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Developers of the proposed I-4 Automall said they don’t have time to wait for DeLand’s legal challenge to play out. So, they’ve put a piece of the project site along Orange Camp Road on the market. 

DeLand City Attorney Darren Elkind asked a Circuit Court judge May 11 to review Lake Helen’s decision to annex the 52-acre Automall site, but Elkind also filed a request May 14 to stay any legal proceedings until required discussions between the two cities take place. 

Within days, a “for sale” sign went up on the southwest corner of the site.

“We remain confident that Lake Helen will prevail in the annexation challenge if it goes forward to the end,” said Rob Doan, attorney for Automall developer Brendan Hurley. “The problem is, we just don’t have time to wait for that to play out.”

To that end, I-4 Automall LLC is seeking buyers for about 10 acres on the southwest corner of the Automall site, while still planning to develop the Automall on the remaining land. 

If the 10 acres are sold, they could be developed under the existing, less-restrictive Volusia County zoning, B-6 Highway Interchange Commercial.

The category allows for “hotels, motels and tourist-related retail facilities near major highway interchanges,” according to Volusia County’s code. Businesses allowed in the zoning category also include restaurants, convenience stores (with or without fuel pumps), carwashes, nightclubs, outdoor entertainment and more.

“I-4 Automall cannot wait indefinitely for the cities to come to an agreement … ,” said Doan. “To that end, we have engaged the services of a broker and engaged in conversations with multiple potential purchasers.”

Doan said most of the people interested in the property indicated they would develop it under the county zoning.

Even if DeLand’s challenge to the annexation is successful, that wouldn’t be the end of the Automall project, however. 

One of the main grounds under which DeLand is challenging the annexation is the fact that it would create a “pocket,” or a small piece of unincorporated land surrounded by municipalities. As it stands, the current annexation would leave three small parcels of unincorporated land surrounded entirely by Lake Helen and DeLand. 

If the court agrees with DeLand’s argument, the project site would need to be reconfigured to not create a “pocket.”

The developer would then submit a new request for annexation to Lake Helen for the redesigned project site, which would still be home to an Automall with as many as 13 dealership modules. 

While the planned-unit development (PUD) agreement for the project approved on first reading by the Lake Helen City Commission spells out what specifically may or may not be built on each portion of the site, the B-6 zoning would be less restrictive, Doan argued. 

For the area of the 10 acres now for sale, the PUD agreement would allow carwashes, a convenience store with up to 32 fuel pumps, banks, offices, hotels/motels and restaurants, along with retail shops — but not nightclubs or outdoor-recreation facilities.

“As a resident of Victoria Park myself, I would much rather see that commercial corner developed under the strict guidelines of the PUD than under County B-6 zoning,” Doan said. 

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