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In April, when the DeLand City Commission heard the plan to rezone 40 acres of land for 130 new single-family homes on DeLand’s south side, they were skeptical. A month later, the number of homes had been reduced to 128, and commissioners still couldn’t get on board. 

As presented to the City Commission at its May 17 meeting, Oak Hammock Reserve is a planned development that would put 128 homes at the northwest corner of South Spring Garden Avenue and West Beresford Road. 

When they punted a vote on the plan in April, commissioners asked the applicant to reduce the overall number of units and lessen the number of homes on 40-foot lots. The applicant, Sarasea LLC., did reduce the number of lots, but a reduction of two was not quite enough for commissioners.

“I guess I should clarify ‘less,’ because when we say less, you did make less,” Commissioner Jessica Davis told the applicant’s attorney. “Less is not three. I don’t know if I need to make a number, but three is not what I was thinking.”

When it was first heard by the DeLand Planning Board, the number of units planned for Oak Hammock Reserve was 131. By the time it made it to the DeLand City Commission, that number was reduced to 130.

In addition to the overall number of homes, the City Commission in April expressed concern about the number of 40-foot-wide lots and the lack of green spaces in the subdivision. Tweaks were made to address these problems: overall, the number of 40-foot lots was reduced from 58 to 48, and a planned parking lot was converted into an open, green area. 

The changes weren’t enough to inspire commissioners to OK the development plan.

City Commissioner and Vice-Mayor Charles Paiva noted, paraphrasing his and other commissioners’ comments from a month before, that the city recently OK’d a 289-home housing development, Beresford Woods, which would be adjacent to Oak Hammock to the north. 

With this in mind, Paiva had hoped to see, among fewer lots in general, larger lot-sizes to counterbalance the density of new homes planned for southwest DeLand. 

Paiva said he could not approve the development as presented.

“That was where I was last time,” he said. “[It’s] still where I am.”

Other commissioners agreed with Paiva that, if asked to vote on the planned development as presented, they would not approve it. 

The housing inventory offered by Oak Hammock, Commissioner Chris Cloudman pointed out, also does not help fulfill the city’s desire for more affordable housing in DeLand. 

While they cannot hold that against the developer, Cloudman said, he wants to see the city have more to offer than single-family homes on 40-foot lots with market values in excess of $200,000.

Still, as Commissioner Kevin Reid reminded everyone, the City Commission cannot just throw its hopes and dreams at the applicant. 

“We’ve got to give a little bit of detailed direction to our developers and not just throw wishes out there,” he said, echoing comments made by Mayor Bob Apgar.

The applicant’s attorney, Joey Posey of the Storch Law Firm, said he would be happy to continue working with city staff to bring the project closer in line with the City Commission’s vision. But, he reminded commissioners, the 40-acre plot of land intended for Oak Hammock was approved in 2006 for 106 homes and has sat undeveloped ever since.

He warned commissioners that if numbers were their only concern, they could be fighting a losing battle.

“There’s a reason why 106 isn’t built — it’s not a feasible project,” Posey said. “It still sits vacant.”

Still, commissioners were adamant — reduce the number of 40-foot lots.

The applicant, Posey said, would continue to work with city staff to get closer to a number the commissioners can approve. 

“If there’s a way we can keep this project feasible by reducing those 40s, that’s where we’re going to aim,” he said.

Had the City Commission voted down Oak Hammock Reserve, the applicant would have needed to return to square one with their plans, going back again to the DeLand Planning Board before coming to the City Commission. 

Instead, commissioners voted unanimously for another continuance.

Oak Hammock Reserve will receive its third first hearing at the DeLand City Commission meeting at 7 p.m. Monday, June 21.

The City Commission meets at 7 p.m. on the first and third Monday of each month in Commission Chambers at DeLand City Hall, 120 S. Florida Ave. All meetings are open to the public.

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