The land use and zoning change drew opposition from a crowd of residents who are concerned about the height of buildings in the planned development.
Residents who showed up at a City Council meeting Dec. 5 implored council members not to approve a planned development off Colbert Lane that would include 95-foot buildings. But the council didn’t have the option to stop the project, which was approved by the County Commission in 2006, years before its annexation from the county into the city.
The city also doesn’t have the authority to require changes to the buildings’ height, even though 95 feet exceeds the height allowed under city ordinance. So the council approved two land use measures related to the community 4-0. (Councilman Nick Klufas was absent.)
“They’re not approving or denying anything different than was already approved,” City Manager Jim Landon said at the meeting, addressing a crowd packed to standing room by residents opposing the development. “This is a case where the state of Florida has preempted the cities from taking any action other than was approved by Flagler County. ... So it doesn’t change the entitlements, and the City Council — by law, state law — cannot require that those entitlements be changed, and that includes building height, density and the mix of uses.”
If the city didn’t approve the measures on the night’s agenda — a future land use map amendment and a zoning map amendment —the developer could still develop as permitted under county ordinance, Landon said.
Why so tall?
Developer Ken Belshe said the proposed development, previously called Harbor View Marina and now renamed Marina Del Palma, had initially included plans for two 125-foot high buildings. But that prompted pushback from the nearby Sea Ray plant, and a negotiation down to a height of 95 feet.
“The reason that we need the height that we have is we need to be able to get some views from those buildings,” Belshe said. said. “(The development) will be something that the city of Palm Coast will be proud of, something that we’ll be proud to put our name on. ... “It has been a long process here, but we feel like we have done everything that we can possibly do to satisfy and comply with everything that we could satisfy and comply with.”
Belshe said that since the project had first been proposed, there had been seven or eight public hearings.
“I’m not sure why this sudden surge of concern is about this property, but we feel we’re vested about our rights here,” he said.
Mayor Milissa Holland, who said during previous council meetings that she thought the buildings were too tall for the area, pushed back.
“The frustration comes when we set standards in our city that our residents come to expect,” she said. “For you to be surprised — I’m surprised that you’re surprised.”
Councilwoman Heidi Shipley asked the developer to consider negotiating a height decrease.
Councilman Steven Nobile redirected the conversation with a question: Didn’t people who moved to nearby homes — the ones now opposing the project — have access to information about the proposed development, including its height, when they bought their houses?
The question prompted boos from the crowd.
“All I’m saying is the information was available,” Nobile said.
One resident said that some area residents had bought their homes before the project was proposed in 2006.
“I think what we’ve heard tonight is an unfortunate set of circumstances that have us in a situation that we’re very much limited in our ability to even negotiate any changes,” Holland said.
Vacation rental concerns
During the meeting’s public comment period, another potential issue emerged: Would the development allow short-term vacation rentals that might be disruptive for other area residents?
Attorney Dennis Bayer, representing Belshe, said the development would be bound by the county’s vacation rental ordinance. Belshe said he had no plans to have rentals at Marina Del Palma.
But he wouldn’t commit to requests to explicitly disallow them, and Holland wasn’t satisfied.
“This is not being a good partner,” she said. “We do not want that type of industry ... that’s wreaking havoc. Because you look to the north of us in unincorporated county and they are having this exact issue, where they’re having 40 people in a condo unit during race week next to a residential area. And there’s parties going on until four in the morning, there’s loud music, and it’s causing disruption in a residential area. The vacation rentals have a place, and I’m not opposed to vacation rentals. What I’m opposed to is vacation rentals in a residential area that is meant to be residential.”
“I’m only asking to allow us to comply with what everyone else complies with,” Belshe said, suggesting the city apply uniform standards that would include Marina Del Palma.
Landon noted that the state is “constantly reducing the authority of cities to control those.”
One bill that will be considered in the upcoming legislative session would, according to county staff’s assessment, likely nullify the county’s ability to regulate short-term vacation rentals.
Landon said it wouldn’t be unreasonable to ask Marina Del Palma to include a ban on short-term vacation rentals in its HOA covenants and restrictions.
Nobile suggested the conversation should be undertaken between the developer and city staff, not in the context of a public meeting.
City Attorney Bill Reischmann said the city can’t arbitrarily require one developer to comply with restrictions not required of others.
Holland said she was making a request, not a demand.
“I’ve been doing this for a long time, and we haven’t had a development like this come before us that concerned me so much,” she said. “ I’m not mandating it. I’m nor requiring it as part of future development rights. I’m simply requesting as a gesture. Because I’ve been through this road and I’ve seen what it’s created in a community, and I do not want to be sitting up here knowing that this has happened, knowing it’s happened right to our neighbors, and allowing it to happen under my leadership.”
“I will promise you that I will consider that issue,” Belshe said. “We will address it with staff in the planning process.”