The DeLand City Commission may soon try to slow the city’s growth.
At the City Commission meeting March 7, Mayor Bob Apgar suggested the city signal to developers that DeLand is not interested in annexing new property for residential development.
“I don’t want to send a message to you all or the community at large that we’re slamming the door shut,” Apgar said. “We’re just taking a timeout and looking at some options that might make the process easier, might provide our staff with a little more certainty talking to developers and so on and so forth.”
That timeout would not come in the form of a moratorium on all development, but a resolution informing developers that the city is not interested in annexing new land for more homes.
Such a resolution is something Apgar said he never anticipated he would suggest as mayor.
“It’s quite frankly something I never really thought I would be saying, but sometimes, when you’re involved in leadership, you have to look at the overall picture and get out in front of issues and do what’s [in] the collective best interest,” Apgar said.
City Attorney Darren Elkind likened the move to putting a poster on the walls of City Hall saying it does not want to annex new property for residential development.
The suggestion came about for a number of reasons, the mayor said.
“What I think this would do is at least afford our staff the opportunity to catch their breaths; to do some catching up, and during the same period of time, to have individual discussions with members of the commission about concern,” Apgar said. “And, at some point in the future … to then bring to the City Commission a range of options that might satisfy some of the ongoing concerns about land-use designation, the zoning process, all of the things we’ve all agonized over for the last over-a-year …”
Beyond wanting the Planning Department to catch up, the mayor cited a number of other hurdles the city is currently facing, including Planning Director Mike Holmes’ impending retirement, the city’s desire to complete its 2050 Vision Plan update, and Community Development Director Rick Werbiskis’ ongoing search for a deputy director.
His desire for a resolution like this, Apgar explained, came about last month after the City Commission turned down a request by the developer Hanover Group to annex 26 acres into the city to build 71 single-family homes in a neighborhood to be called Taylor Ridge. The rejection came by a 4-1 vote, with Apgar the only member of the City Commission in favor of annexation.
Had the City Commission annexed the property into the city, the southeast DeLand property that could have become Taylor Ridge would have lost its A-2 agricultural zoning classification it carried in Volusia County and shifted to the lowest-density zoning under DeLand’s land-development regulations. That lowest city density still would allow four times more homes than the property’s current county zoning would allow.
That was a problem for the commissioners, including City Commissioner Charles Paiva. He supports the mayor’s suggestion to slow things down, but he didn’t think the refusal to annex the land for Taylor Ridge was as momentous as the mayor made it seem.
“I don’t personally think one ‘no’ vote in my 20 years being here is a fundamental paradigm shift in what we want to accomplish,” Paiva said, later noting, “The tool that I would want, and we said it when we voted on it, is a land use less dense than our lowest, that allows for that transition.”
The other commissioners were in favor of the mayor’s suggestion, too. City Commissioner Jessica Davis praised the move, saying she had heard many constituents voice a desire to slow the city’s growth.
City Commissioner Kevin Reid said the period of time during which the city would not accept residential annexations would need to be productive.
“If we’re using this time to add additional tools in our tool belt, potentially with those land-use designations, I’m good there, but I want to be real clear on the time frame we’re looking at and the direction and objects that we’re asking staff to look out for us, as well,” Reid said. “Some clear direction, not just a pause for pause sake.”
The time frame and specifics of the resolution have not yet been determined. Apgar directed city staff to prepare a resolution that could be debated and potentially passed at the City Commission’s next meeting Monday, March 21.
The DeLand City Commission meets at 7 p.m. on the first and third Monday of every month in the City Commission Chambers at DeLand City Hall, 120 S. Florida Ave.
All meetings are open to the public and can be livestreamed online at the city’s website, HERE.