The board voted unanimously to approve developer Duval Realty Trust's application to build homes. The project must next be cleared but are County Commission.
Despite the pleas and angry words of dozens of area residents Oct. 10, the Flagler County Planning and Land Development Board unanimously approved a development of 190 homes in the Matanzas Shores area.
Board members said at the Oct. 10 meeting that although they sympathized with resident concerns that the development, which would include three-story homes, could block views of current residents, attract vacation rentals and worsen the area’s already poor drainage, the legal process the board is required to follow did not allow board members to consider those complaints in their deliberation.
“We’re kind of put on the spot because we’re supposed to judge it based on certain rules, and that’s to make everything fair,” board member Mark Langello said.
But, Langello noted, Sidney Ansbacher, the attorney representing Atlee Development Group and Duval Realty Trust, had already made some concessions, including a proposal to cap the homes at five bedrooms to dissuade people from buying them as vacation rental properties.
“We have no interest in rentals. … We would stipulate to a cap of five bedrooms,” Ansbacher said. “I would also note that there was concern about short-term rentals; we want to be very express about that. We are very happy to mirror Lakeside and prohibit any leases that are for a shorter term than six months at a time.”
And although residents complained about the process that led to an agreement between the Lakeside Homeowners Association and the Matanzas Shores Homeowners Association that was in favor of the development, County Attorney Al Hadeed told the board that the agreement was outside of the board’s scope of consideration.
“We do not have the ability to adjudicate, to determine, to have an opinion about whether the agreement is illegal or not,” Hadeed said, asking board members not to consider arguments about the agreement in their decision making. “I’m going to ask that you ... not make them relevant in any way to your decision,” he said.
The new development wold actually be two, named Los Lagos and Los Casitas. With the flooding caused by hurricanes Matthew and Irma fresh in their minds, many residents said they worried that the new homes, by covering permeable ground with concrete, would cause the area’s street flooding to worsen into home flooding.
Bill Clay, chairman of the Lakeside by the Sea Homeowners Association, said the added homes would strain the area’s stormwater facility.
“When the developers were in control, nothing — and I mean nothing — was done to maintain the plant,” Clay said. The plant needs repairs, he said. Deals were worked out to fund improvements, he said, but the Matanzas Shores Owners Association then worked out an agreement with Duval Realty that undermined those plans, without involving the Lakeside by the Sea Homeowners Association. “I am sorry to use this term, but we got screwed,” Clay said. “No notice, no copy and no discussion of these changes. When we asked how this could happen, the MSOA president said these changes were within his power. ... He’s selling us down the river in real terms.”
Another resident, Carol Scott, said the proposed development would undermine the area’s scenic nature and would worsen flooding.
“Preserving this special natural area implies we must support low-impact construction,” she said. “It is important to have responsible growth. ... Our lakeside community is vulnerable, so protecting our community from flooding should be a primary concern of the Planning Board. … Possible flooding from the proposed construction is an existential threat for Lakeside.”
Ansbacher said he understood and sympathized with concerned about flooding, “but the criteria of the code are the criteria of the code.”
“Something’s going to be built there, and what was last permitted was 435 units. We’re down to 190,” he said. “And I think that the record reflects numerous concessions. ... We believe this project stands on its own as meeting the applicable criteria.”