Flagler County Planning & Development Board Fumbles Hammock Beach Club PUD Decision
$72 million investment, 73 more jobs, more tourism and bed tax, increased property tax revenue, more sustainable resort amenities and more. If they don’t want this, what are their approval criteria?
Palm Coast, FL – October 22, 2014 – The Flagler County Planning & Development Board recently fumbled the Hammock Beach Club's application to replace the resort's lodge and make other improvements to the resort.
I am almost always proud to be a Palm Coast and Flagler County resident. For instance, I was the official time keeper at the Flagler Votes Forum held a week ago at the Hilton Garden Inn. Federal, state and local candidates faced tough questions in a room crowded with interested voters. America the way it should be. A common theme from all the candidates was an understanding that economic development should be a major local focus. We need more jobs and a more diverse property tax base. This theme resonated with the audience.
If, instead, I had attended the Flagler County Planning & Development Board meeting a few miles down the road, I would have been disappointed. Lubert Adler, owner, and Salamander Hospitality, operator, of the Hammock Beach Club submitted a plan to replace the club’s ageing oceanfront lodge. The county’s Technical Review Committee had previously approved the plan and the Planning staff indorsed it.
The Planning Board’s role in the quasi-judicial proceeding was to provide their opinion on whether or not the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) should approve the Hammock Beach Club’s application. The P&D Board’s recommendation of approval or denial would be based on input from county staff, the Hammock Beach Club (the applicant) and from members of the public. Because of the size of the project, the BOCC will make the final decision.
Swayed by dissent from a few vocal local residents and from Scenic A1A PRIDE, the Planning Board voted 4 – 2 against recommendation. It was clear that some members of the P&D Board were predisposed to be against the project. After most of the spectators had left, Prem Devadas, Salamander’s president, reminded the Board that he had not had a chance to offer his rebuttal. After some discussion, the meeting was reopened for public comment. Devadas and a few members from the public then spoke in support of the project.
In the end, the original motion to deny approval was withdrawn and the item was continued to the P&D Board’s November 12, 2014 at 6:00 P.M. In spite of rumors to the contrary, the rescission of the original vote and motion to continue were done properly; no back room, outside the sunshine, deals.
The BOCC will still have the final say, but a P&D Board’s negative recommendation would be bound to carry some weight. Perhaps the P&D Board will get it right next time.
Not many people have followed the developments of Hammock Beach and Ocean Hammock more closely than has GoToby.com. For eight years, no one has written more about it; the good, the bad and the ugly. The 2009 attempt to replace the lodge and add more residential density to the golf course was one of the “Uglys.” Ginn-LA Riles Hammock Beach and Ocean Hammock Residents with Condo Hotel Plans.
The developer, represented by Front Door Communities at the time, not by Salamander, managed to do everything wrong. Their “Damn the torpedoes (residents, BOCC, members, sound land use principles, etc.), full speed ahead” approach took the issue all the way to Tallahassee on appeal, where it was ultimately shot down.
But the Hammock Beach Club faces real challenges. The Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson signature golf courses are expensive to maintain. So too are the rest of the amenities. New home construction at the Conservatory and Harbor Village Marina, while showing signs of recovery, were stalled for years by the Great Recession. Each vacant lot in these projects and those in Ocean Hammock represent years of lost membership revenue.
As presently constituted, the Hammock Beach Club is not attractive to corporate functions that would utilize the facilities during the mid-week tourist and vacation lull. A solution that increases the resort’s guest and service capacity without substantially altering the resort’s character is needed.
Salamander’s efforts to frame a solution have been as transparent and inclusive as Frond Door’s were obfuscating. They met scores of times with stakeholders and adjusted their application accordingly. Their plan is sound, from both a business and a land use standpoint. If the plan is approved, here is what Flagler County can expect:
- $72 million in capital expenditures
- Protection and preservation of existing jobs – 450 maximum peak season full-time, seasonal and on-call employees
- New hospitality jobs – 73 full time and 70 seasonal
- Increased County taxes – an estimated $3,880,457 in the first five years
- Incremental spending in the area outside the resort – an estimate of $55,144,457 in the first five years based on the Tourism Development Council’s impact summary
- Increased marketing expenditures by the Club – $2.3 to $3.7 million in the first year
- New hospitality visitors exposed to the area up 36% – including prospective Hammock property owners, new or relocated business owners or investors. Remember, the principals of both Moving Minds and Coastal Cloud moved here first before locating their companies here.
The P&D Board was prepared to shoot down this project that will provide sustainable economic development and more jobs. Meanwhile, just a few miles down SR 100, the Flagler Votes Forum was strongly voicing the need for exactly this kind of project. A substantial majority of Hammock Beach and Ocean Hammock property owners and Club members are in favor of the new lodge plans.
Four members of the Planning Development Board apparently think that their mandate is to hinder development, even well planned development. This project is a no-brainer. If they don’t want this project, what are their approval criteria? I expect that the BOCC will approve the plans for a new lodge, with or without a P7D Board endorsement. But for smaller projects, the P&D Board has the final say. It’s unfortunate that some of its members are so out of touch with the needs of the county and its citizens. Perhaps they should be invited to step aside.
Sir, you need to get your facts straight. Please review the LA towers’last expansion video in 2011′ . There will be NO more expansion…they said. People seeking a lifestyle consistent with that declaration, bought here.
Please review the clause in the County land swap in 2002, subject land is to be kept a buffer in perpetuity. ….but now to be a mega hotel, bustling stores?
And most importantly, this violates the Scenic A1A charter, that protects the Old Florida ambience. Sure, they enticed HB members with we’lll build you a separate meeting room and other perks, but what about A1A residents aside from adding a mega hotel, convention center ,~ 500 more people to an already crowded16th road ?
Some things in life take priority over bed taxes and jobs. It’s called integrity of what you promised your stakeholders.
Yes, it is a no brainier, do not plop a 198 room hotel , plus convention center in the midst of a ‘old Florida setting based on biased views. If the developer feels strongly, they should proceed with a formal zoning variance.
Just another opinion, everyone has one, thank you for listening.
HAS P&D BOARD LOST THEIR MIND?
TOBY, WHAT GREAT COVERAGE AND COMMENTS YOU HAVE MADE ABOUT THIS.
AS A PROPERTY OWNER AT THE CONSERVATORY AND PRIOR RESIDENT OF FLAGLER
BEACH, AND CLUB MEMBER, I WOULD HOPE THE BOCC WILL PREVAIL IN THE
AFFIRMATIVE VOTE. I FEEL THE PLAN IS A GREAT PLUS FOR THE AREA. ONE
OF THE REASONS I LEFT THE AREA WAS THE BACKWARD THINKING OF THE
LEADERS OF THE COUNTY.
PLEASE KEEP UP YOUR GOOD WORK FOR PROMOTING GOOD CHANGES.
198 hotels rooms, no, no, no
You forgot to say they want to replace the 21 rooms with 198 hotel rooms in front of our condos.
You also forgot to say , when we as owners bought into this property that we were told that there would be no more building on the Oceanfront in front of our building.
Where is our rights. This is just one of many concerns we have.
And also, you are wrong, the majority of our HOA DO NOT SUPPORT THIS?
Hammock Beach Club
Thoughtful, collaborative economic development is
I totally agree with your sentiments on this. Salamander has been very transparent and collaborative for months on this as demonstrated by the many changes they have made to the design plans per local feedback. It is hard to imagine another group being more collaborative in the future if this is voted down.
“No change” is not really a viable option IMHO. Hammock Beach is a key to the economics of this county and was a key source of bringing new visitors to Flagler county, many of whom (including our family) decided to make it home.
A key attraction to us was market leading amenities and customer service wrapped inside a fantastic natural environment and eco-friendly community.
Salamander’s plan appears to reinforce (and recover) these ideals with a balanced approach that stays within the footprint and height of the current Ocean Hammock Lodge and planting more trees than are currently in place. The Salamander team has proven their ability to deliver on environmentally sensitive, high end hospitality developments at The Sanctuary at Kiawah and Middleburg, Va.
The economic health of Hammock Beach is relevant to all of us in Flagler county. It is ‘surviving’ now but is far from the vibrant source of jobs and economic investment it once was. For example, 1000 Hammock Beach Club memberships (paying monthly dues) have been lost since the peak. A new injection of $72m in investment to build new world-class amenities to rival the competing first class resorts in the southeast would be excellent – so long as it does not over reach and protects the natural beauty of our county – which Salamander has demonstrated is their intent.
The alternative could well be a slow decline of Hammock Beach and the economic engine it has meant to Flagler county.
Let’s hope the officials of Flagler county take a balanced, well informed view of the Salamander plan and collaborate to improve it vs throw it out.
It would be catastrophic if Hammock Beach became the next Players Club and a major economic blight on the county.
– Tim Hale
Wrong legally, equitably, and aesthetically
I have no idea who Toby is or what he represents but he is misguided to say the least. Job creation is essential , but it should not be done in the face of legal, aesthetic and equitable prohibitions and considerations. If in fact there has been an erosion of Club Members it is mainly because the Management has treated them as second class citizens. Parenthetically if the Hotel project goes through it will make the situation worse. Currently, there are 20 plus rooms which were built to accommodate golfers. If approved there will be 200 rooms built to accommodate conventions. Where will these people go on the property?
When condo owners bought representations were made that no further ocean construction would occur. There are legal restrictions on growth.Toby seems to ignore these.
I commend the P & D Board for taking the correct position so far and hope they continue to do so in the best interests of all concerned.
A Needed Redevelopment
I completely agree with Mr. Hale’s comment. We need jobs in this county. This is a win, win for the Hammock and Flagler county.
What is destroying the Hammock is the unregulated vacation rentals in single family communities. This is causing a tremendous capacity impact to our resources and beaches.
Flagler county average single family household is 2.42 occupants per dwelling unit. Just in Ocean Hammock alone their are 69 short term vacation rental homes. With a total occupancy capacity of 790 that’s an average of 11.44 occupants per dwelling unit. This does not include the Cinnamon Beach condos with a total of 275 units. These units are three bedrooms with occupancies exceeding 10. There are approx. 270 units being rented short term. That another 2700 people jamming into a gated community without any enforcement.
I would rather have a well maintain facility then unregulated short term vacation rentals in Flagler county.
What about current rentals.
Salamander can’t fill the rooms they have available now , upgrade the current convention space and add convention space at the lodge. There is no need for more rooms. Take care of those invested already and you’ll receive more support. By not adding room you will not violate the agreement not to build more units. UPGRADE facilities and add convention space, don’t add rooms that are not needed. Jobs and taxes will still be received by the county. WIIN WIN
Playing with the PUD!
Metro Palm Coast and Flagler County are growing in population and economic development. Future Flagler must adapt to growth and change or wither and die in the past. Good planning and prudent development should keep the Planning & Development Board busy with little time left to ‘play with their PUD’.
Flagler County Planning & Development Board Fumble
I am a full time resident of Ocean hammock and attended all of the meetings the residents were invited to by Lubert Adler ,Salamender.
Contrary to what Salamender is saying, the vote was only a show of interest. Not a positive yes.
The most vocal at that meeting were those owners who had a financial interest in renting there units. There was no where near a majority of the members present.
Salamamder said all the right things to spark interest. None it in writing.
The proposal presented goes against all the restrictions placed on the property by previous agreements.
It appears to me all Salamander wants to do is build a big convention center, bid it out to a name resort chain, and fold up its tent and leave. They admit PGA Golf would not be viable to play there.
If they are really interested in economic growth in Flagler county they should buy land on State Road 100 which is much more central, not in a residential neighborhood, and closer to shopping and entertainment.
Destruction of the Hammock
The good folks of the country had a vision for the hammock that included pristine beaches and natural beauty for all to enjoy forever. Many including Scenic A1A and HCC have fought for that vision by supporting parks,public beach accesses and use of taxpayer dollars to buy special lands. The county implemented plat restrictions to maintain green space and protect beaches etc. The land Salamander wishes to turn into a large hotel/conference center has a plat restriction on it for golf and recreation only in perpetuity. The hotel/conference center plan will be bad for the environment, will in effect keep the public off the beach, and worsen an already congested road system in the summer. More importantly if the county overturns that plat restriction every PUD will be at risk too of having unwanted and unexpected development. If the county will overturn this plat restriction no one will be safe from development next to their very homes. No one will ever have faith in their commissioners again.
to approve the project
I attended the mentioned meeting and having in my background extensive experience developing land in the ocean front section of Black Point Farm in Portsmouth RI I know what I am talking about and saw in this project a great opportunity to look forward to the improvement of the entire community in Palm Coast. I was in shock when the final vote denied the application. I was furious and rose up to protest such an abuse of power by the planning board not hearing to 87% of the members , so if this is the case why in the world did they ask the opinion of the present citizens in that meeting? Apparently that meant nothing to them .. Luckily they reversed their decision and I am sure next time, November 12th.they will come to their minds , consider all the benefits that Salamander will bring to the resort and approve the project.
Owner of HBC #306
I do not rent my Unit, so the tourist coming in will not benefit me.What will benefit me the most is our HOA dues do go down and our taxes go down.
I like the golf courses that we have and I have a good view from my Condo to see the Ocean and I don’t want anymore condos blocking my view because that is why I bought here at Hammock Beach to relax with my family and friends.
I have been an owner of a 3 bedroom facing the ocean for 10 years. I understand and appreciate both views but I do not see a way for the community to thrive and my investment not to lose value without some development or improvement beyond the current capability based upon current revenues. Basically, maintenance is all we can afford.
Therefore, in an effort to move the community forward and improve amenities and member services we require an investment with return from an outside partner. We should as part o this concession, negotiate for member improvements including fitness center expansion and updating, member only improvements etc.
The proposal contains many of these and I believe a few more could be included if negotiated properly. Therefor, I am in favor of the proposal and believe it will improve my personal enjoyment and protect my investment.
If the board has an alternative to substantially improve the facilities and amenities which, in my opinion, have deteriorated over the years I would be thrilled to hear the plan. Simply saying NO does not solve the facility and investment problem. I am seeking a solution vs. a confrontation that benefits all of those that have invested substantial funds.
I, for one would be happy to concede some rental revenue for principal preservation and appreciation as well as improved personal enjoyment from improved member only facilities and facility updating
Support for the Salamander Project
For a multitude of reasons, building this hotel on this site is a “no-brainer”. The project is a great addition to the community…a community that is deserving of this beautiful uplift. I live a very short walk away from this site and look forward to its completion giving Flagler County and this community a needed upgrade and enhancement.