Among concerns about a more than 800-home development planned on a former DeLand golf course is concern about the fact that, before it was a golf course, a portion of the site was a dump. Residents have asked whether it’s safe to put housing where potentially toxic waste might be lingering.
Not to worry, according to engineering consultant Kimley-Horn, which did environmental testing at the site. The firm said any solid waste remaining under the former Southridge Golf Course in DeLand should not halt the development’s progress.
The development plan is coming up for a vote by the DeLand City Commission at its meeting Monday, June 7.
On June 1, members of the DeLand Economic Development Committee were briefed on the environmental testing.
The DeLand Economic Development Committee functions as the advisory body for brownfield sites — sites, like the former golf course, that may require environmental rehabilitation before being built on.
Since early hearings for the Beresford Reserve planned development in DeLand began, a common fear among residents was that the roughly 167-acre site located on Beresford Avenue between Hill and Boston Avenues once was home to a city dump.
“First of all, it was a landfill, and no matter how much you think it fits in a certain spot, you all know, for years and years, they were probably dumping in and around the area as well,” one DeLandite told members of the DeLand Planning Board at a meeting in April. “You don’t know what they dumped in there. They could have been dumping anything.”
Thanks to soil boring and other tests, the applicant has a pretty good idea of what people were dumping in there — largely demolition and construction detritus.
This includes, according to a representative of the developer, Cobb Cole Attorney Michael Sznapstajler, “glass, metal and concrete, consistent with construction debris.”
The Kimley-Horn report states, “Based on historical images, the waste was placed as fill material between the closure of the former sand mines and the opening of the former golf course.”
Sand from this mine, Dr. Wendy Anderson, a member of the DeLand Economic Development Committee and a Stetson University environmental science professor explained, was likely used throughout the city in the 1950s and 1960s. Nowadays, she said, sand mines are more often referred to as borrow pits.
In addition, per the report, the engineers found minor amounts of “municipal solid waste” on the site, and solid waste was also identified near areas regularly used by the golf course, like the “cart barn” and the “tee area for the driving range.”
According to the report, most of the waste is between 1.5 feet and 7 feet underground, with 10 feet being the lowest any was found. Also, the waste is mostly found in an 11.8-acre “kidney-bean-shaped” area, as Sznapstajler described it.
In all cases, Sznapstajler said, debris was where it was expected to be based on historical maps of the old dumping site, and tests detected no evidence of solid waste from the sand mine affecting the water table.
The plan, Sznapstajler said, is to follow Florida Department of Environmental Protection clean-up guidelines for landfills.
“For landfills, you typically do a disposal and management plan for the solid waste that describes where you’re going to be disturbing stuff, what your plan is to treat it, what your plan is to do with it,” Sznapstajler explained. “You get that plan approved, you implement it and you prepare a report that shows what you did with it”
Sznapstajler continued, “We’re going to take care of the solid waste at the same time we take care of the soil and groundwater issues. It’s all going to be done together so that it provides a comprehensive view,” he said. “It’s not happening in phases or stages, it’s all happening to get in, get out and get done.”
Rehabilitation of the land would be similar to work done at the DeLand Country Club, Sznapstajler said, another site now home to residential units that required environmental cleanup before development.
It’s too early, Sznapstajler said, to tell what would be done with the subterranean solid waste. Some of it, like concrete, could be recycled if it is clean, he said. As it stands, the development plan must be finalized before any further decisions can be made about what to do with the waste, he said.
“No options have been eliminated,” Sznapstajler told The Beacon, “But without a doubt, everything we do will follow the FDEP’s rules and guidance.”
The current Beresford Reserve development plan would turn roughly 8.1 acres of the former sand-mine dumping site into a park. The current plan for the park also includes a putting green, seemingly a nod to the site’s past life as a golf course.
Anderson has been a vocal opponent of the Beresford Reserve development at its public hearings.
She told The Beacon she is satisfied that the development plan is taking into account environmental concerns regarding the former dump, but still believes things are moving too quickly. For one, she said, most of the reports have focused on the historical sand mine and not the roughly 40 years of golf course operation, which may have involved intensive herbicide and pesticide use.
“It all seems kind of willy-nilly still,” she said.
Development plans like that for Beresford Reserve require two readings before the DeLand City Commission. Beresford Reserve will receive its second first reading at 7 p.m. Monday, June 7, in the DeLand City Commission Chambers, 120 S. Florida Ave.
The first first reading was continued from a May City Commission meeting where commissioners expressed concern about the number of housing units, specifically on 40-foot-wide lots. If the City Commission passes the rezoning for the development June 7, it will come back before the commissioners for a second reading before the rezoning is finalized.
All DeLand City Commission meetings are open to the public.