Flagler Beach will get a new hotel by the development team responsible for the Margaritaville Beach Hotel in Jacksonville. Even as Flagler Beach city commissioners critiqued some details of the proposed site plan during a March 24 meeting, they repeatedly lauded the hotel’s aesthetics.
Commissioners ultimately approved the final site plan unanimously.
“This town needs this project, and I don’t think it’s going to impact its quaintness at all. I think it’s going to add to it.”
— BRIAN WALSH
“I think it’s a beautiful hotel, and I think it’s going to be a wonderful addition to our city,” Commissioner James Sherman said.
The hotel would be a Compass by Margaritaville project, with 100 rooms spread over three stories, on the site of the former Flagler Beach farmers market on State Road 100, between South Central Avenue and South Daytona Avenue. It would also have a restaurant and pool.
Most people who spoke during the meeting’s public comment period supported the hotel.
Resident Brian Walsh said he loves the quaintness and small town feel of Flagler Beach, and appreciated that the city government has been selective about development there.
“But with that said, too, every time I’ve driven over the bridge for the last 30 years, there’s been a gap,” Walsh said. “There’s been something that’s needed in the center of town to create a level of activity, a catalyst for other things to go on. This town needs this project, and I don’t think it’s going to impact its quaintness at all. I think it’s going to add to it.”
Flagler Beach resident John Horan said that his son won’t stay in Flagler Beach when visiting because there’s not a nice hotel in the city.
“We all know that we really need a hotel in our town,” he said.
A representative of the county’s tourism development office also spoke in support of the project.
“This is not a typical prototype hotel. This has a lot of character and it really speaks to a lifestyle brand which is very specific to Flagler.”
— MARGARET BROCK, director of hospitality, BRPH
“We couldn’t think of a more perfect location,” said Debra Naughton, representing the tourism development office. She noted that the location had previously been the site of a historic, 1925 hotel. “Everything old is new again,” she said.
One resident objected the building’s height — parapets would reach as high as 47 feet — and its limited parking, saying it could lead to a parking crunch in the downtown area.
City Planner Larry Torino said the city’s planning staff has worked extensively with the developer.
“This has probably been the most vetted project that I’ve been involved with in my association with the city of Flagler Beach,” Torino said. “… This development team has been really a pleasure to work with. … I believe the product that has been delivered to the city speaks very well of the effort they made.”
Margaret Brock, director of hospitality for the central Florida-based architecture firm BRPH, said the hotel will have lush landscaping.
“There was a great deal of attention put into the landscape to make sure that we have a great deal of greenery and buffering,” she said. “… This is not a typical prototype hotel. This has a lot of character, and it really speaks to a lifestyle brand which is very specific to Flagler.”
The building will feature tropical colors, murals and extensive articulation, she said.
Commissioners’ concerns revolved around parking and beach access.
Commissioner Deborah Phillips worried about the parking: The plans show only 83 onsite parking spots for the hotel’s 100 rooms.
Torino said that the remaining spaces would be off-street parking.
Commissioner James Sherman wondered if that would lead to parking shortages during city events like First Fridays.
Torino said St. Augustine has that issue.
“There’s many times there that I’ll drop off my bride … and I’ll have to park two and a half blocks away,” he said. “You know, if we get into parking, we could talk about it all day and all night. You’re never going to solve the parking problem, but you can try to manage it and control it the best you can.”
He said the risk of insufficient parking would mainly fall on the hotel ownership.
Commissioner Eric Cooley was concerned about the vagueness of language in the developer’s plans regarding what could be added on the portion of beach owned by the hotel.
Torino that nothing would actually be built there, but that the hotel management would like to put out chairs each day.
Commissioner Jane Mealy noted that the beach, even parts of it that are private property, is open to all under Florida law and county ordinance.
“This is the one thing that bothers me about this whole project,” she said. “I love the hotel. I love all the work that you did with all the cooperation that went on between the developer and the city staff. But this is something that won’t fly with me at all. We have — what’s the legal term for open beach?”
“Customary use,” replied City Attorney Drew Smith. “That does not mean that a private beach owner cannot use their piece of the beach, it means they cannot gate it off and prohibit access.”
Smith said the hotel’s beach area would be open to people who aren’t hotel guests. They’d be able to use the hotel’s chairs in that area, but not to bring their own, he said.
The chairs would be removed from the beach each evening.
“You have a very nice project here. The finished product is much better than I would have thought it would have been,” Cooley said before the commission voted unanimously in favor of the hotel. “You did a great job with it.”