110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
County Council slaps Chair Davis for trying to change SunRail route
'Davis plan' would take tracks from DeBary to Daytona Beach
By Pat Andrews
posted Mar 18, 2013 - 8:11:44am
A plan for development around the DeLand SunRail Station got its first OK from the City Council March 14.
At the same meeting, County Chair Jason Davis got taken to task.
Davis was criticized for doing more than talking about SunRail funding during his recent trip to Washington, D.C.
He had been in the nation's capitol to attend the National Association of Counties Legislative Conference, and had also gotten the OK from the County Council to meet with transportation officials and congressional representatives about the SunRail funding.
Instead, his colleagues complained, he met with those officials about changing the route of the commuter-rail system through Volusia County.
Council Member Pat Patterson said "the Davis plan" — which would take SunRail from DeBary to Daytona Beach on the east side of DeLand — was floating around Washington.
Such a plan won't fly, and could make Volusia County look unreliable, according to other County Council members and transportation officials who attended the March 14 County Council meeting.
The county must be unified in its commitment to the planned route, from DeBary to DeLand's west side, they said, to assure that federal funds will be granted for the project.
"We have gone down the road a pretty good piece … and entered into interlocal agreements," County Council Member Doug Daniels said. "We can't renege; we can't start changing the rules. We can't be an unreliable partner."
Even Council Member Josh Wagner, who campaigned briefly a year ago to route SunRail to Daytona Beach instead of DeLand, agreed now that changing the plan isn't an option.
"Consistency is important," Wagner said.
Davis had asked the council for the authority to get money for SunRail, not for the authority to change the SunRail plan, Daniels noted.
Davis said when he got to Washington and learned the funds haven't actually been committed for SunRail Phase II, which brings the system to DeLand, he figured there was still time to talk about alternate routes.
A summary of Davis' trip by lobbyist group Van Scoyoc Associates noted that while in the nation's capitol, Davis proposed a new SunRail route that would veer east from the existing CSX tracks a few miles north of DeBary, connect with State Road 472 south of DeLand and follow that to Interstate 4 (with a stop at the intersection for Deltona), then follow I-4 north to the Volusia County Fairgrounds for another stop, then continue along I-4 to the International Airport and the International Speedway.
Unlike the planned route, this route would require laying new tracks. Exisiting railroad tracks travel from DeBary to DeLand on the west side.
At the request of County Council Member Pat Northey, Florida Department of Transportation (DOT) District 5 Secretary Noranne Downs and Commuter Rail Transit Manager Tawny Olore attended the March 14 meeting to brief the County Council on planning and funding for SunRail.
They explained that approving a plan for development around the DeLand station is key to moving the project forward.
Olore said the DOT will have to show the Federal Transit Administration a plan that:
• enhances mobility,
• protects the environment,
• reduces traffic congestion and supports existing land uses.
The plan for development around DeLand's SunRail station requires a land-use change to make the surrounding area compatible with the commuter station. Since the land is in the county, not within DeLand city limits, changing the land use is up to the County Council.
Downs said the plan is for SunRail to be running to DeLand by 2016, during the second phase of construction. The DeBary station should be open by the summer of 2014.
The County Council unanimously passed the land-use amendment, changing the designation around the station from urban low-intensity and industrial to the SunRail DeLand Area Activity Center. The new designation affects approximately 323 acres east of the existing Amtrak station.
It will allow what is now mostly uninhabited land to be transformed to residential, retail, offices and even a hotel. A recent addition to the plan that will allow development around the station will also allow a bicycle/pedestrian connection between the SunRail station and the Spring-to-Spring Trail.
Patterson moved approval of the plan, and Wagner seconded the motion. The vote for approval was unanimous.
Even Davis voted for the plan, which is a key to bringing SunRail from DeBary to DeLand's west side.
"It's what the council wants," Davis said.
The development plan will go to the state for approval and comments, then return to the County Council for a second and final vote.
The comments posted below are posted by readers, not by The Beacon staff. These comments express the views and opinions of the authors, and not the administrators, moderators or webmaster. The comments forum is governed by these rules. Please use the report abuse link if you find offensive comments.
Did you find this story interesting or informative? Subscribe to The West Volusia Beacon to read more stories by Pat Andrews, along with others from our award-winning writers. Subscribe now!