The Gardens, at one point a 3,966-home and apartment development planned for the two sides of John Anderson Highway in Flagler County, is again seeking regulatory approval from county planners Wednesday, but as a development a fraction of its former size: 453 homes, or within the limit the county had approved for that land, when it was owned by a different developer, in 2005.
The latest plan also calls for 231,000 square feet of commercial and retail space, and multi-family, or apartment, use, and 1,200 acres for public services and preservation, with the very first phase of the development consisting of 350 single family homes.
“The remaining areas in the Residential/Golf area is noted as future development which could include the golf course and other amenities, the 100,000 square feet of private commercial, the remaining residential homes, or some combination of all,” Michael Chiumento, the developer’s attorney, wrote the county attorney on June 5. His memo also noted that a traffic study “concludes that there are no traffic issues associated with this first phase of development.”
The Gardens’ representatives and county officials have been working for months and through various delays, the latest caused by the coronavirus emergency, to arrive at a so-called Planned Unit Development proposal that could win the county’s approval at the first official regulatory step–the Technical Review Committee–and move on to the planning board, then to the county commission.
The TRC meets at 9 Wednesday. After previous rejections of The Gardens’ plans, the TRC this time is expected to approve the PUD (if not the development’s preliminary plat for 350 units), clearing the way for the application to go before the planning board in August and the county commission in early SEptember, and leaving room for another appearance before the TRC in July, if necessary. That’s a possibility, if The Gardens’ representatives decide on Wednesday to split their application over two meetings, with the PUD part getting heard Wednesday and the preliminary plat application getting heard next month.
Either way, the prospects for the development this time appear brighter than they have in the past, but with one key question unresolved: will Flagler Breach provide utilities to the development? “They are attempting to clarify their role,” Adam Mengle, the county’s planning director, said of Flagler Beach. Under contingency rules, the city must provide utilities to the development if the county is ultimately to approve it. Otherwise, approval will be withheld.
A letter to The Gardens from the Flagler Beach administrator had previously suggested, in language just short of explicit, that the city would provide utilities on an as-available basis. The city has since been prevaricating over that letter, while the city commission has faced repeated opposition to The Gardens from residents, who fear that extending utilities to John Anderson Highway would be tantamount to inheriting a new neighborhood, changing the complexion of the city and affecting utility costs for years to come.
Gardens officials, for their part, have been arguing that in exchange for utilities, the development would pay for some of the city’s critically needed upgrades and would help the city meet a 2030 deadline, by which time it will be barred from dumping millions of gallons of treated effluent into the Intracoastal, as it now dows. The Gardens, in other words, is positioning itself as a bridge to a more environmentally responsible city. (Ken Belshe, the lead applicant for The Gardens, is a director with SunBelt Land Management, which developed Palm Coast Plantation along Colbert Lane.)
“We know a new plan will require great attention to detail and planning and we intend to develop it slowly, over 25 to 30 years,” Belshe had written in these pages exactly a year ago, when the proposal was still for nearly 4,000 units, “in other words, over a generation or more – with input from our local governments and others and in accordance with multiple regulatory agencies at the state and federal levels whose jobs are to regulate land development and protect endangered species and wetlands. No developer in today’s regulatory environment can develop any property without strict oversight by these agencies, with severe penalties for violations.”
Scaling back the project has not necessarily satisfied the opposition, which centers around a group called Preserve Flagler Beach and Bulow Creek. Its members include former County Commissioner Barbara Revels and current Flagler Beach City Commission member Ken Bryan. (who faces a defamation lawsuit from SunBelt over statements B ryan made at a community meeting on the development.)
“The developer insists the new plans for the 825 acres are consistent with what was approved in 2005 for the previous owner and all the entitlements belong with the land,” the opposition group said in a June 3 statement. “The activists support the county attorney’s opinion that the spirit of the 2005 plan has not been kept and a new approval process needs to be filed.” It added: “Another Master Plan issue is the placement of 353 residential homes on the east side of John Anderson Highway and 118 homes on the west side for a total of 453 homes on 211.7 acres rather than the approved lower density of 453 homes placed on 1,305 acres of the original plan.” See the group’s complete comments on the proposal here.
Nevertheless, the tone and substance of the group’s opposition is not as adamant as it was when the project was flirting with 4,000 units.
The Technical Review Committee Meeting will be streamed via ZOOM: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89798424272
Or iPhone one-tap : US: +13126266799, 89798424272# or +19292056099, 89798424272#
Or Telephone: Dial (for higher quality, dial a number based on your current location): US: +1 312 626 6799 or +1 929 205 6099 or +1 301 715 8592 or +1 346 248 7799 or +1 669 900 6833 or +1 253 215 8782
Comments may be submitted prior to the meeting by email to: [email protected]
While the Technical Review Committee is open to the public, it is not a public hearing: public comment will not be heard.
Sad Times says
I still don’t understand! Why does Flagler County allow for ANY new development….when there are still huge problems associated with our WATER supplies?!
I have lived in Palm Coast since 2007…..and have experienced the articles written by many organizations….expressing concerns about various water problems.
Why don’t we fix the water situation FIRST…then resume building new?! Seems to make sense to me. However, my experience here, since 2007…is that common sense does not exist. The main concern is making money. Unfortunately, our politicians care only about money…and have no care for the people of Flagler County.
Aka the foot-in-the-door approach.
Ray Deveney says
A public inquiry with no public comment how corrupt is your county who’s kidding who here narcissists and psychopaths have taken over politics and the police force that’s why the police can shoot somebody in the back so easily because he’s just a coward and a scumbag
Maureen Faleri says
I would like to know where to sign up for low houseing and where are the meeting held
this town is looking more like Orlando everyday! no more lush forest, just strip malls, section 8 housing, pavement.
Youhavent seen anything yet. By the time this Town is ruined it will be anothrr I95 bedroom strip mall tourist trap wannabe retirement community withh a criminal underbelly where folks come to die and bring their problem childs with them.Good luck