Editor’s note: Wendy Anderson is a candidate for election to Seat 4 on the Volusia Soil and Water Conservation District Board. Her opponent is Barbara Deering. Their race, along with a three-candidate race for Seat 2 on the Soil and Water Board, will be on the ballot Tuesday, Nov. 3.
In 1999, the same year my parents moved to DeLand, then-Mayor David Rigsby signed the highly controversial Development Plan for Victoria Park, an important gateway to DeLand along Orange Camp Road.
At the time, I was teaching architecture students in Missouri the environmental science behind green design, so I paid close attention to this new development that my Orlando-architect sister said was being planned as a “model green community.”
Messy collaborations among several stakeholder groups generated a relatively environmentally responsible development plan that protected more than 400 acres of original upland pine forest and wetlands, including sensitive habitat for several threatened species.
The plan was also explicitly written to protect groundwater resources from overuse and to maximize recharge; to specify landscaping that would be well-adapted to Florida’s climate and soils, and thus would need minimal irrigation, fertilizers and pesticides; and to establish lakes with natural vegetation around them to protect water quality and provide habitat for the aquatic species and waterfowl typically found in Florida lakes.
The plan promised to enhance the DeLand community “through the careful preservation and cultivation of the natural environment and the creation of pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods that contribute to an attractive small-town scale.” (Page 1, Victoria Park Development Plan)
When I moved to DeLand, I wanted to live in this neighborhood that I had believed for so long represented the ideals of sustainable development I had been teaching.
In 2011, the original developer, St. Joe/Arvida, sold the developer rights and undeveloped property, and for the past nearly 10 years, Kolter has been finishing the build-out of Victoria Park.
Kolter now seeks to develop another important eastside gateway to DeLand: a 55-plus gated community called Cresswind DeLand, along State Road 44 between I-4 and Lake Winnemissett.
Several of DeLand’s elected officials and city staff live in Victoria Park, so they know how it is built and managed. They all have access through the state records to the original DRI.
I urge all of the city’s decision-makers on the Cresswind DeLand project to:
a) Get a copy of the original Victoria Park Development Plan, and read it — it’s beautiful, even if it is mostly fantasy;
b) Quiz the Kolter representatives on key environmental elements of the plan during the next City Commission meeting; and
c) Consider requiring inclusion of similar environment-protecting language found in the Victoria Park Development Plan into the Cresswind DeLand development plan, and then establish a system to hold the developer accountable for fulfilling those standards.
There is always a bit of sadness when beautiful landscapes are converted to high-density neighborhoods. We need to consider how best to accommodate new residents in ways that maintain high standards of protection for our water, natural habitats and each other.
— Dr. Anderson is chair of environmental science and studies at Stetson University.