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Palm Coast Tuesday, Mar. 15, 2022 3 months ago

Branquinho cancels call for vote on proposed multifamily housing moratorium

The councilman will instead attempt to address his concerns with housing density during a review of the city's Comprehensive Plan.
by: Jonathan Simmons Senior Editor

Last week, City Councilman Eddie Branquinho proposed a moratorium on all multifamily housing east of U.S. 1. But instead of bringing the moratorium up for a City Council vote at a March 15 meeting, as he'd planned, Branquinho instead decided that he'll raise his concerns about housing density during a review of the city's Comprehensive Plan.

The councilman had proposed the moratorium during a City Council workshop on March 8.

Branquinho, who consistently votes against new multifamily developments, said local homeowners tell him they don't want increased density in Palm Coast.

He said he's gotten calls since news broke about his moratorium proposal from people who've said they support it.

But Branquinho's proposal had also prompted a warning from the city's attorney — who said passing a moratorium would risk a lawsuit — and generated immediate pushback from the local chamber of commerce during the March 8 workshop.

At the March 15 meeting, representatives of the Flagler County Association of Realtors and the Flagler Home Builders Association also voiced objections. 

"To further restrict the availability of multifamily units — often the only option for many low-to-moderate-income families — ignores the affordability crisis. Even worse, it magnifies it," Marsha Corby, president of Flagler County Association of Realtors, said at the March 15 meeting. "We should be striving to do the exact opposite of this proposal, creating more availability and varied options for the first-time homebuyers and young families to achieve the stability and freedom that comes from homeownership."

Branquinho replied that if Palm Coast doesn't have affordable housing now, it will have it soon if the city keeps adding multifamily homes and people no longer want to move to Palm Coast because it's too dense. 

Echoing concerns that chamber President and CEO Greg Blosé had expressed a week earlier, Flagler Home Builders Association Executive Officer Annamaria Long said a proposal for a moratorium sends the wrong message about the city's business-friendliness.

"Every vote that you make will answer that question: 'Is Palm Coast open for business?'" she said. "... People are moving here whether we like it or not. We all did. If you came here believing that it wouldn't change — even though you increased the population by coming here — I urge you to reevaluate."

Mayor David Alfin suggested that the use of the word "moratorium" had alarmed the business community. 

"We need to be very cautious about how others might perceive that word," Alfin said. 

He recalled that Branquinho had previously suggested reviewing the city's 21-year-old Comprehensive Plan, and that doing so would present opportunities to look at the city's housing options.

"It is time to relook at that ... so that we can maintain and retain the lifestyle that we all enjoy," Alfin said, "which is why we came here, which is why we have — by at least one source, one single magazine — been awarded the honor of being the best place in the United States to retire."

The city also, Alfin added, needs to be looking to manage its growth sustainably, "so that 10 years and 20 years hence, we will win that same award again." 

Councilmen Ed Danko and Nick Klufas agreed.

Alfin noted that the city's strategic planning process is approaching, and suggested that Branquinho could address the Comprehensive Plan then.

"I would suggest that you make that your priority in your own individual Strategic Action Plan," Alfin said.

Branquinho said he would do so. 


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