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Palm Coast Thursday, Jun. 10, 2021 2 days ago

Hoping to incentivize construction of affordable homes, county creates new land ordinance

The ordinance, Growth Management Director Adam Mengel said, allows builders greater flexibility.
by: Jonathan Simmons News Editor

"Tiny houses?" Micro-apartments? Zero lot lines? The Flagler County government may be willing to let developers try them to bring more affordable housing to the county.

"We can not continue to insist that our pizza is delivered on time while expecting our pizza delivery person to live in Putnam County."




The Flagler County Commission on June 7 approved the first iteration of an ordinance that would let the county relax development restrictions on a case-by-case basis for developments that would meet criteria designed to ensure their affordability. 

"I think the flexibility part is very important," County Commissioner David Sullivan said.

Approval of the ordinance will take two separate County Commission votes, and the county's development department is still tweaking the ordinance in the interim between the June 7 vote and the next one, to be held at an upcoming meeting.

The county's Planning and Development Board considered the proposed ordinance at a meeting June 8, suggesting some changes, and the Affordable Housing Advisory Committee is also expected to make further recommendations. 

"We must make room for workers within our community," resident Toby Tobin, who runs the real estate news website, said at the planning board meeting. "We can not continue to insist that our pizza is delivered on time while expecting our pizza delivery person to live in Putnam County."

The version of the ordinance approved on first reading by the commission June 7 would waive permitting fees and reduce density, parking and setback requirements for developers who would create "Planned Affordable Developments," or PADs, abiding by predetermined rent caps and agreeing to rent or sell only to low- and moderate-income people.

Planning and Development Board member Timothy Connor asked county Growth Management Director Adam Mengel why "tiny houses" weren't mentioned specifically in the text of the ordinance, which suggests relaxing dimensional requirements and lists as permissible other uses such as "micro-apartments," pocket neighborhoods, "agrihoods" mobile home parks and townhomes.

"I would think that we would want to itemize 'tiny houses' as a line item here in this section, along with these others," Connor said, "just so that it's clear that we're encouraging those kinds of structures within this ordinance. Or, if we're not, tell me that we're not, and why."

Mengel said he'd hesitated to include a reference to "tiny homes" because of the RV-style tiny homes built on an independent chassis, which he said would be more appropriate for an RV campground.

Board member Mark Langello disagreed. 

"I don't know what you’re trying to avoid by doing that," Langello said. "... If the objective is to make affordable housing, those are, in effect, an affordable housing."

Langello also had reservations about the ordinance's mention of a 20-year-fixed rental price, which he said could scare off developers. He suggested something more flexible. 

"No one is going to own a development of any significance … and do it it for altruistic purposes," Langello said. "… Basically it's a dollar and cents thing, so if you starve them of that ... you’re creating a problem."

As a developer, he added, "I would be, myself, very cautious in looking at something that would lock you in so long."

Connor suggested an appeals process that could let developers out of those requirements.

Greg Blose, president and CEO of the Palm Coast-Flagler Regional Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber supports the proposed ordinance. He said about 20% of the county's jobs are connected to the hotel and restaurant industries. 

"Let’s try to be innovative about keeping the costs down," Blose said. "The chamber’s behind this 100%."

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