At left, Ray Johnson unveils a sculpture at the Dr. Noble "Thin Man" Watts Amphitheater in DeLand with then-DeLand City commissioner Jeff Hunter.

By Ray Johnson

Thank you for the article by Noah Hertz about the candidates who are vying to be DeLand’s next mayor.

All three candidates appear to have the best interest of the community in mind. However, as each has expressed his limited views on such things as policy and growth, I find a lack of specifics. They’re long on words and short on specifics. The voters need to know.

If I were to run for mayor (I have absolutely no intention of running), I would state my platform about specific issues.

On Day One:

• Immediately push for a moratorium on development for two years. This time is needed to make substantive changes. I proposed this idea back in 2012 in “Charting a New Course.” Was anyone listening? The late Bill Hall, then a Beacon columnist, took note, citing the plan as visionary. Development is good, but it needs to be organized.

• Recommend hiring a “national” planning consultant to organize the city’s zoning and transportation codes, utility agreements and planning functions. Examples can be found in Florida in Winter Garden, Sanford and Seaside, and in Greenville, South Carolina. The Seaside zoning code for development utilized a two-page document. DeLand needs to simplify its codes for zoning, utilities, boundaries, etc.

• Transportation planning: See my previous letter addressing such issues as bypasses, a SunRail spur, vacating state highways in the city core, etc.

• Work with the county to unify the city boundaries — square them off, so to speak. Irregular boundaries are not good for services such as fire, utilities, zoning, law enforcement, taxing districts, etc. Simplify.

• Be proactive versus reactive in planning.

• On the topic of parking, work with the county to solve parking issues in the city core. Provide free parking for merchants. These are taxpayers, and they should not be required to move their vehicles every two hours. City employees have free parking, but most of them probably pay no city taxes.

• Create a city/county parking garage on West Rich Avenue. Greenville, South Carolina, has 14 parking garages, with free parking for everyone. If we want to be the Athens of Florida or the best MainStreet in America, we need to start acting like one. Think big!

• Eliminate the parking on the west side of the Historic Volusia County Courthouse. Create a public plaza or square on the west side of the Courthouse. All great cities have a public gathering place. I have spoken about this at great length previously.

• Resurrect the Multi-Family Housing White Paper. I turned it over to the city staff, but it got shuffled around like a hot potato and was lost or filed in that round basket. This should be actively promoted, because multifamily housing is needed to sustain and enhance the business community.

• The city should take over the Museum of Art – DeLand and build a new facility on the Old County Jail property.

• Create a public-art policy. This always seems to die in the legal ramblings. Information was previously supplied.

• Close off West Indiana Avenue like Silver Spring, Maryland, has closed off Ellsworth Drive. Again, nothing new here, but is anyone listening?

• Finance Department: Are we actively pursuing federal and state funding?

• DeLand should eliminate septic tanks and pursue federal funding for sewer and water.

• Does the city have a lobbyist?

• Construct city gateways.

• Clean up vacant lots.

• No incentives for development.

• Street lighting that makes the city more inviting.

Summary: “I do believe that if people aren’t calling you crazy, you aren’t thinking big enough.”

— Johnson, a retired architect, lives in DeLand and is one of the founders of the city’s public-sculpture program.


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