Green belts as originally defined are buffer zones between between town and country. They’re intended as permanently green, open areas to prevent urban sprawl. But their permanence is precarious. Cities grow sometimes at the expense of their green belts. Palm Coast, a city of 100,000 and the 18th-fastest growing city in the nation, is not an exception.
The Palm Coast City Council last week approved rezoning 42 acres of greenbelt-designated land to make room for a 180-home single-family residential development that will expand the built-out footprint of Seminole Woods.
“Not that it is unprecedented, but it’s unusual,” Palm Coast Mayor David Alfin said of the rezoning, which may have hinged on the developer showing that the land had no reason to maintain its greenbelt designation. To do that, the developer’s attorney, Jay Livingston, said the land was previously mis-identified as high quality wetlands, but the environmental study showing that it isn’t a high-quality wetland was not included in the council’s materials. It is available at the city upon request.
The attorney–an avid reader who knows his Orwell–also submitted somewhat of an Orwellian argument: replacing the greenbelt designation with 180 houses will prevent sprawl. The attorney argued that the development will be “infill.” The vast swath of land to the north and west of the proposed development is all scrub, though Palm Coast’s urban landscape is beyond that. (City policy reads: “To promote compact and contiguous development and to discourage urban sprawl, the Area shall be designated Mixed Use, Greenbelt, and Conservation on the City’s [Future Land Use] Map.”
The property will be developed by SG Flagler, a subsidiary of Seagate Homes. It parallels Seattle Trail to the south, with a canal–Seven Oaks Waterway–demarcating the two sides, and Seaserpent Trail to the southwest. It butts up to Seminole Woods Boulevard to the west, and is some distance from Seven Wonder Trail to the east.
The lots would be 50 by 120 feet, with four homes per acre. The subdivision would have its own stormwater system, its internal sidewalks and amenity center. The land is platted for 134 homes.
The original plan was to build apartments or town homes there. When the developer met with existing neighbors, as required by city policy, residents were opposed to any type of apartment development. So the developer changed the plan to 200 single family homes. The city’s planning board found that volume too high, and requested it lowered to 180. The developer complied.
“This property was placed in Greenbelt due to the fact that we thought that was a large interconnected wetland system,” Deputy Chief Development Officer Ray Tyner said. “This property is unique also that when ITT was developing Palm Coast in the early 70s, early 80s, this lot was actually platted for single family homes. The land is “an isolated not a high-quality” wetlands system, he said. There is no floodplain on the property, according to Jordan Myers, the city’s stormwater operations manager.
“The designation is really inappropriate for this site,” Livingston said. “Greenbelt is kind of what it implies. It’s intended to be kind of a band that surrounds your urban service area, where you have that separation between the urban development and the rural development.” The designation is designed for rural areas around the city’s perimeter, he said, “which obviously this site is not on the perimeter, it’s in the middle of the Seminole Woods area of Palm Coast. And it’s really designed to define urban form and prevent sprawl.”
Still, many areas of Palm Coast, as in the W Section, the P Section, the Section, the L Section and Seminole Woods all have numerous swaths of greenbelt that ribbon through neighborhoods rather than delimit them. (See the map here.)
But the city also has an unhappy history when it uses the greenbelt designation to limit development. ICI homes sued the city after the council rezoned an area of Cypress Knoll to greenbelt, in 2004. The two sides settled in 2012, enabling ICI to build 58 homes on 37 acres–much less than what the council is approving in this case.
Keeping the greenbelt designation would not have disallowed development. But density would have been limited to one house per acre. The city could have chosen to keep the zoning designation as Estate 1, which would have allowed horses on the property, for example. But that would “create an incompatible land use pattern,” according to Livingston–a subjective statement that city planners are not contradicting in their analysis.
The greenbelt designation, Livingston said, “is intended to prevent urban sprawl which, again, what we’re trying to do here is to create an infill site which would be directly in support of that underlying policy in your comp plan–to prevent urban sprawl.” It’s left unclear how a 180-home development would be preventing sprawl.
Alfin was curious about the “mislabeling” of greenbelt property, asking if this was the first such instance. Tyner said there may have been “scattered” cases like it, especially when the city inherited designations from the county.
The developers are responsible for producing the documentation that shows no environmental impacts, using their own experts. The document providing that evidence in this case was not included in the council members’ background. “When we have things like this, where there is an environmental study of this magnitude,” Council member Theresa Pontieri said, “it probably should be included in the packet for our benefit and for the public’s benefit.”
Luke Weiser, a Seminole Woods resident who said he represents 50 families there, lives 750 feet west of the planned development. He alone addressed the council when it took up the matter last Tuesday. “I challenge the fact that it is alleged that the wetland is not of high quality,” he said. “The alligators, the fish that came out of that canal last year and came down my street does not consider it a low quality wetland.” He also challenged the city’s claim that there was no opposition to the plan.
“It seems to me that what we have here is a lot of revisionist history,” the resident continued. “And what we also have is the ends justifying the means. We want to turn this from woodland into houses, so we’re going to say whatever we need to say on any particular occasion to make that happen. People in Seminole Woods do not like your plan and they do not want the [future land use map] changed and they do not want the woods torn down and they do not want the animals and the habitats that live there to be destroyed in the name of progress.”
The council will have to approve the rezoning in a second reading likely next week.
Well, let’s just keep hollering at Brazil to become “DEVELOPED” by destroying rain forest and do what we shall do regardless of the health of the planet. It’s us first, ain’t it?
Ann Williams says
Unconscionable decision by our Palm Coast City Council; the small amount of land set aside for a greenbelt needs to NOT be rezoned for residential or commercial use. This Council has already approved way to much development that is already causing gridlock all over Palm Coast; this unmitigated development is also putting our other infrastructure at risk as well. They should all hang their heads in shame for approving this rezoning.
Dennis C Rathsam says
STUFF EM IN ALVIN….Strikes again! This fool wont stop until this place is one giant parking lot. Wheres the adult in the City Hall?
Been There says
He’s a REAL ESTATE BROKER. This provides an opportunity for him to make money. Did he recuse himself from voting based on conflict of interest?
There seems to be a massive amount of residential homes being approved in PC. Am I correct in this assumption?
Also, I’d like to know if the mayor and city counselors who are also realtors get a cut of the sales?
Finally, I was told last year that the demographics was the reason why there isn’t a pediatric wing and L and D in our hospitals. Certainly with all of the new development we can’t expect that only retirees will be moving here. Is this demographic analysis still the same?
Ok I thought finally above but one final question. At what point will the development of residential stop? Can our infrastructure like roads, sewage treatment plant, schools support all of this?
Where can I find the answers?
The dude says
It is absolutely expected that only retirees will move here.
Otherwise the city and the county would spend money on things for the kids, like schools and stuff.
Otherwise the city and the county would try to encourage the growth of technology and manufacturing here (with all this open space), things that would attract and support middle class families.
The city and county are only interested in the ones with the fat retirements. Problem is, those fat retirements are dying off with the Boomers, Gen X and all that came after won’t have access to any of that.
Very short sighted. Glad we’re gone this summer. My earning power and my taxes will be going elsewhere where my child can get a decent education, and where she has things to do, real support, and a future.
The Dude abides. Do what is right for your Family now. I left 3 years ago ZERO Regret
Good luck to you and your Family
NO NO NO it can’t support all this and don’t forget the water. These people don’t care because they will be long gone when all the big problems start to surface.
It’s been a while but a hospital CEO in 2017 explained why there would be neither a maternity wing nor a trauma center locally just yet: https://flaglerlive.com/fhf-2017/
Here’s a recent graph of permitting activity in Palm Coast:
FL: No, there won’t be a maternity wing “…just yet” as long as DeSantis is governor. Maybe after.
Joe D says
I’m a bit confused…..how can a developer challenge a “high quality wetlands” designation report for the proposed area, without producing a new “updated” wetlands designation report?
Before making a PERMANENT rezoning change, I PERSONALLY would like to actually SEE that newly amended wetlands report, which was mentioned in the hearing as not included with the packet ( although mentioned as “available from the developer”).
I would THINK, that if a developer was placing so much sway on an amended report, I would ENSURE that the supporting document was included in the development application packet, if only to put aside any APPEARANCES of that report’s intensional CONCEALMENT!
that’s all we need more builders n workers from Orlando coming two work hear no local jobs and keep the cost high and remind us why people that live hear have two go two other states two work two pay for palmcoast
SO – 42 acres divided by 180 homes equals less than 1/4 acre per home and that’s not counting space needed for streets, utility structure, etc. Let’s see how many people we can pack in!!!! The alligators won’t mind – they’ll just come to sit in our front yards.
If this is the development I’m thinking of there will also be 11 retention ponds. But if you think about it, it is the same spacing as the rest of the f, r, w, c, b, l, ll etc sections of Palm Coast. Even the corner lots are smaller than a quarter acre, my corner lot is 125′ x 125′.
The article states that the lots will be 50′ x 120′ or 6,000 sf. Yes, well below 0.25 acres. So 180 lots at 6,000 SF each works out to 1,080000 SF or 24.23 acres. That leaves about 18 acres for roads, utilities and “green space”. Smaller lots with reduced setbacks and less lawn to mow are all a part of today’s society. Pretty soon those 80′ x 120′ lots are going to look like rural estates!
Why are we taking away our natural habitats that make Flagler wonderful for all when we already know that Palm Coast will obtain more free land from the government? The Mayor explained last year that Palm Coast would double it’s size for free. It seems greed is the main reason for stealing our natural environment for profit. Will Flagler still be desired by tourists in 10 years as we congest our roads and make it dangerous to cross the street to go to the beach? Growth does not necessarily mean taking from nature, it is just the way that has been the easiest method to make money. But this is stealing from our children. They will never enjoy the peacefulness the ocean intends to provide for visitors.
To say “The developers are responsible for producing the documentation that shows no environmental impacts, using their own experts. “ Is foolish and not learning from history.
Angela: Please pick another name, or add on an initial. I have posted here about vacation rentals and written an article here about the same topic using my name. Even though I agree with your post here, others may think it was me.
We will try to keep an eye out for the handle to avoid confusion. If we miss it, please let us know.
Land of no turn signals says says
Rubber stamp committee strikes again! Give yourselves another big raise you deserve it but before you do look up the term Greenbelt to see what it means.
Thanks for ruining palm coast council they are pieces of ships
Diane R says
I get nauseous every time I read about more development being greenlighted by what can only be considered a ‘bought and paid for’ planning and zoning board. As one reads the comments on each of these articles (and they seem to be coming fast and furious lately), NO ONE seems to want these developments. None of the actual residents, that is. How many of these developments has greedy Jay Livingstone helped push through? When will enough really be enough? Perhaps they are bucking to be the next Orlando, Jacksonville or even Miami, where the quality of life decreases exponentially with each house or apartment that is built. It is a damned shame that greed has ruined what was a lovely town, once upon a not so long time ago.
I think this is the key sentence.
“The developers are responsible for producing the documentation that shows no environmental impacts, using their own experts.”
Right. Their own “impartial” experts. Nope.
Celia Pugliese says
Wow you are right with : The developers are responsible for producing the documentation that shows no environmental impacts,” that is laughable like asking the fox to design the chicken coop proper location Only in Floridhu? Too bad because over greed they are ruining geographically gorgeous Florida!
A Concerned Observer says
Hay Alfn, here’s an exercise for you to practice when greedy developers and their even less reputable lawyers come around to destroy our quality of life for their personal wealth. Stand up straight, raise your chin up and just say “NO!”
We don’t care how they decipher our zoning or weasel-word their legal documents, just say “NO! We don’t care what their self centered money grubbing approach is, Just Say NO! They don’t care one iota what they leave behind when their irreputable damage is done, Just Say NO! We do not appreciate their rape, ruin and run attitude grounded solely in their financial gain, Just Say NO! Please take your Realtor Hat off and put on the one will guide you for the maintaining our little slice of heaven which brought us here to begin with. Just say “NO!” Practice it with me Sir; “NO”! “NO”! “NO”! If you can’t learn to say no, the voters will.
Miami North says
To discourage urban sprawl, we’re going to build more homes!
What an absolute JOKE
Our govt is run by a bunch of hypocrites and crooks. They pass laws they say are for the environment but then knock down all our trees!!! That’s ok build away, nobody is going to buy because they can’t afford it.
Doreen Cuomo says
Sadly , I see house being built and sold at prices that are crazy ! So unf0rtunatly they probably will be bought
Katie Berry says
No person in this county or city is happy about this. Why are you doing this to our community? We are already seeing the effects of growth and again we need to fix our roads, schools and hire more people in certain departments BEFORE you bring in hundreds more cars and people! My family is in St Augustine and they are seeing negative effects from over growth in their departments and the roads are a huge problem. I understand now that these people approving these developments do not care at all about our community and it makes me sad to know that I was so excited about bring part of it years ago because now it’s like you don’t care about us! Neighbors, what can we do to fix this problem?
Katie Berry says
Oh and don’t forget what happens when the marker crashes and it will. Then, your left with empty homes that never sale and sit empty. I see this in the future with this overdevelopment. Let’s not forget flooding, the insurance rates are ridiculous and you know it will flood worse, the more you remove those woods! The woods are basically soaking up the flood waters today, it’s all we have and you are cutting it all down. Idiot’s!
This is utterly ridiculous with the sheer amount of building in Palm Coast.
Doublespeak is alive and well. It’s 1984…
Keep developing. It is sad I don’t see the deers, turkeys, ducks, fire flies, like I used to see. These animals and other animals are a part of the eco system. It is called the balance of nature. We call it progress. Why bother Mother Nature?
Bobcats rabbits fox coyotes black bear they were all there in late 80s and early 90s
Concerned Citizen says
Follow the money…
The Chimunto’s our various BOCC’s many of whom are Realtor’s or substantial property owners. And even our own Property Appraiser. It’s like a little mafia syndicate.
Wetlands and zoning don’t mean a thing when you are in position to interpret the law as you see fit.
It doesn’t seem logical that the people who want to develop the land get to conduct/supply the analysis stating that the land in question is not high quality wetlands. Furthermore, it is inexcusable that the documentation was not provided to council or made public. How do we request that it be made public? Is this something that Flagler live could facilitate and publish so that we can all have the supposed facts in front of us?
FlaglerLive, can you please help me find the answers to my original post?
Also, folks-we’ve GOT to remember to NOT vote for any of the council members and mayor in the next election!
Some answers were provided below your original comment. Sorry about the delay.
The Sour Kraut says
Maybe next election cycle I will run for office on a “no more explosive growth” platform. I can’t imagine doing worse for Palm Coast than those in office now.
Jay Tomm says
If anyone really bothered to make the public meetings of the PC council or the Flagler council in numbers, maybe these wouldn’t get approved. I have attended 2. Less then 15 residents showed up.
This is beyond awful news!!!
“The developers are responsible for producing the documentation that shows no environmental impacts, using their own experts.”
Fox Guarding the Hen House?
Only to be elected for city council or county commission tohose with a platform of NO REZONING, SPOT ZONING, SPECIAL EXCEPTION OR AMENDMENTS TO EXISTING ZONING. NO. Also we need new administrators…theyb are the ones that serve in a silver platter to the elected officials to just say yes most the times! We pay the six figures salaries and they actually work for the developers in our dime! Is obvious their interactions with developers or their lawyers even in front of our eyes on the council meetings and when we ask for FIOA of communications to be provided, they refuse violating the Florida Statute.
jeffery seib says
Speaking of Orwell, this is 1984 all over. The attorney for the developer, pals with the city staff whose responsibility it is to make this a city where we have greenbelts caved into his convoluted reasoning. Greenbelts may be to prevent sprawl, but it is not here. Rural, urban, the city council is running over everything. The designation of the wetlands as anything less than high quality is a joke. City staff knows this. This attorney came in with a plan to level what could have been, and was a beautiful, natural area. The city staff worked with him and his group to come up with this. When a developer comes in wanting a change what is the city getting for allowing this? More packed in Florida? More the character of Palm Coast turned into just another packed in Florida city. Why didn’t they say you can more homes on smaller lots, but you have to preserve 10-15 acres in the natural condition? With this group, all wetlands are in jeopardy.
Wetlands are crucial for biodiversity preservation and flood control. It is imperative we keep our wetlands/ greenery. I feel as though we are in a bad movie with greedy corporations putting money above what is right and destroying our home here on earth. Just in the P Section alone there are multiple houses/ duplexes un occupied. Does Palm Coast really need 180 more homes? What about all of the people who move out of out of PC and homes already built?
James Quinones says
Hey all next election remember…remember don’t vote them in again….especially the mayor. I voted for you now I see I made a mistake.
jeffery seib says
This is an example of city government at it’s worse. Six-figure income city staff members worked with this outfit for months at taxpayer expense to set this whole thing up. The property was zoned greenbelt, 0ne home per acre. The cities wetland analysis calls for only protecting what they call ‘high quality’ wetlands. They use a numerical rating system based on wetland attributes. A one- or two-point difference can mean the wetland does not qualify for any protection and can be drained and filled. A city technician conducts the wetland survey. Recently, the city decided a big property owner did not have to donate a park in exchange for more homes put in. Something stinks about the entire process. We look to the city council to direct the city manager to do something and what do we get? Silence.
Concerned Citizen says
Absolutely disgusting. So much for Greenbelt and Conservation Areas. Good ole boys club strikes again, profit over quality of life. Traffic over wildlife protection. Urban sprawl over dedicated preserved land. Unbelievably sad and appalled by this, but not surprised.
Concerned: Cougars have been spotted using the green path. My belief is that the developers, and those who profit from it, will ignore that.
Celia Pugliese says
Remember in 2024 we need change of elected one’s with a platform of No More Rezoning! And those to be elected need to other than bow to staff for doing a disgraceful work for the residents quality of life they need to fire some administrators proposing all these rezoning’s, spot zonings or special exceptions or amendments to the original zoning!. New Smyrna, Orlando and other counties and cities around us have stop development for many reasons in preserved wetlands, over traffic etc. No here in Palm Coast! https://www.wesh.com/article/new-smyrna-beach-development-flood-zones/42441798#:~:text=The%20unanimous%20vote%20stops%20any,during%20Hurricanes%20Ian%20and%20Nicole. https://www.fox35orlando.com/video/1206577 https://oviedocommunitynews.org/2023/01/18/city-pauses-development-to-study-historic-flooding/
And many more moratoriums around us in Florida!