The fog of emotions obfuscates the truth and energizes the FUD factor (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt). It also masks ulterior motives and questionable tactics.
Palm Coast, FL – January 9, 2015 – January 12, 2015, the Board of County Commissioners will say YES or a NO to Salamander’s proposal to build a 198-room Hammock Beach Club Lodge facility to replace a deteriorating structure on the same site. They will determine whether or not such a structure is appropriate to the county’s Land Development Code and Comprehensive Plan. This is the most important economic development decision facing the BOCC in years.
There is a certain amount of theater in evidence. Count on the supporters of the Salamander project to turn out at the BOCC meeting wearing white shirts. The opposition will be wearing blue. And don’t expect much mingling of colors.
The date and time of the BOCC meeting is problematic for many. Should they go to the BOCC meeting to express their views and tape the College Football National Championship game or should they stay home to watch the game and tape the BOCC meeting? Will the dilemma create an attendance bias one way or the other? What if members of the opposition are less likely to be football fans than those supporting the new Lodge?
Stakes are high. Emotions are equally high. But the fog of emotions obfuscates the truth and energizes the FUD factor (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt). It also masks ulterior motives and questionable tactics. This issue is simply about the truth and the law. Let’s shine a light on the arguments posited by the opposition; put them in the sunshine, so to speak.
When the truth does not advance your argument, you have few options. So you bend the truth a little (or a lot) to suit your agenda. Or you use misleading photographs. You preach the FUD factor. Postings found on the opposition’s Facebook page illustrate that strategy.
Example 1 – the crowded beach scene
This picture was not taken at Hammock Beach.
Example 2 – sea turtle trapped in a beach lounge chair
Again, not taken here. No further comment necessary.
Example 3 – the waste water treatment plant
Naturally this picture was not taken at the lodge, but more misleading is the accompanying text which states, “DID YOU KNOW: Presently, there is no water or sewer available to service the beach hotel. The Dunes' CDD said they cant (sic) serve the developer right now. What utility provider will give them water and sewer. The County codes require that these services be available in order to be given approval. However, the County staff has ignored this requirement saying that the approval of the beach hotel should be conditional upon getting water and sewer services.”
This is an example of using a half truth to mislead the reader. The in the ground infrastructure to the existing lodge will be sufficient because it must meet volume requirements for fire protection (large diameter pipe). I can attest the existence of both water and sewer services at the existing lodge. I have personally made both withdrawals and deposits to the system from there.
The partial truth – there is not enough capacity at this time from the Dunes Community Development District to meet the projected potable water demand of the new lodge. However, work is underway to double the capacity of the reverse osmosis treatment plant. This expansion will be completed in May or June of this year, about two years before the capacity demand of the new lodge must be met. Simply put, there is no issue of water, sewer or reuse water for irrigation. It’s a red herring.
Example 4 – parking lot poster
This picture is ironic because before the present Hammock lodge was built, there was a large (nearly 3 acres) paved parking lot for Old Salt Park. Much like the present smaller lot, the large lot was mostly empty of vehicles.
One of the most vocal opponents to the Salamander project is Ocean Hammock resident Jeff Southmayd. The arguments advanced by Southmayd and the opposition website purported driven by environmental and protectionist concerns. Yet in his own words Southmayd says, “I only care about the golf course and the fitness center and spinning studio……I suggested in a meeting with Prem that Salamander needed to build a member’s clubhouse and parking lot separate and apart from the new hotel. I could get behind the project if we receive something substantial to make it worth our while.” Where is the environmental fervor? What would make it "worth his while?"
Michael Chiumento (the younger)’s scope of representation
The Salamander proposal was on the agenda of the Planning and Development Board twice; first on October 14, 2014, and second on December 9, 2014. Both times, local attorney Michael Chiumento spoke as the representative of the Hammock Beach Club Condo Association. It seems that there is some controversy over his representation. Many Hammock Beach and Ocean Hammock residents have told me that Chiumento does not represent them. Apparently, the Hammock Beach Club Condo Association’s title infers broadly to the condominium complex at Hammock Beach. In fact, it is a relatively small association representing only 148 units.
Salamander has worked closely with both residents and with different groups from which Hammock Beach Club members are drawn. Salamander’s straw poll, which demonstrates strong support for the new lodge included individuals from these groups:
There are condominium associations representing each of the following:
- The big box (the original central core of multi-bedroom units)
- The one-bedroom units
- The towers
- The villas
- Yacht Harbor Village condominiums
There are homeowner’s associations representing:
- Yacht Harbor single-family homes
- The Conservatory
- Ocean Hammock
There is also a group of individual members from the Tidelands and Palm Coast Resort condominiums. While these condominiums were built by Centex, not Ginn, club memberships were conveyed to Centex as part of Ginn’s purchase of the Ocean Course from Centex. Centex subsequently used the memberships as marketing incentives when selling units at Tidelands and Palm Coast Resort.
The Hammock Beach Club Condominium Association represents only the owners of condominiums in the big box with its 148 units. This is the only group, to my knowledge, that Chiumento is representing.
A rebellion is brewing within the membership of the Hammock Beach Club Condo Association. Many members are not happy with the three members on the Board who voted to select Chiumento. They allege procedural improprieties among the three.
I’ve been told that the Board met on December 16, 2014. The meeting was “noticed” to members but no agenda was supplied as required by Florida Statute. Two controversial motions were passed at the meeting. Stay with me on this.
- The Board voted to engage Chiumento as attorney to represent the Board in the effort to block the Salamander lodge project. Note that the Board meeting was AFTER both of the P&D Board hearings at which Chiumento had claimed representation. There reportedly had been no official vote to hire Chiumento before December 16, 2014.
- Two of the three Board members are up for reelection at the Association’s Annual Meeting, scheduled for January 12, 2015, just hours prior to the BOCC hearing of the Salamander project. The three Board members had learned that two other condo owners had filed to run for the two upcoming vacancies, and that the two planned to instruct Chiumento to ‘stand down’ prior to the BOCC meeting and to voice support for the project. So in a second act at the improperly noticed (missing agenda) meeting, the Board proceeded to delay the Annual Meeting until after the BOCC meeting.
Depth of opposition questionable
Letters of opposition have been submitted by nearby community associations:
Matanzas Shores Owners’ Association, Inc begins, “Re: Proposed Development Plan by Salamander Hospitality Group to construct a 198 unit rentable property at the undeveloped site by the Hammock Beach Club.”
Surf Club III Owners begins, “Re: Proposed Development by Salamander Hospitality Group to construct a multi-story 198 unit “luxury golf lodge” to include an “Exclusive Members Only” Golf Club Complex at the Hammcok Beach Club property.”
Sea Colony begins, “Re: Proposed Development Plan by Salamander Hospitality Group to construct a 198 unit rentable property at the undeveloped site by the Hammock Beach Club.”
- The language is so similar, giving rise to the suspicion that the objections were not independently arrived at, but simply a regurgitation of talking points provided by someone else.
- Two of the three letters mentions (in the same words) undeveloped land. It is clear to anyone who has done their homework that the parcel in question is already fully developed.
Call To Action
GoToby.com thinks that Salamander's proposal represents the very best of responsible development. Its approval is important to the future prosperity of Flagler County and its residents. Please let your county commissioners know how you feel about this issue.
Charlie Ericksen: firstname.lastname@example.org
Frank Meeker: email@example.com
Barbara Revels: firstname.lastname@example.org
Nate McLaughlin: email@example.com
George Hanns: firstname.lastname@example.org