The Flagler Beach City Commission Wednesday evening cleared the way for a 39-unit, two-building apartment complex on 3.2 acres between Leslie and Joyce streets, off of John Anderson Highway and just south of State Road 100. The property is owned by Bunnell-based Alt Homes and Terry McNitt of Flagler Beach.
The 4-1 vote followed insistance from commissioners that the development’s recreational amenities be more enhanced as such. Commissioners Jane Mealy, Rick Belhumeur, James Sherman and Scott Spradley voted for it. Commission Chairman Eric Cooley voted against.
The complex, called Legacy Pointe, will add to a growing but still limited stock of apartments in the Flagler Beach-Palm Coast area, where one-bedroom apartments are going for $1,800 a month–if they are available: most apartment complexes have waiting lists. The development’s representative did not offer up a range of rental prices ahead, saying the developer is waiting to see how a much larger apartment complex coming to Roberts Road will play out. But affordability will be a priority.
“In the comprehensive plan in the housing element, it speaks about diversifying the housing stock,” Flagler Beach Planner Larry Torino told the commission. “This development is in concert with that, being multifamily.” The area is zoned general commercial, which allows for apartments.
The northernmost building would have 27 apartments, the smaller building to the south would have 12 apartments. The entrance would be from Leslie Street at the south end. An emergency access point at the north end, off of Joyce Street, would also be used by sanitation trucks. The city required the developer to add a second fire hydrant.
A plastic fence will divide the complex from the single-family homes immediately to the east of the property. The complex will have 79 parking spaces and 10 bike racks, two fountains, with an existing 1-acre borrow pit will be used for a retention standpoint and “recreation.”
“I can tell you on my own review of this development, I generated some 19 comments, each one of those has been addressed,” Torino said. The consulting engineer generated 14 comments as well, all of them addressed. For example, the sidewalk in the development was enlarged. Some architectural concerns were addressed, for example with the addition of windows
Trees are being removed–totaling 800 inches in diameter, as Torino described it, or roughly 60 trees. The developer will replant over 60 trees. Commissioner Jane Mealy wanted to ensure that “they’re not clear-cutting trees” (a dangerous phrase to use these days with developers: Ken Bryan, a former city commissioner, is still battling a defamation lawsuit by a developer for having allegedly used the phrase in a public meeting before he was elected commissioner.)
As for drainage, a recurring issue in that area, Torino described it as “the most sophisticated stormwater drainage system I’ve seen.” He said “it’s more than adequate to satisfy the 25-year, 50-year and 100-year storm levels.” (Whether it is enough to satisfy the kind of apocalyptic storms New England experienced last week or Ft. Lauderdale did in April is another story.)
The development has not drawn the standard opposition that usually accompanies the siting of apartment complexes anywhere near single-family residential developments. But it did draw criticism from commissioners in limited regards: the claim that the apartment complex will provide recreation, either by calling a retention pond recreational or using a sidewalk as a walking path, and the continuance of Joyce Street as an unpaved dirt road, though the latter criticism can’t be blamed on the developer. It’s a city issue.
The pond is about the size of a football field and averages 35 yards in width. There’s an area for kayaks and paddleboards, if the developer chooses to provide that, Torino said.
Flagler Beach regulations require developments of a certain size, including legacy Pointe, to devote space to recreation. Commissioners Jane Mealy and Eric Cooley, in a rare instance of paddling the same kayak in the same direction, thought calling a retention pond “recreation” a stretch, even though it could be used for fishing or paddling (though it isn’t every day, or every year, that you see locals kayaking in retention ponds.) Nevertheless, in Torino’s opinion as a planner, the pond meets the threshold.
Mealy was also critical of the sidewalk pretense as exercise: “For you to put a sidewalk in and call it a walking path, I don’t consider that adding recreation,” she told a representative of the developer. The representative said there’d been no plans for a loop-around walking path initially, nor benches. Now there would be both.
“You don’t see people walking and exercising on the sidewalks of New York City or Queens or Brooklyn?” Torino asked Mealy, referring to her former home. “A sidewalk isn’t just to walk on. A sidewalk serves a multipurpose, there could be children out there on tricycles, there could be people out there that are powerwalking.” But Mealy assured him she was not interested in holding the project up, either. Drew Smith, the city attorney, proposed “amenitizing” the sidewalk and the pond to make them look more like recreational amenities.
Mealy suggested a playground, but the developer’s representative did not embrace that idea. Instead, the development was approved on condition that the recreational areas be clearly delineate as “intended for and used as recreational areas,” in Smith’s words.
The development will generate an average of 259 additional car trips per day on surrounding roads, but the city is purposefully discouraging the use of Joyce Street.
Joyce Street–a dirt road in that stretch–will be improved as part of the development, reinforcing its base with six-inch-thick lime rock six inches of dirt. But it will remain a dirt road. “The idea here is to prepare the road to be able to accept emergency vehicles and to dissuade the public from using it as an ingress and egress into the development,” Lee Richards, a city engineer, said. That too raised concerns about drainage, which would be addressed with swales.
“So why are we trying to keep everybody stay on Leslie Street as opposed to using Joyce Street at all?” Commissioner Rick Belhumeur asked. “Because we have people in that existing apartment complex that are typically upper age folks, many of which don’t have vehicles and have to walk and up and down Leslie street all the time.” Torino’s answer: “I call Joyce Street an alley on steroids” as he requested that the developer should be compelled to maintain the street “for a period of time.”
“I personally don’t agree with the rationale of keeping a dirt road to discourage people from using a public road,” Commission Chairman Eric Cooley said. “To me that just does not sound like sound engineering or sound planning. If you have a population going to an area that requires a road to get to it and that population generates a lot of daily trips., then you build the road to accommodate the traffic the road is going to get. You don’t unbuild the road and hope people don’t use it.”
Some commissioners also favor having a sidewalk put in, accessing the development. But that’s not a requirement the city can impose on the developer. “The city can put a sidewalk there if the city wants to put a sidewalk there,” Smith said. “Can the city compel the developer to put a sidewalk there? Not as an off-site improvement unless you’re going to compensate them.”
A representative of Alt Homes addressed the commission about the development’s limitations. “When we started looking at this, we really wanted to bring something that was of beautiful quality in an affordable state,” she said. “When you have 39 units in a tight little spot, it gets financially very difficult to start adding the grand amenities, if you will, for lack of better term, with like the glorious swimming pools and the club houses. Ideally, we would love to do that, but developmentally and financially it doesn’t fit the bill unless we start raising the price of the rent and that’s not what we want to do.”
The proposal drew no public comment.