Opponents to the plan like the status quo with things just the way they are. They want to preserve the “old Florida feel” of the Hammock. This perspective casts doubt on their conservationist motives.
Palm Coast, FL – January 5, 2015 – The New Year celebrations are over but the fireworks continue. Only seven days remain before the Board of County Commissioners meets to decide whether or not Salamander Hospitality, as an equity partner of the Hammock Beach Club (along with Lubert-Adler) will be allowed to build a proposed 198-room Lodge/hotel to replace the outdated existing Lodge.
Those opposed to the proposal have pulled out the stops. I hate to use the term “fear mongering or bullying,” but their tactics include anonymous email blasts that water and sewer service is not available for the proposed lodge. They say this could lead annexation by Palm Coast. This is hooey. So is the persistent statement that the lodge parcel is deed restricted. It is not. Plat restricted, yes. But the plat restriction clearly spells out that the proposed changes are the purview of the BOCC.
In an on-the-record comment one opponent referring to Director of Planning and Zoning, Adam Mengle, wrote, “Adam is an inept bully, who abuses the powers you have. It's a victory to get under his skin!” The bullying seems to be coming from the opposition with innuendoes of conflicts of interest and financial improprieties.
The opposition cites home owner and condo owner associations’ objections to the project without pointing out that the association’s objections were written prior to the latest plan amendments. They still broadcast reasons that have since been dispelled or that have been addressed by subsequent changes to Salamander’s application.
Opponents focus on emotion-evoking subjects:
- The project would impinge further on and already crowded beach.
- It would encroach on “Old Salt Park,” a county park at the end of 16th Road, adding that parking is already inadequate at the park.
- The hotel’s lights would impact nesting sea turtles.
- The hotel would destroy the “old Florida feel” of the area.
- Construction will result in the destruction of many native scrub oaks and other plants.
They like things just the way they are.
As one opponent said, “One of the things that make our area so special is the old Florida feel–the natural setting with the special beauty of this piece of paradise. Not only would this change in zoning do away with another piece of this atmosphere, but it would also be precedent-setting for other developer.”
A picture is worth a thousand words. The following pictures are from Google Earth, taken at different times since 1995. They reveal an opposition movement simply cloaked in the noble garb of crusades for preservation. But what they are trying to protect is the product of a previous developer. And by the fervor of their cries to preserve, that developer did a pretty good job.
First, look at “the way things are.” This Google Earth image was captured January 2, 2014. This is the “old Florida feel” the opposition wants to preserve. For perspective, note the “huge” footprint of the present Lodge relative to the greater development.
Hammock Beach and Ocean Hammock 2014
The following picture shows the same view. It was taken 16 years ago on January 25, 1999. The arrow indicates Old Salt Park. Note development has begun on the Ocean Hammock section to the south
Hammock Beach and Ocean Hammock 1999
The next two pictures show a close up of the area surrounding the Lodge footprint under debate. Note that Old Salt Park was once larger than it is today. But note the absence of cars in the public parking area (at the far end of 16th Street) in each picture. Also note the absence of the supposed beach crowd.
Hammock Beach Club Lodge and Old Salt Park 2014
Old Salt Park 1999
Who is orchestrating the opposition?
The most vocal opponent of the Lodge is Ocean Hammock resident, Jeff Southmayd (right). No stranger to controversy, Southmayd was arrested in September 2011 and booked for Petit Larceny and Burglary of Auto, Boat or Conveyance. The arrest stemmed from an incident arising over a short-term vacation rental in his neighborhood. In another vacation rental-related event, FlaglerLive.com reports that during a December 2012 Legislative Delegation Meeting, “Some speakers went as far as leveling a few bigoted invectives at short-termers, as did Jeff Southmayd, a 61-year-old resident of Ocean Ridge Boulevard and owner of a Christian radio station who nevertheless didn’t hesitate to blame ‘this cancer’ of short-term rentals on ‘Yankees and people who live outside of here.'” The remarks earned a rebuke from then-Senator John Thrasher. Southmayd’s Christian radio station is a substantial political contributor.
Ocean Ridge Blvd 2014
Ocean Ridge Blvd 1995
Southmayd’s 6,652 SF (under air, 7,560 SF overall) three-story McMansion is on the west side of Ocean Ridge Blvd. The street with 83 building lots runs parallel and close to the beach for a distance of approximately 3,500 feet. The maximum allowable building height for Ocean Ridge homes is 55 feet; only 19 feet lower than the proposed Lodge height, often characterized by opponents as a “tower.”
Another anti-Lodge campaign tool is a Facebook page. It includes pictures of crowded beaches (not Hammock Beach, however) and copies of letters of objection by nearby homeowners associations and condominium associations. The inclusion of these letters is misleading because most of the objections have been addressed by subsequent amendments to Salamander’s plans; changes made after listening closely to stakeholders. Southmayd does not mention that under Salamanders latest proposal:
- No overflow parking is planned for the south side of 16th Street. Thus, the scrub oaks and other vegetation in that location will not be lost.
- The new Lodge will be constructed 15 feet further from the dune line than the present lodge.
- Salamander proposed a "$2.00 conservancy fund donation per room night" which would produce $100K per year in new conservancy funding for the hammock. The A1A Scenic Pride and Hammock Conservation Coalition (HCC) have acknowledged neither this offer nor the opportunities it could provide. The current HCC annual budget is $9K).
The HCC is also concerned with sea turtles. The HCC website contains a posting titled “Out of the Light and into the Darkness: Managing the Impacts of Artificial Light on Sea Turtles.” To that point, the footprint of the proposed Lodge represents about 375 feet of beachfront. Southmayd’s Oceam Ridge neighborhood footprint contains 83 home sites on which homes up to 55 feet in elevation may be built. It dominates 2/3 of a mile of beachfront.
The HCC 2014 “Visioning” document found on the organization’s website lists among the Hammock’s Weaknesses, “the need for more small businesses, particularly a pharmacy, coffee shop, riverfront restaurant, and post office.” Among Opportunities is found, “Many wanted to attract small businesses to the A1A corridor, particularly a pharmacy, coffee shop, and arts-related businesses.” Where is the conservation component here? And doesn’t the HCC realize these goals will more likely attainable if the Hammock Beach Resort prospers with additional guests.
Finally, the opposition has placed a petition on their Facebook page. They ask us to support the following statement:
“Please sign this petition if you want to protect the public beach access on 16th Road in the Hammock and ask the Flagler County Commissioners to deny the rezoning and development of a 171,000 square feet hotel at that location.”
That’s it. No links to further details. No real framing of the issues. No mention that the proposal actually enhances public access to Salt Water Park. No mention that the public beach access is underutilized or that the beaches are not crowded. No mention that the new structure would occupy the same footprint as the existing facilities but will sit 15 feet further from the dune line. No mention of the $72M investment, the added jobs, the benefits to the local tax revenues, or the economic impact on local businesses.
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: email@example.com
Frank Meeker: firstname.lastname@example.org
Barbara Revels: email@example.com
Nate McLaughlin: firstname.lastname@example.org
George Hanns: email@example.com