In a tale as old as time — or at least as old as April — the DeLand City Commission again delayed a formal decision about rezoning 40 acres for a planned development.
It was the third time a “first reading” for Oak Hammock Reserve has been postponed.
Oak Hammock is planned to occupy 40 acres at the northwest corner of South Spring Garden Avenue and West Beresford Road. It now is supposed to have 119 housing units.
Oak Hammock first came before the DeLand City Commission in April. But on June 21, just as they did in April and May, DeLand city commissioners could not approve the development, due to its density and concerns about green space.
Adjustments have been made to the development plan over the months, and commissioners said they were happier now with the plan than they were in May.
In April, the City Commission asked the applicant to reduce the number of homes planned for Oak Hammock Reserve and to consider eliminating homes on 40-foot-wide lots.
So the applicant, Sarasea LLC, did that — Oak Hammock Reserve dropped from 130 homes to 128.
That wasn’t enough for the City Commission.
Come June 21, more substantial changes had been made. All 48 of the 40-foot-wide lots were gone, and the number of homes was reduced from 128 to 119. In total, the plan called for 88 single-family homes on 50-foot-wide lots and 31 single-family homes on 60-foot-wide lots.
Overall, the city commissioners were happy to see the 40-foot-wide lots gone, but 119 homes still felt like too much for some of them. City Commissioner Charles Paiva said while he is still not particularly interested in the project, he is less hesitant to, potentially, give it a thumbs-up.
“As much that it pains me to somewhat vote in the affirmative on any of these recent developments,” Paiva said, “I do still have to look through it as a lens of fairness to the property owner, fairness to what the actual zoning is, versus maybe what my personal preference is.”
Like Paiva, City Commissioners Chris Cloudman and Kevin Reid were also on the fence about the rezoning, but still happy to see the 40-footers out of the picture.
Cloudman said he wanted to see a smoother transition from the 40-foot lots approved for nearby Beresford Woods to the north, and the existing neighborhoods to the south. Oak Hammock would sit in the middle.
“I think for me, I’d still like to see more of a transition to the larger side of the offerings as we go toward what exists already” he said.
Reid agreed with the others. He and the other commissioners said they would like to see the original 106-home zoning approved for Oak Hammock in 2006, to compare.
City Commissioner Jessica Davis was absent from the City Commission meeting, making an already hesitant City Commission even more wary of putting the rezoning to a vote for fear of a tie or a decision Davis may not approve of.
So the City Commission debated where to remove homes from the plan to allow for more green space. Four on the top, four on the bottom and one in the middle, Cloudman said; or how about “seven around the cul-de-sac?” Reid suggested. Who’s to say?
While commissioners debated the plan’s finer points, a few public comments were much harsher.
Lisa Parkin is a regular attendee at city meetings involving Oak Hammock Reserve. The planned development is right in her backyard, and she vehemently opposes it.
“My objection to this and other developments is, how necessary is it?” Parkin asked. “The question that never seems to be asked is ‘Is this really needed?’ Surely it is time for DeLand to think strategically; work with developers to provide affordable housing on already vacant, existing lots.”
She continued, arguing the growing number of new homes won’t be affordable for longtime residents and will hurt the city’s character.
“The homes that are now being built are out of the financial reach of many of the local population. If there is no affordable housing, who will work in the service industries that so many companies in DeLand rely upon?” Parkin said. “The closure of small, independent business will rip out the soul of this historic town and remove the charm and diversity it is famous for, to be replaced with what? Faceless multinational companies that can afford to run at a loss?”
With direction to, yet again, reduce the density to allow for more green space on land that is currently heavily wooded, the applicant requested a continuance.
That continuance didn’t come without some consternation from Mayor Bob Apgar. His concern June 21, as in past hearings for this development, was that the City Commission was not providing enough direction for the applicant, unnecessarily drawing out the process.
“This is the third first time, and we may be headed for a fourth first time. … At some point, we owe the applicant an up-or-down vote,” Apgar said. “If we don’t tell the artist what we want painted more specifically, I’m not sure how he can bring us what we’re looking for.”
The city commissioners, minus Davis, voted unanimously to continue the subdivision’s first hearing.
The fourth first reading for the rezoning of the Oak Hammock Reserve planned development will come before the DeLand City Commission at 7 p.m. Monday, July 19.
The City Commission meets at 7 p.m. on the first and third Monday of each month in City Commission Chambers at DeLand City Hall, 120 S. Florida Ave. All meetings are open to the public, and time for public comment is allowed.