Editor, The Beacon:
That was an excellent feature in the Oct. 7-13 Beacon on growth perspectives. I think a few points should be made about our future growth, not just here in West Volusia, but in the state overall.
Yes, growth is inevitable and, indeed, necessary to the extent that a community that isn’t vibrant and growing is probably dying.
However, we can determine where and how we want to grow and not just approve every development proposal that comes before our planners and politicians. Property rights do not mean that you can put four homes to the acre on land zoned rural or agricultural just because you can make a huge profit. Your rights are limited to what the property is zoned for and what a potential variance will permit.
A developer who purchases acreage zoned rural residential or agricultural knows upfront what is allowed on that parcel and has paid accordingly for it. There is no guaranteed right to have that property up-zoned to greater density so they can make a killing.
Our zoning and planning boards need to hold the line on this, and our political “leaders” need to realize that they do not have to succumb to the pressure of approving every proposal.
Instead of building new cities and subdivisions in the middle of nowhere, far from adequate roads, schools, police and fire stations, water, sewer, electric, internet and other utilities and services, we need to plan better.
Growth cannot and never will pay for itself. Existing homeowners and businesses have to pick up the tab for providing the aforementioned utilities and services.
Clearing the land and building the houses and commercial centers is the easy part; providing all the rest is where it gets expensive for the taxpayers, long after the developers have taken their profits to the bank and moved on to the next project.
The articles in The Beacon mention the land-development codes that were enacted years ago. We need to read them carefully, amend them where necessary to reflect today’s realities, and hold the developers’ feet to the fire when it comes to enforcing said codes.
The argument for infilling vacant urban spaces is with much merit, as most of the necessary infrastructure is already in place at no additional or minimal cost. However, we need a greater vision of what we want our community to look like going into the future. We need true leaders and visionaries. We can be more than just another Longwood or Altamonte Springs, a congested mass of housing and commercial sprawl and frustrating traffic.
Instead of everyone drooling over the old Southridge Golf Course to see how many homes they can squeeze onto (or over) that old landfill (idem for the old fairgrounds/circus grounds/landfill by the train station), how about turning it into something that would attract visitors to DeLand and improve our quality of life?
What about an arboretum or botanical garden, or something else that could serve as a landmark attraction for our city and bring in visitors? Derelict industrial and commercial space out on the west side of Downtown along the railroad spur could become another Church Street Station, another Georgia Avenue or Artisan Alley on steroids. All it takes is vision and courage, and a desire to stop doing the same old same old.