BEACON FILE PHOTO DeLand's Old Jail, and its surrounding buildings on W. New York Ave., shown from above.

The company chosen by the City of DeLand to redevelop the Old Jail in Downtown DeLand wants to pay the city $140,000, instead of building parking for its development. 

DeLand city commissioners are expected to consider the offer at a meeting set for 7 p.m. Monday, March 7, at DeLand City Hall, 120 S. Florida Ave. The meeting is open to the public.

Meanwhile, a series of emails sent to the city reveals a schism among family members involved in the Old Jail deal, that could affect the property’s eventual use.

The company, Glasshouse Square LLC, suggested that the city use the $140,000 to build public parking, and said it would also give up tax incentives worth about $190,000, if its proposed parking solution is approved.

The $140,000 contribution and the $190,000 incentive combine to provide enough money to build either 33 or 60 parking spaces. At a meeting on the topic in January, city officials estimated the cost of building one parking space at somewhere between $5,500 and $10,000, depending on the cost of the land.

Also at the January meeting, city officials said land-development codes would require around 100 parking spaces for the square footage Glasshouse proposed to build on the Old Jail site. But city commissioners indicated they would be flexible, so long as 60 or 70 new spaces were built.

Parking

In its latest parking proposal, Glasshouse suggested the city use its money to build parking at the Best Cleaners site at 224 S. Florida Ave. 

The Best Cleaners land is contaminated with dry-cleaning chemicals. The city got ownership of the property in 2016 via code-enforcement liens that had accumulated for years after the dry-cleaning business closed, but so far has not been able to partner with the state Department of Environmental Protection to clean up the site.

“This would be an excellent way to address the city’s parking concerns in a manner consistent with the concerns expressed by the city, providing public parking rather than private parking, and return this property to productive use,” Glasshouse Square attorney Alex Ford wrote in a letter to the city describing the parking proposal.

The developer has also suggested cutting one of Glasshouse Square’s two buildings from three stories to two, a change that would reduce the number of parking spaces necessary.

Ford and his client appeared before the DeLand City Commission Jan. 3 and said the city’s requirements for parking to accommodate the 30,000 square feet or so of new buildings Glasshouse Square wants to build on the Old Jail property could be a deal-killer that might cause the company to walk away.

A split in the family

Glasshouse Square was formed by Mike Prelec Jr., Carson Clarke and Chase Clarke, three co-owners of Deltran Operations USA Inc. The company is located now at the DeLand Municipal Airport industrial park, but had planned to move to the Old Jail site. 

However, a letter delivered to City Hall just one day after Ford’s parking proposal arrived indicates not all members of the Deltran team are on board.

“I am totally against the ongoing proposal between Deltran Ops. and the City of Deland,” Deltona Transformer Corp. CEO Mike Prelec Sr. said in a Feb. 15 email to the DeLand City Commission that was also sent to The Beacon

Prelec Sr. continued, “Glasshouse Square is a stand alone company separate from Deltran. As far as Deltona Transformer Corp./Deltran is concerned, a real estate venture of this nature is not in our best interest.”

Prelec Sr. also wrote, “Our current location at the airport industrial park has served us well for over forty years, no reason to move downtown and spend millions of dollars to do so. In my opinion the expense that Deltran would endure is too costly for Deltran and it would not be fiscally responsible for Deltran to move forward.”

For DeLand Mayor Bob Apgar, the family division brought up in the letter is a distraction from the business at hand at the Old Jail.

“I’m still going to judge the proposal on the merits of the proposal,” Apgar told The Beacon. “It [the letter] raised some questions in my mind, but I don’t think what the issues are among the family is really something we ought to be taking into account in making a decision.”

Prelec Jr. also emailed city officials in response to the letter from his father.

“If anything about my father’s email causes you concern, please let us know,” Prelec Jr. wrote. “We remain excited about this project and the possibility of moving the Deltran Operations headquarters to downtown DeLand.”

A little history

Deltran Operations USA Inc. is a spinoff of Deltona Transformer Corp., begun by Mike Prelec Sr.’s father. The longtime headquarters of both iterations of the company is at 801 E. International Speedway Blvd. in DeLand.

Deltran Ops is currently owned by Prelec Jr., the Clarkes, and Prelec Sr.’s daughter, Evin Dyon. Prelec Sr. retains control of Deltona Transformer Corp., which is often referred to as “Deltran.”

DeLand leaders favored the Glasshouse plan for the Old Jail in part because the company planned to move 55 well-paid Deltran workers to new offices there. This anchor tenant, city officials reasoned, would provide new shoppers and diners to patronize Downtown DeLand businesses.

A deeper rift

Records on file with the Volusia County Clerk’s Office show that disagreements among members of the Prelec family over whether to move the company’s headquarters to the Old Jail site was one factor in a string of lawsuits between family members. 

In one lawsuit, Prelec Sr. and Dyon, filing as Deltona Transformer Corp., allege that Glasshouse Square was counting on rent from Deltran Ops, and the “income stream from the rent would be used as security for the loan” required to develop the Old Jail property, according to a September 2021 lawsuit. 

Prelec Sr. and Dyon allege “the transaction [was] designed solely with an aim toward enriching the individual participants at the expense of the company.”

After Dyon apparently blocked that plan as a 35-percent shareholder, she was forced out of the company, the suits allege. 

Since then, there have been a flurry of lawsuits, including some over back rent, promissory notes and proprietary knowledge leased to Deltran Ops by Deltona Transformer Corp.

As of Feb. 28, there are six lawsuits: five of them are Deltona Transformer Corp. vs. Deltran Ops; the first one filed is Evin Dyon vs. Deltran Ops.

What does that mean for the Old Jail?

Apgar’s concern is whether Glasshouse Square could open as a mostly vacant building when the initial vision included bringing 55 Deltran employees to Downtown DeLand. 

“Not knowing what the owners of Glasshouse’s financial condition is, is the lender still going to loan them 80 percent — or whatever it would be of the construction costs — knowing they won’t have a tenant?” Apgar said. “I don’t want to see a long-term vacant building on that property.”

At press time, the agenda for the 7 p.m. Monday, March 7, meeting of the DeLand City Commission could not be confirmed. The Beacon will post updates on its website at www.beacononlinenews.com as more information becomes available.

Meetings of the DeLand City Commission are held at City Hall, 120 S. Florida Ave. The meetings are open to the public and also broadcast online at the city’s website, HERE.

 

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