True Picture of the Hammock Beach Lodge-Hotel Controversy

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Hammock Beach Club (along with Lubert-Adler) will be allowed to build a proposed 198-room Lodge/hotel to replace the outdated existing Lodge.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
Hammock Beach and Ocean Hammock - site of proposed new lodge

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
Hammock Beach and Ocean Hammock - Google Earth 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
Hammock Beach Club Lodge 2014 - Google EArth

Old Salt Park 1999
Old Salt Park at Hammock Beach 1999 - Google Earth

Who is orchestrating the opposition?
Jeff Southmayd booking photo - 2011The 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, 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 - Ocean Hammock 2014 Google Eaarth

Ocean Ridge Blvd 1995
Ocean Ridge Blvd 1995

Turtle concerns?
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.”

Disingenuous representations?
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!!! 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:

Frank Meeker:

Barbara Revels:

Nate McLaughlin:

George Hanns:

18 replies
  1. Michael Chiumento
    Michael Chiumento says:


    Toby, I had reached out to you some time ago so that you had the opponents information and could include it in your opinion. If you are interested in the other side of the story, please lets us know. We would be happy to sit and discuss it with you.

  2. William Schreiber
    William Schreiber says:

    Old Florida Hammock already gone

    I grew up in this area in the late ’50ies, living in Palatka and coming to Crescent Beach, Matanzas Inlet and the Hammock area almost every weekend to fish or spend the day at the beach. Beach access was free and it was never crowded, only a few folks either fishing or swimming. There were no condos (did not even know the word) or hotels, just a few houses, small stores, fish camps and lots of open space. Both Crescent Beach and the Hammock have changed drastically since that time, both for the better and not. And that change will continue, both for the better and not.

  3. John Frank
    John Frank says:

    What happens if ?

    To all the opponents, which seems to be a loud few. If we don’t have this replacement of the lodge, who is going to pay for the repairs and eventual replacement ?
    This building is going to fall down sooner than later. I would like a commitment from the people opposing this that they will cover the cost of this building.
    We have an opportunity to have others put up 72mil dollars to enhance what we have and in return look for a return on their investment. I think that’s the way business works, it needs to have a ROI !! If we just replace it without any income potential then the money comes from members. Good luck on collecting those assessments.

  4. David M. Taylor
    David M. Taylor says:

    Right on Toby!!

    Toby, you are a great voice for the future of Flagler County and the growth and development that we need to grow into a vibrant community for the future. Regardless of the lifespan of individuals, it is just a fleeting moment in the spectrum of history.And, as history proves,a community must grow or die, just as individuals must!! If the naysayers get their way, they will live the rest of their lives, as brief as it may be in the perspective of history, with what they selfishly want to the detriment of the future Flagler County generations and the County itself. I will support you in any way that I can to see that this County grows and can become a great destination and place to live now and in the future!! Thank you for being a great advocate for what is important to this County and its citizens!!

  5. Jeff Southmayd
    Jeff Southmayd says:

    You All Must Be Getting Desperate

    Wow! You all must be getting desperate to bring out the personal attacks. However, your desperation is justified because you are losing the public argument, as you will see.

  6. Charlie Faulkner
    Charlie Faulkner says:

    Can’t remain silent

    The proposed project has virtually no legitimate negatives and so many positives for our community that it doesn’t warrant further debate. I hope our County Commissioners listen to their staff and the balanced business community and vote for the best interests of our entire community, not for a vocal, self serving few.

    Lastly, Adam Mengel, the County Planning Director, is likely the most professional, balanced, ethical and humble land planner I have ever worked with. Anyone who reports otherwise about Adam either doesn’t have a qualified opinion or is simply a coprolite; or both.

  7. Charlie Faulkner
    Charlie Faulkner says:

    Can’t remain silent

    The proposed project has virtually no legitimate negatives and so many positives for our community that it doesn’t warrant further debate. I hope our County Commissioners listen to their staff and the balanced business community and vote for the best interests of our entire community, not for a vocal, self serving few.

    Lastly, Adam Mengel, the County Planning Director, is likely the most professional, balanced, ethical and humble land planner I have ever worked with. Anyone who reports otherwise about Adam either doesn’t have a qualified opinion or is simply a coprolite; or both.

  8. Bill Baer
    Bill Baer says:

    Let’s hope this passes

    Toby, super article. If this does not pass the county commission, this place will turn into a run down facility that no one will want to come to.The opponents are very selfish full time residents, while over half of the units owned are in the rental program and by people that come here a few months a year. Most all of the recent sales have been short sales or foreclosures. This will certainly happen again if this doesn’t pass.

    BEN O'KELLY says:


    Thanks again for your input on THE LODGE. I commented in the affirmative after you published the negative vote by the zoning board.
    As a taxpayer in Flagler county and a frequent visitor, do hope that
    the County Commissioners have the wisdom to pass this request. It
    will be a great boost to the economy and the future of Flagler County.
    The maps were wonderful to put this in perspective.

  10. Ron
    Ron says:

    Approve The Development

    If the Board does not vote in favor of the proposed development there will be another fire sale of properties in Ocean Hammock further diluting property values even further in addition to the decaying structures at The Club at Hammock Beach along with it’s golf facility and course. Then the opponents will have no problem getting tee times but you will also need to include a weed wackier in your golf bag.

    Our commissioners need to act. This proposal according to county staff is in line with the land development code and the comprehensive plan. Let’s get this project going and grow Flagler County in a responsible way.

    I am urging the Board of County Commissioners to vote yes on the lodge development and the new proposed Flagler County Vacation Ordinance.

  11. Alan Mandelbloom
    Alan Mandelbloom says:

    Yes to Salamander Project, Yes to progress

    I was born and raised in Miami Beach/Miami, Florida. My wife and I purchased a condo in Cinnamon Beach several years ago, and built our retirement home in the Northshore Section of Hammock Beach two years ago, where we live now. We love this area, the solitude, the beauty, and also the lodge, big house, and all that comes with it. We don’t have to worry about this area ever becoming a large metropolis, like where we came from, but we are concerned that our tax burden here will be too much if the County doesn’t approve projects like this. This is a win/win for the County and our community. This County has a planner, trust his judgment, not the self centered, self-serving people who are against this project. Bring Flagler County into the 21st Century and grow our community, within reason, so that our County police, fire, and administrative staffers can be compensated without putting the sole burden on the homeowners in this great County. We can still remain the beautiful town we are, and continue to grow as more and more people visit and subsequently move here, so that we don’t have to have a large industrial complex to support the costs of the County. I just ask that people, and the commissioners use common sense, and realize that this is a positive step in the development of our community. After all, nothing is being displaced, the new lodge will sit on already developed property, and its beauty will enhance our community, as well as the Image of our City, and County. Thanks for voting yes!!!!

  12. Jeanette
    Jeanette says:

    Well wriiten!

    Well written and thought out response. Basically mimics the letter I sent to the commissioners along with the same maps. The maps say it all. This is a financial boon for Flagler County and will certainly benefit all of us with increased tourism and jobs. I do not want to see the Club go into decline as it will if this does not pass. Salanander has certainly modified and changed their plans trying to address many of the concerns. I fully support this proposed hotel.

  13. Stephen and Patti Cohen
    Stephen and Patti Cohen says:

    Pro development

    As one of the original owners of property here in the community and witnessing the development of Bobby Ginn’s vision we are all so fortunate to have the ability to live in a community where the environment has been protected,birds and wildlife cohabitate with us and the beach,and surrounding area has been preserved so well. My wife and I have invested in our home with the belief that this is where we want to live and enjoy the special place that we fell in love with in 2001. The proposal by Salamander to invest a significant amount of their own funds with no contribution from the owners to upgrade the development is a no brainier. They have done this with taking into account the majority of the communities concerns in preserving the delicate balance of expansion while at the same time preserving the environment and why we all bought here in the first place. As a financial advisor, CPA and businessman I ask the majority of those people who support this plan to have the voices counted and put a stop to these very loud few people trying to implode this project.

    I write this with no personal grudges against those who are opposed to the project, but from a financial point of view how can anyone objectively oppose a project which will create both temporary and permanent jobs, increase the tax base for Flagler and Palm Coast, bring a fresh look to a community that needs the improvements and minimizes the impact to what is already here. Great article Toby.

  14. Charles Kerr
    Charles Kerr says:

    Give Salamander Credit

    First, Toby, great article. You presented the “pro” argument in a very detailed fashion that should be easy to understand by everyone.

    I recently finished serving for 4 years on the Club at Hammock Beach Advisory Board of Governors. As a member of that Board, I was able to work closely with both Salamander and the prior management group. There is absolutely no similarity between the two. As many members can attest, the prior management group treated Club members and residents as impediments to their plan of unbridled development. Not so with Salamander. Right from the beginning, they have been very communicative and open. They sought out our ideas and listened to the concerns brought to them by the members/residents. Prem even formed a Community Committee made up of representatives from the various groups and Boards from within Hammock Beach. Ideas and suggestions from those meetings went into the initial design of the project. Since that time, almost a year ago, Salamander has continued to update and refine their design based on new ideas they received from the community. Every time a new objection has come up, they have tried to incorporate the change into their design. People associated with the opposition have claimed that Salamander hasn’t been transparent with us. I have the opposite opinion. Salamander has been extremely open and forthright during the whole process.

    It’s time to for everyone to understand that our ocean front Resort is deteriorating before our eyes. I see two options available to Salamander to prevent this from happening, and in the process, upgrade the facilities that are so important to the membership. Option #1 is to build a new facility that will attract midweek, corporate guests, who’s dollars will help fund improvements that we’ll all get to enjoy. Option #2 is much simpler. Salamander can just increase the dues of the Club members. No fuss, no muss. I don’t know about you , but Gail and I choose option #1.

    Will a new Lodge be perfect for everyone? Absolutely not. But, once it’s finished, we’ll wonder how we got along without it. Please, for the future of our Resort, support the Lodge project.



    Future for the Hammocks,
    Higher tax income
    Stabilization of Real Estate
    Renovation to a 10 year old former 1st class Resort and bring it back to those standards

    That is the Future for the Hammocks.

    And yes, I am 100% and to doubt in favor that is plan will be approved

  16. Dee
    Dee says:

    Well Said….

    Times change, people change, people grow and our priorities diversify. Society at times becomes nostalgic and we get lost in the world of change. Some embrace it and some fight it every chance because its different and it’s a big scary monster that lives under bed and keeps you from falling asleep at night. At the same time its familiar because its always there.

    I have lived in Palm Coast for only 5 years, however as a child, my family would visit our grandparents in Daytona often. Many of our outings were here to Marineland and the surrounding area beaches. While the landscape has changed the beauty of it remained. One of the biggest challenges to our county is the need for Jobs. I can’t tell you how many times people ask me, do you know who is hiring? I think that the Salamander Group is greatly passed over as a form of income for a family. I have had friends work for them and the firm is amazing, they provide perks to their staff to encourage them to have a place bring their family and friends for socializing. The grounds are well kept, the staff friendly and open. As a former employee of Marineland as well, many of our guests were from the Hammock Resort as well any travelers that were coming from out of state would be able to have a local affordable hotel stay as well.

    It seems to me that the new plan has accounted for and made concessions to the local residents as much as possible. If there is that much of a concern for the Sea Turtles, have them speak to the Sea Turtle Patrol and work to find a safe lighting option, from colored lights to the angles, to them being on a timer during nesting season, which is in the fall and spring. They may even save money by setting the lights on a stricter timer and keeping additional ambient light to the solar ground levels.

    Well said Stephen and Patti Cohen!!!!

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