Think how differently the Beresford Reserve story would have gone if, back in 2017, when the last golf course closed on what is now the Beresford Reserve development site, the City of DeLand had snatched up the property.
DeLand could have hand-picked the developer and dictated the terms of development.
Time and time again, we hear residents clamor for their cities to exercise more control over development, and we hear city officials respond by detailing the very real difficulties of doing that.
It seems there’s always a reason DeLand and other jurisdictions are forced to approve huge housing developments that are opposed by droves of residents — and sometimes by city officials themselves.
But DeBary has just provided an example of how cities can, sometimes, exercise some control.
DeBary spent $1.1 million in 2018 to buy land next door to its SunRail station, knowing the importance of what would eventually be built there.
Now it has made a deal for development of that land. DeBary was able to pick and choose from among developers, selecting the one most willing to comply with the city’s vision for the right kind of development.
DeBary could dictate the terms because it owned the land. Along the way, DeBary also imposed a moratorium on multifamily development to give itself time to codify its vision in development regulations.
Now, the River City on West Volusia’s south end is well on its way to realizing its vision for a vibrant downtown — and to seeing a return on its land-buying investment.
Imposing moratoriums and buying up land are scary moves many local governments would shy away from. But city officials shouldn’t be frozen into inaction for fear of backlash — which is likely to come to some degree no matter what.
It’s past time to take what steps we can to get the growth we’re experiencing under better control. More local governments should show the kind of foresight, courage and deliberation DeBary has shown.
Obviously, local governments cannot buy up every parcel that might someday be developed. We’re not suggesting that. And, the law requires that development moratoriums be fairly narrow in their scope.
But DeBary has shown us that development moratoriums and more deliberate development decisions are possible.
It’s one thing for elected officials to whine about what they wish developers would come in and do, but it’s another entirely to have the foresight to sink your teeth in and do the dirty work of shaping a better future.
The recipe has these ingredients: clear vision, determination, courage and action. We’d like to see more local elected officials using these ingredients to cook up a better future.