Concerned that the southern part of their city could be overloaded with apartments, DeBary’s leaders have put a temporary halt on new multifamily housing projects around the city’s SunRail station.
The City Council Feb. 19 unanimously approved a moratorium on new apartment-only projects in the transit-oriented development district, near the SunRail depot.
“Our vision for that area is mixed-use,” City Manager Carmen Rosamonda said. “The commercial corridor could be eaten up with apartments.”
Rosamonda added commercial development will be needed for a growing population.
For at least the next seven months, proposals for “single-use multi-family housing,” with no retail or office additions in the TOD will be on hold, while planners consider new standards and regulations for development and build-out in the district.
“The vision of the community is [that] this would be mixed-use,” Mayor Karen Chasez said. “This is the sentiment of the community … the sense that we have to get this right. … I do think a pause is the right thing.”
The moratorium will be in effect until Sept. 25, unless the council lifts it sooner.
“The ordinance allows the City Council to terminate it earlier,” City Attorney Kurt Ardaman said. “You have that authority.”
City leaders are aiming to ensure there is a balance and blend of other types of development in what is supposed to be a vibrant village or downtown-type center with events that will draw patrons from a wide area.
“The moratorium is important so that we can have smart growth,” Council Member Patricia Stevenson said.
Rosamonda added DeBary needs retail stores and offices to provide goods and services for those living in the city now and in the future.
“Build it right the first time,” he said, so that the downtown center “will become a destination.”
In a report from city planning staff given to council members, city staff put a fine point on the problem.
“Most contact [city] staff is having from potential developers is for apartments only,” the summary reads. “Single use developers are more prevalent, and therefore more likely to approach DeBary Staff. However, mixed-use developers, while less frequent, do exist and may be a more appropriate fit in this area.”
The report went on to say that, if left unchecked, residential-only development could choke out commercial and mixed-use development around the station.
Currently, one apartment complex, Integra 289, is now under construction in the TOD area, but city officials say there is interest in more multifamily development within the district.
Just before the council enacted the moratorium, the city received a proposal to build an apartment complex on the site of Clayton & Sons Garage, an auto salvage business at 721 S. Charles Richard Beall Blvd., DeBary’s name for its segment of U.S. Highway 17-92.
“There’s no appetite for commercial on this site at all,” developer Lara Swanson told the council, in defense of more housing as necessary for future retail development. “Commercial follows rooftops; there are not enough rooftops.”
Swanson noted Clayton & Sons’ 14-acre parcel is a “brownfield,” whose soil is likely contaminated by automotive chemicals that would have to be cleaned and treated before any redevelopment could occur.
The TOD area encompasses about 200 acres, mostly privately owned, that leaders see as the future core of DeBary. DeBary, the TOD district’s proponents say, will draw visitors and businesses if the area is developed to its full potential.
As matters now stand, Rosamonda said, city planners say as many as 3,825 homes — both single-family and apartments — may be built in and adjacent to the TOD district.
That number includes homes to be built in The Junction, a mixed-use project set to be developed on 64 acres owned by Steve Costa on the southeast corner of U.S. Highway 17-92 and Dirksen Drive.
In addition, there may be as many as 4,000 other homes within a 2-mile radius north of the TOD in the near future. That number includes some existing homes, Rosamonda said.