New luxury hotel envisioned at Hammock Beach

Date: October 22, 2014

by: Jonathan Simmons | News Editor

 
Salamander Hotels and Resorts President Prem Devadas envisions a new, 198-room hotel at the Hammock Beach Resort: something to rival the PGA National or the Lodge at Pebble Beach.

“This is the opportunity to create one of the great golf lodges in America,” he told the Flagler County Planning and Development Board at an Oct. 14 meeting.

The board wasn’t convinced, and when it held a vote Oct. 14 on whether to recommend the project to the County Commission, the vote was 4-2 against, with Planning Board members Robert Dickinson and Michael Boyd opposing the motion to not recommend the project. Board member Pam Richardson was not present for the meeting. But then something unusual happened: The board nullified its vote and reopened the proceedings — something board Chairman Russ Reinke said he has never seen before in his many years on the board — in order to allow Devadas a chance to rebut concerns brought up during public comment because the standard rebuttal time had been inadvertently omitted.

But because many of the people who had come to the meeting to comment on the issue had, by then, left, Devadas asked for another indulgence: that the board, rather than voting again that night, continue the matter to another meeting. The board agreed to put Devadas’ resort project on the agenda for the next meeting, at 6 p.m. Nov. 12.

In his presentation before the board Oct. 14, Devadas said the expansion would help the company bring in more corporate travel events that require more rooms and more conference space.

“Resorts like this, they survive, and they thrive, ultimately, because of a combination of leisure travel and group travel, most of that corporate group,” he said.

The current lodge building on the property, which has 20 rooms and which the new building would replace, has “become tired and dated, and now is becoming detrimental to our ability to bring business into the club,” Devadas said.

Meanwhile, Amelia Island Plantation, he said, has renovated and now has 406 hotels rooms. “The Ritz Carlton has 450, the Marriott Sawgrass has 590, and the PGA National has 560 rooms,” he said.

To keep up, Salamander wants to add a new building with 198 new rooms to augment the 127 it already has, for a total of 325 rooms.

The height on the new building would be less than that of the existing lodge, he said, and it wouldn’t extend any farther seaward than the current building does.

But four board members said the proposed hotel seems too “great” for that stretch of beach and could overwhelm it and the nearby park on 16th Road.

Reinke said his understanding was that the land the building would sit on is supposed to be preserved as open space, and “an open space use is not a hotel.”

The Planning Board’s attorney said that the language in the deed restriction allows the land to be used as “golf course land, lake, clubhouse, appropriate associated facilities, open space, parks, dune conservation, or such other appropriate recreational or governmental uses approved by the Board of County Commissioners.”

County Planning and Zoning Director Adam Mengel recommended the project, and said he felt that it meets the requirements of the deed restriction.

Board member Robert Dickinson said he supported the project, noting that a number of local residents and golf club members had voiced support.

Board member Laureen Kornel suggested Devadas “re-tool” the project after an upcoming meeting between Salamander representatives and the Friends of the Scenic A1A Byway.

Board members Thad Crow and Michael Duggins, like Reinke, opposed the project. Duggins said hundred of visitors from a new hotel building would “jam up that beach awfully bad.”

The Planning Board will meet again about the hotel, and Devadas will give another presentation, at a 6 p.m. Nov. 12 meeting at the Government Services Building.

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