The Gardens, the big development proposed to go up on the two sides of John Anderson Highway, and that’s galvanized strenuous opposition from residents in Flagler Beach and south of the development zone, cleared key hurdles Tuesday as two regulatory steps won the Flagler County Planning Board’s near-unanimous recommendations. The proposal goes before the county commission next, possibly in September.
The planning board voted 5-1 to recommend a modification to the development’s so-called Planned Unit Development, a type of development that follows strict guidelines negotiated with county planners, and 6-0 to recommend the development’s preliminary plat for 335 lots to be developed over six phases. The lone dissenting voice in the first vote was that of Mike Goodman. Otherwise, and with minor questions, board members approved of the development with few questions during a planning board session that stretched more than three hours.
The planning board’s recommendations, which reflect the county administration’s, are not binding, though they carry weight, especially with a county commission that has tended to be less assertive–less challenging of administrative recommendations–than it was a few years ago. The development proposal’s various recalibrations have also significantly diminished points of contention from the visceral to the technical. The proposal in essence changed from megadevelopment all but inviting public opposition to a more limited development with few regulatory vulnerabilities.
The Gardens submitted a preliminary plat application for its Planned Unit Development of 335 lots in six phases over 824 acres straddling John Anderson Highway, south of State Road 100. The developer is “entitled” to up to 453 residential homes and apartments. The county had approved the 453-unit proposal in 2006 when Bobby Ginn owned the property, with up to 150 of those units as apartments or multi-family dwellings.
The Gardens last year had proposed a development almost 10 times larger but retracted it in the face of deep public opposition, returning with the proposal that generally fit the previous Ginn parameters. That proposal also calls for an 18-hole golf course (the course is required, though it won’t be developed in the current phase), 230,000 square feet of commercial, retail and office space (“that portion of the property is not being planned out right now, that’s probably for the future,” Michael Chiumento III, The Gardens’ attorney, said), a fire station, a public boat ramp and 1,000 acres designated for conservation–already given to the county.
More development would go up on the east side of John Anderson than in the 2006 proposal. A key difference with the 2005-06 proposal: the older proposal called for the development to have its own water and sewer plant. No longer. “We now have Flagler Beach agreeing to provide those services within our service area,” Adam Mengel, the county’s planning director, said. “You have Flagler Beach committed to providing that infrastructure.”
Jane Mealy, who chairs the Flagler Beach city commission, clarified to the planning board: “I want to make it clear: we can provide utilities with the 353 homes. If there is a phase two or a phase three, we’re not so sure. So I want to make sure that everybody understands that.” She said the city is putting in additional wells, “but they’re only to spread out the use of the wells we currently have.” It was a much more measured assessment of an issue that last week had caused another city commission member, Ken Bryan–who was in the audience at the planning board meeting–to raise bitter objections to the way the city administration had conveyed its readiness to provide utilities to the development.
Chiumento presented the proposal as closely reflecting the one the county had already approved. He refuted the claim that the PUD had “expired.” The Phase 1 development will consist of the first 355 residential units. “There’s nothing inconsistent” with the original PUD, he said. Since there isn’t, he said, the planning board had no choice but to approve the site-plan application. “There’s nothing in the PUD that says you have to have a certain number of units on the east side, and a certain number on the west side,” he said. Potentially, he said, the development could have all 453 units on one side.
Robin Polletta and Sallee Arnoff, representing Preserve Flagler Beach and Bulow Creek, a group established to oppose The Gardens in its various forms since last year, said they are not disputing the developer’s right to build, but rather that the “developer should submit a new PUD application, because several of their proposed design elements contravene the original PUD in terms of road egress, density and proposed number and location of residential lots,” among other reasons. They argued that the original application called for 220 units on the east side of John Anderson. (See their full presentation here.)
“When Mr. Chiumento made an emphatic statement about the difference in words and terminology, we also feel the same way,” Polletta said, “that the 2005 PUD gave entitlements and those entitlements apply. If you’re going to be using the 2005 PUD, the entitlements are what are there, regardless of the other rhetoric that you heard earlier this evening.” For instance, the acreage donated to the county for conservation to get the 2005 OUD approved was given by Ginn, “way before the current has it. So what the current owner has and bought were the entitlements from the 2005 PUD,” spreading the development over more than 800 acres. Today, she said, the developer wants to concentrate its development over 271 acres.
The 2006 plan had no direct access to John Anderson, compared to two access points in the current plan, while the current plan clashes with county updates to the comprehensive plan (the county’s blueprint for development) since 2006. In sum, the Preserve group argued, even the county attorney’s office found the current PUD amendments to deviate “too greatly” from the 2005 version.
Under the 2005 PUD they can play along with the old rules. “If they have to go through the new PUD process, they have to comply with current standards,” Polletta said. “Again, we are not anti development. But we want to strongly emphasize that we feel that Palm Coast Intracoastal LLC has the time and expertise to create a community that is compliant with current standards and that will be a welcome addition to Flagler Beach and Flagler County, and we would welcome that. But we want them to go through a new PUD process.” (Chiumento said certain changes to the PUD were permissible without requiring a new application.)
Mark Langello, a member of the planning board, sniffed to the chairman that he’d heard the same point five times, and asked that more rigorous time limits be enforced.
There was a subplot to Tuesday’s meeting: The group had also filed a notice of appeal of Mengel’s determination that the application could move forward from the county’s Technical Review Committee to the planning board. The request to stay the process was denied by Kate Stangle, the county’s special counsel, in the sense that the planning board meeting itself could not have been delayed through that process. “From a procedural perspective, our view is the notice of appeal is not applicable, because it was not a decision made by Mr. Mengle,” but by the TRC as a whole, Stangle said–a determination that appeared to hinge on semantics rather than on the essence of the appeal’s argument.
John Tanner, the attorney for the Preserve Flagler Beach group, argued that the Technical Review process had not been completed appropriately. That process is what the group was appealing. Mengle said it was the applican’s decision–The Gardens’ decision–to go forward to the planning board.
The planning board decided to evaluate whether the appeal was valid. Tanner argued his points. Chiumento counter-argued, seeing the appeal as a delaying tactic. “It’s quite obvious what we’re doing here when the appeal is filed the day before” the planning board meeting, Chiumento said, when “the county has been working with Mr. Tanner for a good six months.” And the board denied the appeal.
Jeff Lindstrom “Evidently, attorneys are granted unlimited time, whereas citizens who live here are given very little time. I watched from back there. You’ve all made up your decisions already. That’s not fair. You guys live here too. We live here. Do you have any idea the size of the risk-reward to a project of this magnitude? You know that it could put Flagler on the map. It’s wonderful. Good, thoughtful development is wonderful for business. I’m all over that. It also has a potential to destroy the area. It’s that large. I’m not saying it will. I’m not anxious to be sued. I’m saying as a potential. So while you’re falling asleep, rolling your eyes, aying back in your chair, reading, while concerned citizens, who have spent hundreds of hours researching this and giving you an excellent presentation, get chopped off at the knees. But the attorneys can come up at will. To me listening to an attorney is like watching paint dry, for God’s sakes. I know what goes on here. But I don;t like to see everybody that looks like they’ve already made their determination.”
Many others spoke of flooding concerns, among them Barbara Revels, the former county commissioner, and Ken Bryan, the Flagler Beach city commissioner. Revels is a member of the Preserve Flagler Beach board of directors. Bryan previously served on the board. They spoke of what the development will have to do to prevent flooding on its own units–causing water to shift to existing homeowners’ properties. Other speakers raised traffic concerns on John Anderson. One speaker described the developer as “a class act.”
Chiumento said the concerns were “legitimate” but “technical,” to be addressed at future steps of the development. The developer’s traffic engineer said there would be improvements on John Anderson Highway, such as the addition of turn lanes.
After the meeting, Arnoff said the Preserve Flagler Beach group would concentrate its next efforts in preparation for the proposal’s discussion before the county commission in September. “The fat lady hasn’t sung yet,” she said.
Two planning board members disclosed that they had spoken with the developer before the hearing.
E, ROBOT says
These guys forget they work for us, not the developers.
I agree. Let’s remember their names and vote them out!
Wrong, they work you the big money they can get.
Joe Brito says
The writer did a great job of reporting on the issues. Any development that is built there should not be more intense than the original approved plan. Any politician that supports a more intense development or greases the skids for this development to move forward will be challenged at the next election.
I would rather see owner occupied housing (Condo) being built rather than apartments.
I agree. Let’s remember their names and vote them out! I do not want to see condos or apartments.
Joe Brito says
I don’t want to see it developed either, but you can’t stop a project that is already approved. The best you can do is require them to pay for and build their own infrastructure.
elizabeth cutler says
The idea of putting such a high density area at sea level and in this flood plain seems completely unreasonable. The strain on the acquifier for both water and sewage cannot be underestimated. The effect on the road traffic is not addressed at all. We have seen many homes flooded during the last two hurricanes, and this is like pouring gas on a fire. This development does not withstand any scrutiny and it is astonishing to me that it is going forward with such little investigation.
Jane Gentile-Youd says
Hats off to Roberta, Sally, and the Flagler Beach officials trying to preserve our environment and prevent a future catastrophe – whether flooding or contaminated or insufficient water and/or sewer systems ( Plantation Bay Utility is great example of years of neglect and corruption with regard to providing palatable drinking water and safe sewer system).
I hope all FlaglerLive readers consider sending e-mails to all 5 Flagler County Commissioners NOW and get them ready……
CB from PC says
The golf course should be required completion prior to any homes being built.
Florida developers are notorious for building the cost of such amenities into the property sale, and then walking away, while sticking it to the homeowners.
Joe Brito says
At the very least they should post bonds at 125% of the cost.
Concerned Citizen says
Of course it was unanimous. That’s what happens when people are bought.
Regardless of what opposition there was this project was forced down our throats because money has once again changed hands. A project this big could not be allowed to fail. So the developer had to shell out money. When it goes to the county commision it will be another “unanimous vote” None of our BOCC or our useless “county attorney” will stand up to it. And I’m sure that money has been invested on that level.
If I sound bitter I am. None of our county representatives represent us ethically anymore. They automatically side with builders and special interests. And are insistent on development with no thought to infra structure. Or traffic planning. Has any thought been given to how traffic will be affected in that area? I bet not.
Once again The Gardens will be another reason for us to vote out incumbents. We need new people who don’t “owe favors”. And that will represent us ethically and morally.
I intend to do my part. Will you?
Frank Clair says
After reading about this debacle I shall vote against most incumbents in all future elections.
Nan GT says
Unfortunate Planning Board decision
Willy Boy says
Progress has always meant less wetlands and more asphalt and concrete. Drain that swamp and grow the tax base. Go Bulldogs!
“Two planning board members disclosed that they had spoken with the developer before the hearing. “
Who ? What did they talk about ? Was there a “Quid pro quo” ? Did they violate the Sunshine law ?
I was surprised to hear Barbara Revels, voicing displeasure about the project considering her long history of building in the Hammock and her part in the Sheriff’s Operations center.
Once again a lot of Flagler mysteries.
john stove says
Traffic Issues are in fact being looked at as noted in the article and that dedicated turn lanes are being added to the plan. They will also have to complete a traffic demand and load study as part of that….so check that box.
Flagler Beach has stated that they can extend water and sewer to this Phase only of the proposed development which indicates that they have done their due diligence and determined that the extra demand for potable water and the extra load for sewer treatment has been calculated and can be safely handled by the existing infrastructure…..so check that box.
As for flooding, it is illegal to discharge the surface water from one property onto another so that will have to divert water via, swales, culverts and/or drains to either wetland areas or the ICW…..so check that box.
With all the legalities, county,state codes, and FEMA Flood Zone requirements, do you really think the developer hasnt done his due diligence?
Not liking something for the sake of just not liking something isn’t realistic.
I would caution all, make insure they stay with in the zoning codes. In my opinion, the city of Palm Coast does not! I know this is not in the city of PC. I have an issue with water run off onto my property because the construction next to me was approved, and it does not meet city code as written.
Jane Gentile-Youd says
TO John Stove With all due respect sir do you still believe in Santa Claus and the Fairy Godmother?
tom dooley says
sorry but fb really has no say so in this matter now (except utilities) since fb refused to annex a long time ago.it’s up to the county now and fb better hope that pc doesn’t annex this place. pc would love to have that place. it’s going in so why waste your money on “loser” lawyers they will only take your money. “concerned citizen” if your so “concerned” why don’t you “stand up and be counted”? instead of hiding behind a phony name as usual? tired of seeing you whine. i’m all for it. more revenue for fb. the hell with the environment keep driving your cars and flying around in airplanes; so shut up about the environment.
John Anderson Hwy Resident says
This project has been secretly discussed & approved outside of the public knowledge from the beginning. This happened with the Seaside Landings/Bulow Shores development & will also happen with the Old Kings South development that is in the works now, along with the developments on Colbert, Roberts Rd and the RT100 Condos.
John Anderson Hwy, Walter Boardman, HighBridge, Old Dixie Hwy & Old Kings will ALL be & have already been affected with the residential & commercial traffic & it will only get worse as the building increases in this area. Increased traffic brings noise, trash, and wear & tear on our already narrow, fragile roads. I wonder if Volusia County is aware of the effects this will have on their portion….? And how will all these extra hundreds/thousands of people evacuate to safety with these limited roads?
This makes me sick & I can not wrap my head around how greedy & seedy these county & city officials think that this is ‘good future development’. They just see the $money & ‘oh well, it will be someone’s else’s problem after I’m gone’.
Let’ just hope that the county ‘Comm-ASS-ioners’ will have some common sense to not vote for the The Gardens. Obviously the Technical Review Committee AND the Planning Board have their heads up their you-know-what. It’s obvious that nobody cares about the future of this area anymore.