Short a member and deadlocked over issues of density and traffic, DeLand city officials temporarily punted on a project that would add some 600 homes to the eastern side of Lake Winnemissett.
Cresswind DeLand, a project of Kolter Homes, came up for a first hearing at the June 1 meeting of the DeLand City Commission. The project, an “active adult” community for those 55 and older, would massively develop about 263 acres east of the lake.
The entire project is actually just more than 318 acres, but about 52 acres are submerged under the lake and just over 3 acres are taken up by the existing Lake Winnemissett Drive.
The project itself wouldn’t directly connect with Lake Winnemissett Drive; the entrance would be along a stretch of spur that was formerly State Road 44, which currently serves only a motel and gas station.
DeLand Planning Director Mike Holmes said the DeLand Planning Board took up the development recently, but because of the death of DeLand businessman Gus Gibbs, the Planning Board was operating with only six members.
The board deadlocked 3-3 on Cresswind, and did not recommend either approval or denial to the City Commission.
At the City Commission meeting, with Commissioner Jessica Davis still convalescing after a bout with COVID-19 and absent, commissioners deadlocked 2-2 on the development plan so didn’t vote, as a tie would have meant denial of the project.
The Cresswind property is proposed on what was formerly the site of another planned development known as Twelve Oaks. The property was sold to another developer in 2005, but the real-estate crash and Great Recession happened before the land could be developed.
The land was sold to its current owner, Lake Park Estate LLC, in a 2012 foreclosure sale.
Michael Holbrook of Heidt Design, speaking for Lake Park Estate, laid out the specifications.
He noted that despite the large total number of homes, the project proposes to build only 2.28 homes per acre, while DeLand’s low-intensity residential land-use category allows up to 5.8 per acre.
Half of the homes would be built on 50-foot-wide lots, while 25 percent each would be built on 40- and 60-foot lots. Crucially for some Lake Winnemissett-area residents, no new homes would be built directly along the lake.
One point of contention with existing Lake Winnemissett homeowners has been a proposed lakefront park. Some residents have feared that allowing potentially hundreds of new people and scores of boats public access to the lake could harm its water, which some residents said is some of the clearest in the state.
“One of the big items that has been an ongoing discussion with the neighbors has been the lakefront park … we’ve eliminated an enhanced beach area,” Holbrook said. “We’ve made commitments to limit the size and use of the boat and launch area.”
The park would be restricted to residents of Cresswind and their guests only.
Holbrook said the project would include other amenities, such as pools, open space and a trail system along an easement area that bisects the property.
Still, some members of the DeLand City Commission expressed concern about the project, not least of all its effects on traffic.
Surrounding roads like State Road 44, Kepler Road and the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Beltway are already struggling to keep up with current demand, and commissioners have approved hundreds of new homes in recent years in eastern DeLand in developments like Victoria Oaks, Park Lake Estates and The Reserve at Victoria.
Holbrook tried to assuage some of those concerns.
“Being an active adult community, the traffic impact is about half of the normal single-family trip generation,” he said.
RESIDENTS HAVE MIXED FEELINGS …
Attorney Astrid de Parry, who lives along the lake and is a “founding mother” of the Lake Winnemissett Civic Association, spoke in favor of the development, saying it was a good compromise between development and preservation of the lake.
“The Twelve Oaks development was approved and ready for preliminary plat approval in 2007, and the only reason we’re talking about this today is the market crashed in 2007,” she said. “Otherwise … right now, to this day, all of the lakefront would be developed, and it would look much like the rest of the lake shore does right now. I have to say, it’s not all a pretty picture.”
De Parry said after the market crash, she and some other lakeside homeowners and other investors purchased the property in the 2012 foreclosure sale.
“My No. 1 purpose was to protect the lake,” de Parry said. “My No. 2 purpose was to promote the Beresford Avenue extension. I figured the best way to do that was to control the land.”
City leaders and developers alike have been banking on the long-planned extension of Beresford Avenue to Summit Avenue as a way to alleviate the congestion that occurs along State Road 44.
The extension, along with a proposed roundabout at Kepler Road and State Road 44, is expected to help alleviate the logjam, but the extended road is still potentially years from being built.
Not all existing residents were as happy about the development, however.
Joan Lee, who has lived along the lake for 28 years, said the development would affect existing residents’ quality of life.
“Lake Winnemissett Drive is a residential neighborhood road where 50 families currently reside. However, hundreds of vehicles drive through daily to escape the gridlock on State Road 44,” she said. “I strongly oppose any large-scale development such as this … until such time that the infrastructure can satisfactorily support the increase in traffic.”
About 10 people spoke on the matter during Monday’s meeting, with a roughly even split between those in favor of the development and those against.
… SO DO COMMISSIONERS
The situation was similar behind the dais, with Vice Mayor Charles Paiva and Commissioner Chris Cloudman both expressing reservations about approving yet more development in eastern DeLand.
“There’s a lot of things I like about the project. I think the restrictions and the covenants are good … but, for me, I just feel that density is too much,” Paiva said. “It’s one of the worst areas [for traffic] … but it’s a timing issue. If we didn’t just approve three large developments in the vicinity with hope for some relief, I would be more open-minded about it.”
Paiva said he wanted to see 90-100 lots removed from the project. He noted the City Commission has previously shaved small numbers of lots off of recent developments, but that the overall impact has gotten out of hand.
“The problem is over the years we’ve kind of had some of that mentality, like at [recently approved development] Lincoln Oaks and different ones where you shave one or two [lots] here, one or two there, but then you have thousands of homes out there,” he said.
Commissioner Chris Cloudman, the city’s representative on the River-to-Sea Transportation Planning Organization, echoed Paiva’s remarks..
“As the representative for transportation for the city, I’ve gotta be honest, I’m wrestling big time with this,” Cloudman said. “As has been alluded to, you drive through there at any given morning or afternoon, and you can take a video of the solid line of traffic backed up now under existing conditions.”
Cloudman said while projects that could help things are in the pipeline, some are potentially a decade away from being funded and built.
He pointed out that while 55-and-up communities might potentially generate less traffic, there are few amenities and shopping centers close to the proposed development, meaning residents would have to venture out on State Road 44 and other clogged roads.
“We’ve approved quite a few of these in the last couple of years … and when we go back and forth and shave off maybe 5 percent of the units and call it a win, I’ve left here feeling dirty, to be honest,” Cloudman said. “ … I feel like we settle for the lesser of two evils, and I don’t know how we’ve got to where that’s become the norm in this town.”
Mark Bines of Kolter Homes said that while he appreciated the feedback about the project, 600 homes was the magic number needed to make Cresswind work.
“When you do an active-adult age-restricted community, we do a fully facilitated lifestyle,” he said. “This community is going to be a flagship for Kolter if we approve it … but if it’s something less than 600, we can’t do it.”
Bines called the argument about density “frustrating,” noting it’s sometimes easier for cities to provide services to citizens in more dense communities.
Mayor Bob Apgar and Commissioner Kevin Reid were less opposed to the project, but seeing a potential 2-2 deadlock (effectively a denial) if the City Commission were to vote up or down on the project, Apgar said the best thing to do was to continue the matter for further discussion.
The City Commission voted 4-0 to continue the project to the board’s first meeting in July.