As anticipated, the County Development Review Officer formally approved the Sea Horse Phase I site plan on July 23. The developer is now free to pursue building permits, a process that will take many months. Marketing efforts will commence in November: the site is being cleared and a sales office established. The plan continues to call for a six-story building looming 100 feet above sea level, with 34 luxury ocean-view residential units, a separate fitness center, and underground parking. Please refer to the approved Front and Rear Elevation plans below. The 1952-2006 Sea Horse Bath & Tennis Club was a single-story "old Florida" complex with 23 seasonal residences, an oceanside snack bar, and tennis courts west of A1A. At this time there are no Phase II plans to develop the former tennis court property. Under code, the developer technically could build an additional 7 multifamily units at this location.
Fully developed, the new Sea Horse (now named "4001 North Ocean") complex will almost double the density (from 23 to 41 residential units) on this 3.49 acre property. Ironically, County Comprehensive Plan policy states ..."Palm Beach County ...shall not approve increases in density in (known or predicted) coastal high-hazard areas".
Part of the problem is that the unincorporated County Pocket is apparently considered "urban" in Unified Land Development Code language. Under County code, developers are permitted maximum (versus standard) density for "urban infill" (empty lot) projects-in the case of Sea Horse, 41 residential units versus 28 under normal standards.
The Coalition believes that the entire barrier island, from Delray Beach to Manalapan is primarily non-urban, and that County and municipal zoning codes should reflect an overwhelming desire on the part of residents to maintain the scale, environment, and character of our tranquil seaside communities. Codes must also conform to State and County policy. We cannot protect residents and the fragile environment in Coastal High Hazard Areas if developers are permitted to house more people in high rise condos.
The developer's argument for another high rise in the County Pocket is that there are already several tall buildings nearby. By this logic, overbuilding could spread into any location or jurisdiction where high-rise buildings have, or could establish a beachhead. The County is now in the process of amending its Comprehensive Plan. The Coalition will vigorously pursue modification of future County land use regulations along the barrier island, and act as a facilitator in trying to harmonize building height and density restrictions in all local seaside jurisdictions where multi-family zoning is permitted. Meetings have already begun to take place to achieve this goal. If you are interested in attending the County's planning meetings, please notify us by email and we will send you a schedule. Click here to send us an email.
The "new" Sea Horse project just south of the St. Andrews Club on A1A (unincorporated County property) was approved in 2007, but never got off the ground. It had been in bankruptcy for over a year.
A local developer negotiated a land purchase agreement with banks holding the mortgage on the 3.5 acre site. The 2007 design called for 42 residential units, 3 stories and a building height of 35' from grade. The County approved the 2007 plans and neighboring residents supported the project.
A representative of the new developer met with the County Planning & Zoning office several times prior to the final purchase and was told that he was free to replicate the already-approved 2007 plan for Sea Horse with minor modifications, but that any major changes would require all statutory approvals.
Phase I plans for the new Sea Horse (now "4001 North Ocean") property were submitted in May 2010 to the Palm Beach County Planning & Zoning Department. The Review Officer believed that the site plan was in compliance with County property development regulations, and as such did not require a formal Public Hearing. The Coalition worked very hard to make sure that all surrounding neighbors were informed of the project and the proposed building plans. Simultaneously, the Coalition met with County P&Z staff to discuss the project and clarify that the new plan was not "minor modifications" and required a full County review - the County agreed.
The original design called for eight stories, but after public outcry and many meetings the subsequent submission in July 2010 called for five stories facing A1A, and six stories (including penthouse units) facing the ocean. Overall building height is approximately 71 feet from the finish floor and 93 feet from A1A grade. The Plan calls for 34 residential units on the oceanfront and "up to" 7 multi-family units in a Phase II development on the former tennis courts west of A1A. Forty two residential units on 3.5 total acres equates to 12 units per acre, the maximum allowed for this property under County code. By way of comparison, Gulf Stream and Ocean Ridge respectively limit building heights to 40 and 42 feet, a Maximum of 4 stories, and density of 6 units per acre and 10 units per acre.