BY GENE RODDENBERRY
The proposal to build 500 apartments in Downtown DeLand brought to mind an old quote from the Vietnam War era: “We had to destroy the village to save it.” It was a simple way to illustrate the bankrupt strategy of an unnecessary war.
What brought that to mind was sitting outside a restaurant on Woodland Boulevard and watching traffic build up at each stoplight.
We had tradesmen, local people going about their business, large trucks, fire engines and a scattering of early snowbirds. Although we are not in the heart of our winter season, traffic was already somewhat congested.
Presumably 500 new apartments will bring approximately 500 additional cars to the streets of Downtown DeLand. What might be the solution to the additional congestion?
A modest proposal would be to four-lane Woodland Boulevard between Beresford and Plymouth avenues. Just think of the advantages. We could remove all of those nasty live oak trees that are continuously dropping leaves. It would also speed up the traffic as it attempts to transit the Downtown area.
Another great advantage would be to give large tractor-trailers a direct route through the city.
Of course, to four-lane the Boulevard it would be necessary to remove all of those annoying but highly coveted parallel parking spaces that give direct access to the merchants Downtown.
Cars that now use those spaces can always park in the already overcrowded lots that ring the city. This will probably cause the city to use some of its obviously ample, but excess, funds to acquire additional land for parking further removed from the city center.
Another advantage of the increased traffic will be to increase vibration on those antiquated sand-brick structures that line the Downtown area, causing them to ultimately fail. We will have the chance to replace them with gleaming structures of chrome and glass more in keeping with a modern city.
Finally, this proposal will benefit the students of Stetson University, in that they will be able to enjoy the beneficial sunshine now streaming onto their once-leafy campus, while learning that much-needed urban skill of dodging high-speed traffic on a four-lane highway.
It would seem that these proposed low-cost-housing solutions carry with them a whole series of potential additional costs that are not included in anyone’s equation. Would it not make more sense to locate them in an area that already has modern roadways and infrastructure, rather than in the middle of an area with ancient infrastructure and limited roadways?
People speculate about the motives of developers and governmental officials. It is the nature of a great white shark to devour a swimmer without any regard to the needs of the swimmer. So, too, developers always seek to maximize their profits without regard to the impact on the existing residents; it is their nature.
A fine display of this nature is found in the proposal of Atlantic Housing Partners. They request that, in exchange for their building apartments for profit in Downtown DeLand, the city give them $200,000 and suspend 90 percent of their taxes for 15 years. That, my friends, is an effort to maximize profits. It is not wrong, or evil, it is simply their nature.
Governmental officials, on the other hand, have a different nature, one that requires them to always seek to expand the tax base to provide funding for their endless litany of projects. Since taxpayers’ money becomes nobody’s money when placed in the hands of politicians, it must be spent. An endless supply is needed.
Without newcomers, there is no profit or expansion of the tax base.
Another modest proposal would be to simply have the city grant a cash stipend of $25,000 to everyone who wants to buy an existing house within the city and, further, abate 90 percent of their taxes for 15 years. That would certainly create a supply of affordable housing.
The problem with the nature of developers and governmental officials is that the needs of the newcomers always seem to take precedence over the needs of the existing residents.
Yes, we can save DeLand, but first we have to destroy it.
— Roddenberry is a retired mediator who graduated from both the University of Florida and the University of Miami. He had the misfortune to witness the destruction of the Treasure Coast by rampant overdevelopment and thoughtless planning. He now lives in DeLand.