Amid a surge in Florida’s population and a hyperactive construction and development market, dirt is becoming a valuable commodity.
To meet the demand for dirt to fill and pack often low-lying terrain for building, Deltona‘s Planning and Zoning Board April 20 approved a proposal to allow new soil-mining operations on a rural tract east of State Road 415 and north of Maytown Road. The City Commission will have the final say on the proposal.
The 197-acre spread is now zoned for agriculture and as a resource corridor, but the owner wants it rezoned to Business Planned Unit Development (BPUD) to permit digging out and hauling away fill material for construction elsewhere.
“This is a strange request for us,” Deltona Development Services Director Ron Paradise told the panel. “Excavations typically occur in a rural area. … This one is compatible with the surrounding area.”
Deltona annexed the land in unincorporated Osteen in 2005, provoking hostility with the county and longtime Osteenites who resented the city’s incursion into the countryside. The city and the county, after four years of negotiations to head off costly litigation over the city’s aggressive expansion, finally reached a joint-planning agreement on the future development of Osteen. The two sides signed a pact in 2009 that called for a commercial corridor along S.R. 415, along with office parks and light industries, as well as a mix of housing. The agricultural pursuits, notably raising cattle and horses, and the country lifestyle were to be preserved. The site eyed for rezoning is within the Osteen joint-planning area.
The request to rezone the land came from Glenn Storch, the attorney representing the landowner, Janette Pell.
“It is all pasture, so it’s not like we’re taking out a bunch of trees,” Storch said. “This seems like an ideal location for fill.”
The Pell family applied for the BPUD and turned to the excavation of fill material, Storch said, to replace income lost in their citrus business because of citrus greening. Citrus greening is an insect-borne disease that may eventually kill the infected fruit trees.
Storch noted Volusia County earlier this year approved excavations on an adjoining 189 acres east of the land inside the city limits.
The Deltona planning staff’s report on the request for rezoning notes the following:
“The entire excavation (City and County) will consist of a total of four (4) excavation pits to mine approximately 1,270,813 cubic yards of fill material,” the document reads. “412,942 cubic yards of the fill will be yielded from the BPUD site. … Each of the pits is proposed to be approximately 30 feet deep.”
Once the excavations are completed, the pits will become lakes.
The dirt is necessary to prepare construction sites.
“We are actually having to import fill material from Lake County and other counties,” Storch said. “Everything has to be above the flood plain, and this fill dirt is needed.”
The excavated fill material is to be hauled away by trucks. Storch estimated there will be as many as 400 truck trips per day, but not every day. The empty trucks will enter the excavation site from S.R. 415; the loaded ones will leave and go onto 415.
Most of the dirt-laden vehicles will head northward, Paradise said, “probably somewhere in East Volusia.” Some of the dirt, he added, may go into Deltona proper via Howland Boulevard.
No mining, loading or hauling will be allowed on Saturdays, Sundays or major holidays.
“It’s not going to be open on weekends, so it’s not going to conflict with beach traffic,” Paradise said.
In addition, the hours of operations are limited to 7 a.m.-6 p.m.
The mining activities have a five-year limit, starting after the developer, Osteen Materials LLC, receives all of the required permits from regulatory agencies.
“This is going to take another year at least to finish the permitting,” Storch said.
The low terrain is marked by a wetland known as the Savannah, which takes up about 66 percent of the property in question. The mining will be restricted to the higher grounds.
“We will have no impact on those wetlands,” Storch added.
The Planning and Zoning Board voted 6-0 in favor of the request for the BPUD zoning.
“When I came in here tonight, I was adamantly opposed to this,” Board Member Jody Lee Storozuk said, noting he changed his mind after receiving assurances the wetlands will be safeguarded.
The request to rezone the Pell tract for excavations is set to go before the Deltona City Commission at 6:30 p.m. Monday, May 16, at City Hall, 2345 Providence Blvd. The meeting is open to the public.