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PHOTO BY DAVE BALLESTEROS IMAGINE THE POSSIBILITIES — Columnists Marguerite Ardito and Greg Heeter have encouraged readers of The Beacon to imagine what an asset this 167-acre parcel of land — formerly known as the Southridge or Sandhill Golf Course — could be, in lieu of another housing development. The DeLand City Commission is next scheduled to hear the development proposal in early October.

Fellow DeLandites, we’ve got to get to “No!” We cannot accept “Yes” for an answer.

We are referring to the rezoning question before the City Commission being raised one more time (the third? fourth? fifth?), about leveling the Southridge/Sandhill Golf Course to add 600 or 700 more cookie-cutter homes.

On Oct. 4, just a few weeks away, the developer will again present brightly colored illustrations and maps outlining the fate of those beautiful 167 acres near Downtown.

That date, Oct. 4, will be the turning point: Either the citizens of DeLand will be afforded a chance to design a public space for all to enjoy, with parks, ancient live oaks, rolling hills and fields, with walking/biking paths, meeting spaces and entertainment venues, like other cities have done, or we the people will get nothing more than another in a long list of clear-cut neighborhoods with tightly packed rooftops and hundreds more cars racing along surrounding streets.

This is the last opportunity, the last parcel of this size — one that cannot be replaced anywhere else in DeLand. We must work to save Southridge. We must work for a “no!” to the developer’s requested rezoning. And, once the request is denied, we must be ready to work together to make the most of this geographic gem for all of our futures.

We ask for no on Oct. 4 to allow time to reach a better solution. Here’s what you can do today:

Add your voice

It’s time to raise our collective voice. Every voice counts — add yours. For now, simply send an email to BetterDeland@gmail.com, register at smartgrowthdeland.org, and if you’re on Facebook, “like” the @smartgrowthwestvolusia page.

Adding your voice today will make sure you see more information and learn ways to help coming soon, and will enable us to start working together toward a better outcome.

Reach out

Invite everyone you know who has an interest in an active, healthy quality of life to do the same. Reach out to friends, groups and businesses you know, and encourage them to actively participate. Invite civic and service clubs, churches and groups advocating for social causes, the environment, art, health care, urban and landscape planning, water, gardens, tourism, business, wildlife protection and fitness, along with runners and cyclists. Invite everyone with an interest in preserving and improving our quality of life.

Contribute knowledge and resources for a better plan

Land trusts, conservancies, coalitions, public-private partnerships, grants and funding sources, and examples of successful projects all hold part of the answer.

A local land trust might be able to hold the property, either long-term for conservation purposes or short-term until a community-focused development proposal could be prepared.

It might buy time to build a shared vision for a better plan and then build a case for what’s possible and how to get there.

After the no

After getting to no on Oct. 4, we must be prepared to launch a movement to lay groundwork for a better solution. Then the real work begins. We need the gift of time to get to the right answer for DeLand.

We can identify or form a lead organization or group of organizations, formalize a plan, envision and assess alternatives. Together we have the experience, skills, resources and motivation — but it needs wide support and backing.

Meaningful change doesn’t come from government. It starts with proactive citizens and organizations. It begins with all of us working together.

If we join forces, we can get to no for the current plan and lay the groundwork for a better vision for DeLand’s future.

— Heeter, trained in industrial-organizational psychology, specialized in learning and workplace performance, and knowledge management. He now avoids hard scheduling demands through hobbies like kayaking, woodworking and reading. Ardito is president of the St. Johns River-to-Sea Loop Alliance and a board member with River of Lakes National Scenic Byway. She promotes policies, infrastructure and attitudes that enable safe and equitable active mobility.

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