Residents of the nearby Hidden Lakes community came to the Nov. 7 council meeting to oppose the change.
It’s not often that neighbors are upset when a nearby plot of land is slated to be rezoned for a less intensive use than it already has. But in the case of an 11.3-acre plot off Old Kings Road, that change would be from commercial to multifamily residential — and the possibility of a new apartment building nearby brought neighbors to a City Council meeting Nov. 7 to complain.
Ultimately, the council approved the rezoning unanimously — but only after a number of homeowners from the nearby Hidden Lakes development voiced their opposition.
Hidden Lakes resident Carl Murphy said he thought an apartment building would raise traffic on Old Kings Road during rush hour and degrade the neighborhood. He cited a national newspaper story about rising homeownership rates and dropping apartment rental rates.
“You’re going to have fewer dollars chasing more apartments, which tells you that they will not maintain the maintenance, and in 10 years you will have Detroit sitting beside I-95,” he said. “And the only sign that this council will need to put on I-95 at that point is, ‘Don’t stop here.’ Because quite frankly, you’re ruining the place.”
Another woman said she’d heard there was “a lot of police activity” around the apartment complexes that are in Palm Coast already. She asked the city to perform an analysis.
Mayor Milissa Holland said the city collects crime stats and that there’s no correlation between multifamily housing locally and higher crime.
Two people spoke in support of the zoning change.
“If you were given free choice to pick any vacant piece of property in Palm Coast, this is probably one of the very most appropriate places to put an apartment complex,” said Toby Tobin, a real estate expert who runs gotoby.com. Addressing the people who opposed the project, he added, "If your logic had prevailed over the last 10 to 12 years, you would not have a Target, you would not have an Epic Theatres, you would not have an Island Walk complex and you would not have a Hidden Lakes or a Toscana. … I certainly urge the City Council to not pay too much attention to your request."
Gretchen Smith, representing the Flagler County Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber regularly hears from seniors who "fall in love with our area and they say, 'Why are there no patio hones? Why are there no apartment? ... Because we’re retired, and we don’t want to buy a house.' We get these people in every single day, and they don’t want to buy a house. They want no overhead. And this seems like a great opportunity,” she said.
The City Council approved the rezoning unanimously.
“All of the numbers show us that one of the types of residential units that we don’t have enough of — that we’re very short of in this community — is multifamily,” City Manager Jim Landon said. “So that’s why you’re starting to see these applications.”