Ocean Hammock DRI Change Request Puts County Commissioners on Hot Seat

The request has validity, but residents are strongly against it. Council members could lose no matter which way they vote.

Palm Coast, Florida – May 23, 2009 – The Ginn-LA submittal of a Notification of Proposed Change (NOPC) to the Ocean Hammock Development of Regional Impact (DRI) seemed simple enough. The developer of luxury and resort communities simply wanted to relocate and preserve 1,147 previously approved residential density units to another location they own within the DRI. That location happened to be the most prime property remaining. The newly designated acreage includes portions of the present golf course and the present lodge. Residents are angered. Flagler County Commissioners face a tough decision at their June 1, 2009 meeting.
The issue before the County Council on their agenda is whether or not the request constitutes a "substantial deviation" from the DRI as presently approved. If the Council decides that the request does not constitute a significant deviation, then Ginn-LA or its successor will be entitled to submit plans for development at the newly designated site. But the NOPC is only the first step in the development process.
Reynolds Communities was recently engaged as a consultant to operate the Hammock Beach Resort Clubs and to oversee development plans. They were not here when the NOPC was submitted. In a recent communication to members and property owners, Reynolds describes the additional hurdles facing any future development.
"Development of this density requires several steps in the approval process; the NOPC application is the first of those steps.   Later, the Applicant must process a site plan and/or preliminary plat and final plat, and final engineering of proposed development area, including such things as building setbacks, building height, configuration of roadways, structures, parking aisles and spaces, storm water retention, landscaping, open spaces, etc.  Each stage of the process involves opportunity for public participation, which may include public notices, public hearings, and other forums for distribution of information and acceptance of public comment. For the Hammock Dunes DRI, the NOPC simply addresses the reallocation of density, while the Site Plan Application, Preliminary Plat Application, Final Plat Application, and Land Development and Building Permit Applications will address the remaining development and construction aspects.   No development can begin before all of these processes are complete. In addition to these governmental processes, additional permits may be required from regulatory agencies and governmental entities, such as the St. Johns River Water Management District, Florida Department of Transportation, Flagler County Engineering, Flagler County Growth Management, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, and others, as necessary."
If, on the other hand, County Council decides that the NOPC does constitute a substantial deviation, the request would have to go through the entire DRI process again. This would require re-approval by the Department of Community Affairs, Northeast Regional Council, and Flagler County.
Notice that I did not use the phrase "rules in favor of the developer" or "sides with the wishes of adjacent property owners." On an issue as politically charged as this one, these phrases only add fuel to the fire. In reality, it is difficult to imagine any development being approved for the new area that would total more than a few hundred residential units. But the developer paid for the presently approved units (permitting costs, infrastructure, concurrency, etc.). They have value and could be moved to another local development in the future. Moving density around within a DRI is common practice.
Yet residents like things the way they are. They want to preserve their present view. They like the golf course the way it is. They may even have been promised by their salesperson that the golf course would always be there or that no condominiums would be built at the east end of the driving range, that their view would be preserved. They are suspicious of ALL developers. The recently filed lawsuit filed against Ginn, Lubert-Adler and several banks nurtures their suspicions (read story).
I do not envy the position of members of County Council. In my humble opinion, the NOPC probably does not constitute a substantial deviation as defined by statute. The Northeast Florida Regional Council does not believe the proposed change constitutes a substantial deviation. But if that is the Council’s ruling, they will anger a whole lot of people, many of them voters. On the other hand, a ruling going the other way opens up the possibility of an expensive legal battle, the outcome of which is uncertain.
Council members should neither side with the developer nor be swayed by the expected multitude of residents who will attend the June 1 meeting. They should decide the issue on its merits based on state statutes as they understand them. How is that for a lose/lose scenario. I take off my hat and drink a toast to their dilemma comfortable that I am not among them.


3 replies
  1. Phil Chanfrau
    Phil Chanfrau says:

    Violation of OPEN SPACE

    Florida law governing this NOPC lists in F.S. 380.06(19)(b) 14 categories of changes which are "substantial deviations" as a matter of law. The NOPC tramples on at least two of them:
    Open space reduction by 20 acres is a substantial deviation (Ginn’s NOPC proposes a 34 acre reduction in open spaces including using parts of the golf course) or an increase in Hotel space by more than 83 units is a substantial deviation (Ginn’s NOPC proposes 1147 units). Beyond those hurdles, Ginn’s NOPC requires the County to 1) deem all roads, berms, and storm water retention, the Discovery Center and parking lot next to it as "unimproved," and 2) to cancel the Developer’s guarantee to leave the land now dedicated for golf course use untouched in future development. Residents bought here because of the promises of the Developer, backed up by the Development Agreement and Development Order. Residents have substantial investments and legal rights which protect them in the event the Commission grants the NOPC, which they are strongly opposing. They are very well organized and prepared.
    Although the Regional Planning Council has concluded these changes are not substantial deviations, its opinion is not binding on Flagler Commission which must complete its own review. The public meeting on June 1, 2009 will be a major milestone in the county’s history, and will be well attended by residents of Ocean Hammock, Hammock Beach, Cinnamon Beach, and Yacht Harbor Village.

  2. George Meegan
    George Meegan says:

    Pushy Bobby

    The rush to get the Conservatory ready for sales and a Golf Tournament back in 2006 had Bobby leading the county public works department by it’s noise to get Old Kings Road and the Matanzas Bridge open. That’s why the county Administration complex ran into expenses to finish the area that the Pubic works people were to do. Now he wants his way with all the owners who’s views will be blocked by high rises. I noticed the person that filed the request quit right after it went for consideration.

  3. duranda
    duranda says:

    don’t confuse history

    While it is easy to paint developers as "bad" we shouldn’t overlook that Ginn did not develop the Ocean Hammock golf course or most of the land included in the NOPC. No one who bought from Ginn in Hammock Beach could have received any assurances as to what would happen to the golf course or the land around the Lodge because Ginn didn’t own it, Lowe, and then Centex, were the developers. Ginn inherited their legal rights under the DRI when Ginn bought it and now we will see what those rights are.

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