land learned for development in volusia
CLEAR, BUILD, REPEAT — More land is cleared as the march of development continues. BEACON PHOTO/MARTIN O’CULL

As most Beacon readers know, the current wrangling over growth in Wild West Volusia has — in one case — a developer fighting to place a subdivision (that could one day be home to your children and grandchildren) on top of a contaminated former golf course that was once a city dump.

As The Beacon has reported, pesticides and other contaminants have been found at the site.

Unthinkably, rezoning of the 168 acres to allow some 600 homes was approved on first reading by a 3-2 vote in February, with DeLand Mayor Bob Apgar and City Commissioners Kevin Reid and Charles Paiva voting in favor, while City Commissioners Chris Cloudman and Jessica Davis rightfully voted on the side of caution.

(If you vote in the city of DeLand and care about overdevelopment, you might want to jot that down and tape it to the refrigerator. Reid, Cloudman and Davis will be on the ballot in August.)

The matter will come back before the DeLand City Commission at a special meeting on July 25, once the plans for environmental-hazard remediation are finalized.

With former golf courses like Tomoka Oaks, River Bend and Indigo Lakes firmly in the sights of insatiable developers — whose voracious appetite allows no quarter for wildlife, natural places, or environmental dangers — can paving over cemeteries and bulldozing gravestones to make way for hundreds of zero-lot-line, wood-frame cracker boxes be far behind?

Much to the consternation of malleable elected officials whose campaign coffers are brimming with cash from development interests, We, The Little People are becoming increasingly aware of the fact we are caught in a tightening vice of unchecked sprawl.

Malignant growth threatens our quality of life, sensitive wetlands and waterways, and already strained transportation and utilities infrastructure.

Last year about this time, the Deltona City Commission lamented the fact that the public perception is that developers are in control of land use and rezoning — because they are.

At a May 3, 2021, meeting, “Interim” City Manager-for-Life John Peters suggested a six-month moratorium on RPUD approvals, to give the planning staff time to hold workshops and strengthen codes and ordinances.

One year later (?), on May 18, the Deltona Planning and Zoning Board voted to support a pause on new housing development. Although the board’s vote is “advisory only,” the City Commission will consider it when they vote on the measure this month.

If approved, the moratorium will remain in effect for six months beginning July 1, and will affect only single-family detached dwellings.

The measure is being debated during massive sprawl that is consuming the whole of Volusia County – to include the recent approval of another 122 homes at Lakeside Landing in Deltona following a rezoning request that came with a $30,000 sweetener – a “donation” from the developer to be used to resurface Monterey and Tradewinds drives.

Thirty grand …

In March, the DeLand City Commission approved a lukewarm resolution limiting annexations for residential development.

What is being called a toothless “non-moratorium moratorium” in DeLand does nothing to stop developers from submitting applications for annexation for development – or the City Commission from reviewing and approving them – but that is not what it was meant to accomplish.

Clearly, this was a “feel good” move designed to salve the very real fears of DeLand residents who are feeling the claustrophobic effects of explosive growth.

Of course, even a tap on the brakes on the current lucrative growth-at-all-cost scheme will no doubt result in more clamor from the development community as they demand more, more, more from their marionettes on the dais of power in (you name the jurisdiction) under the mantra of “property rights” — which has become a blanket protection for the carte blanche developers have come to expect.

Local planning and zoning ordinances have been exploited by developers in this cram-10-pounds-into-a-5-pound-bag strategy that is forcing municipalities to consider increasing their consumptive use permits to allow more straws in the public drinking water supply to accommodate this unsustainable growth.

It is time for the pendulum to swing in favor of those of us dealing with the fallout.

No one is suggesting that all growth be stopped indefinitely. That’s blasphemous in this build-at-all-cost developer’s paradise.

The idea of temporary good faith moratoriums to allow local governments to determine how they want to grow, what low-impact strategies and environmental designs citizens want, and which ordinances and zoning regulations communities need makes good civic sense.

Now that even contaminated dumps are no barrier to a developer’s greed, placing reasonable restrictions and protective regulations — then sticking to them — is a moral and ethical imperative.

And only our sacred vote can turn the tide.

— Barker writes a blog, usually about local government, at barkersview.org. A retired police chief, Barker says he lives as a semi-recluse in an arrogantly shabby home in coastal Central Florida, with his wife and two dogs. This is excerpted from his blog, lightly edited (he swears a lot) and reprinted with his permission.

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