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Giant inflatable gorillas are out, committee says

Lake Helen’s Development Review Committee has given its approval to the proposed I-4 Automall. Now, the project heads to the city’s planning board, which will make a recommendation to the City Commission.

The Review Committee on March 16 agreed to a few changes in the concept submitted by Brendan Hurley. Hurley, the owner of DeLand Chrysler Jeep, intends to cluster new-car dealerships, along with other retail facilities, on 55 acres on the northwest side of the interchange of Interstate 4 and Orange Camp Road. 

The property, recently annexed into Lake Helen, is adjacent to Victoria Park, which is inside DeLand city limits.

Hurley said the project may begin later this year.

“At least the site work,” he said, after the meeting. 

About a dozen major-name dealerships would be on the Automall site, whose capital investment would likely exceed $100 million. Other retail facilities are in the mix, including shopping and a hotel. 

The DRC agreed to raise the maximum number of hotel rooms on the site from 94 to 120.

Asked if the project will be built in phases, Hurley replied, “We’d like to do it all at once.”

“We’re modeling a five-year buildout,” Mark Watts, Hurley’s attorney, added. 

Unlike conventional car lots that spread over land space, the dealer modules would be in ultramodern multistory buildings. 

Some things that will not be allowed at the I-4 Automall, the Lake Helen committee agreed, are the eye-catching, larger-than-life figures of people, animals or objects, or things that move with the wind. 

“No giant gorillas,” one Review Committee member said.

Lake Helen City Administrator Jason Yarborough cautioned against anything “gaudy.” 

Watts agreed.

“Just because it’s a gateway,” Watts said, referring to Orange Camp Road as the way into and out of both Lake Helen and DeLand.

Volusia County Fire Services Chief Jeff Smith, asked by the Review Committee if his agency had any comment on the Automall, replied, “The project is going to comply with the Florida Fire Prevention Code, and the emphasis will be on life safety.”

The Lake Helen Planning and Land Development Regulation Commission will review the Automall at its Monday, March 26, meeting. 

The meeting begins at 7 p.m. at Lake Helen City Hall, 327 S. Lakeview Drive, and is open to the public.

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