With the possibility of facing a lawsuit from either side, the Flagler County Commission Monday evening voted 4-1 to deny the proposed Solitude at Matanzas Shores’ development of 16 single-family homes on 3.9 seaside acres along State Road A1A, at the north end of the county.
The developer may still build 14 town homes, if that’s how he chooses to proceed, but with conditions previously negotiated.
The proposal, on land that used to be the Grenada Campground for many years, has been controversial since its inception two decades ago. It was the subject of a law suit that resulted in a settlement then. It is under the cloud of a threatened lawsuit now, possibly from the developer and from residents.
“There certainly is exposure potentially any decision you make,” Adam Mengel, the county’s planning director, told commissioners. “If you remember the history with this, I think at one point we had both sides angry, so angry that I think we were actually having both of those engaged at this time with with some of the court processes. That’s the risk you have inherent with with many decisions we make but particularly with this one.”
Commissioners Greg Hansen, Andy Dance, Dave Sullivan and Leann Pennington voted to deny the application. Donald O’Brien was in dissent. He’d made a motion to approve the application after 75 minutes of discussion and public comment. The motion got no second.
The proposal was last before the commission in late March. It could have failed then. Commissioners gave the developer, who is represented by land use attorney Michael Chiumento, another opportunity to work out objections from residents, including worries about aesthetics, traffic safety–the county has no authority to force the state Transportation Department to build at turning lane at the development’s entrance–flooding and whether the developer would re-build lasting dunes along the shore.
Commissioners were not any more satisfied on Monday than they were last month.
Chiumento said the proposal is vested for 14 town houses, and the developer has been working with county staff for three years to bring an acceptable proposal to the commission. But “this is the product that the developer came to, Chiumento said, thinking it “would be a better use” than the town homes. The project is no longer just conceptual. It’s been engineered, he said.
“In the event that this project is approved,” he said, “there were additional exactions as we talked about, that come along with this project that would not come along with the other project.” Those “exactions” include a sewer connection, “a commitment to rebuild the dunes on the property” and a dune easement, public access to the beach, a wider buffer along the perimeter, and broad turning lanes for emergency vehicles inside the development.
Those were essentially the proposals before the commission last month. Chiumento this time added the projection of three to four feet of fill on the land to diminish the risk of flooding. Runoff “will drain towards the streets, go through a series of inlets and pipes and drain into the pond or that dry retention area which we’re also using as a recreation area,” he said. “Now, if the ocean comes up 8 feet like it had in prior times, this project doesn’t have an effect on anything really. It too will have some flooding issues.”
To Dance, the proposal is not by the book: “There’s not a way in the land development code to affect single family development with special exceptions. It’s not there,” Dance said. “The second problem that I have is that we’re skipping a step in special exceptions.” Those special exceptions are handled and disposed of at the planning board level. They do not move on to the commission. “It should be coming to us as an appeal and not directly after the planning board,” he said. He then put it more bluntly: the 16 units requested “violates” a portion of the comprehensive plan.
Pennington had the same concerns, seeing the application as “a completely different proposal than what was approved previously.” Nor was she comfortable with setting the sort of precedent that would allow “for other things to crawl in here for special exceptions that completely go against our comp plan.”
Mengel, the planning director, defended the steps the proposal took to make its way to the commission, repeating that the proposal is “unique” with 19 criteria attached. He relied on a county attorney memo for legal justification.
When Sullivan asked him directly: “If we had no history on this piece of property at all, we’re just starting from scratch, and they came in with this plan. Would we approve it?”
“It is not consistent with the zoning,” Mengel said.
“The simple answer is no,” Sullivan said. Mengel had to agree.
As in March, members of the public addressing the commission were opposed to the proposal. They pressed for dune reconstruction at the site, spoke of State Road A1A’s potential hazards, parking and flooding issues. Hansen assured the public: “FEMA’s rule is six cubic yards of sand for the emergency dune for every foot of beach. We’re going to do that regardless of what all happens here,” he said.
“The attorney would lead you to believe that people will walk there or bicycle there to go to the beach,” one resident neighboring the proposed development said. “Well let me tell you, they’re not. They’re going to drive there as they have in the past year, their cars parked all over the place.”
Attorney Dennis Bayer, who represents one of the property owners as well as the Hammock Community Association underscored the points he’d made in March: “I don’t know how you go special exception from single family to allow multifamily and then special exception back to single family, and they don’t meet the requirements of either of the zoning R3 or RC on some of the particular issues that they have to meet,” he said. Certain issues can be overlooked in exchange for a project that would hook up to central sewer and pledge to rebuild dunes. “I’m all for it, but it’s not an excuse to overlook your actual zoning requirements,” Bayer said.
Shortly before the vote, Dance said the project can go ahead with 14 units. But he would not support the current proposal. Sullivan made a motion to deny the application
Richard Smith says
This is the perfect piece of land for a conservation group to purchase and just leave alone. Cause the last thing we should be doing is developing houses directly on the coast.
Excellent idea !
April Healey says
I agree completely! But there’s too much greed at play to expect this to actually happen.
And, be sure short-term rentals won’t be allowed That will increase the car and foot traffic by three-six fold in this small area!
Flooding is the issue really, but if 16 houses will flood, 14 townhomes/condos will too. Easier to get something approved/passed West of I-95. Growth for the sake of destroying the beaches or forestry ? As the beaches erode away, this is a crisis the rest of any homeowners want to be charged higher insurance premiums at the very least for.
Joe D says
The Commissioner’s comments about “14 vs 16” homes wasn’t about 14 single family hardscaped homes ( replay the older March meeting when the variance was first brought up). He was referring to the original approved ( with certain stipulations) 14 townhouses on the property back in 2005. Unfortunately, since the smaller 14 townhouse project was already approved, they can’t take back that approval. That’s why ( again from the March meeting ) one of the Commissioners stated it was not a good idea to take a bad project approval and replace it with an even WORSE project approval.
LAW ABIDING CITIZEN says
Just keep on voting it down, I mean there’s now even more traffic issues and also fire safety and flooding,because some of those bad commissioners back then voted and gave a bad approval does not mean that these commissioners should give a approval, we should look up to see what commissioners originally voted for this project and if any want to run again here in the near future, VOTE NO to them too. Alot of these poor decisions were made back then who knows what skin in the game those commissioners had back then some of them were slimy to say the least.
Concerned Citizen says
16 units on less than 4 acres? Wow. Developers and The Chiumento’s are getting real desperate to develop every single vacant parcel in Flagler County.
I would say kudos to our BOCC or voting no. But it’s only a matter of time before they are swayed by money and pressure from the Chiumento’s to allow it.
Even as it was brought up by the residents of the neighborhood in March the issue of the traffic over the bridges ,particularly in emergencies ,
quality of life in general with steadly increasing population was again totally ignored .
This time kudos to all the commissioners that voted NO! That area floods often with big storms. 16 homes in 3.5 acres this is crazy! There goes Chiu again w/the rezoning and special exception c’mon Mike! This county and cities need a break and moratorium in development based in rezoning’s and special exception’s! Enough is enough! Greed kills too.
LAW ABIDING CITIZEN says
BRAVO, to the 4 FCBOCC commissioners who voted a big fat NO! Get it Donnie that you no longer have your buddy and the vote of Sullivan on your side anymore to pass absurd agendas which do not serve the county’s citizens best interest. And look at Mengal calling this project “unique”, well it certainly is having small cottages built on small plots of land which compromise fire safety, unsafe traffic and flooding issues. Mengal , you should really start advocating for the county that you work for instead of being bought and sold by developers who think they can change zoning laws at the drop of a hat to fluff up their pockets. How clever the planning board thought that they were going to dump this on the FCBOCC for approval so if the s**t hit the fan with these issues their hands were clean. And this ones also for you Chuimento who thinks because plans are “engineered” that it’s a go, plans can be changed at any time, that’s the beauty of a voting system.
C’mon man says
4 acres?? That’s a massive storage unit that could have been built. County is slipping
Frank Barone, Jr says
Well if anything good came about this fiasco, thank god that eyesore and dangerous building next door was finally torn down.
Jane E K says
Can we just stop developing and take some cold hard facts into account? Thank you !!!
A Concerned Observer says
A small reduction in the quantity of planed homes from 16 to 14 is not enough. It should be, nay, must be ZERO! With the history of beach and dune erosion and undermining of beachside homes from recent storms should be enough for any prudent and reasonable person to realize building homes on the beach is unwise in the extreme. We all pay the price for such damage, be it in repairing the damage done by storms to increased cost and reduced availability of homeowners insurance for all local homeowners. The rape, ruin and run mentality of developers is clear. They are concerned only in their profit of such projects. They have no concern whatsoever of the long term adverse consequences of their projects once they leave. It seems that common sense is not common.
Roy Longo says
No surprise that Obrien voted for this. All it takes is a developer to speak about building in the county and Obrien is out there humping their legs. Thank you to the rest of the board who voted against this and had the courage to stand up to developers and say NO! We haven’t seen that in many years.
LAW ABIDING CITIZEN says
It speaks volume to us taxpayers and citizens of the county when a seated commissioner is the only one who votes in favor of developers who have no interest in our well being. O’Brien is running for Renners seat, another who has done NADA with our overdevelopment , poor infrastructure, and safety concerns for our county. Remember this at voting time folks, like Donnie says, he is ready, well we are also ready not to vote for you.
I like the idea of a conservationist group buying the land and no building allowed on it (except for turtle nests😉) Maybe some benches and picnic tables could scattered around so people could sit, relax and enjoy the view and a snack. I laughed when I read they would change it to town houses instead. As someone said, they flood also. Maybe someone knows if there is grant money or something available to purchase that land?
Joe D says
That would be an exceptional idea, but if the property has sat purchased, designed but undeveloped after all the planning, there would have to be millions of dollars in payment for a “reasonable PROFIT” to the current owner(s), to agree to sell it.
You MIGHT find grants or non-profit funds to help, but LEGALLY, you would (not joking) have to go before the PLANNING COMMISSION and PROBABLY the Flagler County Commission, to have the property zoning CHANGED again for a different use. But….it’s always worth a try…you never know!
One problem seems to be that some proposed developments and special exceptions approved years ago, but that were never developed, live on forever. Too bad a timeframe was not placed on the proposed 14 townhouses that were never built. When Commissioner Sullivan asked a simple “yes” or “no” question, Mr. Mengel admitted that the development would not meet today’s land development code.
LAW ABIDING CITIZEN says
JoB: Exactly right, we are not living in the 1940’s anymore, there are many other changes that need to take place and we need to take our county back, we need commissioners and PC seated officials to keep voting NO! The developers will eventually get tired cause all they want is a money grab and go.
Celia Pugliese says
In this county between “Pettytto” and unfortunately other than Sonny and Cher, we have Donnie and Chiu so we are in serious trouble…This time Thank God four commissioners saved the day! Big Thanks to Dance, Sullivan, Pennington and Hansen!
I gave him a donation for that vote says
O’Brian has been bought by the developers. He is running for Representative Renners seat in our District. O’Brian received money for his campaign from Chumento.
Remember to not vote for this guy as he is un- ethical.
Bob Ziolkowski says
Does anyone know who the developer is?