Amid recovery and cleanup from one of the worst calamities in Florida’s history, some wonder if development — or development in the wrong places — has contributed to the woes.
Hurricane Ian has passed, leaving Deltona to combat widespread flooding and restore a sense of normalcy to its people.
Like Volusia County, much of Florida and neighboring cities, Deltona has declared a state of emergency. Deltona leaders wanted to put the disaster aside when they convened Oct. 3 with a long and varied agenda, but the aftermath of the catastrophic storm would not go away quietly.
As the City Commission debated a rezoning for additional homes in Deltona’s southeast section, a few voices called out for something other than business as usual.
The rezoning was ultimately postponed, but not before the people were heard on the wisdom of adding more homes while so many of Deltona’s existing homes are in trouble.
“I personally think that we should be focusing on what is the state of the city,” Commissioner David Sosa said, drawing hearty applause from the audience.
Sosa referenced “roads closed because of flooding” and “people without power.”
“How many people are still trapped in their homes?” he asked.
City department heads delivered oral reports on how their agencies had responded during and immediately following the onslaught of Ian, but Sosa was not fully satisfied.
With evident frustration, he told of hearing from residents wondering if they would be charged extra for failing to pay their water bills before the due dates, and he sought answers from Interim City Manager Marsha Segal-George.
“Marsha, I tried to call you, like, six times, and I finally gave up,” Sosa told her. “Are we waiving late fees from those people?”
Deltona Water Director Glenn Whitcomb indicated late-payment charges would not be added to the bills, because of the severity of the storm.
The city’s flooding, especially in the northeast portion of Deltona, demands attention, Commissioner Loren King told his colleagues.
“District 1 has been the hardest hit,” he said, noting that many streets and roads remain impassable, while some vehicles are underwater.
Because of the many detours, King said he had to drive about 40 minutes to make a trip that normally takes about eight minutes.
“It’s like driving in a maze,” he noted. “You see water pouring out of the ground. … I feel like this water is still rising.”
From that point, King supported extending Deltona’s moratorium on applications and reviews of new residential planned-unit developments (RPUDs) for three months.
The City Commission earlier this year imposed a freeze on action on RPUDs through December, to consider possible changes in the city’s development process.
“We need to be very careful what we’re doing here,” King said. “We need to change what we’re doing.”
The commission unanimously agreed to continue the moratorium through March 31, 2023.
The high water in northeast Deltona came up once again, when the City Commission considered the plat, or lot layout, for a new subdivision in that area. The planned neighborhood, known as Island Walk South, calls for 57 homes on 16 acres along Lake Helen Osteen Road — a road that is partially flooded.
“That lake is full out there,” King said. “It’s a one-way street. … I will vote no.”
The commission agreed to postpone a vote on the plat until Oct. 17 to allow time for Deltona Community Services Director Ron Paradise and other city staffers to inspect the infrastructure in and around the site.
“We’re going out and take a look at this,” he said.
If the city government deems the infrastructure — roads, utilities, stormwater system — acceptable, city government then becomes responsible for the maintenance and any problems that may arise.
“We expect a report on the water issues,” Mayor Heidi Herzberg said.
On a somewhat related note, the commission did not pan all new development. With a 7-0 vote, the governing body tentatively approved a 109-acre medical village, known as Halifax Crossing.
To be built next to Halifax Health in Deltona, the project will include skilled-nursing facilities, memory-care and wellness centers, along with age-restricted housing. The second and final vote on the Halifax Crossing rezoning is set for Nov. 1.