A developer’s request to increase a proposed development’s number of units from 416 to a maximum of 850 inspired debate from two council members at a Sept. 19 City Council meeting.
In the first of two votes, the council approved a land use map and zoning amendment for the Cascades development on the north side of Seminole Woods Boulevard near U.S. 1. The council annexed the 375-acre development into Palm Coast on Aug. 15.
Council member Theresa Carli Pontieri voted against the land use and zoning amendments, saying she did not see how allowing the increase would benefit current residents.
“I’m not okay with this,” Pontieri said. “We are earning a reputation in Palm Coast that, if you don’t have it in the county, just annex it into the city and developers will be able to double their density.”
Before the land was annexed, in 2005, the county approved a development agreement that would allow 416 units over 696 acres. More than 350 acres in the development are environmentally sensitive and were transferred to the county as part of the agreement.
Now, annexed to Palm Coast, the land includes an additional parcel, and the applicant wants the city to allow a maximum of 850 units.
The applicant wants the land zoned for both multi-family and single-family units.
“I haven’t heard a single person on here tell me how this is in the interest of the public,” Pontieri said. “Because that is ... the criteria that we were supposed to talk about.”
Palm Coast Mayor David Alfin asked her how the development would degrade residents’ quality of life.
Pontieri said the increased traffic and the wear-and-tear on roads were two such concerns, along with the strain on the city’s infrastructure and utilities.
City planner Bill Hoover noted in his presentation to the council that the development would increase the demand on public infrastructure and facilities.
“Why do we have to annex the property and then double the capacity?” Pontieri said. “We up here can say no.”
Alfin said the city is growing, which comes with the hardships of congestion and traffic and increased demand on facilities — and that there are processes in place such as impact fee requirements that developers must comply with to mitigate those effects.
“We are experiencing growth,” he said. “ Now, we have to master plan growth as best we can, but there’s no denying growth.”
“The 14,000 units we’ve already approved isn’t enough?” Pontieri retorted back.
“Are you trying to put a limit on growth?” Alfin asked. “I don’t see any of us standing out in the court telling people they can’t come to Palm Coast any longer. It doesn’t work that way here.”
We are experiencing growth. Now, we have to master plan growth as best we can, but there's no denying growth."
— David Alfin, Palm Coast mayor
Aside from the Cascades development, during the Sept. 19 business meeting, the City Council also gave final approval for two other developments: The Legacy at Town Center, which would add a 300-unit apartment complex next to Imagine School at Town Center; and phase one of the Retreat at Town Center, a 39-acre development that would add 66 single-family homes at the end of Market Avenue.
The council also approved a 62-acre annexation into the city on the east side of Old Kings Road.
The Cascades applicant, Palm Coast resident Jeff Douglas, said that saying the development was doubling its number of requested units was “false,” and that council members and residents were pushing “false messaging” because the property is different now than it was when it was approved in 2005.
“I feel like I’ve just walked into something that’s utterly unfair,” he said. “Please stop saying that we doubled the units. It’s simply, factually, not true.”
Several residents whose homes are directly across from a location where the Cascades hopes to build four-story apartment buildings spoke against the development.
“I have two young girls. I’ve invested my time here in Palm Coast,” resident Joelle Almeida said. “If I wanted to live in Daytona, I would buy in Daytona.”
Though Pontieri was the only one on Sept. 19 to actually vote against the request, council member Cathy Heighter said she felt the applicant needed to continue working with residents to address their objections.
“I just think that the privacy of the residents with a high-rise built on stories — that’s a lot to contend with,” Heighter said.
Attorney Michael Chiumento said the applicant has agreed to add a buffer of trees along the property to protect other residents’ privacy and would move the apartments back an additional 150 feet, increasing the distance between the homes and the apartments to 245 feet.
We want the integrity of people who have invested in this community. We're pushing them out."
— Theresa Carli Pontieri, City Council member
But the 245 feet — “almost the length of a football field,” Alfin said — includes the 80 feet of Seminole Woods Boulevard.
Vice Mayor Ed Danko confirmed with the city attorney that nothing would be set in stone until after a later, second-reading council vote. Danko said he wanted to see what changes the applicant would propose between the two votes.
Pontieri said she doesn’t oppose development. But the city needs to consider the residents who already live here and what benefits them, too, she said.
“We want the integrity of people who have invested in this community,” she said. “We’re pushing them out. We’re pushing them out so that we can allow more people who are new.”