Palm Coast is not pursuing the annexation of Veranda Bay, the 335-home development formerly known as The Gardens on John Anderson Highway, nor would it pursue an annexation: that would be the land owner’s prerogative. And in veranda Bay’s case, the developer has not filed any kind of formal document suggesting he’d want to annex into Palm Coast.
“We never received a petition from them,” said Jason DeLorenzo, the chief of staff in the Palm Coast city administration. There’s been exploratory conversations, but even those go back a long way. “They have asked us if we would accept the petition. They don’t have to ask us, they can just petition, but they wanted to get our feelings on it.” On the other hand, “it is categorically not true that we asked them or pursued annexation. They came to us, because that’s how annexation works. You don’t ask someone to annex. They petition for annexation.”
Veranda Bay asked Flagler Beach government for what amounts to a letter of invitation for eventual annexation, a letter the commission placed in the record last week and sent Veranda Bay’s Ken Belshe on Friday. Mayor Suzie Johnston read the letter after the commission voted 5-0 to change its annexation rules by removing a 5 percent cap on the size of land, relative to the city’s existing land mass, that could be annexed in any calendar year. The change was intended specifically to allow for the annexation of Veranda Bay, and as a pre-emptive move against Palm Coast. (See: “Veranda Bay Courtship: Flagler Beach Swiftly Changes Its Annexation Rule In Defensive Move Against Palm Coast.”)
Flagler Beach commissioners were under the impression that Palm Coast and Veranda Bay were in intense talks to annex. “Palm Coast is very aggressively pursuing annexing in every single piece of land they can possibly touch,” Commission Chairman Eric Cooley had said, speaking in general. “One example is: Veranda Bay is in talks with Palm Coast. They’re in process, it’s all public info, just about being annexed into that city, and part of the plan of being annexed into Palm Coast involves like three or four high-rises, high-density housing, and all the things that Palm Coast is known to do. And that’s just going into the deal.”
Cooley on Tuesday said he was going on information he got from Veranda Bay, based on a conversation he’d had with Belshe some two months ago, as most city commissioners have been having those conversations to lay the groundwork for a possible annexation. Commissioner Rick Belhumeur initiated the annexation rule change in December for the same reason.
To the extent that there’s been annexation discussions with Palm Coast, DeLorenzo said, those conve4rsations focused on legalities such as how a utility agreement dating back two decades, settling what was then called the “water wars” between local governments–namely, Palm Coast and the county–would affect a potential annexation. The settlement agreement places the Veranda Bay expanse in Flagler Beach’s water and sewer sphere–and Flagler Beach has committed to providing utilities to the new development. The city is also very keen to see the development as the destination for Flagler Beach’s recycled, or “reuse,” water from its utility. That effluent right now dumps into the Intracoastal Waterway. The city is under state mandate to stop that, and find a more salutary destination for its reuse water, by later this decade.
The fact that Flagler Beach would provide utilities does not legally preclude annexation into Palm Coast: Palm Coast could enter into a pre-annexation agreement with Veranda Bay that leaves utilities to Flagler Beach, yet annexes the land into Palm Coast. But that’s what Flagler Beach is hoping to prevent, because the city doesn’t want Palm Coast building standards on its doorstep. As Flagler Beach commissioners see it, Palm Coast favors development at greater intensity.
Limiting intensity aside, Flagler Beach’s motivation to annex Veranda Bay is two-fold: to get those utility accounts, which will generate significant revenue, and to get the property tax base revenue. “It’s going to get built over there anyway, whoever annexes or doesn’t,” Belhumeur said. “Whether they stay with the county or annex into Palm Coast, it’s going to get built over there. And how long have we been looking for revenue sources? This can be a very good revenue source and help keep our residents’ property taxes from growing exponentially. So that’s a big part of this as well.”
Bottom line: while Palm Coast would not reject a petition for annexation, it is Flagler Beach that is actively, eagerly pursuing Veranda Bay to annex into the city, and it is doing so on its own, with Veranda Bay, rather than in a race against Palm Coast.