Bob Million has been trying to build a 240-boat dry-dock storage facility next to Hammock Hardware on State Road A1A for over two years. His project, called Hammock Harbour, has had the backing of the County Commission, but not the Hammock Community Association or the courts. They twice thwarted Million’s and the county’s contention that the immense, warehouse-like building he’s planning don’t clash with the Scenic A1A overlay district.
Million, an assiduous lobbyist behind the scenes, now appears close to getting his way. The 57,000 square-foot facility he’s proposing–6,000 square feet larger than the Sheriff’s Operations Center going up in Bunnell, and 2,000 square feet larger than the White House–could not win approval as a warehouse, since warehouses are not allowed in the scenic district. But it could as a marina.
And so it will be. On Monday, the Flagler County Commission will hold the first hearing of the amended ordinance that will include the new definition of marinas and the permitted construction of marinas in the district, if permitted as special exceptions. As such, a project would have to go through the regulatory process, its site plan having to win commission approval. Absent a surprise, the commission is expected to adopt the change, and in turn potentially open the way for the further large-scale commercialization of the Scenic A1A Corridor.
Earlier this summer the planning board, with one dissent, approved adding marinas as an accepted use in the scenic overlay. It did not, however, define “marinas.” That took place at its September meeting. The board approved a three-tiered definition of marinas, one of which would fit the plan devised by Million for the boat-storage facility.
The rewriting of the ordinance, in sum, is all but specifically designed to accommodate Million’s project.
Million disagrees. “The proposed amendment does not create a new land use, it further defines marina use previously permitted in Flagler County,” he wrote commissioners.
For all the county’s backward-bending to accommodate Million, he is still dissatisfied with the result. He contends the proposed amendment still fails to meet certain criteria, such as differentiating between “marina” and “boat yard” or specifying parking regulations. He sent in a list of recommended changes to the ordinance.
Million remains critical of the process. “Creating a code amendment outside of a workshop format results in debating proposed code amendment within 3-minute soundbites in a public hearing without opportunity for rebuttal or fact check,” he wrote commissioners. And in a statement explicitly contemptuous of public input, he added: “Public testimony is confusing and leads to an emotional decision.”
The statement is a not-too subtle criticism of the Hammock Community Association, Million’s chief obstacle. Association members are expected to be at Monday’s commission meeting in substantial numbers.
Like Million, the association submitted a set of its own recommendations to be added to the proposed ordinance amendment. None were added when the planning board discussed them, saying they belonged more properly to a different step in the process: when a site plan is submitted for a specific project, then they could be considered. But Dennis Clark, a member of the association, says that’s a way to prevent standard regulations, leaving actual site plans vulnerable to hot-and-miss propositions.
Among the recommended amendments: limit building footprint to 30,000 square feet (the Hammock Publix, for instance, is just below that), more specific parking requirements, limits on above-ground gas storage tanks and other fueling rules, , limiting wet boat slips to a protective cove (impossible in the area of Millipon’s project), and many other regulations addressing environmental matters and industrial-equipment issues.
“Marinas are not lining up to be allowed in Flagler County,” says Dennis Clark, a member of the Hammock Community Association. “A small marina like the one in Marineland would probably not be a problem, but no marina would want to be located on such a narrow strip of the ICW where there is no speed limit and large wakes prevent any kind of boat docks.” (The ICW is the Intracoastal Waterway.) Clark has no illusions and hopes the commission will have no illusions, either: “This is an industrial operation being shoehorned into a so-called ‘Marina’ definition so that one builder can construct and operate this monstrosity in our beautiful Hammock. It does not belong in C-2 zoning and especially not in the [scenic overlay], next to residential districts.”
Walter Fufidio was Flagler County’s prior Director of Planning. Thad Crowe was a member of the county planning board and previously a planning director in three other counties. Both were among the authors of the Scenic Corridor Overlay. Both, Clark said, “agree that dry stacked storage is very similar to commercial warehousing, which is prohibited in the SCO along with boat repairs and sales.” The storage facility will be using a forklift potentially running from dawn past dusk.
The one planning board member who voted against the addition of marinas to the overlay district earlier this summer was Mike Goodman, owner of Captains BBQ. He was not at the September planning board meeting but wrote a letter to the members of the board to note that “we are on the right track with the tiered approach because it recognizes that marinas are not one size fits all.” But he cautioned against sending the amendment on to the county commission, finding it premature.
“I am mostly concerned about the criteria for siting marinas, especially Tier 2 and 3 marinas to ensure they are compatible with surrounding uses,” Goodman wrote. Tier 2 marinas are the kind of non-commercial docks you might find at waterside restaurants, where boaters can dock to spend time at the restaurant or entertainment venue. Tier 3 are the sort of commercial enterprises Million is planning. Goodman continued: “I also think it would be irresponsible to adopt any revision to the code allowing dry boat storage without a thorough review and consideration of the standard fire code and additional requirements that may be needed to address this significant risk.” Current language in the code about marinas, he said, does not protect surrounding residential properties and marina uses may be not compatible with them.
“The proposed revision is silent on too many issues to safely allow marinas,” Goodman wrote.