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Editor, The Beacon:

“DeLand: Four blocks of Mayberry surrounding itself with sprawl.” 

That’ll soon be the descriptor in TripAdvisor for our fair little city. (Or as a friend calls it, “concrete mummification.”)

And DeLand is rushing down that path even though we have many wonderful options to work with: a gorgeous Southern university, Stetson, replete with huge live oaks; an award-winning Main Street on Woodland with some really good eating and entertainment establishments; and a location between a river and a beach near a growing metro area.

Other small cities would kill for these specs.

But, there’s no discernible plan being applied in DeLand to ensure the most important thing of all for its citizens: a quality of life. What about focusing on improving livability, quaintness and amenities … i.e., find solutions other than block after block of new cookie-cutter homes.

If you poke any dozing member of the DeLand City Commission or Planning Board, they’ll jolt awake and yell, “Add 500 new homes!”

And those new developments all follow the same DBF (DeLand Building Formula):

1. Clear a forest down to bare sand.

2. Create trailer-park-size lots, and throw up long, skinny houses, tightly bunched.

3. Name it “[Something] Oaks.”

4. Surround it with 8 to 10 inches of “green space,” and a sidewalk the width of 2.5 squirrels.

A detailed analysis by WalletHub of the best and worst quality of life in America’s factors like these: parks and green spaces, bike paths and pedestrian-friendly walkways with the ability to walk to work, bike rental facilities, coffee shops, museums, and short commutes. 

We’ve got a few disconnected parks and dead-end bike paths.

When Googling “quaint Florida cities,” the search presents Mount Dora, Winter Park, Dunedin, etc. — even Winter Garden with its more recent updates to its downtown. 

Those are cities with well-implemented plans to enhance their quality of life, to encourage walking and biking, to attract the next generation of professionals, and to ensure strong property values.

Shouldn’t DeLand be aspiring to those achievable qualities, rather than its current sprawl trajectory?

In the near future, look for more columns in The West Volusia Beacon that open our imaginations to what defines quality of life in our communities.

Greg Heeter



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