A seaside development just south of the Surf Club condos on State Road A1A gave residents and the county plenty of heartaches when it was first proposed almost 20 years ago. It’s back, in different form. So are the heartaches.
One county commissioner was ready to kill the proposed Solitude at Matanzas Shores project outright at a hearing Monday before another, who was no less skeptical, threw it a lifeline. He’s giving its developers 30 days to work out legal, density and geographical issues commissioners and neighboring residents find deeply troubling: the proposed development would be within a few steps of a duneless shoreline that has been eroding under violent and recurring storms. And it would be on acreage that, residents say, has been prone to torrential southbound flooding in recent storms.
Carol Scott, a longtime Lakeside resident across the street, simply called it a “disastrous plan.”
Solitude Homes at Matanzas Shores would be built on 3.9 acres of vacant, all but tree-less land at 6645 North Oceanshore Boulevard (or A1A), between North Oceanshore boulevard and the ocean. It’s catty corner, across the road from the rather dense Las Casitas development the County Commission approved in 2018, which abuts the older Lakeside By the Sea development to the north. It would be just south of Surf Club III, the condominium.
It used to be the Grenada Campground at the north end of Washington Oaks State Park, and had housed mobile homes and recreational vehicles for decades. The parcel was designated for apartment construction. There was a proposal to that effect in the middle of the aughts, which would have resulted in a 41-unit condominium project. The planning board recommended approval of the project, but a neighbor sued the commission. A settlement agreement cleared the way for 14 town homes split into two buildings, with conditions.
“This is a vested project,” Mike Chiumento III, the land-use attorney representing the developer, told commissioners Monday. “This project right here does not need any further approvals from the county commission other than go in and do your site plan and your construction drawings. So this isn’t a matter of, can we build something here. This is the project that is approved today, for 14 town homes.”
The project was approved as a special exception, which enabled negotiated conditions. Three years ago the developer met with the county administration and with the Matanzas Shores Owners Association to connect the project to the association’s sewer system. “We think the project that we’re proposing is better” than the previously vested proposal, Chiumento said, “and I know some of the residents in the neighborhood felt that the project proposed is aesthetically better.”
The developer’s request is to amend the special exception to go from 14 attached town homes 16 detached homes.
Dunes fronting the ocean would be built by the developer. They would consist of 10 cubic feet per foot. “When the next hurricane comes and washes it out, will he have to restore the dune or will the county have to restore the dune?” a resident asked, referring to the developer.
There would be a 6-foot-high natural vegetation barrier on the north and western perimeter of the parcel. A public walkover on an easement 15 feet wide would have to be provided at the south end of the development. But there would be no parking associated with that path.
The development itself would be a tight squeeze, relatively speaking: The 16 homes would be built along a roughly L-shaped lane ending in a cul-de-sac wide enough to allow for firetrucks to turn. The homes would be on 40-foot wide lots, with side set-backs between homes of just 5 feet, front yards of 20 feet, and rear setbacks of 10 feet. The homes would have a minimum living area of 800 square feet. They would connect to central sewer.
“I don’t know legally how you can approve this project under the current RC zoning,” said Dennis Bayer, the attorney representing the Hammock Civic Association. He was involved in the lawsuit almost 20 years ago, representing the man who sued. RC zoning is residential-commercial.
“If they had applied for single family residential like this, they would have had to put on 75-foot-wide lawns,” Bayer told commissioners. “So I don’t see how you can amend a special exception to allow multifamily, now to allow single-family that doesn’t meet any of the space requirements for RC zoning. It’s not PUD light, I just don’t see legally how you can get there. Particularly where the lot square footage area of 2,800 feet is less than one third the requirement of the 9,000 square feet. The lot width of 40 feet is 35 feet short of the 75 feet required. The lot length of 70 feet is 50 feet shorter than the 120 foot required, and the front setback of 20 feet is also shorter so and your maximum lock coverage is 171 percent over the existing RC zoning that’s allowed. So again, I don’t know how you can get there from here.”
He described the development as enabling urban density that, without a rezoning, “should not be allowed.” Whether swayed by Bayer or by his own analysis, Dance, the savviest of the commissioners on land use issues, was equally critical, starting with the way Planning Director Adam Mengel had described the project in his own introductory presentation. Mengel had called it “PUD light.”
The site is considered too small for a PUD, or planned unit development–the sort of development that enables more regulatory conditions–because it’s smaller than 5 acres.
“Can you direct me to the place in the land development code where we define PUD light?” Dance asked Mengel.
“He just made that up,” Commission Chair Greg Hansen said. That left Dance perplexed, though for Dance perplexity is often a mask for annoyance or exasperation he politely doesn’t show. “There’s no such thing as PUD light,” he said later in the hearing. “Going to be really kind, but we’re making things up as we go.”
Dance was also unconvinced about either designs–the 14 or 16 units–that had been proposed. “I feel like I’m trying to fix a bad design with a terrible design and I don’t think there’s a legal basis for it either,” he said. “I don’t know how we transfer the density and the conditions from a multifamily project to a residential single family project. I have trouble with that translation when you can’t permit a single family project in RC without meeting the lot dimensional requirements.”
County Attorney Al Hadeed agreed, calling it “incredibly problematic” and a product of procedures from a previous era. “It’s my opinion that they are not entitled to any number of single-family residential projects. And the board could make that conclusion. This is going to be a close one and a challenging question for the board. But it is a point well made.”
Mengel, the planning director, pointing to the county code, to previous approval and the settlement agreement to justify his findings, which were kinder to the developer.
Chiumento had said that the new proposals had found support among neighboring resident. If so, they did not number more than one, among the dozen or so who addressed the commission that evening: Steve Geiger, a Surf Club condominiums resident, said he loved the concept. But he also had concerns about the traffic hazards on A1A and the turning lanes within the development.
Mengel had pointed out the potential traffic hazards ahead. “We’re going to need to have a northbound deceleration lane to make a turnout into it, a right turn, and then we’ll also need most importantly, a southbound left turn,” he said. “We’ll be talking with [the Florida Department of Transportation] about that, to the degree that we can influence that to happen. This is one that I think you’d want to do at the front versus waiting at the back and waiting for the crashes and accidents to happen.”
Some residents addressed flooding. One of them showed a picture of water flowing south, through the property in question. Another recalled the recent storms that swelled water at nearby Washington Oaks, where the water was so deep, he said, “you could kayak” there.
Dennis Clark of the Hammock Community Association, and a member of the Scenic A1A committee, pointed to the county’s comprehensive plan, which “dictates that properties between designated scenic roads and wetlands or open water shall be zoned to the lowest intensity allowed for the respective future land use categories. Now I know it doesn’t say density, it says intensity, but you know what it means.”
Scott, the Lakeside resident, said the beach in the area “has eroded so much, that Surf 3, which is the Surf Club closest to this site, cannot build a walkover. The ocean has eaten away so much of that area. Then this particular site,” she continued, “there’s quite a bit of leakage, of oil leakage from various things, probably the trailer park that was there for some years,” with no documented clean-up. There’s a lot of concrete surrounding the property, setting up flooding on it. “So I urge you so much to vote this down. It should never have been approved in the first place.”
It was nearing 9 p.m. Hansen at one point had been willing to support the development if only the buffers were expanded to 40 feet throughout. But within the hour, he’d changed his mind: “I don’t like it for several reasons. I don’t like the 16 unit,” he said. “I think we need to cut that off so we get at least a decent setback. I don’t like east of the coastal construction line. I just don’t like that. I don’t think it’s smart. Why should we approve this when it’s going to create problems for us?”
Commissioner Dave Sullivan wasn’t any more supportive, even questioning some of the setback calculations. Commissioner Leann Pennington, who likes to be deliberative, noted the hour as she spoke of the many questions she still had. She didn’t want to prolong the hearing, and suggested it be continued to a later date.
“I’m willing to just say no, so we don’t have to continue it,” Sullivan said.
Dance was not willing to be that categorical. “Legal issues are still prevalent in my mind,” Dance said. “Legally, I need clarification if this even comes back.” He offered 30 days, and direction: “The starting point is mirroring the density of the prior development. I think if you’re going to call it a PUD light, it needs to reflect more of the PUD requirements. You can’t take the best of every option and try to create something, because there’s reasons some of those are put in there.” He added: “I’m not at an approval or denial. I’ll second to table. But I think everybody should give the applicant some clarification.”
The matter will return to the commission on April 17 at its 5 p.m. meeting. Sullivan voted against the motion, underscoring his opposition to the development.
Every inch of land must be developed in Flagler county for some reason
Gary: $$$$$$$$ in developer’s pocket. Developers and massive corporation get whatever they want. The county doesn’t care what you or I think; quality of life, and wild life, is irrelevant.
The county should have bought it and turned it into a park. A six foot dune for protection is a joke and they know it.
Will anyone ever learn
Here’s an idea: allow the construction *if* they also include a 500 ft jetty (or longer!) built in an attempt to prevent erosion. As this would be a little experimental, and might benefit the future of other easily eroded areas of Flagler seashore, maybe the county could chip in 25% of costs (LOL, I know… but…). Now if that jetty were say, finished, or more appropriately, allowed access for the purpose of fishing ($5 per person, per day or whatever), divvied up at an agreed upon rate, maybe even allowing for a small business like at High Bridge.
The previous efforts at erosion prevention have… honestly sucked. If you want to keep your beaches where they are and save tax dollars, you absolutely must try something different. Doing the same thing over and over and over is expensive, ridiculous, and a waste of effort.
Joe D says
Maryland and Delaware beaches used the jetty system of erosion protection. Of course they look like pier pylons without the pier decking attached when you look down the beach. But as opposed to the never ending cycle ($$$) of Sand replacement, it was a successful option
The prior approval was 2 strips of 7 attached townhouses 20 years ago, but due to the economy, they were never built. Now the developer want to space them out to 16 single family ($$$$), homes, squeezed on the same small lot that has almost NO ability to absorb its run off because of all the covering hard scape(all the run off would go down A1A into the neighboring developments
Their proposed “public “ beach access /dune walkover would have no assigned off road parking, and neighbors indicated (correctly) that people would be constantly parking along A1A on a sharp curve. They also glossed over that the proposal has the project building OVER the maximum Eastward construction line of the beach, and needed special approval for THAT ( which would be ridiculous given the beach damage by Ian and Nicole)
The fire department representatives want there to be a minimum of 7 feet setback ( not the current 5 ft) so that ladder trucks and equipment can get to the houses ( or install sprinklers….ha, ha, $$$)
They need so many NEW exceptions to the building code, they should either go back to the original (albeit less aesthetically pleasing) 14 attached townhouses, which were approved by the County 20 years ago, or forget it altogether!
Please enlighten us as to what new exceptions to the “building code” would be required by this project. Nothing you have mentioned is a “building code” issue. The fire department in requesting a 7 foot setback is actually more restrictive that the current “building code”, Table 602; I do not believe granting such a request would be legal.
Capt Salty says
Been living down here for 31 years. Not just hurricanes but strong Nor’easters have sunk that area under 6 feet of sea water many times. What IDIOTS would pay good money for a tiny house on 40ft of wet sand and expect insurance companies to pay every time your tiny home gets washed out to sea ?
JOE D says
“If you built it they will come.”
Remember that line from the movie FIELD of DREAMS? The flooding risk is guaranteed, and the liability in later years for the loss of sand/beach will fall to the County ( meaning YOU as the taxpayers)
People are SO desperate for a piece of disappearing beach property they will buy ANYTHING! If it’s sold, they will ASSUME the construction was SAFE or else why would the County APPROVE it?
The land needs to be developed into homes for blacks and given to them free for the oppression they’ve experienced. If one white family gets a home there it proves white entitlement.
If this even a legitimate comment, you probably need to get your facts straight. The last time l checked, right down the street from there, it ain’t “blacks” as you say living in those rusted out mobile homes in the Hammock. Maybe it’s those residents who want to take their beach back. Leave black people out your Hatfield and McCoys merry-go-round and find another tree to bark up.
Are you serious?
Atwp: God knows anymore. People are getting wackier by the day.
Literally insane to build there. I know money is everything but this is just irresponsible.
Willy Boy says
In the words of Mr. T, “I pity da fools.”
Quit the crying and just approve this project. You approve everything else.
Salty Dog says
Look folks the project is going through this county never says NO to any developer or builder. Maybe the county can convince their friends to finally do something about that derelict crumbling eyesore right next to the proposed site.
That property has a natural seawall. A Coquina shelf is behind it and that tall ass hotel…or condo if you will that protects it from erosion. The flooding pic in the article is across the street. Once they build up the area along the curve in A1A there will be no flooding on the property. Some water may come up and over so it the same as anywhere else Other than the fact there will be no erosion in the next thousand years.
It floods every storm now .No matter what you put there and how high .I watch it every storm.We live here.
Barbara Royere says
Flagler County will not stop developing until we are a concrete village. You want just building & traffic, move to NYC. I would love the mayor to see these comments. Vote them all out of office ,next time, DeSantis too
Disgusting. Do something about that toll bridge, every one is drive east & backing up, every day any time of day. FLAGLER SUCKS
Barbara: You are so correct! Each and every day now, at all hours of the day, that Palm Coast Parkway bridge to the Hammock is backed up, sometimes west of the light. Yet, the county thinks we need more and more and more population and cars. This backup started just recently, and as you know, there are only two other accesses to our homes: Flagler Beach, and the 206 bridge in Crescent Beach. Bad, bad planning! Developers rule their minds.
House to the north has been torn down by the County.
Whole town is going to be strip malls and pavement and homes
Bob Ziolkowski says
Make them adhere to the original plan and build 14 townhouses…we might buy 1 or 2 ourselves if that happens.
Bill C says
When all these little matchbox houses get washed away and the debris travels for who knows how many miles and washes up on beaches, creating hazardous conditions like boards with nails in them, jagged pieces of metal, etc., it will impact the local economies in that will make visiting those beaches undesirable. Plus, who pays for the cleanup? Chiumento will surely argue it’s the responsibility of the County or State.
Richard Smith says
Can’t wait for the next hurricane.
Judy are you serious?
Our save dunes are being washed away with every storm and they want homes there? Great investment
LAW ABIDING CITIZEN says
Chiumento ALWAYS comes in with his we are going to do it anyway argument, not giving a rats [email protected]@ for the welfare of the community, firefighters or the home buyer and it’s beyond me how they can just change zoning laws but they do, its called corruption at its finest and Sullivan always circles back, he talks a good game but it’s all BS, they and their buddies have been getting away with this for years down here but I believe that there is a new school of thought finally on this commission ith 3 members the other 2 have to GO, and Danko who is looking at O’Briens seat and Klufas looking at another seat, these 2 cannot get voted inotherwise we will be seeing the further demise of Flagler County.
Carol Scott says
Those who profess that a sea wall, berm or jetty will hold against the raging ocean are living a long ago dream. Viewing the site from the beach proves the vulnerability of any structure meant to hold back the tide. In recent storms, the ocean has moved the unique coquina rocks weighting tons. It is impossible to build a walkover when the condo next to the site lost a walkover in a storm, thus prohibiting rebuilding. The Solitude site has deep erosion and the next nor’easter will finish the job of taking more big bites out of the dunes. There is oil leakage at the site. A geologist did a search and found no environmental clean up documents. Mr Mengel insists FDOT could provide assistance with traffic. Good luck with that! Traveling south, it is impossible to vision a left turn where four-lanes merge to two lanes, intersecting with the Las Casitas development directly west of the proposed Solitude access. Matanzas Shores Owners Association should never have agreed to allow Solitude to tie into our wastewater treatment plant (WWTP). The legal agreement shows Solitude may use the WWTP provided a berm is constructed. The BoCC should have thrown out the entire project. Too bad a lifeline was tossed out possibly saving this disastrous project.