Planning Council refuses to call the 240-boat storage facility at Hammock a “marina” but will seek to define the word

The 240-boat storage facility proposed for a 4-acre plot on the Intracoastal in the Hammock two years ago suffered its latest setback tonight as the county planning council declined to define the facility as a marina, as its developer wants to do – not yet, anyway.

The council, by a unanimous vote, ordered the county administration to draft an ordinance that would define the word “marina” and bring it back to council for a working session within 60 days. The vote follows nearly two hours of discussion, public comment and wrangling among board members over the request, with some members ridiculing the definition of the storage facility as a marina and wanting to categorically reject it. .

The approach appears to favor Bob Million, the developer, as the definition could potentially be made to order, especially since the county administration had previously drafted an amendment to an existing ordinance that would have specifically enabled the development of Million, called Hammock Harbor. On the other hand, the definition to come also means that the opposition in Hammock Harbor will now mobilize to ensure that the drafting of the ordinance passes its way rather than that of Million. Either way, it’s the same battle but on a different and broader front that could attract a much larger set of interests and individuals with an eye on the Intracoastal and with goals that don’t match. not necessarily to those of the HCA.

Tonight’s decision, however, was precisely the outcome that Dennis Bayer, the lawyer representing the Hammock Community Association – the heart of the opposition in Hammock Harbor – had proposed at the start of the meeting.

“From the start, I told the staff, I told the former lawyers for Mr. Million, why not just make an order,” Bayer said. “Why not come up with a marina ordinance. You have no standards if you make this decision tonight. They do not regulate the number of parking spaces. Your code does not address marina parking and what is required. Our position is therefore the following: let’s have standards, let’s have criteria instead of, we’ve been here for two and a half years. Two and a half years ago, if they had an ordinance, we wouldn’t be here. It would be a whole other process. “

Ironically, it was Million’s documentation itself, not the county or the HCA, that initially called the facility a warehouse. The documentation had made it into a site plan for the facility, a 57,000 square foot warehouse for the boats – 2,000 square feet larger than the White House, 6,000 square feet larger than the operations center of the sheriff expected in Bunnell. The facility would also have a 10,000 gallon fuel storage tank and a restaurant.

“The problem is,” Million said tonight, “with this innocuous decision to call it a warehouse on a sitemap, he’s come back to bite us. It allowed their lawyer to come to court and say, my God, these guys call it a warehouse.

The Planning Council and County Commission both approved Million’s plan in 2019. But the HCA sued and won in the circuit court, where a judge found the councils made their decisions. without substantial or competent evidence. An appeals court upheld the lower court’s decision. This prompted Million to bypass the county technical review committee, which reviews plans for the site before they are presented to the planning council, and go directly to the council for a decision on what he called. now a “marina”. If it’s a marina, he told council tonight, it should be allowed to move forward.

“We’re in Florida, folks,” Million said. “I mean, there’s water, we’re in Flagler County, it’s 18 miles of intercoastal. We have marinas. They worked. There is not a single reference in this code in the Flagler County Land Development Code to the word “marina”. It is extremely unusual. He said it was probably a mistake not to have a definition.

“What I’m asking tonight is essentially a determination of land use based on substantial and competent evidence.” But the evidence he provided was entirely his interpretation of definitions and codes. He had neither witnesses nor experts. Had the planning board ratified his request, he could have faced yet another lawsuit and possibly lost it on the same grounds as the previous one.

A board member asked Million to describe his expertise in solving code issues. “I’ve had two and a half years to think about it,” Million joked, before the board member asked him again what his expertise was. Million has stated that he is a consultant, designer and operator of marinas.

Kathy Viehe, who lives a short distance from the proposed facility (the redevelopment plot is at 5658 North Oceanshore Boulevard, next to Hammock Hardware), did not purchase the redesign. “You can call it a marina, you can call it a boat warehouse, but at the end of the day, this thing will be a 57,000 square foot warehouse,” she said, four times the size of the metal building currently on the property – a building formerly used as a manufacturing plant by Newcastle Boating. “When it became clear that the ‘warehouse’ was not going to fly, it became a marina. So I can tell you that after meeting him and the owner of the property, Jim Buckley, I had never heard the word Marina before about a month ago.

None of the dozens of people who approached the board other than Million disagreed. Bob Heruska, a fairly recent resident who describes himself as a 40-year-old boater and writer, said he lived next to one of these pleasure warehouses. “I can attest to how utter damage they are to the community, from morning till night you hear rescue warnings – deet, deet, deet,” he said, mimicking the alert sound. “Calling it anything but a warehouse is crazy.”

Millions of people in response called the criticism “emotional arguments”. The planning council seemed divided, however, between those who wanted to reject Million’s request that the facility be defined as a marina and those who were inclined to accept it, although a majority of the council agreed that the lack of definitions in the code was an obstacle. Their discussion became obscure, revolving around warehouse codes, marina codes, standard industry classifications, land development codes, and occasionally returning to what Sean Moylan, the deputy county attorney who advised the advice, had presented as a warning.

“I would ask you, members of the board, to please whatever you decide, whether it be to approve or deny, to make findings on the record,” Moylan said. “That way it’s clear what you’re basing your decision on if it’s challenged later. If you want me to defend your decision, having conclusions will be really helpful. ”

For a while, it seemed like the Hammock Community Association’s best friend on the planning board would be their old nemesis, Mike Goodman, owner of Captain; s BBQ, the restaurant that was looking to increase its footprint at Bings Landing and is now in litigation. with the county, after bringing an action for breach of contract.

“I believe from everything I’ve heard that it’s a warehouse, a warehouse is a place where you store things, whether it’s for a personal nature or to make money,” said Goodman said, making a motion to deny Million’s request. “It’s both.”

But Goodman received strong opposition from Mark Langello, another board member, who would have preferred to approve the request – or at least file it, even if he wasn’t comfortable either. with this perspective: he had asked the administration to make changes. in the composition of the planning board, and had waited two or three years for that. “Our board can’t really force you to push this past anything else so we’re at the mercy of the staff and the county administrator to determine where this would happen,” Langello said. , speaking to Adam Mengel, County Planning Director. .

But that’s where the issue was when council agreed to file and review the marina-defining ordinance over the next two months – assuming the county administration will follow suit. Even if the council develops this definition, it will have to appear before the departmental commission. And at every stage – before the planning board, and two commission hearings – the two sides fighting over Hammock Harbor would voice their opinions and put pressure on the voting members. It’s early.

About Patricia Kilgore

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