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PHOTO OF MULTIUSE TRAIL BY MAGGIE ARDITO

“Smug, condescending, disappointing.” Those are a few of the words from conversations with fellow DeLand residents describing the latest (the fourth?) proposal seeking approval to level the rolling terrain of Southridge/Sandhill Golf Course and replace it with houses.

To the hundreds of citizens registered on new websites and social media tools, the new neighborhood plan smells like an effort to placate the locals with trinkets and half-measures. The paltry “improvements” will, in the end, still rob DeLand of its last, best future for the only big parcel near Downtown.

Based on the latest development map and features in The Beacon (Oct. 7-13), the housing project will be far below the thoughtful practices of 21st-century cities of DeLand’s size — cities with actual visions and aspirations for the positive economic impacts for better livability. To most local observers, the proposed Beresford Reserve is simply infill sprawl — a deliberate oxymoron.

The latest bike-access plans are merely wide spots in the streets, missing entirely the point of modern non-gas-powered transportation connectivity to Downtown.

The one-lot-size “youth sports field” in the plan is like a joke from The Onion or National Lampoon.

And the “open/green space” has been packed with a number of sports options that are just a slightly enlarged amenities package for the residents: 21 acres (is it even that much?) littered with shiny objects; a slap in the face of DeLandites.

Most city commissioners have expressed to the developer their desires for a target “maximum of 600 homes,” which the developer consistently refuses to accommodate.

But given the past and present contamination concerns across the site, the whole Southridge course should be purchased and set aside as a valuable amenity for the city. It would enhance livability and desirability for current and future residents and visitors. Many residents have expressed alternative ideas for the site, but the developer has shown no interest in meeting with residents to hear those ideas.

But there’s a way… Plan B: “Southridge Park and Plaza.”

Cities across the country are putting in place new efficient practices to build superior living environments for the public (us), and are doing so by leveraging co-creation methods. Co-creation is characterized by continuous interactions with the public at the heart of the process; it relies on listening and exchanging inputs and ideas, and leveraging all resources. This is real, it’s proven and happening elsewhere, and Southridge Golf Course is an ideal candidate — following a simple “no” vote by the City Commission on the requested rezoning.

A large group of talented, creative citizens and businesspeople is poised to participate.

Funding options and legal structures can be made available to appropriately compensate the property owner and acquire the 167 acres.

State agencies with knowledge, assets and capabilities can assist with funding, and to deal appropriately with toxins in the site’s soil.

Visions and opportunities are being outlined now to make a new “Southridge Park and Plaza” (SPP) a win-win-win for all involved for decades to come.

Picture rolling hills with…

A public square or plaza for the community and visitors;

Bike and walking trails across green hills under shade trees;

A botanical garden with locations for sculptures;

A smaller par-3 golf course and entertainment venue (revenue opportunities);

A community center to support outdoor recreation;

A multiuse/multistory commercial and residential complex around the “Southridge Park and Plaza” with ground-level restaurants, healthful-lifestyles-oriented shops, and two to three stories of residential units above.

We, the public, can see all of these things in other nearby Central Florida communities. Which do you want here in DeLand? “Southridge Park and Plaza,” or 615 look-alike houses and some gym equipment?

— Heeter specialized in workplace learning and knowledge management in tech industries. Now retired, he works to encourage efficient processes, wise decision-making, and a good quality of life.

2 COMMENTS

  1. The housing boom seems to be the top priority in areas around the country. The downside is that once green space is lost, it’s lost for good.

    The Southridge Park and Plaza seems like a much better long-term idea. It gives citizens an opportunity to improve their physical and mental health while enjoying connections with friends and family.

  2. As many are concerned about global climate change, land use management is a good place to start. Many buildings with impervious cover sit unused while developers find it cheaper to build new, thus furthering our loss of green space. Better to let up on costs and regulations on the redevelopment of existing properties. Housing should only be built on parcels that have large percentages dedicated to green space, conservation, and community recreation.

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