After months of hostility and threats of legal action, DeLand and Lake Helen are now taking steps to de-escalate their conflict over the proposed I-4 Automall.
Officials from both cities have agreed to request postponement of an April 25 meeting that would have decided the fate of a land-use change needed to make the project possible.
Since it came to light in January that the mega-dealership project’s backers would annex the 52-acre site along Orange Camp Road into Lake Helen, staff from the two cities have been attempting to work together to make the project more tolerable to nearby residents.
While many of DeLand’s issues with the project were addressed throughout the process, a few key points weren’t.
As a result, the DeLand City Commission voted April 9 to authorize DeLand City Attorney Darren Elkind to file legal challenges on the city’s behalf — seemingly putting the two cities on an even more adversarial footing.
Last week, however, officials from the two cities met in a bid to turn down the temperature.
The discussions identified agreements both cities would be interested in negotiating with each other regarding the Automall and other developable land at the I-4/Orange Camp Road/Main Street interchange.
As a result, Lake Helen and DeLand jointly requested a 30-day continuance of the April 25 meeting of the Volusia Growth Management Commission.
The board was scheduled to hold a hearing on Lake Helen’s land-use change for the Automall property, which DeLand had challenged.
In addition to any agreements on the Automall project itself, DeLand officials would also like Lake Helen to agree to some ground rules for how other vacant land at the interchange could be developed.
The unincorporated land west of Interstate 4 lies in DeLand’s utility-service area. Within the area, DeLand has the right to annex unincorporated properties that request water or sewer service from the city’s pipes, per an agreement with Volusia County.
The eastern edge of the sprawling Victoria Park development lies only a few hundred feet from the Automall site and the interchange.