The barnacles are thick and heavy around the now two-year-old hulking proposal of a 240-dry-boat storage facility in the Hammock–a proposal that the County Commission approved in late 2019, that two courts overruled, and that has since languished in a murky zone of end runs around county land rules as the county tries to redefine the problem away from legal roadblocks.
On Tuesday, the Flagler County Planning Board did exactly that.
First, the board said it was not addressing Hammock Harbour, the proposed redevelopment of an old boat-manufacturing plant at at 5658 North Oceanshore Boulevard, right next to Hammock Hardware. The board said it was only considering whether marinas are an allowed use in Scenic A1A’s commercial zones.
But no one had any illusions: It was Bob Million, the developer of Hammock Harbour, who’d asked the planning board to make that determination. It was his way of redefining the battlefield in his favor. And the county administration itself had showed its hand in January anyway.
The board voted 4-1, determining that, yes, marinas are an allowed use–a momentous change in itself, though Hammock residents argue there couldn’t possibly be any marinas there since that would require the sort of protective coves and width of the Intracoastal Waterway that are not geographically there.
Then the board gave its approval to the planning department to bring back an ordinance ratifying the change. The board will recommend approval of that ordinance at its next meeting and send it to the County Commission for approval.
Once that’s done, Hammock Harbour can again apply for approval, at least through a special exception. It had been approved without one before. It is almost certain to be approved with one next.
So in effect, all subterfuges aside, the planning board on Tuesday redefined the Million project as a “marina,” as he had asked, even though there won’t be any boat slips and it won’t look anything like a marina. By calling it that, the board hopes to get around the problem of a development that looks more like a warehouse. Warehouses are not allowed in the Scenic A1A Corridor, for the obvious reason that warehouses are not scenic (though marinas can be).
Opponents of the projects–chiefly the Hammock Community Association, which has fought the successful court battles–consider the facility a warehouse. Million himself had called it a warehouse in the plan’s early versions (though he indecorously blamed the planning director for that).
County administration officials strained to say that the request was not associated with Million’s development plans. Rather, that it was a broad definition applying to any zoning that fell within that category. “We’re not looking at his site plan, or his building, but rather looking at the uses in the code to determine if this type of use is similar, if this is the right zoning district for that type of use,” Assistant County Attorney Sean Moylan said.
But to Million, the distinction was irrelevant: he had asked for the definition–the item had actually been discussed last May and again at the July planning board meeting–and he finally got what he wanted in order to move his project forward again.
The Planning board’s Mike Goodman, who chaired Tuesday’s meeting and was the sole dissenter in the determination, had no illusions: “What we’re talking about is a new use.”
The board members tried to keep the discussion to the marina matter, but even they allowed the public comment period to devolve into a debate over Million’s project–allowing Million himself the right of reply, as if it were the sort of proceeding the board’s attorney said it wasn’t. The proceedings, in other words, illustrated the fact that no one was fooled, including the board.
“Our concern is,” Dennis Bayer, the attorney representing the Hammock Community Association said, “that this really is spot zoning, you’re really making this change just to benefit Mr. Million’s property. For example, how does he have standing to represent all of the [commercial zoned C-2] property owners in the Hammock area? Were any of them notified? Hey, we’re changing a use that’s allowed on your property, were they given notice that this is going on? And what’s the rush? If this is a general classification change, and you’ve got a draft ordinance for marinas and we’re not talking about Mr Millions property, let’s do the ordinance. Let’s finish the ordinance and get it done.”
It was Bayer who successfully argued the two court challenges, unraveling both the Planning Board’s and the County Commission’s earlier decisions. But if his statement to the Planning Board Tuesday was again intended to signal that the Planning Board was on thin legal ground, the board’s attorney later said anyone could do what Million did: ask for a determination.
And Million appeared confident about a majority of support from the board.
Mark Langello, a planning board member and a developer, compared the uses of a marina to “shopping,” because a marina typically sells fuel and food as well. He made a distinction with warehouses, saying “you see them only in industrial districts.” He agrees that warehouses shouldn’t be included in the Scenic A1A overlay district. But he doesn’t include marinas in that prohibition. “They should be a special exception and not an automatic use,” he said of such marinas, his eyes clearly on Hammock Harbour. “Scenic A1A is an area that is a lot of entertainment, I mean it is people boating and fishing and going out to dinner,” he said, distinct from a bedroom community. That’s what Bings Landing is doing, he said.
Other board members concurred, saying marinas fall into commercial zoning.
Goodman was the exception. “It’s not a true Marina, it’s a warehouse,” he said. “What is a marina? A Marina in my mind has a safe harbor where you can tie your boat up, get off your boat, where you can get gas, where you can get a bite possibly, you can get repairs, then that’s a marina. When something is built as a storage facility, in my mind it’s still a warehouse.” Goodman was showing that even by keeping the discussion focused on the word “marina,” it was difficult to do so without other points of reference–among them the possibility that warehouses would be masked as marinas.
“A marina in the true sense of Marina might work within certain parameters,” Goodman added, “but I’m not too sure how we’re going to get to that point.”
Langello made the motion determining marinas as “appropriate” to the area. Only then did public comment begin–starting with Million.
Million was giving a history lesson to the board rather than addressing the motion, and reacted dryly when Goodman reminded him that he had to address the motion at hand: “I believe I’ve earned the opportunity to speak,” Million, irascible then as he’s been in written documentation in his project’s history, said. (Goodman was right: Million hadn’t “earned” an opportunity to speak anymore than anyone else had: he was required to stick to the motion at hand, according to parliamentary rules.)
Million went on the claim that marina “is an approved use already”–a broad interpretation that does not conform with the county’s record so far. Having asserted his premise as a presumed fact (rather than as county code: the county hasn’t gotten that far), he then said: “A Marina is a permitted use, and a boat storage facility is a component of a marina.”
“I’m not the one that called it a warehouse, you’re the one that called the warehouse,” Goodman pointedly told Million, reminding the developer of his earlier documentation. Million alone spoke in favor of the redefinition.
Several people from the association spoke in opposition to the board’s marina ploy, though every time the board could ignore the comments since they did not technically pertain to its motion. Jan Cullinane, a member of the HCA, unmoored her Orwell: “We all read ‘1984,’ where they talked about doublespeak and newspeak,” she said, “things like ‘War is Peace,’ ‘Freedom is slavery,’ ‘Ignorance is Strength.’ You know–a warehouse is a marina. No, it’s not. They’re two separate things. We’re talking about a warehouse here.”
One of the speakers quoted from a Broward County planning document that specifically referred to a 40,000 boat-storage facility as a warehouse. Other speakers were critical of the marina definition, at least in the context of Million’s “warehouse,” as they repeatedly called it.
Dennis Clark, a member of the HCA, told the board, said placing a storage facility the size of Hammock Harbour next to Hammock Hardware would be “obscene,” and that “That’s just dry boat storage. Nobody in their right mind would put a marina in this narrow part of the ICW without a protective cove.”
The Planning Board discussion got very intricate, technical and at times arcane. Adam Mengel, the county’s planning director, himself conceded that the way the matter was laid out in the agenda was “beyond confusing” but repeatedly asked the board members to stay out of “the rabbit hole” of Million’s project.
“All the comments referring to ‘warehouse’ were clearly referring to his specific application which is not what you’re deciding right now,” Sean Moylan, the board’s attorney, said. “That is not what you’re deciding. That would be decided in a different item, not in your legislative capacity, when you’re interpreting the code. It’s a much more abstract intellectual exercise that you are looking at.”
That gave the board the sort of cover it was looking for before its 4-1 vote.
It got even more arcane after that, when the board listened to Mengel explain what will become the proposed ordinance including the marina language, with detailed definitions. “What I’ve done is I’ve added language specific to docks, boat houses and piers,” he said, qualifying his work, which he said he was “not particularly proud of.” He invited planning board members to “poke holes in it.” They didn’t, asking to see the finished product at their next meeting so they could vote on it then and send it on to the County Commission. It was another victory for Million.
On the other hand, Clark said Wednesday in an email: “We will very likely appeal the determination of use.”
Janet Sullivan says
The citizens: “Sirs, is this really the right restaurant to serve balut?” Planning Board: “We vote yes– put balut on the menu. We have no idea what balut even is, but it has something to do with food and it will make the balut seller happy.”
The resident protestors in the Hammock seem to oppose anything that isn’t their own swimming pool.
You must be an implant too and wouldn’t understand the basic fundamentals of what the residents of the Hammock put up with, and I don’t have a “swimming pool.”
I live close enough to the Hammock to have seen the politics that some of the residents like to play–which includes obstructing any progress that doesn’t benefit them personally while pushing for anything they feel does. It’s called entitlement: “I got mine..F.U.”
If you can prove this could be an environmental or safety hazard. I will join your crusade. If it is just a matter of personal selfishness getting in the way of something that might benefit others, probably not.
There could be a safety issue associated with launching boats directly into the Intracoastal where the river is only 300 feet wide and there is no “no wake” zone.
Plus safety issues associated with a huge above ground gasoline tank built next door to homes.
As for the environment—Once the land is disturbed, what sort of chemicals, etc. are in the ground from when boats were built there in the past.
And…the Matanzas River in front of the proposed development is part of a national estuarine research reserve. Across the River is property which the county purchased using funds for environmentally sensitive lands.
Just some food for thought…
Lance Carroll says
A marina, generally, has vessels delivered and sent out from the land side, as well, as the waterside. It seems that this property has been used for both of those exposures for many years. Secure your dry slip now Mr. Bayer…slips are bound to go quickly….just as the upcoming airplane hangars at the Flagler County Airport that are receiving community objection. I believe we call this type of legal chess game, progress.
Robbie B says
Those people that live in the Sanctuary are gonna love hearing those backup alarms on the forklifts moving boats “beep beep beep” all day long. lol
capt. Sparrow says
This is the best news ever for our Coastal Community!
I am hoping to be the first to get a storage spot.
We are in dire need for a full service storage facility like this!
Many of my fellow boater friends are also “on board”. Now we will be able to use our boat more frequently!
This storage Marina concept is more like an Urban Marina, envision something like Miami, FL. Flagler County is rather unique in the way the Matanzas River intracoastal isn’t like other FL areas.These type of dry marinas offer complete services to store, launch & service patrons. It comes at the expense of the Hammock Dunes that is really surrounded by State & county parks. Unfortunately those that don’t have waterfront properties don’t have a viable option. Dredging might even be required to build a true marina concept. This pretty much is like Haulover in North Miami/Bal Harbor or even 79th Street Causeway area. What to do with this is an interesting challenge for this county. Anyone would almost have to construct a facility and dredge a private bay like the Boston Whaler facility has at the southern end of the county. Even the Boston Whaler facility in Edgewater was so far between inlets, NSB/Ponce Inlet is the closest one there.
What is there now is an eye sore. Big money in the Hammock will fight again but I stress don’t know why. Tear the eye sore down and build something nice that will add to the community.
That’s the point, it’s a natural preserve in the area. To build any traditional marina would essentially involve dredging a by or inlet and that would be something the Federal Government would have to be involved in. As these dry marinas are they are nothing more than a stacked warehouse for smaller boats that a forklift could lower into the water with enough dockage for the boat owner & guests to board, leave and then return to have the boat pulled out of the water and placed back into storage after a clean & wash.
I lived in North Miami and Lake Maule was across the street there. That dry marina was exactly as I described. They didn’t wash the boat, but the storage rack area had running water and that’s where the owners could clean their boats with a garden hose. Owners also performed maintenance, oil changes & smaller repairs in the racks.
I agree. Tear down the eyesore and build something nice that will add to the community. However, I don’t find a warehouse structure to be nice. Plus the warehouse will be nice for only the 256 boat owners who can afford $500+ a month.
The “big” money in the Hammock is in the gated communities. Generally speaking, they are not the residents who oppose the project.
Many who oppose the project live in the tree-lined streets of the Hammock and do not want the Hammock to end up looking like south Florida or Daytona Beach.
Thanks for the great reporting! We aren’t stupid. It’s clear the Planning Board is trying to circumvent the zoning ordinance in favor of a particular project. This sort of nonsense needs to be called out and put to rest. We need a new set of official that will listen to and represent the citizens they serve.
My mind’s made up! Don’t confuse me with facts.
Tired of the corruption says
Comm. Hansen showing once again that he doesn’t care about the citizens in the Hammock. Wonder how much this guy and his “lawyers” will be contributing to his re election campaign.
Greg Hansen is a member of the County Commission. This was a Planning Board decision.
Tired of the corruption says
Behind the scenes, behind the scenes….
You are spot on …another suit .
No planning, business , vision as to what this county , 5 districts should be. Yes, in my crystal ball i see another 3-2 YES vote cast as the clock strikes midnight.
Planning board process , board should be dissolved, replaced , benchmarking of other counties (Lee) desperately needed.
John Stove says
Glad they are moving forward with this. It is totally compatible with former uses, will actually improve the area (landscaping, maintenance etc), and add to the local economy. The Marina will be sold out within the first year of opening.
Backup alarm sounds from the forklifts can be changed to these:
https://brigade-electronics.com/products/reversing-and-warning-alarms/ to minimize the impact while still abiding to safety regulations.
If the people of the Hammock could get away with it, they would raise the toll on the bridge to some ridiculous fee in order to minimize the riff-raff from coming over let alone have any sort of business operating close by.
No problem, with the land use as a marina. Simply limit the type of any boat storage structure to match the existing building height and footprint. A pile of letters addressed to the planners, who supposedly work for us, might achieve that result unless the system is totally corrupt.
I’ll write my letter, will you? ,
John Stove says
It doesn’t have to match existing…that’s not how it works.
Developer can apply for anything and everything that is permitted by zoning and code at the time of application.
They can negotiate back and forth on footprint and density but you cannot dictate that it cannot be bigger than existing unless it is in historic preservation district (which it isn’t)
The Hammock people are a fun bunch to watch. They are NIMBYs to the max.
They supposedly care about the environment, but have septic systems on the barrier island. Riiiiight. They oppose central sewers because it will lead to more growth. How crazy is that?
They are upset that the officials aren’t listening to them. Uh, yeah, they are listening, and you sound crazy….take a hint. You’d rather have the rusty falling apart building instead of a better new building that pays a decent amount in taxes.
Everybody sees through yall…
What’s a NIMBY??
NIMBY: Not In My Back Yard
Not In My Back Yard.
Everyone who lives on the barrier island has some type of septic system. Hammock Dunes has their own treatment plant.
If this project mirrored Marineland Marina, objection would be zero.
However, a 57,000 SF building used for storage, along with a forklift in use to move the goods, meets the definition of a warehouse. Warehouses are prohibited by code along A1A in the Hammock. Over 1,000 residents have signed a petition opposing the proposed boat warehouse.
An amendment to the land code is being written to add marina standards and definitions. Standards to protect residential property owners from the noise associated with a forklift and the sight and safety issues associated with a 10,000 gallon above-ground gasoline tank need to be included.
This marina amendment is for all of Flagler County. The standards will be applied for years to come. It needs to be written correctly to protect property owners while allowing reasonable development.
This is not about people who have waterfront property . its about overcroding our narrow waterway. Its like the size of palm coast parkway for many miles. – it can accommodate so many boats. This allows people out of state to swamp our waterway
John the amount of boats today that are actually owners in our area is not going to change we are on the water anyway. You seem to forget that a whole lot of people travel in their “boat/homes” from up north right down the intra-coastal to parts south on this water highway, its 3,000-miles long and our little tiny speak of a spot is on the path. The ICW moves along the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts of the United States, running from Boston, Massachusetts, southward along the Atlantic Seaboard and around the southern tip of Florida, then following the Gulf Coast to Brownsville, Texas. AND ITS NOT OUR WATERWAY
Wah…more boats…wah! The waterway is fine, you just don’t want anybody else on it. NIMBY to the max! The area is growing and people move to a waterfront community to use the water…shocker. I bet this Marina will do really well, and that’s ultimately what people like you oppose.
Jimmy you sound like the type of newcomers we are getting arriving to FL now one of them raising the huge flag with the huge F word off Farragut Drive on it for all the children walking to the school bus or cycling to read. How kind and neighborly is that? Sure ITT never even envisioned this type of vulgarity.
What we oppose is the end of preservation of the A1A beauty with the towering Oaks, Magnolia trees and the gorgeous look of our South and though I can’t afford it to reside on it I do not envy but respect the residents of the Hammock and their fight for preservation of all of us quality of life.
The Manatees are being evicted right now, as the planning board slaps each others backs…