Barb Shepherd

I went to DeLand City Hall recently for a DeLand 2050 plan visioning session, prepared to share my vision.

I was late because I had to finish work, and the meeting format was different from what I had anticipated, so I wasn’t able to give city commissioners the benefit of my brilliance.

So I’m sharing it here, with you and (I hope) them. It’s pretty simple.

My vision for DeLand’s future can be summed up in two words: Small matters.

We could use three words, even: Small matters more. Small is better.

Or four: Incentivize small; discourage big.

Let’s look at DeLand like an investor would, and try to put our finger on what has made it so attractive to tourists and developers alike, so we can continue to grow and progress in a way that will continue to be attractive. This makes good economic sense.

If you talk with people about what they love about DeLand, you’ll hear words like “quaint” and “historic” and “genuine.” Creativity comes up.

I promise, no one will tell you they moved to DeLand, or that they love to visit DeLand, because of its chain restaurants and mega developments.

“Oh, it looks so much like Altamonte Springs!” no one ever gushed. “The traffic jams are so exciting! There’s so much to look at while you wait for three stoplight cycles to get through an intersection.”

I chatted recently with DeLand Mayor Bob Apgar, for one of our stories about development. He and I talked about the development of the Brandywine and Trails West subdivisions on the city’s north side.

In those days 45 years ago or so, Apgar recalled, “development” was accomplished by local builders who generally bought one lot and created one home at a time. No clear-cutting, no burning of massive piles of vegetation.

Even further back into DeLand’s past, the central business district was created in the same one-at-a-time way. Each parcel, each building, each business reflected the tastes, preferences and financial circumstances of the individual who developed it.

That crazy quilt of individualism — reflected today by the individual shop owners — is what makes Downtown DeLand genuine and attractive.

It’s small.

We’re at risk today of losing our smallness, on our borders as well as in our core.

Under the leadership of a new mayor who will take office in 2022, DeLand almost certainly will be taking a hard look at its comprehensive plan and land-development regulations — no matter who wins the election.

The groundswell of public sentiment for doing a better job of controlling growth is too strong to be ignored.

As we do that difficult work, my vision is that we find ways to protect and promote smallness. We need to give the guy or gal with a $100,000 project all the incentives, and let the out-of-towner with the fancy lawyer and the $20 million bank loan figure it out on their own.


  1. Loved the article. Small IS better. Like that billboard that says “Size Matters.” Most probably think bigger is better but I disagree. Of course growth is bound to happen but we need to fight to keep the uniqueness that is DeLand. ❤️

  2. Unique businesses that serve Deland tend to be the product of individual passionate thinkers who sense the desires of their customers in the community. Large Corporate businesses and national franchises tend to aim for bottom line profit and are stripped of any unique character as a result of bland committee planning. Small businesses can be nimble and successful. Make way for small businesses.

  3. I loved this piece! From the heart, yes; with a clear, succinct and important message. I hope DeLand’s city leaders listen.

  4. We moved to DeLand to escape the endless development and resultant ever expanding rush hours. We are amazed of how little is required of builders here. Parks and trails should be mandatory in every development. Once it’s gone, green space is never recovered. Once DeLand has lost its charm, it becomes just another bland city.

    • Thank you, Marshall. I believe DeLand still operates as if we need to make an effort to attract development. We’ve progressed beyond that, but the “development machine” hasn’t been adapted to the new reality.

  5. I love these small words and the important message it conveys. Why on earth would DeLand (or any town) want to give away that which makes it special? So only a few can profit? That’s the way we have set things up, I’m afraid. It’s nearing too late to reverse the course, sadly. Keep filling the chambers—they’ll get the message

  6. I think that is a wonderful idea to keep your town small with all the patchwork plotts and lot by lot developement. It sounds wonderful. I wish more towns were like that. I would have loved to have lived in a town just like that. It just sounds beautiful. I would love to come and visit. Thank-you so much for writing about your town. Thanks, J. S.


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