BIG DECISIONS — Members of the Volusia County Council contemplate the wisdom of further development, in light of the damage Hurricane Ian wrought. From left are Council Member Danny Robins and Billie Wheeler, County Chair Jeff Brower, and Council Members Fred Lowry, Heather Post and Barb Girtman. Brower said he could not, in good conscience, vote for more development that will create more impervious surfaces and increase the potential for flooding.

Dazed and reeling from Hurricane Ian, the Volusia County Council may consider a timeout on new building and development in the unincorporated areas.

As many parts of the county deal with flooding, and other areas are experiencing rising waters, County Chair Jeff Brower is calling for a moratorium.

“I cannot in good conscience vote for another development,” Brower said Oct. 4. “We need to pause.”

What sparked the idea was a request to approve a final plat for a unit of a subdivision known as Verona Villas. It is to be built on 3.4 acres at the northwest corner of State Road A1A and Spanish Waters Drive, across from the ocean, in the Ormond Beach area. 

The developer, MHK of Volusia County Inc., intends to build 18 town homes and three single-family homes on the parcel.

“We keep approving these developments,” Brower told his colleagues. “We’re paving over our permeable ground. … I’m going to vote against it. I urge the council to vote against it.”

At that point, county staffers pointed out the developer had followed the rules of the pre-development process, and was, thus, entitled to approval of the plat. An attempt to stop the project could invite legal action.

“We can’t change the rules now,” Council Member Fred Lowry said. “We would be opening ourselves to a lawsuit.”

“A lawsuit we would probably lose,” Council Member Ben Johnson said.

Johnson urged the council to “work with the Legislature” to secure more local control over local development.

“I know that the owner has rights,” Brower said, adding, “We have to stop handing the bill for projects to the public.”

Council Member Heather Post suggested the County Council discuss a moratorium, a defined and limited period of time when elected officials and county planners could review and evaluate the regulations.

“We’re bringing this up because people are coming to us,” Post said.

The newly formed Environmental and Natural Resources Advisory Committee — known as ENRAC, for short — may be a fitting group to consider a moratorium, according to County Council Vice Chair Barb Girtman.

“That’s what this committee represents — the people,” she said.

Brower repeated his opposition to the Verona Villas Unit 2 plat.

“I’m still going to vote against it,” he said. “I can’t do it. I refuse to do it.”

Brower cast the lone dissenting vote against approval.

As for the idea of a moratorium on most new development and construction in the parts of the county not inside any city limits, “We’re going to discuss it at the next meeting,” he told The Beacon.

The next meeting of the Volusia County Council is set for 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 18, in the Council Chambers of the Thomas C. Kelly County Administration Center, 123 W. Indiana Ave. in DeLand. The meeting is open to the public.


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