(Click “Like” to become a fan of the Palm Coast Observer.)
Sandwiched between Colbert Lane and Old Kings Road, the Woodlands is tucked away and hidden from the hustle and bustle of Palm Coast Parkway and the fast-food restaurants nearby.
Packed with residential housing, the Woodlands is just what its name says: Trees and homes account for most of the acreage.
However, a proposed 216-unit assisted living facility could change the makeup of one of Palm Coast’s oldest neighborhoods.
On Wednesday, the Palm Coast Planning and Land Development Regulation Board unanimously approved the rezoning of three separate parcels from commercial to mixed use/conservation, totaling about 71.4 acres, of which approximately 14 acres will allowed to be developed. (The PLDRB approved the three items with a 6-0 vote; board member Michael Beebe was absent.)
The rezoning will allow for developer Jim Cullis to build Grand Living, the proposed assisted-living facility that would be located along the western portion of Colbert Lane, between two portions of the Woodlands.
The project will still need to be approved by City Council, but Cullis said if final approval is given, construction could begin next year, with the development finished by 2014.
The concept is to have the facility nearby the other Grand Haven communities; that way, current Grand Haven residents who want to transition into assisted-living could do so without relocating very far.
“This has been on the back of my mind — to create a neighborhood in our area for folks who need continuing care,” Cullis said.
Currently, the land is zoned commercial, but no development is on the radar.
The facility would consist of several four- and five-story buildings, including two commercial buildings and a smaller sales center. The commercial buildings could eventually become a pharmacy, a bank or a grocery store, Cullis said.
Woodlands residents have banded together to oppose the project. According to residents at the meeting, a petition has circulated with more than 90 signatures.
There were more than 100 residents at Wednesday’s meeting. Some Grand Haven residents spoke in favor of the project, and several residents of the Woodlands spoke in opposition.
“The beautiful woods in question for the rezoning application also house a myriad of wildlife,” the Woodlands petition states. “Each day, we see 20 to 30 deer and as many or more turkeys in those woods. Not to mention bobcat, eagles, owls, gators and snakes that live there. Where will these creatures go? Very simple: They will move into our subdivision. If this happens, it, too, will provide a safety, sanitation and security risk for young and old, alike, in the neighborhood.”
Diane Bixler, who lives in the Woodlands, said she came to the meeting to gather more information.
“Ideally, I would not want anything built there,” she said. “That said, it’s already zoned commercial. I understand they have the right to build something there. ... My biggest concerns are the traffic and the size of the buildings.”
According to the proposal, the commercial zoning would allow for a maximum building height of 100 feet. Cullis’ plan has a maximum height of 60 feet for residential and 45 feet high for nonresidential.
Bixler did say she appreciated the developer’s willingness to downsize what could be built there.
Bixler’s concern of road safety was a common theme by many of the Woodlands residents, though.
Blare Drive, which is proposed to be one of the entrance/exit points, has no yellow lanes or striping. It doesn’t have reflectors for car lights, and there is no sidewalk for pedestrians.
According to Cullis, a study was done to test traffic on Blare Drive in the event that a 300-unit apartment complex would be built, and it passed the test. In fact, that proposal would have produced about 50% more activity than the current proposal for assisted living, Cullis said.
Residents who also spoke Wednesday stated that they were promised the land behind them along Blare Drive, which would abut Grand Living, would never be developed. But Ray Tyner, planning manager for the city, said the land had development entitlements on it from the county and couldn't simply be taken away now.
Also, the existing maximum commercial floor area is 188,847 square feet, but that would be cut down to 25,000, according to Cullis’ plan. The plan also calls for an increase of about 59 acres of preservation land (no development potential) — an increase of about 14 acres.
Dr. Stephen Davidson, chairman of the Grand Haven Community Development District Board of Supervisors, said the district believes the proposed project is “admirable.”
The entitlement phase of the project isn’t the problem, Davidson said. It’s the technical site plan review that has the district wary.
Davidson, speaking on behalf of the district Wednesday night, listed several concerns, such as vehicle/pedestrian safety, preservation of the natural vegetation in the area and building height restrictions. Davidson also pointed out that should the Grand Living concept fail, the development doesn’t change into a non-age-restricted apartment-style complex.
Cullis confirmed Wednesday that he’d be willing to donate the conservation land to a group that would ensure it wasn’t developed.
Residents were also concerned that cypress trees, which are protected by the state, would be knocked down, but the environmental consultant for the project said that there are no cypress trees on the proposed site.
Another concern was the visibility of the buildings from Colbert Lane. Cullis said there’s a 35-foot buffer along Colbert Lane and, ideally, the buildings would be somewhat hidden by the trees so they aren’t an eyesore to Woodlands residents, either.
Board member James Jones said toward the end of Wednesday’s three-hour meeting that if it wasn’t for the rezoning requirement for the proposed project, any commercial development could have occurred without the residents’ consent.
“We have a heck of a lot better usage of this property with Grand Living,” Jones said, noting that if the landowner wanted to build a strip mall, Wednesday’s meeting wouldn’t have even happened.
Cullis also reiterated that he is willing to be flexible in regard to the project.
“I really honestly believe that this is a need in the community,” Cullis said. “I am more than willing to work with the city on the traffic issues as they relate to the Woodlands.”
The recommendation by the Planning and Land Development Regulation Board will now move on to the City Council.
Currently 4 Responses
- i hope the city noes that with 4 and 5 story houses there going to a latter truck for the fire dept in case of fires. and that fire truck is going to cost well over 1.5 $ and wher is that money coming from us more taxes
- Palm Coast is a beautiful area to live. unfortunately it has the worst city govt. i ever lived under..
i agree with the gentleman who wants to submit a referendum to combine the mayor and city planer into one, and have an election every two years.
the citizens deserve better, but, with only ten percent of them voting, this B. S.. is what we get.
i hope the citizens come out and vote on the referendum.
- I say this with all due respect for the builder and hope if this project does move forward they will collectively work with the surrounding community and listen to their concerns.
Regardless of what side of the argument you are on in this discussion, please don't fall for basic rezoning tactics. It's very clear the current FLU map conservation on that specific piece of property on Colbert and Blare makes it very difficult to build on zoned "AS IS". It's been openly identified as a "bad" piece of commercial land by developers. Thus the reason NO ONE has built on it, attempted to build on it, or even bought with intentions of building on it; until now. And they have to REZONE to do anything. In my opinion, with the current zoning, that lot may never be built on; but that is just my opinion.
With that said, let's say someone did build on it with the current zoning; it seems it could be no where the size of what's being proposed. Just look at the current FLU map compared to the proposed FLU map. Simple math shows most of the land on the south side of the lot is un-buildable conservation overlay. Even if they built a Kangaroo, as mentioned, the proposed living facility is equivalent to building FIVE multistory Kangaroos! Also mentioned was a strip mall that could go there. How many more empty strip malls does Palm Coast need and why would any builder waste money on another?
Let's see, the question should be, do the residents of the area want POTENTIALLY one or two commercial buildings on the corner or a CERTAIN multi-building/ multi-story large residential/commercial development throughout with potential staff/ residents commuting at all hours.
It seems like the main leverage the city/developer is using in their recommendation to rezone is the argument that "the future potential is worse than the Grand Living proposal". Unfortunately, it may be opposite and at no time have they proved their case on what "COULD" be there with specific plans and justifications. Just simple opinions and assumptions on what someone "MIGHT" do on that land in the future with the current zoning.
I don't disrespect the developer, the facility seems very functional and he seems to have respect for the environment/ community in his plans. But no matter how nice they build it and how much they conserve, they CAN NOT minimize the negative impact bringing that high amount of people and traffic to that relatively quiet area of Palm Coast. We have hundreds of acres all over the city cleared and currently zoned ready for this type of project already. It seems that most folks main argument with this situation is - "Why are we not using the abundance of land already cleared, zoned, and designed for this kind of facility?" Sadly the the Palm Coast planning board did NOT address this question. Nor did they address hardly any of the concerns the residents of the area stressed. Their lack of expressing any concern or even acknowledgement of the valid concerns of the citizens of Palm Coast is extremely disheartening. I trust the City Council will at least listen to and address the citizens concerns and fears.
Rezoning conservation is a dangerous and slippery slope, especially for the Woodlands, Grand Haven and surrounding areas. Conservation land is the main attraction to that area of Palm Coast.
The city/developer should focus more on the positives of rezoning and building this type of facility, specifically why on this particular piece of property and area of Palm Coast, but they keep stressing the negatives of the possible alternatives based solely on general assumptions. It all seems like scare tactics of what "COULD" be there, when it's seems rather obvious why the current commercial zoned land has sat vacant and preserved for years. This strategy simply worries me.
The bottom line is that unless they can prove otherwise, these "scare tactics" should not be considered due to the fact it seems clear in order to build ANYTHING, feasible, justifiable, or economical on this particular piece of property, the conservation land MUST be rezoned. Thus, the current land is NOT useful. They obviously know this, or we would not be having this discussion and someone would have easily built on this commercial land already.
- After sitting through this meeting for 2 hours it was obvious that the decision was made long before the vote. The concerns of the residents of the Woodlands were not dealt with and as one member of the board told them they should be complaining to the city. Who are the board if not the city. The Bd. Chair raised her concerns about her trees but not about the people of the Woodlands.
18 Spring Musical
18 The Lion in Winter
19 Flagler Fine Arts Festival
10:00 am - 2:00 pm
20 The Palm Coast Scrabble Club
Friends of A1A produce videos to promote cycling and safety along the coastal byway
The Friends of A1A has produced six new videos designed to attract more cycling visitors to the 72-mile Scenic & Historic A1A Coastal Byway that travels through St. Johns and Flagler counties. Also, AAUW awards scholarships and loggerheads have arrived.
Palm Coast offers summer recreation, tennis, golf camps for children, teens
The city of Palm Coast is planning a summer of fun and recreation for children and teens through its summer camp at Parks & Recreation, as well as summer golf and tennis camps.
Dunk tank at Arbor Day event to raise funds to end polio
The Flagler-Palm Coast High School Interact Club is hosting a celebrity dunk tank to raise awareness and donations to end polio worldwide during Palm Coast's Arbor Day event 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, May 18, at Central Park in Town Center.