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OVER THE YEARS — The former Southridge Golf Course, now the site of a proposed housing development, is shown in 2021 in this aerial photo by Dave Ballesteros.

Updated Jan. 25:

Mark your calendars: It’s time again to talk about golf courses, landfills and housing development.

Beresford Reserve, the controversial development proposed on the site of the former Southridge Golf Course in southeast DeLand, will be the only item on the agenda for a cDeLand City Commission special meeting at 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 31.

On the table is the proposal to rezone the 168-acre former golf course to build some 600 homes. 

The latest meeting comes on the tail of a monthslong saga — marked by repeated meetings and delays — over whether to put houses on the old golf course, a chunk of which was once a city dump.

The last time the project came before the DeLand City Commission, Nov. 22, it was tabled. City commissioners requested, among other changes in the plan, a reduction in the number of homes by at least 15, and a third-party evaluation of environmental data on what remains buried in the long-abandoned landfill.

Dr. Wendy Anderson — an outspoken opponent of the project — has taken a look at environmental data released Jan. 7, and she’s unhappy. There’s not enough new data, Anderson said. 

“They have no business coming back to the City Commission this quickly without new data to share,” Anderson said.

She remains adamant that developing on the former golf course would be a danger to future residents due to the presence of toxic chemicals like dieldrin and arsenic. 

She pointed to a number of concerns in the environmental report, including samples taken in 2018 from wells on the site that reported pH levels between 3 and 5. More recent pH testing of the wells returned levels around 5.2. 

High pH levels, or acidity, is not necessarily bad by itself — orange juice and coffee are very acidic, Anderson noted — but it’s a sign that there is more in the water below ground than just water.

At the Nov. 22 meeting, DeLand attorney Mark Watts, representing Elevation Development, argued that the only way to deal with the property’s contamination is to approve a use for it and go through environmental rehabilitation. 

New data will be available later, Watts said, but for now, a third party is taking a look at the available environmental reports. The third-party evaluation will be shared with the City Commission at the Jan. 31 meeting, he said.

The City of DeLand retained two third-party consultants at Elevation Development’s expense. The first is Florida-based environmental consulting firm TERRA-COM; the second is Pegeen Hanrahan with Community and Conservation Solutions LLC. 

City Attorney Darren Elkind said Hanrahan has experience working with brownfields — contaminated sites in need of remediation, like Beresford Reserve — and is expected to report her findings based on the environmental data at the Jan. 31 meeting

The November meeting, the city’s fourth attempt at a first reading to rezone the property, lasted more than four hours.

The special meeting will begin at 6 p.m. Monday, Jan. 31, in DeLand City Commission Chambers at DeLand City Hall, 120 S. Florida Ave.

All meetings are open to the public, and can be streamed on the City of DeLand website, HERE.

1 COMMENT

  1. History is a valuable tool for those who use it properly. For those who forget history, they find that it has a way of repeating itself. Anyone hear of the Love Canal Disaster in Niagara Falls, NY back in the 1970’s? It started around 1953 when Hooker Chemical, who had been using an abandoned canal to dump toxic waste, sold the land to the local school board for $1 for the site of a new school. Yes, Hooker Chemical was aware of what was buried there, and they believed that selling the land would absolve them of any liability. A school was built, followed by another one because of issues with the first. Over the years, the school board sold some of the land to developers for housing. Years went by and major, long-term health issues began to become known as the toxic chemicals leached into people’s homes, yards, sump pumps, and water. It was declared a federal health emergency by President Carter in 1978 when he ordered that the Federal Disaster Assistance Agency aid the City of Niagara Falls in fixing the Love Canal site. For the first time in American history, emergency funds were used for something other than a natural disaster. Congress passed the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA): the Superfund Act. Love Canal became the first site on the list. Hundreds of families were displaced. Hundreds of homes were boarded up and fenced off. It took 21 years to clean up the site. Hundreds of people suffered (and suffer) long term health issues. Yes, EPA regulations have become more stringent, and disclosures (or lack thereof) more consequential. Before the city moves forward, they must provide proof that the former dump does not contain any potential for toxicity or health concerns by conducting their own, independent study. They could set it up so that they were able to bill the developers for the cost if it conflicts with the information provided by the developers, but it would be money well spent to assure its citizens that it’s safe to build there. The city must use a certified company with no affiliation to either the developer or the company the developer used to conduct their own study (assuming one had been done).

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