attorney Drew Smith said, before specifying: “That does not mean that a private beach owner cannot use their piece of the beach. It means they cannot gate it off and prohibit access.” Flagler County enacted a customary use ordinance that applies along all 18 miles of Flagler’s beaches in June 2018. A federal appeals court upheld customary use in August 2021, and a A Walton County circuit judge earlier this week rejected a constitutional challenge to an ordinance similar to Flagler’s in Walton County.
Bhoola was compelled to explain what the plans are for the beach portion of the property. “I guess the use of it would be to enhance that area,” he said, again somewhat vaguely. “So we’d have chairs, umbrellas, something like that, that we take down at the end of the day. But that’s open to the public. It’s not to be rented. It’s just an amenity for somebody who’s either staying at the hotel and going to work there, like you see the other couple of hotels in Flagler Beach that are presently there and have their own access to go to the beach. It’s similar to that.”
Smith said any individual may use the hotel’s chairs, but may not bring his or her own to sit on that portion of the beach–an arguable interpretation of Flagler County’s customary use ordinance, which does not make any such distinctions for other private portions of the beach. In effect, almost every part of the 18 miles of beach has a private portion, just as the hotel’s frontage does. But there are no such prohibitions on individuals bringing their chairs or towels or anything else to those private portions of beaches–which most people don’t even realize are private.
“I don’t like it, but OK,” Mealy said of the restrictive interpretation.
Cooley still wanted more clarifying language. “You have a site plan for the western part of the project, but you don;t have a site plan for the eastern part of the project,” meaning the beach side, he told Bhoola.
“We haven’t designed that,” Bhoola said.
“Correct. So how do we approve it if you haven’t designed it?” Cooley asked.
Smith said the developer would not have to bring any additional site plans if all the developer plans is chairs and umbrella–items Cooley is not worried about. The city clerk then specified that no structures may be built on the beach anyway. But the developer accepted a condition of approval that spells out exactly that: only umbrellas and chairs.
There was also some vagueness about who will be responsible for road improvements. So an additional condition was added: Prior to issuance of building permits, the developer will agree with the city to infrastructure improvements. The plan to ensure that streets remain open during construction–if they are to remain open–has not yet been developed.
Parking was the other matter of concern, as it generally is with any development of note in the city.
At 100 guest rooms plus a restaurant, the building would be required to have 139 parking spaces on site. It only has 81, plus five for the disabled. Commissioner Deborah Phillips was concerned. Planning Director Larry Torino said the facility is “taking advantage of the exemptions” allowed by being located in the mixed use downtown district. “To say it in layman’s terms,” Torino said, “the difference between the required parking of 139 spaces that are required for the entire development, 83 are being accommodated on site, the balance of the parking is first come first served on the street.”
But that also means the hotel’s parking will be encroaching on current parking benefiting other businesses and residents or visitors. (Commissioner James Sherman raised some concerns about nights like First Friday, when parking may be further maxed out than it already is on First Fridays. Torino said St. Augustine faces the same dilemma. “We get into parking, we could talk about it all day, all night,” Torino said.)
That brought to light a coming chance for residents: the section between Moody Boulevard and South 2nd Street along Central Avenue will see parking configurations change from parallel parking to angled parking, adding eight spaces on that street. South Central will become a one-way street southbound, parallel with the hotel, narrowing the street and perhaps adding a speed bump. “That is something that we’re we’re looking at for that stretch of corridor to make it more pedestrian friendly,” Torino said. South Daytona will remain a two-way street, parallel to the hotel, but the parking configuration will change there, too, adding four spaces.
Those “bugs” dealt with, the response to the plan was laudatory, including from members of the public and a representative of the county’s tourism office.
Other than its original unveiling at the city’s planning board, a less visible advisory level but for the wonkiest followers of city developments, Thursday’s was the first chance for the broader public to see the full plans of what will be the Compass Hotel: a 100-room, three-story, 70,000-square foot structure on the 1.37-acre lot best known to two generations of city residents and visitors as the site of the farmer’s market. It’ll also have a restaurant.
The Flagler Beach hotel’s unusual name seems to evoke the mariner’s tool rather than the more prosaic mathematical one, as if connecting the hotel to its seafaring horizons to the east. Other motifs designed to blend the building into its beachy surroundings abound. The facade of the building–stucco, brick, concrete masonry, stone, clapboard siding and tiles–will have a couple of swirling murals. The design is visually contrapuntal: “It looks like there’s a range of buildings, you can see how we’ve treated different areas differently, with canopies, with roof colors, with relief and balconies,” Brock said. Tropical vegetation will surround the building,” says Margaret Brock, director of leisure and hospitality for BRPH, the Orlando and Melbourne-based architecture and design firm.
There’ll be a traffic entrance off of Old Moody Boulevard onto parking that will take up a little more than half the block, facing South Daytona Avenue. The hotel itself fronts South Central Avenue. “As you come from pedestrians on the front side along Central you’ll come in and you’ll really basically start to feel what Margaritaville on the Compass brand brings,” Brock said, “which is just a very lifestyle-centric, boutique level hotel, which is unique. Again, this is not a typical, prototype hotel. This has a lot of character, and it really speaks to a lifestyle brand which is very specific to Flagler.” She said it will “define the inner core of Flagler Beach.”
The hotel will be 47 feet high at its highest point, its main roof topping off at 33 feet. The first floor totals 14,329 square feet. The second and third floors, the room floors, will spread over 25,505 square feet each. (The balance on the first floor will be occupied by more parking.) The current proposed restaurant hours are to be from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. The rooftop bar would be open between 5 p.m. and midnight.
“This has probably been the most vetted project that I’ve been involved with in my association with the city of Flagler Beach,” Torino told the commission. “I have to also tell you that this development team has been really a pleasure to work with. It’s a group of professionals, and I’m not trying to build their case. Win, lose or draw, they’ve been fair. They’ve been very transparent and I believe the product that has been delivered to the city speaks very well of the effort that they made from the beginning and the inception of the development process, to where it is today.”
Click to access Attachment-BRPH-Final-Site-Pln-Document-1.pdf
Keep Flagler Beautiful says
Quick! Screw it all up! Flagler Beach was just too special and too nice to leave as it is. I can’t wait for all the trash and drunks on the beach — an oxymoron?
Will the roof top bar be open to bikers during bike week?Where will they park.Jules
Will the roof top bar be open to bikers during Bike Week?Where will they park?
About Time. says
We already have the riff raff here. Places like this will actually keep them out. Flagler Beach is growing up.
you know there used to be a hotel there called the flagler beach hotel from 1925 -1972 right?
Are you serious ? Flagler Beach already has “drunks and trash” not to mention the new bodies of water that appear every time it rains. Encourage projects like this throughout the beach and let’s get rid of all those “dated” crappy motels and ridiculous 1970’s type restaurants.
I moved to Flagler in 1993 and by 2005 all the trash started to move in. The town changed from sleepy little place to a copy of a town out of NJ. Left in 2012 and waited too long.
Did the rest of your family move there in 2005?????
Definitely do not need this!!!
Unbelievable! Flagler Beach could not even accommodate 100 Corvettes for its annual car show. Just one more insane thing this town is doing to self-destruct. WHO is getting rich from this? It certainly is not going to benefit the residents of Flagler Beach!
Fernando Melendez says
Kudos to Flagler Beach! Hotel will make a great addition to our area and bring much needed tax relief for it’s residents.
Jim R says
Write down this prophecy: There will be NO tax relief for residents attributable to this Gorgon!
Flagler Beach and PC needs to implement a moratorium. Was there any talk about the town or county purchasing the property to preserve it for future generations? Was there an impact study done? This will set a bad example for future building along A1A. To coin an old Joan Mitchell song, they destroyed paradise to put up a parking lot.
mike thornton says
Mischa Gee says
I have wondered for 20 years, why Flagler Beach had very few accomodations for tourists. However, to give up it’s only nice piece of public use land, the site of the farmers market, beach side park, festival site to a 3 story hotel lacks foresight.
It’s already a busy corner. With a large hotel/motel there it will become more dangerous regarding traffic. There are some other locations along the beach, where dilapidated building owners might be made offers to sell, and the place built there. Look around, the block next to the Golden Lion is one of them.
If Flagler Beach also allows the Compass to own beach side property, which seems entirely unnecessary, just to put some beach chairs and umbrella out, are they going to also build a pedestrian Passover, to help eliviate more traffic congestion for people crossing the very busy A1A at that intersection.
Not only will they not have enough parking spaces for guests when running full, the general parking for those visiting Flagler Beach will be used by employees all day instead.
How about reducing the size of the hotel from three stories to two, and that issue would be resolved. Flagler Beach has avoided approving this type of thing in the past, but it looks like Council is making a money grab for the park and not really projecting how this will truly effect the future.
That is not private use land. It is privately owned.
Mischa Gee says
Even if it is privately held property, it has been used as a gathering place for decades.
Based on the fact that there are not enough parking spaces for a 100 room hotel, the town should require the hotel reduce the number of room, by getting rid of the 3rd floor or making what would have been the ground floor, parking and raise the hotel to start at the second floor height, expanding the size of each floor to be above parking and only make the rooms two stories above the parking.
joe stolfi says
DOES the New Hotel have any Condos on the property
that were on the old plan ?
Is this one of those ” OH, we forgot to mention those” things ?
The image you show is just the front –
Is there a whole block view available ??
Sick of the Greed says
Well say goodbye to our nice beach town. Soon it will be like Whorelando. Progress my ass.
Chris S says
There will be fist fights over the chairs and umbrellas between guests and the public at large. The private area is at the end of the public ramps and people will not understand what’s what. Who’s going to police the area ?
Are they going to throw people off their private chairs ?
The plan is short 56 parking spaces?! The guests will have to fight for a space on a Friday night or bike week? Might as well park 12-14 blocks away on someone’s lawn and drag your suit case on the sidewalks. Take a Saturday drive to St Augustine and try to park.
“You said, he said” will lead to litigation over the beach use, and oceanfront owners will suffer from not being to use their own parking spots.
That’s what we need an ugly eye sore full of people who treat the beach like a trash can. Great job maybe we should see what exactly is being built and what they plan for the beach before we allow this to get out of control. Do what’s best for the community not just tourists That’s who voted you into office.
I think the project is too intense and should have been scaled back to maybe 80 rooms instead of 100. That would have mitigated the parking impact to an extent. It’s all about maximizing developer profit at the expense of our quality of life.
Sounds like HB resort up north of FB where a developer said smaller room numbers wont ‘work for us’ , once granted they sold for profit once re-zoning approved by our BOCC …county got nothing! But, here we go again up in the Hammock, more rooms, proposed land swaps accommodating
a new developer group. The residents here , sold an original bill of goods …restrictions, land use , density restrictions, which drew folks to FC, now cast aside. Enough!
Lorie L Robinson says
I moved to Palm Coast almost a year ago. I fell in love with the fact that Flagler Beach had no large hotel to compete for parking with residents. I fear that we might regret what’s about to happen
Jim R says
Code requires 139 parking spaces yet a mere 81 plus 5 handicap are being provided (50 or so will be on a first come first serve basis!) WHAT? Has any commissioner attempted to locate a parking space on a heavy tourist action day? Have any of them visited St. Augustine and observed the mess that traffic and parking is there? Why bring that here? Cut the size to fit the parking. This action is a gross dereliction of duty on the part of the commissioners. For sale sign soon to be on my place.
The fact that over 50 parking spaces ae missing should be a giant red flag. This project is too large for the area, and frankly, it’s ugly.
It’s an eyesore and it hasn’t even been built yet. The design will not age well.
Definitely NOT in character with the beautiful sleepy little hamlet we love.
Parking for clients and their staff is woefully inadequate, and this does not bode well for traffic flow on that corner.
Too bad that Flagler Beach council has such bad taste and obviously cannot see how awful this plan is.
Judy Tenney says
You are letting money and Manoj Bhoola change the whole look of Flager Beach. I am a property owner NO just don’t do it. It messes up the whole site views over the bridge. In who’s mind is this a good idea. Next homeowners on A1A get ready for your front yard and sidewalk to be gone. No way to handle the traffic now, add another 200 cars. 100 rooms = workers and people 200 cars easy this is insanity to this GOD given paradise, all that’s left.
E, ROBOT says
… and just a quick presto-changeo to homeless housing to take FB from a charming 50’s throwback to a modern gimme gimme gimme. Oh well we’re grateful we had it while it lasted.
Tom Buckley says
139 parking spaces are required by regulation but the developer is only providing 81. Why are they allowed this exception? Parking along the boardwalk is difficult alone as it is and will be made worse by the influx of hotel guests. As I am disabled, being able to park near the boardwalk is important to me.
Maybe the restaurant will be a real one unlike the crappy ones up and down A1A. Might finally be able to get a descent meal.
Apparently you have never been to the Island Grill, excellent food and service.
I I were a vacationer, the fact that I had to walk a distance carrying my beach stuff then wait to cross AIA and then some more walking would be a deal breaker for me to rent a room there. Too many other places on the water and a vacationer could make the short drive to Flager beach to tour around for the day or half day. A vacationer is not going to want to fight for a parking space somewhere because the undersized parking area for the hotel is too small. I sure as heck wouldn’t want to leave my car at a distance from it, or on a side street–Might not be there the next morning or vandalized. Lastly, as I look at the rendering, it looks like a long walk carrying beach stuff and maybe a couple of kids, to get to the beach. I wonder what the room rates will be.
M and M says
We have enjoyed Flagler Beach since the early 70s. Bought a lot in Palm Coast from a mobile home sales office on A1A when it was all just a dream.
Shopped at the farmers market over the years. Really, you’re allowing a 3-story hotel in that small of a land “strip.” It was difficult parking then…now with the construction and lack of parking for the hotel! What are y’all thinking???
Sure the small home/store/restaurant oceanfront properties up and down A1A would be willing to sell for a price. Go over the bridge and scoop up some land there and shuttle to the beach…oh, right, you’ll want to be petitioning that area off for just those guests as well.
Guess Flagler won’t be the cozy little town of yesteryear.
You’ve made a decision and know it will be major headache!
Something this size is ridiculous for that location but everyone complaining has probably not been to Board meetings about this in the past. Too late, this will start an avalanche of others wanting the same thing and if they don’t get the same accommodations will sue the town. There’s a shut down dilapidated motel south of 100 on A1A looking for an owner, imagine what can be built there now with a beach right across the street.
Flagler Beach Resident says
“Vague” or “vetted,” which is it commissioners. What isn’t vague is that y’all are letting Flager Beach down. You are selling it out.
I grew up in Ft. Lauderdale, and you can say all you want about the beach here, but it’s just not as nice as south Florida, where the water is crystal clear and warm. You can be out in 50′ of water, still see the shoreline and the bottom of the ocean. But, Flagler Beach is special and that is because it is a small, beach town. Probably one of the last, if not the last. To sell it out is unconscionable, hence done by commissioners who are voted in by residents and then disregard residents’ wishes. South Florida’s beaches, roads and highways are packed to the gills. Go ahead, go there and try to get across town. This is what you want? This is what developers are doing here, and the commission will let them stating what a wonderful thing they are doing. Same old story, no one learns from the history of Florida. Developers always win, convincing those in power what a wonderful idea it is to develop, take the cash and run elsewhere, leaving residents with the overwhelming results.
Seriously, you think this will lower your taxes? Uh, no.
Today we drove through town, and from the south end to the north end of A1A. It’s an ordinary Tuesday, and not a holiday, no one in the water and not a damned place to park. If we did not have a house in town, we would not have a place to park on an ordinary weekday. More and more development is going on out west, and they are all going to go to the beach, and fill the ICW with boats racing each other and the county, and the cities of Flagler Beach and Palm Coast just keep sucking up to the developers.
Florida is probably the most plundered state in the USA.