Hundreds of Palm Coast residents gathered to hear the developer's proposal, many expressing outrage at details
Around 200 residents of the Matanzas Woods neighborhood gathered at 6 p.m. in the Matanzas High School Cafeteria to hear about proposed development of the derelict Matanzas golf course, and their responses throughout the meeting ranged from cautious optimism to skepticism and outright hostility.
Land use attorney Michael Chiumento III and developer Alex Ustilovsky of Hammock Real Estate presented a map of where roughly 300 homes, as well as lakes for stormwater retention and a strip of land for commercial development, would go within the former course’s property. But before the meeting was long underway, Chiumento and Ustilovsky began fielding questions and calming outbursts from an agitated crowd.
The land 'can and will be developed'
The uproar began at Chiumento’s observation that the neglected land “can and will be developed.” At that point and later in the meeting residents stormed out angrily.
“He’s gonna give you a bunch of double-talk!” said the first man to leave, after questioning the point of the meeting.
Another enraged resident claimed the developer’s plans were illegal, claimed they were lying about performing a water test and threatened a class action lawsuit.
Deputy Chief Development Officer Ray Tyner said at the beginning of the meeting that the Palm Coast city code requires a neighborhood meeting before a Master Planned Development application.
Chiumento emphasized that there would be natural buffers of around 30 feet between existing homes and the proposed new ones.
“We’re willing to work with homeowners on creating a buffer that satisfies them,” he said.
He also said that the projected lot size for the new homes — 6,000 square ft with a width of 50 feet — was in line with what older homebuyers are now looking for: less property to take care of.
Meeting attendees, many of them older homeowners, found this a dubious suggestion. Concerns were raised about decreasing property values and increasing crime rates if the news homes were bought and turned into rentals, or if they became low-income housing.
“It’s not the sport of golf that drives the property values,” said Brad West. “It’s the sense of privacy and the view.”
“I think most of us in Matanzas Woods feel the city has neglected the place for a very long time,” said Colleen McFarlane after other residents complained that the promised quarterly mowing of the property was never done. “People call it the hinterlands.”
'What's going on in my backyard?'
Lawton Taylor suggested a park instead of a commercial area in the middle of the development.
“Y’all are making enough money off the houses,” he said.
Ustilovsky drew the crowd’s ire for suggesting the question “What’s going in my backyard?” is not a neighborly attitude and that there was an air of elitism around the concern over rental homes.
“Our idea was very simple: Respect existing zoning,” he said. “Respect existing neighbors. Respect you.”
Other city employees besides Tyner, including Chief Development Officer Jason DeLorenzo and Communications Officer Michael Schottey, were present to observe the meeting.
“We’re here to hear what the neighborhood wants,” DeLorenzo said.
“There’s a lot of legitimate comments,” Tyner said. “Part of the process is getting this community feedback.”
“I’ve been doing this for 30 years,” Chiumento said. “Projects like this are emotional. This is gonna be good; we’re gonna fix people’s concerns.”