Editor's Note: There has been some confusion in recent weeks about the nature of our Opinion section. As with other letters to the editor, the following editorial does not necessarily represent the views of the Palm Coast Observer. Submit your own letters to [email protected].
by: Barbara Revels
Your recent publication of an open letter from the Flagler Home Builders Association and the Chamber of Commerce supporting the Gardens Development, leaves out many details and plays down the size of the opposition to this development.
The developer, whom these writers extol as being so respected, is the same developer who originally ignored the previously approved PUD from 2005 and planned to dump 9,000 residents, high-rise condominiums and large commercial spaces, on a small piece of environmentally sensitive property. His multiple companies then sued a citizen who spoke out. These are tactics that do not earn developers “distinguished and impeccable” names.
The business community I have worked in for the past 40 years would not support such a development if they knew the facts and the devastation on our environment. Our beautiful environment is what sells real estate and encourages companies to relocate here. Some of those people — who came here for that unspoiled and uncongested lifestyle — bemoan that loss. That was said to me this past week at the hospital when a nurse said he had moved from south Florida to get away from the developments that are now happening here.
Density and 'gray water'
Some points to consider:
The number of homes planned by the developer on the current site plan is only the beginning and has “future development” reserved sites. This will not be allowed if the county enforces the original PUD densities. The plan is to dump all of the density on the east side of John Anderson Highway (over, in and around wetlands).
The original PUD that the developer claims they are following without need of a revision has multiple requirements as to golf course, sewer-gray water and traffic. In each of these items listed the developer is not in compliance with the approved PUD.
The PUD approved in the 2005-2006 era, is now 15 years old. Many things have changed during those 15 years in land use regulations. Most particularly is building in a sensitive area and further degrading conditions for neighboring property owners. The fill dirt alone for just elevating roads within the east side development will require some individual lot owners/builders to add 4-6 feet of fill to build above the road grade. No existing vegetation or tree will survive that amount of fill. One only has to ride to Seaside Landings on John Anderson to see exactly that happening on their near Intracoastal Waterway lots.
The Palm Drive homes, which back up to the same wetland the Gardens will build around, flooded after Hurricane Irma, and many are just a few feet away from the Gardens lands that will be filled way above the Palm Drive homes. The developer’s engineer says he has a plan. Should they be required to post a bond as a guarantee that their added fill will not flood neighboring properties?
Traffic is another concern. The original developer, Ginn, planned for all traffic to be kept within the development and have it exit out onto State Road 100, opposite Colbert Lane. This developer has no plans to do anything but dump hundreds of additional daily trips onto John Anderson.
The city of Flagler Beach must soon rebuild its sewer plant — it's under a Florida Department of Environmental Protection order to do so — and take its treated effluent out of the Intracoastal Waterway. The original developer was to give contributions to the city for this work and further was to take the city’s gray water onto the golf course. If as reported, the developer plans to work with the city to become a gray-water customer, that should be put in writing.
As concerned residents, all we ask is to follow the rules established 15 years ago, and one would hope the county could improve on any land uses that relate to our changing environment.
Enhance, don't destroy
The chamber and FHBA seem to feel that our organization is a small group of residents that object to any development. They have been so misinformed of the size of our organization and allied groups that see and recognize a “bad” development when they see one. Don’t be misled by such assumptions of our size and commitment. They assert their quality of life and jobs are threatened by a concerned citizenry, but have not shown any initiative to show up. Perhaps an appearance of their group might properly inform them of the points we make.
The construction industry I know and work in is so stressed currently due to the high demand, lack of skilled tradesmen and material delays. This is not an industry that is dying or losing jobs due to a lack of buildable land.
Additionally, these organizations seem to think there is a lack of buildable lots in Flagler County. A study I completed last year shows quite the opposite. At that time there were in the vicinity of 20,500 residential lots plus thousands of square feet of commercial space of vested DRIs and PUDs. There were many more lots in smaller subdivisions being phased in. A total at that point in time was approximately 37,900 units plus commercial providing years and years of developable land located in appropriate areas of the county.
I am writing from the perspective of being a Realtor and home builder. I have been involved in the business community all of that time and served as the president of the Flagler County Chamber and the Flagler Home Builders Association. I also served as the state president of the Florida Home Builders Association and sat with 15 other representatives on the National Association of Home Builders regional directors – representing Florida and Puerto Rico. I served on and chaired the Flagler County Planning Board for many years and served eight years as a Flagler County commissioner, District 3. With my background, I take offense being called a NIMBY, when I am merely seeking quality development by developers who keep their word.
With my background and as a 65-year resident of Flagler, I appreciate growth that enhances, rather than destroys the natural attributes of our county and how it sizes up to our region, state and nation in a quality community and desired place to live. This development, as presented, will further degrade a desirable community that many moved here for.
The County Commission should demand the developer follow the rules.
Barbara Revels is a former Flagler County commissioner and is a resident of Flagler Beach.
Editor’s Note: According to attorney Michael Chiumento, “The developer has not asked for anything other than what is permitted under the existing, valid zoning.” Moreover, he wrote in an email to the Palm Coast Observer, the development will not flood neighboring homes; stormwater is required to stay onsite per state regulations. And: “Other than a road crossing for a wetland which is mitigated, no 'sensitive lands' are touched.”