Amid recovery from record flooding resulting from Hurricane Ian, the City Commission has paused on allowing a new neighborhood to be developed in the northeast section of Deltona.
Less than three weeks after the slow-moving storm dumped more than a foot of rain on the city and the surrounding area, the commission Oct. 17 decided to withhold final approval of the plat for Island Walk South.
“This property has been entitled and approved by the city,” Community Services Director Ron Paradise told the City Commission.
Still, for the second time in as many weeks, the commission unanimously decided to delay approval of the lot design for Island Walk South because of misgivings about high water levels following Hurricane Ian.
The site of the proposed development, a subdivision of 57 single-family homes on 16 acres along Lake Helen Osteen Road, is in low-lying terrain. Indeed, part of Lake Helen Osteen Road is a one-lane thoroughfare because of floodwaters.
“I’m very concerned about this area up here,” City Commissioner Loren King said. “By the data, it’s fine, but when you go out and look at it, it’s not a good idea.”
King represents Deltona’s District 1, which covers the northeast part of the city. That portion of Deltona was hard hit by Ian. Many homes were flooded, and standing water made homes and streets inaccessible.
King’s constituents argued against the Island Walk South development.
Michael Beckman, who said he has lived in West Volusia since 1970 and in Deltona since 2001, urged the City Commission to reject the Island Walk South plat.
“I have never seen it this bad,” he said. “It’s devastating — devastating to the people.”
David Hamstra, of Pegasus Engineering, said the city’s flood-relief ditch system is moving water southward from the Lake Theresa basin to Lake Bethel, where the unwanted water will find its way into the St. Johns River. The St. Johns River Water Management District, he noted, has “given us 90 days to keep the gates open, … helping hundreds of homeowners.”
Ciara Mondell, another resident who opposes the new neighborhood, said the waters had risen “before the hurricane hit.” Part of the problem, she added, was “because of trees being cut down,” and thus the loss of their ability to hold water.
“I’ve seen flooding that I’ve never seen in my life,” Mondell said, holding back tears. “Please, help me!”
Starlight Homes is the builder in waiting, and the firm’s representative on hand said Island Walk South conforms to regulatory requirements.
“Part of the process of getting the approval was going through the Water Management District,” Starlight Homes’ Land Entitlements Director Tina Lee said.
Critics remained unconvinced.
“I’ve got a problem with houses being built there,” Commissioner Anita Bradford said.
At Lee’s request, the City Commission agreed to table a vote on the plat for Island Walk South until its next regular meeting, set for Nov. 7.
On a related point, the commission also voted 7-0 in favor of extending until March 31, 2023, its moratorium on receiving and processing new applications for residential planned-unit developments (RPUDs) of single-family homes. The moratorium was set to expire Dec. 31, but city officials say they need more time to review Deltona’s land-development regulations and seek public involvement on future development policies.