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Palm Coast Monday, May 17, 2021 1 year ago

Flagler County is open to 'creative design solutions' for more affordable housing

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A new zoning designation could come with incentives and relaxed restrictions in exchange for lower prices, on a case-by-case basis.
by: Brian McMillan Contributing Writer

Flagler County is considering a new zoning designation that would give the County Commission wide latitude to approve incentives, densities and heights of developments in an effort to increase affordable housing. The changes would not impact Palm Coast or Flagler’s other cities.

“Every county in the country is screaming the same thing: that they need more affordable, workforce housing,” said County Commissioner Joe Mullins, who also serves on the county’s Affordable Housing Advisory Committee. “We want to send the message that we’re open for business.”

The new designation, introduced at the May 17 commission workshop, would be called “planned affordable development.” The staff documentation pointed out that it would be a similar concept to the current “planned unit development,” which also can be “negotiated and tailored” with mixed uses.

“It’s a PUD on steroids,” Commissioner Andy Dance said. “It allows for some more creative design solutions. … I’m all for it. Let’s look at some new ideas that somebody may have.”

Homes are selling so quickly, and demand is still so high, that housing costs are soaring. Material prices and inflation are also making the market unaffordable for many residents, staff reported.

Commissioners noted that the PAD designation is “very loose” and “open-ended.”

County Commissioner Greg Hansen

“It leaves us to vote on just about everything — not only on incentives but also the size,” Commissioner Greg Hansen said. Still, he said that kind of latitude “is the right way to go.”

Hansen, as well as eight-year Affordable Housing Advisory Committee member Rick Belhumeur appeared to expect more of a presentation from staff.

“I’m wondering why we were invited here,” Belhumeur said.

Two restrictions on the PAD designation were questioned in the meeting. First, the county is proposing that PADs only be allowed if they are within five miles of shopping and employment. And second, PADs would not be allowed to use septic tanks.

Lisa Smith, treasurer of the Flagler County Association of Realtors and president of the Flagler Housing Partnership, said not much land would fit those requirements. FCAR Executive Director Dorothy Sperber agreed, and Cameron said staff would examine both points for future discussion.

“This is a long-term project,” Cameron said.

Brian McMillan was editor of the Palm Coast Observer from 2010 to 2022. He was named the Journalist of the Year for weekly newspapers in North America by the Local Media Association in 2012. He lives in Palm Coast with his wife and five children....

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