It was a bitter pill when Tomoka Oaks residents learned the golf course their homes were built around would be replaced by a housing subdivision.
So, developers showed some ideas for the project to city staff in hopes of learning how to include enough sugar to make the medicine go down.
The discussion took place Jan. 5 at a meeting of the Ormond Beach Site Plan Review Committee.
“This is a technical committee that reviews development projects for consistency with the Land Development Code and the Comprehensive Plan,” said Steven Spraker, planning director.
None of that happened at the meeting.
Tomoka Oaks is far from getting such a detailed review.
At a neighborhood meeting last July developers talked about construction of about 300 homes on the golf course site, but no numbers of lots or homes were mentioned to the city committee.
“We tried to get them to tell us how many lots, but they didn’t,” Mr. Spraker said.
Rob Merrill, a Cobb Cole attorney representing the developers, said their goal was to show two rough ideas for the project in hopes of receiving “meaningful feedback” from city staff to help develop a plan.
“It’s intended to have some back and forth with staff in order for us to come up with something to present to you,” Mr. Merrill said. “In this case, a planned development rezoning request.”
Surveys and technical work are taking longer, he said, because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“This is not a plan to be dissected, such that it’s a final plat,or a preliminary plat, or a site plan,” Mr. Merrill said as prints of two different design ideas were reviewed.
Speaking to eight residents in the room and those watching on Zoom, he said, “There are going to be lots of opportunities for you guys in the back of the room to have input.”
The meeting was the first step in a long process to include developing a concept for rezoning, holding a neighborhood meeting, reviews by the Site Plan Review Committee, the Planning Board and finally two hearings before the City Commission.
But there’s more. After that the developers must start over with reviews of a site plan by the Site Plan Review Committee, Planning Board and two City Commission hearings.
“It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” Mr. Spraker said.
Dwight DuRant, president of Zev Cohen Associates, said, “We’re not trying to sell anything. We’re actually here to get your ideas.”
There were useful comments for developers to take to heart.
One of the first items discussed was the 50-foot buffer between the new project and adjacent existing homes. City staff said they want trees to be included in the buffer, including plantings in open spaces of the buffer, to further shield the project from other homes.
“We want to go fill in places that are empty and make sure there is vegetation,” Mr. Merrill said.
There was a long discussion about trees, with cautions from the city to account for mitigation of any historic or specimen trees felled for the construction.
On their part. developers were aware of the tree and buffer issues, but have not done a count of trees yet.
An environmental assessment is needed for the project.
“We have areas where we have trees and we have areas where we have fairways,” a member of the development team said. “We would like the areas we disturb to be the fairways, not the trees.”
Mr. Spraker stressed that point in the development plan.
The property is not in the floodplain, nor does it have wetlands, yet stormwater remains a concern. Developers intend to have a series of ponds running downhill with a cascading effect.
A soil test is planned by the developers who hope it shows show much water will percolate into the ground without running off site.
Utility plans by the developer included two lift stations, but city staff cautioned more may be needed because pipes outside the project are smaller.
Mr. DuRant also said there is an issue on the site with contaminated soil, which the development team is deciding how to resolve.
Two residents, Denise Corley and her husband, Tim Fitzgibben, attended the meeting wearing their green “Tomoka Golf Course” T-shirts. They remain unhappy with houses replacing the golf course, but praised the city review.
“At least the city is listening to what the citizens who are having this subdivision inserted into a space that was empty, a golf course,” Corley said. “And it’s a crazy shape and it’s inside another subdivision.
Mr. Fitzgibben also complimented the efforts of city staff.
“I think we’re just worried they’re trying to squeeze too many houses into an irregularly shaped area,” he said.