Sea Ray Boats Tuesday evening again will appear before a Flagler County government panel as the luxury boat manufacturer’s plan to expand its footprint south of its plant off Colbert Lane in Palm Coast seeks to advance.
The company is applying for what amounts to a zoning change—or what the county is treating as a zoning change—on the land slated for expansion. Some of the land is zoned for conservation, some for low-density residential housing, after the county commission in 2005 approved a change to the less intense designations, then to a planned unit development designation. Now the land would be rezoned commercial-high density.
The Planning and Development Board will render an advisory recommendation that the county commission later this month will either ratify or reject. Whatever the planning board does, the commission is expected to almost certainly ratify the zoning change, however.
In March, the commission overrode a planning board recommendation to turn down Sea Ray’s application for a land-use change, and approved it unanimously. That proposal had drawn staunch though concentrated rather than broad opposition. The Flagler County Commission approved conveying a land-use change to the state, as required by law controlling land designation rules, clearing Sea Ray’s main hurdle to expand on two parcels to its south.
It’s not clear whether Tuesday’s hearing before the planning board will draw as much of a crowd. In March, several hundred people turned up, including scores of Sea Ray employees, filling three floors of the Government Services Building, with video screens set up on the second and third floor as the main board room was filled to capacity.
Opponents then had cited the styrene emissions and potential pollutants in the air as a central reason to oppose the project, though Sea Ray insisted the project will have no effect on future production.
“This is not about new smokestacks or expanding the operation,” Craig Wall, the plant manager at Sea Ray, wrote in spring, addressing neighbors’ concerns. “The main reasons behind our request for a parking lot are to provide safe parking for our team members, and provide much needed staging areas for our tooling and jigs required to produce the various models of boats we now make at Palm Coast.” Wall could not be reached today.
The opposition this time may not dismiss the Styrene issue, but it appears to be focused more on the expectations of property owners along Lambert Avenue, the street in Flagler Beach hat runs north-south that at one point parallels the Sea Ray plant. Several property owners bought property there on the assumption that it would always abut low density or conservation land.
As John and Freda Kegan put it in a letter intended for the planning board members, “We purchased our property in 2011 after doing our due diligence. After having checked the current Flagler County FLUM map,” they wrote, referring to the Future Land Use Map by its acronym, “which showed conservation backing up to our property, we made the decision to purchase our property. It does not matter what the FLUM was 11 years ago, 20 years ago or 50 years ago as staff has tried to point out. What matters foremost is what has taken place since the property was zoned Conservation and Low Density residential and the FLUM designation took place. It was a unanimous vote by the County Commission approximately 10 years ago to change the designation and re-zoning. Furthermore, we understand that over 50 families have purchased property on Lambert since that time and have relied on that FLUM designation and Zoning.”
The property owners say they’re concerned by the increased noise on the new lot, and the traffic of 18-wheelers. “The 40,000 sq. ft. office building that has recently been surreptitiously added to the request is also an industrial accessory use by LDR definition. This will also have unrestricted hours of operation,” they write. (The office was not a surreptitious addition: Craig Wall, the plant’s operations manager, mentioned it as a possibility in an article in these pages last March, ahead of the hearing before the county commission.)
The planning board’s staff also received a letter listing a dozen property owners, all from Lambert Avenue, who oppose the land use change for closely similar reasons.
Roseanne Stocker, among the leaders of the opposition in spring, says three of four property owners bought property there under the same assumptions—that they would always be abutting conservation land. She is the fourth. She bought her property before 2005. But she has since made substantial improvements to her property, something she says she would not have done had she known the land use would change.
“But these issues were brought up at the last meeting, and the Planning and Development Board agreed unanimously, it’s common sense, it’s planning and zoning 101,” Stocker said. “So what are citizens supposed to put their faith in if you can’t put your faith in local government to follow through on local comprehensive plans. And none of us, I don’t know of one person on Lambert Avenue, who’s anti-Sea Ray.” But, she said, Sea Ray’s rights apply on Sea Ray land rather than on land uses once slated for conservation.
The Flagler Chamber of Commerce for its part is again asking its membership, as it did in spring, to voice its support for Sea Ray.
The two parcels form an uneven triangle of a combined 24.4 acres, according to the property appraiser’s documentation, adjacent to Sea Ray’s 39-acre plant. (County administration documentation puts the acreage at 23.6 acres.) The boat manufacturer intends to use the acreage principally as a parking lot, as its own property is overflowing with employee vehicles, who often have to park pell-mell on whatever ground they can grab. The new land (it currently belongs to a different owner) will also be used as a storage area for finished boats—the plant manufactures about six a week—and a 40,000 square-foot office building.
Sea Ray, owned by parent company Brunswick Corp, insists that the expansion is not a manufacturing expansion, but merely a physical expansion that will make the plant safer overall, providing greater maneuverability to the trucks that ferry boats, and giving employees better parking. The manufacturer employs 650 people, a 70 percent increase in three years, making it the second or third largest private employer in the county. The large number of employees is due in mainly to the fact that the number of models the local plant builds has increased to 17, from seven ten years ago, though that doesn’t mean the number of boats rolling off the manufacturing plant is increasing.
The meeting before the planning board is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. in the board chambers at the Government Services Building. The meeting is webcast through the county’s website. The background material on the proposed change appears below.
Sea Ray Rezoning Background Materials, County Planning (2015)
How many potential jobs will this produce versus a dozen homeowners? I say let them expand.
Reasonable expansion of a commercial operation, a parking lot and admin/office building. the residents in opposition represent an outspoken “minority” of Unreasonable opinion/views. If this were a new employer coming to Flagler, (by the way your tax burden is employing people to bring new “clean” industry to Flagler) , Are we all on same page? Or are we fighting a cause that is like locking the gates After all the cows, horses and chickens have left the yard ? Flagler needs industry, jobs and a growing commercial tax base to LOWER the overall Tax burden on property owners. Are we all onboard with this ? or are we wanting Flagler like it was 25 years ago ? Progress versus homeostasis, BTW, growth is coming to Flagler, the majority of people here want reasonable , intelligent, and planned GROWTH !!!
David S says
Great point,I feel after living here for 17 years only a few things have changed for the good but for those families who want good jobs here it seems impossible the government has kept big business away from here since Palm Coast was developed and continue to do so.