The Palm Coast City Council on Tuesday approved a rezoning of about 11 acres on Old Kings Road just north of State Road 100 that would clear the way for a 240-unit gated apartment complex on 22 acres, plus six town homes. The complex will consist of two four-story buildings and four three-story buildings.
Just two weeks ago, the Flagler Beach City Commission approved a 240-apartment complex on nearby Roberts Road. Once built the complexes should make a considerable dent in the region’s apartment deficit.
The Old Kings Road project, called the Tribute, is the work of a company called Ravenshill Holdings tied to the developers who completed Tuscan Reserve, the apartment complex completed to the northwest of Tom Gibbs Chevrolet and now fully leased.
The complex will go up on acreage just south of what was to be the Walmart Supercenter over a decade ago, before Walmart reversed course on that plan, but after Palm Coast shifted Old Kings Road to accommodate the project, for over $6 million. (Property owners along the road are still paying that debt down.) The complex would be just north of Kings Pointe Lake, around which, at the south end, a RaceTrac and a Popeye’s are operating. The developers’ attorney hinted that the project could tip Walmart, which still owns the land to the north, back toward construction.
The land in question before the council Tuesday totals 22 acres. It’s zoned commercial. It belongs to Tom Gibbs of the Flagler Pioneer Group (John Gazzoli of Palm Coast and Judith Gibbs of Ormond Beach are also listed agents). Gibbs was seeking to rezone half the acreage from commercial to multi-family zoning, and sell the full acreage to Ravenshill Holdings (owned by a Tallahassee-based company called Cogency Global, and represented by Neel Stacy). The acreage is now under contract. That contract is contingent on the 11 acres getting rezoned.
Ravenshill Holdings intends to combine the two 11-acre parcels to develop the apartment complex. The smallest apartment will be 650 square feet.
Charlie Faulkner, who is representing the developer, said the project is called “The Tribute” in tribute to Old Kings Road and its history. The developers intend to preserve what archeological remains of the old road may offer visitors. He said the proposal is well positioned to be close to the hospital, shopping, I-95 and the beach, while being isolated from existing residential development. “This is the best location in all of Flagler county for an apartment project development,” he said. “The bottom line is we have no neighbors.” Everything around the proposed development is high-intensity commercial development.
Stacy said his company–different name, same team–built Tuscan Reserve. He described the proposal as a “luxury” apartment complex. “There are now demand for these types of apartments as we’ve shown at Tuscan Reserve,” he said. “We’re seeing additional trends that are happening throughout the state of Florida where people are moving in from out of state at unprecedented numbers. And they’re moving into areas they previously did not move into such as Palm Coast or other areas. So you’re adding additional demand on top of the limited supply. So it’s a it’s a double squeeze right now that the city is experiencing. And the type of people that are moving in that I expect would be our resume profile at at the tribute would be very similar to what we had to Tuscan reserves.”
He said the average household income of residents at Tuscan Reserve is $88,500, quite a bit higher than the typical apartment dweller’s $40,000 to $50,000 income.
“So basically it’s going to be luxury workforce,” a perplexed Eddie Branquinho, the council member, asked Stacy.
“No,” Stacy replied, though he didn’t address Branquinho’s point so much as restate what he’d already said: “I think that we’re trying to build the highest quality apartment community in Palm Coast.”
“I am aware,” Council member Nick Klufas said, “that we’ll still need student housing and affordable housing with JU and UNF and the expansion of AdventHealth and the Florida hospital system, bringing jobs and college curriculum to our community, we’re going to need those additional types of housing as well.” He was referring to the coming campuses in Town Center of the University of Florida and Jacksonville University, as well as the new AdventHealth Hospital under construction on Palm Coast Parkway, though even students who share housing don’t generally result in household incomes of $88,000 a year.
“With all due respect,” Branquinho said, “this is anything but affordable housing and workforce housing.” He said he wasn’t questioning the quality, though he was questioning the density and “overbuilding.” He added: ” In my opinion, we do not have too many one-family homes in Palm Coast.” In fact, the city is at a deficit for affordable apartment choices.
Jay Livingston, the attorney who represents the developers clarified what he considered to be a misunderstanding: “It’s not a 10 acre project. Nor is it an affordable housing project. It’s a addition to what was supposed to be an affordable housing project that was a little over 11 acres, and total will be 22 acres.” A decade ago part of the land had been approved for an affordable-housing development. It fell through. The former owners of that proposal are no longer in the picture. “So, Mr. Branquinho, I understand your confusion because the history of this one is confusing, but it’s not an affordable project. It is supposed to be a high-end apartment project for the type of demographic that Mr. Stacy spoke to.”
The expected renters tend to be retirees testing out the area while building homes locally, or workers working out of their home, or workers in health care, Stacy said, with apartments tailored for home-office uses. Thus without making it explicit, Stacy used enough coded language to mean: there won’t be poor, subsidized renters. Traffic-wise, the complex is expected to add 670 daily trips as opposed to 4,600 if the land was used for commercial purposes, Faulkner said. The city’s planner saw no issues with the rezoning–it fits in with the city’s comprehensive plan–and the planning board recommended it 6-0.
The city requires developers to host at least one neighborhood meeting with residents in the zone surrounding their proposed project, to get a sense of public sentiment about it. The meeting the developers hosted at the Hilton Garden Inn drew no one. The public comment segment at Tuesday’s council meeting drew a few perspectives, starting with that of Charles Bowman, who opened with a compliment to Virginia Smith, the city clerk, for responding to public record request, and two smug and rude retorts to Mayor David Alfin (“I wasn’t speaking to you,” followed, when the mayor asked his name for the record, by: “David, don’t act like you don’t know me”), before asking the council members about their previous “communications” with the developers and Livingston. Mark Lewis wondered why commercial land was being converted to residential when the city’s tax base is lopsidedly weighed toward residential.
Others included some who complained about the lack of shopping or problems with water, and others who advocated for the project, including Mark Langello, the developer and member of the county planning board. He noted that “multifamily is an important element to a vibrant community, you can’t have a monolithic community of just houses,” whether it’s traveling nurses, managers of businesses, doctors prospecting locally. “There’s a lot of need for this type of community.”
He then addressed Branquinho’s concern: “When you have multi family, people think that this is causing a lot of extra development or they think it’s hurting your environment. Actually, it does the reverse. When you put 246 units on 20 acres, or whatever that would be, that’s far less of an impact to our environment than if you put 246 units on a bunch of individual lots. That’s called urban sprawl. And while we all want to have single family houses in our community, we we wouldn’t profess to have any monolithic-like whole bunch of apartments. But that actually is a far less destructive element to the environment than a bunch of single family houses. Also some people want to live in a community where they don’t take care of the outside of the house, and they want to live in an apartment community, they want to live close to other people. So it allows the freedom of choice. So I would encourage this project, it seems good on every phase.”
The council was not considering a site plan for the project: that will come next. The vote on Tuesday was only about the rezoning. The council approved the rezoning 3-1, with Branquinho opposed.
The apartment complex represents a shift in the area’s focus from commercial to high-density residential. The staff report included this revealing analysis about the shift in progress: “The market for brick and mortar retail and office uses has substantially declined over the last 10-15 years and this has become more relevant on secondary arterial roadways as most of the remaining commercial uses desire to be located along the three major east-west corridors in the City that have I-95 interchanges or nearby activity centers, where north-south arterial roadways intersect with these east-west corridors. This reduced demand for commercial services along this area of Old Kings Road makes residential uses more logical” the the property.