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Ormond Beach Observer Monday, Feb. 22, 2021 3 days ago

Planning Board OKs land use change for townhome project in split vote

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The land use would cap the number of units on the 2.81-acre parcel at 18.
by: Jarleene Almenas Associate Editor

In a 4-2 vote, the Ormond Beach Planning Board recommended approval of a future land use designation change that will allow a developer to build up to 18 townhome units on a 2.81-acre parcel near the Trails South 40 neighborhood.

The land located at 1190 W. Granada Blvd. was previously identified as a borrow pit for the Florida Department of Transportation, but in 2018, the city was notified that the state was selling the property, according to a staff report. The property has remained green since DOT bought it in 1993 and had the land use changed from "Office/Professional" to "Open Space/Conservation." In 1994, the property was rezoned from R-3 single-family medium density to special environmental. 

Interested in building townhomes, the developer is seeking a land use change to "Medium Density Residential" and a rezoning to R-4, single-family cluster and townhouse. Board members Harold Briley and Angeline Schull voted against the land use change; Briley also voted against the rezoning at the Feb. 18 meeting, bringing that vote to 5-1. 

Briley voted against because he said that his preference for the parcel would be that it be used for commercial purposes, which he believed where more consistent with the current businesses in its surroundings. 

Attorney Joseph Posey, of Storch Law Firm, represents the developer, and he told the board that they wanted to match the use to the east of the property, which borders Sagebrush Trail of the Trails South 40 neighborhood. When the topic of buffers was broached by the board, Posey said they were willing to accommodate the wants of the neighbors but that the won't submit a site plan to the city until the land use and zoning matters are resolved. These will need to go before the City Commission for final approval.

“I’m here to represent that we’re listening," Posey said. "We’re happy to do it. It’s just it costs a lot to do a site plan with the uncertainty of where we go from here.”

Sheldon Schultz, president of the homeowners association for the Trails South 40, said the developer approached him several months ago inquiring about merging their development into the Trails South 40. A survey was sent to their 98 homeowners, and 68 replied. Of that number, 44 were in favor of the initial request, and 24 were against.

“[Sagebrush Trail], as far as I know, are all vehemently against it," Schultz said. 

That offer to incorporate the new parcels into the neighborhood has died for now.

One homeowner of Sagebrush Trail spoke at the meeting, saying that he and his neighbors oppose the development because of the loss of greenspace it will represent in the city. 

“All for no other reason at this present time, than to present an opportunity for the developer to make a quick dollar," said Alan Ferguson. 

The board expressed concerns over building 18 units on the site, but Planning Director Steven Spraker said that was a maximum that would likely not be attainable after buffers, stormwater retention and other aspects of the site plan were drafted. Based on its current designation, if denied the sought-after changes, the developer could use the property as a borrow pit, as planned by the FDOT.

“So there was a recognition that this land, at some point, was going to have some type of impact — that it wasn’t going to be preserved in its natural state," Spraker said.

Board member GG Galloway said he would be surprised if the developer could fit anything close to 18 units on the parcel. He said that would be an issue to examine once the site plan came before them. All in all, he said he would rather have town homes there than a borrow pit. 

“I’m not worried about my vote, because we can go back and correct it if they don’t do what they say and it can be a big fat 'no'," Galloway said.

In response to concerns about increasing traffic, board member Al Jorczak said he doesn't see it as a reasonable objection due to the size of the development. He also said the developer was asking for similar zoning and land uses to what was there before FDOT purchased the property.

“In terms of those individuals that say, ‘well, every extra car is adding to the problem,’ this is relatively insignificant compared to what the scope of the problem is and what’s coming our way," Jorczak said.

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