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PHOTO COURTESY CITY OF DELAND SITE PLAN — Pictured are the current plans for Oak Hammock Reserve as of the DeLand City Commission meeting July 19. The 40-acre development will include 110 single-family homes, with 76 units on 50-foot-wide lots and 34 units on 60-foot-wide lots. To the immediate north of the subdivision is a connection to the neighboring Beresford Woods subdivision, which has been approved by the City Commission but not yet built. Amenities within Oak Hammock Reserve will include a mulch trail, a park and various green spaces.

After months of back and forth, a 40-acre, 110-home planned development on DeLand’s southwest side received its first of two approvals for rezoning from the City Commission July 19.

If fully approved, Oak Hammock Reserve will rest at the intersection of West Beresford Road and South Spring Garden Avenue immediately south of Beresford Woods, a previously approved and not-yet-built subdivision.

When Oak Hammock Reserve first came before the City Commission, then with 131 homes planned, the commission hesitated to approve the development due to concerns about the number of homes on 40-foot-wide lots — nearly half of the 131 — a desire for more green space, and concerns about nearby development, like the additional 130 homes in Beresford Woods.

So what’s different now?

The 131 homes originally proposed was reduced to 110, and the amount of green space was increased. On top of that, the originally proposed 40-foot-wide lots are gone.

“Hopefully this is exactly what we were directed to do,” Joey Posey, the applicant’s attorney, told the commission.

Some commissioners were still apprehensive about Oak Hammock Reserve.

“Is it the ideal development? To me, it’s not,” City Commissioner Jessica Davis said. “Sometimes on the paper it looks OK — I see a lot of green space — but how it’s laid out, and looking at the neighborhood, it could be more. We have to get it right the first time, because you can’t knock it down and add green space.”

City Commissioner Chris Cloudman raised concerns about Florida-friendly plants, too. City code mandates the usage of Florida-friendly plants where possible, and it has become a concern of the City Commission.

Cloudman worried that the developer was putting the responsibility on the city to handle.

“[The development plan is] not saying the houses themselves will have more of a low-water, Florida-friendly landscape; it’s not saying trees in the housing area will be preserved. It’s saying, basically, in areas that are already not going to be developed for housing … the city shall encourage,” he said. “While I appreciate the recognition … I think that’s an easy way of skirting around that.”

But the difference between what was originally proposed and what Oak Hammock Reserve had become was still clear, City Commissioner Kevin Reid said.

The 40-acre parcel of land was approved for a 106-home development in 2006 that was never constructed.

Seeing the changes, he felt the alternative — denying the rezoning for the planned development as proposed and running the risk of a more dense, less green development being built instead — was worse than what was being offered.

“I definitely think a charge of five additional houses is worth not having the old one, which they are legally allowed to do now,” Reid said. “Is it an ideal development? I mean, no, but compared to what is there, I think there is enough to reconcile the differences between the new and the old and at least give a vote on this development.”

The public wasn’t without a voice, either. DeLandite Lisa Parkin, who lives near where Oak Hammock Reserve may soon be, has spoken at every meeting about the development.

“Where do the current residents come into the plan? Or are you just going to alienate them completely?” she asked the City Commission. “Volusia County’s raising issues and holding webinars on the lack of affordable housing, but still, the planning team and the planning committee … are still passing single-family homes in unattainable price ranges out of the reach of any normal DeLand working person.”

Addressing Parkin’s concerns, City Commissioner Charles Paiva acknowledged his own apprehension, but still believed Oak Hammock Reserve ought to proceed.

“I’ve voted no against many developments over the last couple of years and generally agree with your comments, but we have to look at what is currently zoned, what they’re allowed to and what can we get within those bounds,” he said. “We started at 131, we said no. It came back at 129, we said no. It came back at 119, we said no. Now we’re at 110. They’re legally allowed to build 105 if we did nothing. Looking at the picture, to me, this is an improvement.”

Paiva made a motion to approve the development’s rezoning on first reading, with direction to change the landscape requirements. With a second from Reid, the rezoning passed on a 3-2 vote, with City Commissioners Paiva, Reid and Mayor Bob Apgar in favor, and City Commissioners Davis and Cloudman against.

To get a full green light from the City Commission, Oak Hammock Reserve must receive approval at its second reading before the city commissioners. Depending on when revisions are submitted to city staff, the second reading could come as soon as Aug. 2.

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

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