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Vacant storefronts in strip malls and other commercial districts could soon be filled with artisans and makers of all stripes, with the passing of new land-use rules in DeLand.

In a bid to help businesses recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and adapt to the long-term decline of brick-and-mortar retail, the city’s planning staff proposed a set of rules that would allow low-impact industrial uses in commercial areas.

The new rules would also allow some commercial uses in areas formerly set aside for industrial uses only.

“This is something we’ve been working on. We’ve been hearing from the Planning Board and the [DeLand City] Commission,” DeLand Planning Director Mike Holmes said at an Oct. 5 meeting. “I wish we could say we really had foresight and started this before the coronavirus hit us, but we hadn’t been looking at it — hadn’t really thought about it — but we said we need to do something now to help provide some flexibility.”

Holmes said with more products being ordered via e-commerce and delivered directly to homes, there’s overall less demand for brick-and-mortar retail businesses.

“We needed to think about what uses could fill in our retail commercial areas,” he said. “That was really the genesis of this.”

The city is breaking its industrial zoning category into three levels of intensity, according to Holmes: craft industry, limited/light manufacturing, and the traditional definition of industrial uses already in the city’s code.

Craft industry, defined as “a type of trade establishment where products are made based on a specific manual skill or art,” will now be allowed in most commercial zoning areas.

“Small businesses engaged in the craft trade include everything from art galleries to handmade objects, to culinary products, and may include a retail component,” reads part of the ordinance.

The changes are meant to “keep the commercial corridors vibrant and at the same time, provide for the creation of new jobs,” according to a report from the city’s planning staff.

Some definitions of manufacturing, such as craft food and beverage producers and upholsterers, will be automatically allowed in certain commercial districts, while other uses, such as limited manufacturing, will be allowed only under certain conditions, such as having all operations contained within a building and having adequate parking for employees and delivery vehicles.

The ordinance also specifically permits micro-breweries, micro-wineries and micro-distilleries in most commercial zones, with up to a maximum of a 20,000-square-foot facility.

“Although this can be considered a craft industry, it is being specifically called out to allow for specific conditions to be included, if desired,” the staff report reads.

Larger facilities would be allowed in the city’s existing industrially zoned areas.

The ordinance also allows for some commercial uses, particularly home-improvement shops, furniture stores and similar outlets, in industrial zoning. Previously, the city’s zoning code specified a minimum size for such stores in industrial zones to be 40,000 square feet.

The new ordinance reduces that requirement to 8,000 square feet.

“Home improvement stores are already permitted throughout the industrial zoning category, with size being the limiting factor,” the staff report reads. “An example is that a standard-sized hardware store (the newer Ace Hardware is approximately 10,000 square feet) would not be merited in our industrial zoning category due to the minimum size required.”

The ordinance making the changes to the city’s code passed unanimously on first reading Oct. 5 and second reading Oct. 19.

“I think this is a great example of how we can re-look at some of the code and help us change with the changing times, and be a little more flexible,” Commissioner Chris Cloudman said. “[It would make it] a little easier for someone to come in and do something that’s a little different than what’s been done before.”

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