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BEACON PHOTO/MARSHA MCLAUGHLIN WATCHFUL EYES — Members of the public and City officials watch a presentation on Cresswind during a DeLand City Commission meeting Nov. 15. Among them are DeLand Planning Director Mike Holmes and Pastor and DeLand mayoral candidate Reggie Williams.

For more than a year, DeLand residents and elected officials have sparred over Cresswind, a 600-home, age-55-and-up community planned for 318 acres of Lake Winnemissett’s eastern shore. 

With unanimous agreement by the DeLand City Commission, construction plans for the development’s first phase got the go-ahead at a regular City Commission meeting Nov. 15.

Phase 1 of Cresswind includes 155 of the project’s total 600 homes, and will consume 88.86 acres of the project’s total 318 acres. 

The City Commission and city staff have agonized over the development for hours’ worth of meetings, while members of the public have carved out time in their lives to sit through long sessions, waiting for their three minutes each of comment time to rebuke their elected representatives

For much of the evening of Nov. 15, however, you almost wouldn’t know Cresswind has been one of DeLand’s most controversial development proposals in recent memory. 

Helping quell the audience’s concerns was a nearly 30-minute discussion from representatives of the developer, Lake Park Estates LLC, who zeroed-in on the importance of littoral shelves, “bioswales” and other innovative environmental features that will help protect Lake Winnemissett. 

Even critics of the undertaking had hesitant praise for the work done on Cresswind since it first surfaced more than a year ago. 

“This is what I’ve been hoping for! This is what EVERY development you all approve ought to have!” Dr. Wendy Anderson said in a statement submitted in writing to the City Commission. “As I challenged [homebuilder] Kolter to do, and as the Commission required in the approved Planned Development Plan, they have designed a plan that can become the role model for other developments in DeLand and beyond.”

Anderson, an outspoken environmentalist, Stetson University environmental science professor and chair of the Volusia County Soil and Water Conservation District, was tapped to testify as an expert in previous Cresswind hearings. She has long been critical of putting 600 homes at one of DeLand’s gateways and right along a body of water.

But landscape architect Don Hearing, speaking for Cresswind developer Kolter Homes, stressed the company’s dedication to protecting Lake Winnemissett and the environment at large.

Take, for instance, the “treatment train,” which will naturally reduce the volume of nitrogen and phosphorus introduced to waterways by passing runoff water through a number of roadblocks before it can go to waterways or the aquifer under our feet. One part of the treatment train will be “bioswales.”

Anderson explained: “A depression that is natural, or designed with deep-rooted, native vegetation that helps slow down water that runs off of impervious surfaces like roads, and even compacted sod or sand. The bioswale either takes up that water with any dissolved nutrients or helps it infiltrate deeper into the ground.”

Were Cresswind one of her students, Anderson said, she would give it an A-minus, not an A-plus. That’s because, Anderson said, she still mourns the loss of so many trees that will be felled to make way for Cresswind’s construction. 

The total project calls for the removal of 11,542 “inches” of tree — measured in diameter from a point 4.5 feet from the ground. Of those, 1,999 inches will be replaced by new trees, City Forester Mariellen Calabro said. However, many inches that aren’t replaced by trees will be replaced by cash. 

Cresswind’s developers owe DeLand $715,725, half of which will be paid to the Tree Replacement Reserve Account, per Calabro, and the other half will be paid in bonds for future use.

PHOTO COURTESY CITY OF DELAND
CRESSWIND — Pictured is an aerial view of where Cresswind, a 600-home, 318-acre, age 55-and-up community is planned. Phase 1 of the community is pictured in the blue area and will contain 155 of the project’s total 600 homes, and will consume 88.86 acres total acreage.

Strong words

Cresswind would not look this way, Mark Watts of Cobb Cole in DeLand, representing the applicant, said, if not for the involvement of the public. 

“I think this is one of the projects we’ve focused on the most in terms of how we’re protecting the environment,” he said. “This really does set a new standard.”

Members of the public and some Lake Winnemissett residents, however, did not accept the development sitting down, changes or not. 

Among them was Nancy LaRiviere, a regular opponent of Cresswind who has spoken at numerous hearings for the project. One concern of hers, she said, was that the environmental provisions are all talk.

“If Lake Winnemissett turns green, I will personally sue the city, Kolter, and possibly the individuals of Lake Park Estates,” LaRiviere said.

LaRiviere, along with other residents, brought water bottles for the city commissioners. In one, she said, was clear water taken from Lake Winnemissett. The other contained murky water that she said was taken from a pond in the Victoria Park subdivision.

Developer Kolter also built the Victoria Park and Victoria Hills neighborhoods in DeLand.

Other speakers took a different tack, like Barry Brassard.

“What we must do now is be very diligent about how the rules are followed, and they’ve done a great job making a template for future developments,” Brassard said. “We must make sure the procedures are adhered to and inspections are proper, and that the right thing to do is done.”

And then there was John Engle, a Lake Winnemissett resident who reminded city commissioners that next year is an election year.

“Sentiments in this town have changed recently, and the tides have turned against you, against the reckless expansion allowed by this City Commission,” said Engle, who identified his residence as the “East New York parking lot.” Traffic congestion on New York Avenue, especially during rush hours, has been a key concern with regard to adding more homes.

He continued, “Between this project and Beresford Reserve, that you’re going to hear next week, you have broken the proverbial camel’s back. The city is against you. A yes vote today and a yes vote next week is a no vote on your re-election next year. Do what is right, or you will be fired and your legacies will be tarnished.”

But the Nov. 15 vote — on a plat — was different from earlier votes on the development. When discussing rezoning, for example, the City Commission has more legal wiggle room than it does when voting only on whether a plat meets specific requirements. 

“Unlike a rezoning hearing, where the commission has much more discretion to deny an application … when it comes to approval of a plat, a preliminary plat, your discretion is far more limited,” City Attorney Darren Elkind said. “If the application meets with the technical requirements of the zoning code, and of the land-development regulations and other applicable regulations, then you have to approve it. The law is very clear on that point.”

When Cresswind sought rezoning for the 318 acres near Lake Winnemissett in 2020, it was approved by a 4-1 vote on its first reading and a 3-2 vote on its second reading, which was held during a special meeting to allow for more discussion time.

The lone dissenting vote initially was City Commissioner Charles Paiva, and he was joined by City Commissioner Chris Cloudman when the development came back before the City Commission. Voting on the plat Nov. 15, both men voted in favor.

The book is not completely shut on Cresswind. Phase 1 is just one of four phases that will have to come before the DeLand Planning Board and the DeLand City Commission for final approvals before construction can begin.

If history serves as any guide, you can bet Lake Winnemissett residents will continue to show up to demand what is best for the lake at their doorsteps.

3 COMMENTS

  1. I’m disappointed the state has “watered down” concurrency laws that allows unchecked growth without addressing the traffic. You can’t blame local elected officials when they are following the law.

  2. To add to my comments from Monday night:
    The reason our lake Winnemissett is encircled with a concrete road and curbs has it’s origin with politics in the years past. In the early 1900’s, Lake Winnemissett Drive was no more than a dirt trail. Herds of cattle roamed through out the area and droves of razor back hogs rooted everywhere. Imagine the nightly noise these animals created in this once rural area, which made sleep hard to come by. Most of this acreage around the lake was acquired by a local attorney named Bert Fish. During the 1920’s he became one of the most influential and powerful politicians in Volusia County. He was appointed to a judgeship in West Volusia by the governor of Florida. When court was in session and Judge Fish was presiding, he would recess the proceedings at noon, and his chauffeur would be waiting for the judge at the courthouse entrance, and they would drive off to go around Lake Winnemissett while the judge ate his lunch. During the rainy season the dirt road around the lake became impassable for the motor cars, so Judge Fish used his influence and political clout to have the road around the lake paved in 1927.
    The original planners of this community provided an overflow valve for Lake Winnemissett, in the form of a canal, called “The Canoe Trail”. This foresight allows the lake to have excess water that builds up, to run off to lower wetlands through this drainage canal. While in the process of paving Lake Winnemissett Drive, the bridge over this drainage canal presented a challenge for the county engineers, as this canoe trail had been dug many years earlier. The engineers had the bridge constructed like a culvert in the form of a rectangular tube, with twelve inches of concrete in all four sides,and the bottom level of the culvert was as they calculated it to be the average level of the lake.
    In addition to a first class roadway, the Volusia County zone 1 council member ensured for many years, until the late 1960’s, the trail was maintained and cleared by prisoners in case the overflow valve was ever needed. The prisoners were housed in barracks in the prison on North Kepler Road, and when the prisoners were moved, and the county went to a County Manager type of government, maintenance ended. This was quite evident during last year’s hurricanes when lake levels were at all time highs and a neglected and partially filled in drainage canal system could not do what it was designed for, thus levels remain higher than they should. Now that our “storm water fees” have been increased to $72 per year, maybe a drainage study and correction of the problems are in order!

    This was written around 2005.

  3. Also to add to my comments from Monday night:
    A long ago time and as it seems a far away place, yet right in our back yard, with a simpler life, and before annexations, headlines once read “Lovely drive may be declared scenic road”. It’s true that back in 1988, Volusia County established an ordinance to designate scenic roads in order to provide safeguards to protect thoroughfares and their surrounding environments. This precursor led up to the following article written by Valerie Berton in the Volusian on January 16, 1990.
    Byline, Lake Winnemissett-The stately trees ringing Lake Winnemissett and the beautiful view Lake Winnemissett Drive affords of the choppy blue waters could be preserved for years to come, if the county officials designate the road as scenic later this month.
    The two mile drive will be considered under the county’s scenic road ordinance, which ensures that any maintenance or construction of the road or surrounding vegetation be ok ed first by the County Council after a public hearing.
    “Before we would affect the trees through any routine maintenance, we must conduct a public hearing,” said Tom McClelland, then the county’s assistant county manager for public works. The council would consider whether to designate the road as scenic at their Jan. 18 (1990) meeting. Anyone interested in the fate of the drive was invited to speak before the council. McClelland said he doubts the scenic road designation for lake Winnemissett Drive would be controversial. The road, off S.R. 44 near Kepler Road, is bordered by numerous tall live oaks that hang over the natural arches on the lake’s east and west side. The oaks drip with Spanish moss, transporting the passerby to a Florida long gone by.
    Further around the lake, tall slash pines take over as the road takes on sharp curves. Single family homes are well spaced in the serene setting, a stark contrast to the busy I-4 interchange a few miles away on SR 44.
    That was a great day for LWCA back in 1990, but developers have moved in and the city annexed this property into the city limits and the new property owners, sure don’t like this historic and scenic road. We’re not sure about the City Commission.

    In the form of a grass roots movement we are attempting to get the attention of our law makers concerning the possible demolition of the city’s portion of Lake Winnemissett Drive and moving it several hundred feet eastward. It’s amazing what developers will destroy in the name of progress, and our historic and scenic road around the lake is on the chopping block. This looping drive around the lake with its beautiful trees and vistas should be preserved. Keep your eyes out for our signs asking for support to “Save This Loop Too”.

    This was written in 2006.

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