The Palm Coast City Council Tuesday unanimously approved a pair of land-use changes that will clear the way for up to 210 single-family homes on a 62-acre tract along Old Kings Road, adjacent to Polo Club West.
The approvals followed weeks of wrangles between the developer, the city, the county and Polo Club residents. (See previous steps here, here and here.) The council had considered the items on Dec. 5 and Jan. 2, both times getting strong pressure from Polo Club property owners–and their attorney–to delay approval, pending the resolution of sharp differences with the developer.
Specifically, the residents wanted the development to follow as closely as possible the rules the county had set down in 2007, when the land was under the county’s jurisdiction and the development had been approved at the time as a Planned Unit Development. PUDs give local governments wide latitude in imposing (or exacting) conditions in exchange for approval.
The developer–Geosam Capital US (Florida)–annexed into Palm Coast, and applied to have the PUD replaced by straight residential zoning. Both county government and Polo Club residents objected to the way Palm Coast appeared ready to approve the changes without conditions. The objections were formalized in correspondence and at city meetings, forcing the council to step back. But the resolution it was looking for depended on the developers and Polo Club West residents agreeing to changes. That’s what finally happened, after a few false starts.
“We have an executed agreement between the developer and the HOA,” Michael Chiumento, the land-use attorney representing the developer, said. “All those issues have been satisfied.” The development will also have a 30,000 square foot tract for commercial construction.
Dave Dixon, a member of the HOA board at Polo Club West, said the items in question were the 25-foot buffer that residents wanted to make sure would be 25 feet throughout, and the matter of fencing at one segment where the two properties meet. “So we have an agreement right here,” Dixon said. The agreement is between the developer and the HOA. It does not involve the city, and is not part of the city record.
The county, too, was now satisfied, albeit with some reservations. “We support this land use change amendment. For one thing it puts more restrictive density and intensity rules in place,” Assistant County Attorney Sean Moylan said. The county’s original goal was to keep the PUD in place, because that plan had 30 percent of the land devoted to open space, sidewalks for golf carts, a clubhouse pool, tennis courts, all of which could have been used by both the new development’s residents and Polo Club West residents.
“But seeing the writing on the wall here, I did speak with Mr. Chiumento and boiled down the county’s remaining concerns, if you are inclined to grant the rezoning,” Moylan said.
Polo Club West residents at one point had been ready to object to the development on a broader scale–to argue that it simply was incompatible with the far lower density of Polo Club West’s homes, which sit on 5 acres each, as opposed to what will be small, single-family homes on 50-foot-wide lots at the new development. That may have been a tactical threat intended to sway the developer to sign on to the agreement and avoid further delays.
It’s not over. The development’s next steps are platting and site plan phases. The site plan phase is another opportunity for some regulatory oversight. Moylan, as a matter of record, told the council that he would outline what the county had requested, and wishes the city ensures is included, as part of the future site plan, “so that we know exactly what our concerns are and what Mr. Chiumento was committing to on behalf of his client,” Moylan said.
In effect, Moylan, in a tactical move of his own, put in the formal record what amounts to a set of informal conditions that will always be a point of reference in the future. He did so before the council voted approval, thus giving the conditions at least the appearance of the vote’s endorsement. Council members even verbalized that point: “I appreciate the county echoing their position for posterity and I expect the stakeholder to be able to work with the county collaboratively,” Council member Nick Klufas said.
The county asked for a 10-foot-wide right-of-way dedication along Old Kings Road for a future sidewalk. The developer agreed to that, Moyland said. The county asked for a 25-foot wide vegetative buffer immediately adjacent to the 10-foot wide path, and that the 25-foot wide buffer remains as natural as it is now, so that drivers on Old Kings Road will still see what they see today even after the development is built out.
“We want to make sure that the residents of the Old Kings Village will not use the county property immediately to the north, which is going to be a future driveway to our parklands along Bulow Creek,” Moylan said. “We don’t want to have any direct access from Old Kings Village on to the county’s future driveway. In the site plan or platting phase we were going to ask that there be a non-vehicular easements so that it is documented.”
Then there is the question of a very small piece of the development, in its northeasternmost corner, that forms a strange enclave, jutting east from the development’s otherwise triangular shape. It creates a sort of orphaned zone that the developer may not be able to guild on, and is considering cutting off from the public right of way. “We disagree with that,” Moylan said.
Jim Cullis, the developer, may acquire it, so Moylan called it the Cullis parcel. “It does not make sense to cut off a piece of land from access to the public right of way, and you’d be essentially forcing that owner, Mr. Cullis or whoever else, to utilize either the county’s driveway to its park for access to his property, or perhaps through Polo Club West. I understand that HOA disagrees as well. So the developer, Geosam, should provide access to its own land.”
Finally, there’s a stormwater issue: stormwater would fall out immediately adjacent to the county’s future driveway to its park. Obviously, that would be aesthetically objectionable. The county is requesting that the water be conveyed by pipe or swale to the Old Kings Road right of way.
“We have been in discussions with the county and we’ll proceed to address their issues,” Chiumento said. “Those will happen on the parallel path of the conceptual master plan.” The stormwater issue is a permitting matter that can’t be answered conclusively just yet, he said, while the Cullis parcel is not developable.