Last month the Palm Coast planning board tabled until Wednesday a developer’s request to build an 80-foot apartment tower and add 432 apartments and housing units at the Harborside marina, next to Palm Coast Resort’s existing 72-apartment tower. (See: “Plan for a Massive Apartment Tower at Harborside Draws Opposition, Accusations and Delay.”)
The city administration had recommended against approval. It determined that the requested number of housing units would double the permitted amount. The developer disputed the conclusion, saying the increased density is more modest. The board asked the two sides to go back to the negotiating table and bring back the item to Wednesday’s meeting. They have. But the essential difference remains unresolved.
The city is agreeing to some increase in density, from what was proposed last month, and doing so only because it has had the time to crunch numbers it had not completed when the item went before the board last month. (A developer can request that an item be heard even before the administration’s review is completed.) But a big gap remains between what city planners are willing to recommend and what the developer wants.
Whether the planning board votes to recommend the project or to reject it, it’s heading to the Palm Coast City Council either way. The council will have the final say. But the planning board’s decision on Wednesday will carry considerable weight, as has what so far has been heavy public opposition to the developer’s plan. And it may not be the customary up or down vote to recommend or to reject, because this is a negotiated development deal between th city and the developer. So the planning board could well vote to approve the city administration’s version, even if it goes against the developer’s request. If it does, it’ll be an approving vote with a big caveat: the developer will be in the opposition.
It’ll still leave it to the council to sort out. When it does, the council will have the same choices. It can go with the developer’s request, it can stick with the city’s recommendations, or it can craft a new agreement. The bottom line is that the developer and the city are still at odds.
The public opposition to the developer’s plan has continued, including a four-page letter from a Palm Coast Resort resident that the city received only Friday, but was dated Sept. 19. The letter reads almost like a legal brief, if more lucidly and without jargon. One of the concerns it raised had not been voiced in that detail at the September meeting.
“With this increased density, residents, guests, patrons, visitors, employees and contractors of Legacy Vacation Resorts (72 units), the planned hotel (125 keys), the existing Marina (80 slips) the planned townhouses (30 units) the rental complex (200 units) and 146 Palm Coast Resort Blvd. (72 units) must all pass through single entrance at Palm Harbor Parkway and Club-House Drive,” John Mueller wrote. “(That is a total of 579 units, keys and slips.) That entrance has a concrete wall and deep water retention pond on one side and a dead-end marina entrance (and canal) on the other. In the event of a natural disaster or serious emergency drivers have no choice but to exit through that single entrance. No other vehicular entrance or exits are available today. That may well be a safety issue, as you would know.”
The proposal before the planning board is to rezone 18 acres from a planned unit development to a master planned development. The proposed development would include a U-shaped apartment tower, a marina, townhouses and possibly a restaurant and a hotel. The developer’s representatives were hesitant to commit to a hotel when they discussed the project before the planning board last month. They’re not sure it’ll make money.
Whichever approach the developer takes would result in densities of between 25.5 (with a hotel) and 29 (without a hotel) housing units per acre. The developer wants the option of choosing one or the other. The developer–Jim Jacoby’s JDI Palm Coast–is not budging from that request. The city says that exceeds density rules. The city is willing to go a little more than 18 unites per acre (up from 15 when the city administration opposed the development in September), allowing for a total of either 310 or 273 housing units–122 to 159 fewer than what the developer wants.
But the city’s proposal is contingent on the developer accepting eight conditions, or “standards,” that would make the project compatible with its surroundings. “In staff’s professional opinion the applicant’s proposal of 25.5 to 28.9 units per acre is not compatible with neighboring properties, as required by several sections in the LDC,” the administration’s memo to the planning board states. LDC is the city’s Land Development Code.
The city’s approach is not winning over the developer.
The city’s eight conditions include building a sit-down restaurant of a minimum of 4,000 square feet and capacity for 75 patrons, a new ship’s store, keeping the marina open and within environmentally clean standards while reserving at least 25 percent of harborside-planning-board-221019
its boat slips for non-residents of the resort, maintain an existing public boat ramp, and building a sidewalk in certain areas and a Palm Coast entryway sign on the Intracoastal.
JDI’s response is largely a restatement of its request, making the city’s conditions conditional on its own interpretation of the numbers it is seeking. By doing so, it is negating the city’s approach and merely restating its own. Yes, its eight conditions say, we’ll do all you ask, but only if you approve our version of the number of units requested. The developer sees itself as merely adding 50 residential units, not more. It disputes the city’s larger numbers, because it calculates them differently. It is tying that number or its derivatives to the eight conditions.
The planning board last month was hoping that further negotiations at the administrative level would spare it a repeat of a lengthy and contentious meeting where, though civil, the public opposition to the plan was sharp and at times disbelieving, while the planning board’s own impressions of the developer’s request were not far off from those of the public. The four weeks since, and the supplemental material in the planning board’s already voluminous package of 135 pages, have not changed the premise.