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PALM COAST, FL – November 15, 2020 – Commentary: The local anti-development movement has learned from and taken on the attributes of the cancel culture. Regarding the proposed Gardens development on John Anderson, their protest flies in the face of the facts, sound conservation planning, and good sense.
The Hammock Beach River Club, AKA The Gardens, application for a PUD amendment to relocate more of the approved residential units to the east side of John Anderson and for a preliminary plat are on the BOCC agenda for a 5 P.M. Monday BOCC meeting.
Who is a developer? Who is a conservationist?
It has been said that a developer is someone who wants to build homes on the beach while a conservationist is someone who already owns a home on the beach.
Much of the Gardens protest emanates from Flagler Beach, the Flagler County iconic gem. What makes Flagler Beach and Florida beach towns like it in the panhandle so iconic. They are a mixture of residential and commercial activity clustered into a relatively small space, seemingly unplanned. They grew organically. Flagler Beach became iconic before zoning and could not be recreated today.
I am not suggesting that zoning and good land planning are bad, quite the contrary, only that it is ironic that zoning is the anti developer’s weapon of choice, from those who treasure the results of unplanned development.
The City of Flagler Beach and adjoining neighborhoods do not come to the table with clean hands. First, The Gardens will be the answer to a persistent sewage discharge issue for the city. Rather than currently discharging thousands of gallons of partially treated effluent into the Intracoastal Waterway each day, the city will have the option of further treating its effluent to reuse standards and discharging it within The Gardens as irrigation water.
Secondly, the neighboring residents and the city have failed to properly maintain existing stormwater management systems. Recent flooding that they complain about and fear will increase with The Gardens development has been caused either by the intrusion of hurricane-induced floodwater from the ICW or as a result of their failure to maintain their own existing stormwater management systems.
The developer will be unable to move forward without obtaining the proper stormwater management permits for the St Johns River Water Management District, which dictates that additional runoff created by the development MUST be captured on-site.
Flagler Beach had the opportunity to control the destiny of The Gardens development through annexation several years ago, but a citizen referendum turned down the opportunity.
Density and Conservation
It is not about how dense you make it. It is about how you make it dense. The Florida 2070/Water 2020 report from 1000 Friends of Florida (an organization that promotes conservation) concludes that increasing density limits by 20% would conserve substantial amounts of land and water.
Suburban sprawl, epitomized by ITT-Levitt’s plan for Palm Coast would lead to the development of most of Flagler County, including most of the vast western portion by 2070. Concentrating development near the coast where existing transportation corridors and utility services are already concentrated makes more sense. By doing this, we can preserve thousands of Flagler acres for conservation and agriculture.
The Gardens with a commercial component added can offer a live, work, play environment, like Flagler Beach’s, where walking, cycling, and golf carts are common modes of transportation. Growth is inevitable. How we manage it is important. The further from the beach the growth is located, the longer the residents’ inevitable trips to the beach and the further that expensive services have to be extended.
The original Gardens plat included a grade-separated crossing with primary access from SR 100 (across from Colbert Lane). That plat was vacated. The PUD agreement allows for but does not dictate a grade-separated crossing. A study by a reputable traffic engineering firm confirms that access via John Anderson would require some improvement at the intersection of John Anderson and SR 100, but that the development would not degrade the road below its adopted level of service standard.
The county staff report seems to undercut the Lassiter study, but I note that the staff analysis contains several occurrences of “rounding numbers up” to reach its conclusion. In the end, only a certified traffic analysis, not staff conjuring, can be applied to traffic concurrency requirements.
I am a Florida licensed Realtor. I have published GoToby.com for 15 years. During the wild west days of the housing bubble, I covered all of Bobby Ginn’s extensive development projects throughout the northern hemisphere, including The Gardens. I also host a weekly radio show, Real Estate Matters, on WNZF News Radio. I am a real estate consultant too, consulting for local and regional developers, including the developer of The Gardens. But Ken Belshe does not know I am writing this. This commentary is on me.
Toby Tobin: REALTOR®
I'm a licensed Florida REALTOR® affiliated with Grand Living Realty in Palm Coast, Fla. As a real estate consultant to developers/builders, homebuyers, and sellers, and as a journalist, I have years of experience and a treasure trove of relevant data and local institutional knowledge.
Call me at (386) 931-7124 or email me at Toby@GoToby.com.
Listen to my radio show, Real Estate Matters, every Saturday morning right after the 11:00 A.M. news break on WNZF News Radio at 1550 AM or 94.9 FM. Download the Flagler Radio App from the App Store so you can hear Real Estate Matters from anywhere in the world.