As the Palm Coast City Council approved two more developments that swapped commercial land for more rooftops, council member Theresa Carli Pontieri had a question for her fellow council members.
"What is the point of having a code that is specifically in place to protect the quality of life here in Palm Coast if we don't follow it?," she said.
The council approved the Belle Terre Estates development application 5-0 and a Marina Village Master Planned Development 4-1 at its Sept. 5 business meeting. Both applications requested the council approve exceptions to land use code requirements or changes from original development plans, reducing the amount of commercial land for additional residential units.
Belle Terre Estates would be a community of 275 townhomes on a 40-acre parcel at the southeast corner of Citation Boulevard and Belle Terre Boulevard.
Pontieri — who also voted against both items in their first reading votes on Aug. 15 — said she voted for Belle Terre Estates on second reading because the developer met her concerns halfway between after the first vote. The language in the document now ensures that 1.75 acres of general commercial use will be pad-ready when infrastructure is complete.
The developer has also modified the townhome's almost 80 end units to match the Land Development Code's square-footage minimums. Pontieri at the Aug. 15 meeting did not support the developer's request that the city grant the development a Master Planned Development designation. The MPD designation would have allowed the developer to avoid meeting the usual square footage requirements for townhomes.
She said the compromise version showed that the developer was making an effort to make the development meet the city's standards.
The Marina Village MPD application, on the other hand, reduced its designated commercial land by 60,000 square feet to a total of 103,000, and increased its number of residential units from 663 to 1085, shrinking the townhomes' square footage by 500 square feet but asking to make them 45 feet tall.
Crying for commercial is fine. But if you build commercial space that is not going to be profitable and successful, what you're doing is you're going to blight the city with unsuccessful businesses.”
— David Alfin, Palm Coast mayor
It isn't normal, Pontieri said, for a city to allow so many exceptions to its own code.
"For us to almost be doubling the amount of residential units is just unacceptable,” Pontieri said.
Mayor David Alfin disagreed. The Land Development Code is a living document, he said, meant to allow for growth and change.
Beyond that, he said, Colbert Lane is a connector road, not a main thoroughfare, and is not the right space for a lot of commercial development.
“Crying for commercial is fine," Alfin said. "But if you build commercial space that is not going to be profitable and successful, what you're doing is you're going to blight the city with unsuccessful businesses.”
Pontieri said that's looking at Colbert as it is, not as it and Palm Coast will be. An MPD, she said, is intended to have a quality of life where residents do not have to leave to enjoy amenities like shopping and eating out.
Despite the reduction, the Marina Village MPD would still have 103,000 square feet of commercial land, including shops, restaurants and possibly a hotel. The marina would have 80 wet slips and 200 dry boat storage spaces.
“What we are doing is taking away the original concept of this project so that the developer can make more money,” she said.
It is much easier for a developer to sell a home and make a profit than to wait for a commercial business to come along, she said.
What we are doing is taking away the original concept of this project so that the developer can make more money.”
— Theresa Carli Pontieri, City Council member
Alfin, alongside council members Nick Klufas and Ed Danko, pointed out that a lot of commercial land is still vacant, even on State Road 100.
“If no one is showing up and investing their money and risking their money," Danko said, "we can't force them.”
Pontieri said the council is not addressing the city's "messed-up tax base," where ad valorem taxes account for so much of the city's funding.
"We're exacerbating it, and that's my issue," she said. "We keep doing and saying the same thing. We're doing nothing to change it."
Council opts to annex 62-acre future development
The City Council also preliminarily approved a 62-acre voluntary annexation into the city.
The property is owned by Geosam Capital Florida, LLC, and is slated as a 213-lot subdivision Master Planned Development. The council voted unanimously to accept the annexation.
The land is located east of Old Kings Road, about 2.5 miles south of State Road 100. Residents who live in the Polo Club West, which would share a border with the land, were concerned about the new development encroaching on their privacy and the preserved natural land in the area.
John Duncan, a Polo Club West resident, said their subdivision already has problems with people crossing into private land.
Michael Chiumento, representing Geosam at the meeting, said Geosam was made aware of some of the residents' concerns. He assured the council that the developer intends to honor its agreements, including providing a fence or wall between the two subdivisions.
“We are committed to abiding by those commitments,” Chiumento said.