Tall buildings aren’t non-existent in Flagler County and Palm Coast: Flagler Beach has the Aliki condominiums, rising past 170 feet on the ocean, Hammock Dunes has its Tuscany and Cambria condos, reaching nearly 150 feet, there’s Surf Club’s 98 footers on State Road A1A, approaching Marineland, and in Palm Coast proper there’s the Hilton Garden Inn, rising past 70 feet. But so far Palm Coast has managed to keep its residential zones limit at 35 feet.
That’s about to change.
The combination of an 11-year-old agreement between the developer and the County Commission and a state law Palm Coast had nothing to do with, combined with an annexation agreement it had everything to do with—but that wouldn’t have stopped the development even if it didn’t exist—will result in the resumption of a large project on 110 acres off Colbert Lane, going east toward the Intracoastal.
The development was once called Harbor View Marina. It will now be called Marina Del Palma. It will add up to 615 residential units, only 154 of them spread over single-family homes. Those homes may exceed Palm Coast’s current height limit and go up to 45 feet. The rest—461 units—will rise within towers (how many towers isn’t exactly clear) that will top off at 95 feet and each contain seven or eight stories, depending on your definition of a floor. There’ll also be some 46,000 square feet of non-residential uses, including commercial space and a marina (but no fast-food restaurants and gas stations).
Palm Coast residents come out in force to oppose most apartment buildings, even when those buildings are in the distant planning stage. But they also come out to oppose tall buildings. Residents neighboring the proposed development off Colbert, a dozen of whom addressed the Palm Coast City Council last week, aren’t happy. Much of the council isn’t happy, particularly Mayor Milissa Holland, who has used variously strong language to describe the towers, including “monstrosity” and “staggering.” The city administration isn’t happy, either. But city officials insist they had no choice.
The land was once in unincorporated Flagler County. In 2006 the County Commission approved what’s called the Planned Unit Development and it was due to be built then. The Great Recession interfered. Developers resumed their plans a few years ago and broke ground in 2014. They came to Palm Coast for water and sewer hook-ups. That meant they had to be annexed into the city. The council approved the annexation, not aware of the project it was also annexing. Last week the council had to approve a zoning designation for the land, keeping that designation as close to its county antecedent as possible. Details of the project reemerged. Opposition coalesced.
But state law forbids a city that’s annexed a property from applying a different developmental designation than allowed by the previous government. A property owner’s entitlements, in other words, may not be changed or messed with. That includes building heights and density. And it’s not as if the city could forego annexation. Doing so would not stop the project. But it would deny the city substantial tax and impact fee revenue, which helps defray the cost of development.
In essence, the city had no choice. The reaction was no less fierce.
“The reason that we need the height that we have is that we need to be able to get some views from those buildings,” developer Ken Belshe, managing director of McElhaney and Bain of St. Augustine—and the developer of nearby Palm Coast Plantation–said. “Originally we asked for 125 feet.” The compromise was 95 feet, or seven stories of living space over one story of parking. “It has been a long process here but we feel like we have done everything that we could possibly do to satisfy and to comply with everything that we were required to satisfy and comply with.”
Then he added a line that turned into a match lighting a fuse. “I’m not sure why this sudden surge of concern is about this property, but we feel that we’re vested with our rights here,” Belshe said.
“I need to interrupt you for a second because let me tell you why we’re surprised,” Holland said, cutting him off. “Since you’re familiar with our community you’d be familiar that not one county commissioner that’s serving today was on the county commission when this was approved in 2006. I was not on the county commission, I served for six years. So yes we had a downturn in the economy, but now you’re looking at a brand new council.” What public hearings took place did so outside the city, the mayor continued.
“I’m surprised that you’re surprised,” she said. “I’m not anti-growth by any means, I’m not anti-growth on this entire corridor, but this has been a very staggering moment., certainly for me, when this first came to us, this last first reading, and that was the first I’d ever seen of this height requirement. That’s where the surprise comes from.”
Belshe said he was referring to the pre-annexation agreement approved by this council. But he also got some help from Steve Nobile, one of the council members. “The people who bought property around there knew what that was set out,” Nobile said, drawing howls from the crowd. “So anybody who would have been there after 2006, who would have investigated that would have found that out.” He said the reaction to the developer was not fair, particularly since the city is prevented from making any substantial changes. “I don’t want to attack these developers,” he said.
A dozen people or so addressed the council, all to speak their opposition to the project or at least their hope that the developer would work with the city to lower heights and increase buffers between the project’s boundaries and nearby homes, currently set at 25 feet.
“When I moved here in 2011, I could never have imagined the possibility of 95-foot tall buildings behind my house,” one resident who said one of the towers will be 25 feet from her property. “In fact the real estate listing described the area behind my property as preserve, as did the listings of my neighbors, and technically there is a preserve behind my house. It’s that 25-foot buffer.” But hurricanes Matthew and Irma knocked down the trees, so there’s not much of a buffer left before a de-forested area for the development appears. “High-rise towers are certainly incompatible” with residential homes, she said, though she’d accept two to three-story condominiums.
Sara Lockhart, who retired as a senior planner from Palm Coast a few years ago, referred to Ira Corliss, a former senior city official in the administration, who used pre-annexation agreements extensively for economic development. “And at some point out of the attorney’s office rolled an opinion that pre-annexation agreements weren’t worth the paper they were printed on because it binds a future board’s hands, and you can’t make a decision,” Lockhart said. “Your police powers would be bound. So the alternative to that, recognized by the courts, are called joint planning agreements, and I see nowhere in your intergovernmental comprehensive plan element a reference to pre-annexation agreements. There are references to joint planning agreements. There’s also reference to utility service agreements. I would suggest that you ask your attorney for a full analysis, and don’t rush him, this is a very complex area of the law, but there has been these annexation wars going on for a long time, and this is not the first rodeo. So there are alternatives I think available to this so you don’t get boxed in every single time. This has been going on in this county for a long time, but yet your comprehensive plan lays out a process. So in my opinion what you’re doing is not in concert, not compatible with your comprehensive plan.”
However opposed to the development’s particulars, the council appeared uninterested in attempting to take the route L:ockhart was proposing. Her points were summarily addressed: there was an “effort” to have a joint-planning agreement, William Reischmann, the city attorney said.
Holland was resigned to the inevitable: “An unfortunate set of circumstances that have us in a situation where we’re very much limited on our ability to even negotiate any changes other than just requesting,” she said. “But there’s no law governing us to force the hand of the developer in this discussion.”
Still, she tried to force the hand of the developer at least on getting an agreement from him that there should be no short-term rentals allowed, and she appeared, after a long debate and resistance, to be successful in that regard.
“We have no plans to do short-term rentals,” Belshe said, but then he prevaricated. “We may be the developer that builds these buildings and we may partner with some other company in the future and we may sell the property to somebody else in the future. I don’t think it would be fair to ask us to restrict what we’re going to do beyond what the city allows or doesn’t allow.”
“This is not being a good partner when you’re coming to us and asking for some type of agreement that we’re working towards, knowing that you’re going to have future projects that come before us,” Holland said. “We do not want that type of industry in our community that’s wreaking havoc. You look to the north of us in unincorporated county, they’re having this exact issue, where they’re having 40 people in a condo unit during race week next to a residential area, and there’s parties going on until 4 in the morning, there’s loud music and it’s causing disruption in a residential area. Vacation rentals have a place, and I’m not opposed to vacation rentals. What I’m opposed to is vacation rentals in a residential area that is meant to be residential.” (She made an exception for Airbnb-type rentals, which she said are not as problematic.)
Remarkably, Jim Landon, the city manager, did what he’s never done before at a meeting: he tried to negotiate with the developer then and there.
“It seems to me like you want to sell lots and houses,” Landon told Belshe. “You should have no desire to actually get into the rental business or to sell a house to somebody that’s in the rental business, so it seems to me like this is not an unreasonable request, to just agree that in your HOA covenants and restrictions, we’ll say that you’ll not have short-term rentals.” HOAs are homeowner associations. “This actually protects your investment.”
Again Nobile came to the developer’s rescue, though he had the law on his side too, as Reischmann explained. “I’m in the middle of a residential area and I can rent my house to 20 people for a week, so why would we impose that on him?” Nobile said. “I agree with this discussion but I do not agree with public having this discussion. I think this is a discussion that needs to occur between our administration and the developer on this because we’re starting to create good and bad people here, and I don’t like that in public, like this.”
“If we could tell these folks that they can’t have time-share, if we could legally do that, we could tell them that they can’t have a building more than 40 feet,” Reischmann said.
But Belshe made a concession: “We don’t have any intention of doing short-term rentals, that’s not the business we’re in,” he said.
The council approved the land-use changes in two separate, 4-0 votes. (Nick Klufas was absent.)
Land Use Changes Along Colbert Lane: The Documents
I be Erudite says
I would just imagine these new condos could be one of the most attractive and interesting realty projects to happen in Palm Coast/ Flagler in a long time. I’m shocked that anyone would be worried about the height of the buildings because the location will not make tall buildings look prominent until you are right in that area of Colbert. Maybe Palm Coast, it’s Mayor and City Council ought to be more concerned about the single family home monstrosities that exist in all the lettered sections of Palm Coast. Let’s face it, the neighborhoods are crappy, the houses and yards are not maintained to any degree that would be pleasing to anyone, and anything west of I95 with few exceptions is simply crap. All this in a town that prides itself so much in code enforcement and zoning! If you want some real progress, how about developing Town Center with shops, retail, and restaurants? How about building some luxury midrise condos in Town Center as well? I would love to see that!
Mikey Eyes says
@I be Erudite, I have been saying the same about town center for years! I agree with you!
And now it begins. When there is a few “high condo towers ” many will follow.
From the article: “She made an exception for Airbnb-type rentals, which she said are not as problematic.)”
Mayor Holland, don’t be fooled! Airbnb pretends it’s mom and pop, when in reality 81% of their profits come from whole house rentals!!!
Here’s the link to substantiate that statement from the Chicago Tribune:http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-airbnb-hotel-report-0310-biz-20170309-story.html
Read paragraph 5 and 6 from this article.
Don’t let this happen – you will be soooooo sorry. No short-term rentals in communities zoned residential.
To I be Erudite, You are right about code enforcement not doing it’s job and neighborhoods getting crappy. However the prior city council decided to not allow people to file a complaint with code enforecement anonomously, so the complaints dropped off because people don’t want their names on the complaint. All thanks to Shipley and her one person that complained and then the rest of of the council, including Netts, said that complainents have to give their name. My neighborhood used to nice, now it’s a parking lot and some homes getting junky looking and neighbors watering laws whenever they want,instead of on their designated days, Oh yeah, and culdesacs constantly flooding because the city doesn’t take care of the drains, etc.
Like I said years ago,Palm Coast – little by little looking like Queens.
Our County and City governments must be on the take. Will no officials stand up against the developers?
palm coast is falling down just look at the canals they built them and they expect the home owners to shed our 20 to 30 thousand to maintain their poorly engineered system and to self dredge everything is falling into the water
Steve Vanne says
Time to sell my house and move. They r slowly destroying our town….
@Buckle up and follow the money – when Google isn’t enough:
Time for me to move out when tall buildings come to Palm Coast allready congested with traffic !!
PC Dad says
When will people in this community realize that the real power in Palm Coast is held by developers and real estate people? They get whatever they want, whenever they want. No true development will ever occur here until their power is revoked.
Rick Kang says
Who will pay for the additional fire trucks and fire personal to service these 95ft building! Think Fire Safety,Think About the extra training Firepersonal need to fight a fire in a 95ft building. In rest of the USA, building permits last only 5 years! If not used within 5 years, than NEW building permits must applied for. Maybe The City of Palm Coast should STOP issuing building permits until NEW laws controlling building heights and set backs! An excellent law would be: 1Ft Hieght=2Ft Setback ( 95Ft Hieght=190Ft Setback). Also, Force the developer to purchase a Fire Deptment Ladder Truck for every 4th 95FT+ building he builds( 1-4 buildings=1 ladder truck,1-8 buildings=2 ladder trucker,etc,etc)! Think Fire SAFETY and protect the lives of our Palm Coast Fire Personal! Fighting Fires in Tall Buildins is a Very DANGEROUS Business!
H. G. Haas says
Currently, Colbert Lane is positioned to be one of the premier residential streets in Palm Coast. Colbert Lane is one of the first streets, off of SR100, accessing prime land adjacent to the inter-coastal waterways. This is Palm Coast’s opportunity to make Colbert Lane the street that sets the standard and showcases the best of Palm Coast. Let this be our chance to build on the beautiful developments of Grand Haven and Palm Coast Plantation. The chance to create something that can be a legacy we are all proud of does come around that often . Let’s not blow it.
I be Erudite says
So let them follow. And maybe some decent restaurants and new businesses will follow as well.
After they legalize marijuana every thing will seem high.
As long as it is not short term rentals.
It is 1000 – 1800 new residents supporting local business… paying property taxes, etc…
Nets was on the Council then. Was he dozing?
I Be Erudite says
To Tulip, I would also add that all these neighborhoods with above ground utilities are ugly. One of the best things Palm Coast could do to pretty this place up is to require underground utilities in all new developments. Not to mention it keeps those power lines protected during storms. And how about pressure washing and or painting houses? Homes built ten years ago already look like they are 30 years old. Really there are two Palm Coasts. The master planned gated neighborhoods look great and pretty much everything else is ghetto. Within the ghetto there is a percentage of folks who care for their homes and yards who are victimized by the trashyness all around them.
NEVER NEVER NEVER buy or build next to an open or empty parcel of land! Doesn’t matter what it is ZONED at the time. The zoning can always be changed.
HUGO INFANTE says
I AGREE, THOSE THAT OPPOSE NEED TO. CONTINUE MOVING ON, LIFE IS TEMPORARY AND WE SHOULD ALWAYS BUILD AND EXPAND, I SUPPORT THE NEW CONDOS WITH A INTERNATIONAL MALL, THE OLD MUST BE RECYCLE.
This is exactly what flagler county needs!! More places for yankees to flock to and live and clog up an ruin flagler even more than it already is. Go back home and let the true flagler county residents live in peace
Edith F. says
Ken Belshe, Sunbelt Land Management, admitted that Sunbelt doesn’t build homes or condos. (See Palm Coast Observer, “2.4 Million Worth of Property in Palm Coast Park.” Sunbelt wants to sell the entitlements to build the condos and make a quick profit. This is the reason we have an ordinance (Municipal Code 3.04.02 Section H2) that states a PUD must be substantially complete within two years or the application has to be resubmitted. This application never was resubmitted. There is a lot of funny business going on. Not to mention, the marina was dug with an expired Army Corps of Engineers permit in 2014 and the parcel cleared in September 2017 was done so without a building permit.
Some people make me laugh. Palm Coast looking like Queens!!??? Whens the last time you been to Queens? And eveeything west of 95 is crap??? Yeah, ok. Where is this magical place everyone is comparing palm coast against? People act like this is Compton in the 90’s. Always talking junk about palm coast like its a ghetto. Farrrr from it.
Randy Jones says
The rule of law. The operative law being law. If you oppose existing law(s) work to change them.
Jack Howell says
What’s a Yankee? Are you referring to the Yankee baseball team? That would be to neat to the Yankee baseball retire to Palm Coast.
As a Florida resident, but looking to move to Palm Coast, I was surprised to see car jacked up in driveways in the Cypress Knoll sub-division. Drove through and saw nice home, unkept home, nice home, nice home and the next home had a car in the drive way with the motor lifted. Didn’t know if there were any covenants there or Belle Terre. Wanted no part of neighborhoods like that. I think “beauty and well kept” are subjective, however home driveways looking like body shops are unacceptable on any level.
RE: Jack Howell
I think Mr. bob is referring to the Timucuan Indians that were here before any of us were.
Dawn Smith says
And I’m sure these future new residents, will complain about the chemical odors, coming from Sea Ray, things that make you say ummm.
Had enough? says
Time to follow Flagler Beach’s lead – referendum on height restrictions in Palm Coast.
Mikey Eyes says
I love Palm Coast! I learned a long time ago that you can’t fight city hall. This condo project is a done deal. I understand why some folks would be upset. Especially if you live close to it. I haven’t seen a layout of the complex. Is there one available? Maybe the configuration of the buildings. Could take into consideration the neighboring homeowners. Placing the single family homes as a buffer between the High Rise Condo’s and the neighboring community!
C'mon man says
Welcome the development. Face it, it’s inevitable business want,and need to come to Flagler County. If you want to move go ahead, you won’t be missed.
And I wonder if the Palm Coast fire department has a ladder truck (s) to reach these high rise requirements. If not that would be another fee for Palm Coast residents
@Truth…I agree the front of a home shouldnt look like a scrap yard, but residents should have the right to work on their own car at their own house. There is ordinances that you cant leave a car on stands, or have an inoperable vehicle as a permanent fixture in your driveway. But if a car is on a jack and youre working on it, whats wrong with that?
just me says
IF the “City of Palm Coast didnt want these condos in the City it should NEVER have annexed the land and development ALREADY approved for that land. So why did the City of Palm Coast annex it simple $$$$$$ ” And it’s not as if the city could forego annexation. Doing so would not stop the project. But it would deny the city substantial tax and impact fee revenue,” The City was/is greedy for MORE tax revenue.
Do not buy into these developments unless their home owner documents state no short term vacation rental operations. But if investors buy up enough units they will have the votes to revise those documents. Buyer beware!
When will our legislature ask the real question?
Would you buy a single family home or live next door to a transient public lodging establishment business, AKA, vacation rental that operates just like a motel, bed and breakfast or hotel with daily occupancy turnovers?
In addition the Mayor of Palm Coast was incorrect stating that AIRBNB is strictly a home sharing company. There business model is whole house daily rentals without the owner present. This is 80 percent of their business model with investors owning multiple properties.
This is more than noise, traffic or garbage. These vacation rentals are removing affordable housing, bypassing local property zoning laws with the help of the Florida Legislature, overloading communities not designed for this type of occupancy, exceeding water allocations by ten times the usage rate and your private property rights of peaceful enjoyment.
Interestingly Bob, our county’s namesake was a yankee. The irony 🤓 Damn FDR and those interstates! I am as enamored as the next guy with our state’s cultural history, but migration to and development of our state has been a significant part of its history for well over a century. Travel north some time and you will see stunning examples of responsible and sensitive development. Or don’t. People are people; good and bad everywhere. A fixed mindset only adds to the frustration because like it or not, any law abiding citizen as just as much right to be here as any other.
Flagler’s natural beauty is why people want to live here. Stripping that beauty is not better and it never will be. Shouldn’t you at least be a resident of the town before you change the face of it? Shouldn’t every resident be informed fully and allowed to vote on something that changes their community so significantly? The commissioners need to be held accountable for rubber stamping this. These people are supposed to reflect the values of our small community. Who else is approved along Colbert to build a tower or two? So wrong!
Beth this hasn’t been a small community since it became a city. SAD! When I first moved to Palm Coast in 1992 it was a nice small community.
Mikey Eyes says
Palm Coast has this Master development plan called Town Center at Palm Coast. A 1,557 acre mixed-use development which is suppose to provide a downtown for Palm Coast. (HOW IS THAT GOING?) Too make this work the town needs to grow! Major national retailers and small businesses will invest in Palm Coast. But they must have a reason to come. Customers with disposal income! And the city needs the revenue from the growth!
Any politician without a pro growth agenda is old technology! The world moves very fast in 2018! We cannot turn back the clock!
Live and learn. Meanwhile enforce codes and crack down on violators. I will trade the junkyard my neighbor keeps to a well kept high rise.
I think this new development is great! Once Palm Coast reaches that magical number of households Costco has required they will come & build one at the Towne Center perhaps. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful thing.