The Palm Coast Planning Board Wednesday evening recommended approval of a rezoning of 62 acres on Old Kings Road some 2.5 miles south of State Road 100 that will clear the way for up to 210 small homes, hours after the Palm Coast City Council annexed the property into the city, from the county.
The property is adjacent to Polo Club West, an upscale equestrian community where residents have been worried about the effects of a significantly different, more dense type of development rising on their horizon. Polo Club residents have been voicing their concerns to the city and the developer, and appear to have won several concessions.
The largely vacant 62-acre property had previously been permitted for up to 232 houses and 36,000 square feet of commercial use in the county’s jurisdiction. In 2008 the county had approved platting 159 houses on 50-foot-wide lots and 72 town homes. They were never built.
The city designation will lower the allowable density somewhat, but the 50-foot wide, 6,000 square foot lots remain in the future plan, with the smallest homes at 1,200 square feet. The commercial component under the county designation forbade convenience stores, gas stations or fast food restaurants. It’s not clear if that prohibition survives the annexation.
The land was acquired by by Geosam Capital US (Florida) in November 2020. The company’s principals are based in Ormond Beach and Nova Scotia, according to the state Division of Corporations. A Master Planned Development for 205 single-family homes has been submitted to the city. The plan is under review. It’ll have to go before the planning board and the city council. No dates have been scheduled.
The multiplicity of boards and actions can be confusing. The annexation is a separate matter entirely. The land use changes, including a comprehensive plan amendment, require reviews by the different boards, including state review, so the planning board’s recommendations from Tuesday evening have yet to be approved by the council before any development plans are even considered. But all those technicalities aside, the heart of the issue is the Polo Club residents’ concerns.
Residents there worry about the disparity between their more rustic, rural-oriented development of vastly green equestrian-community properties and what will be a more dense development of close-cropped, smaller homes, in line with the sort of developments increasingly common as incoming, older residents seek to downsize.
John Duncan, who owns property at Polo Club West, described it as “a very unique, upscale, private gated equestrian community” of 34 residents and property owners, established in 2005. He spoke to the council on behalf of the residents and the homeowners association. That community is to the east of the annexed land. Minimum lot sizes there are 5 acres and homes no smaller than 2,500 square feet, some are up to 6,000 square feet. The property owners are concerned about “two vastly different land use developments” between their community and the Geosam site, Duncan said.
“If approved, the Old Kings Village community will contain 205 houses in an extremely high density configuration immediately outside the gates of our community,” Duncan said when he addressed the council earlier this month. “The 205 homes plan for Old Kings Village will generate 717 new residents in over 500 vehicles. It is completely natural that people will want to explore into our private community. Even in the current undeveloped state, we’re faced with situations people pulling up to our gate, bypassing our gate with ATVs and mopeds and bicycles, loitering in the private woods and fishing in the private homeowners ponds. Safety of strangers attempting to pet or feed the horses is also a great concern. With unfettered access to our lands, this will quickly get out of hand. ”
Another resident said: “We decided to build in Polo Club West because it is a gated neighborhood with plenty of privacy, nice homes, great neighbors and is secure. These new development proposals have us quite worried about some of the things we are hearing about the new plans.” The main concerns had to do with the openness between the two developments.
Christine Kraus, who lives in Polo Club West, said there’s “a lot of trees coming out that weren’t supposed to in the original PUD. We’re very worried about buffers, we are very worried about how it’s going to affect our community on the backside, especially the east side that faces Secretariat lane.” She said the residents are not against the development, and recognize that the number of houses has been reduced. “But our value of our homes and our community, which are five-acre, million-plus homes, is going to go down if they don’t do the right things.”
The residents asked for a privacy wall between the Polo Club and the coming development, sound buffering and controls of “light pollution,” and to preserve the county prohibitions on certain commercial uses remain in place. Residents also wanted to ensure that their road accessing Old Kings Road would not be affected.
“We’ve been working with the residents and we will continue to work with the residents on some of their needs,” Michael Chiumento, the land-use attorney representing the developer, said. “I just wanted to remind everybody that there has been a reduction in density and intensity on the proposed use.”
There was also some insistence on preserving commercial acreage. Chiumento pointed out that some 2 million square feet of retail and commercial uses was previously approved across the street further south. “So we do not believe and did not believe and still don’t believe that commercial on this section of old Kings Road would be viable,” Chiumento said. “However, at the request of city council members asking that we do retain some opportunity for commercial such as a daycare or just your neighborhood commercial type uses, we agreed to retain the 2 acres.”
The ordinance setting out the terms of the voluntary annexation does not include conditional language. But it doesn’t preclude it by other means. “One of the vehicles or tools that could be used to accomplish what we’re talking about is sometimes referred to as a voluntary commitment agreement,” City Attorney Bill Reischmann said. That commitment agreement would be parallel to the ordinance. City Council member Theresa Pontieri earlier this month asked Chiumento directly whether the developer was willing to submit just such an agreement.
Chiumento said the developer would, and submitted that agreement on Sept. 18. (See it here.) The agreement commits to a 6-foot privacy fence on the proposed development’s eastern boundary, adjacent to the Polo Club West, and to “take no action to adversely affect the Polo Club West’s access to Old Kings Road.” The agreement notes that “This Commitment is a voluntary commitment by Developer, and not an exaction by the City.”
Pontieri was insistent on ensuring that the property values of Polo Club West residents be preserved. “If I’m ready to move forward on this annexation within my discretion, I do want to make sure that the neighborhood is being considered and that their property values are not negatively affected by this new development,” Pontieri said at Tuesday’s council meeting. She also acknowledged the developer’s willingness to work with the city and the residents.
It did not appear that the commitment agreement had been shared with the residents. “That’d be great if we could review that, especially if that’s been put forward as a reason to annex today,” Bob Atack, a resident at Polo Club West, said. But he was still concerned about the development ahead, lacking information about what buffers will look like, for example. “We all invested in this community with its Old Kings Village PUD, which has been in place for 16 years,” he said of the previous plan. “People are investing their life savings into the community of their dreams, which is Polo Club West.” The new plan is “completely wiping that off what was already agreed to, and changing it forever.” He proposed slowing down the annexation process for more deliberations.
The council felt there had been enough deliberations by then, and voted 5-0 to approve the annexation.