With no opposition, the DeBary City Council Oct. 19 ratified an agreement to buy 170 environmentally sensitive acres along the St. Johns River for $3.5 million.
The approval of the contract comes almost two years after city officials began consideration of acquiring the property, known as Alexander Island, for preservation and a passive park.
“We’ve got a 90-day due-diligence period for a survey and an environmental study,” City Manager Carmen Rosamonda said.
The actual closing of the deal and the transfer of ownership will likely come in mid-January 2023, he added. The seller is Thomas S. Recicar, a successor trustee of the property.
Of the $3.5 million purchase price, DeBary will pay $1,319,500, and Volusia County will pay $2,180,500. The city’s share of the price will come from its allocation under the American Rescue Plan Act, a federal stimulus bill passed by the Congress and signed by President Joe Biden last year. DeBary received approximately $9 million under the $1.9 trillion measure.
The county’s share will come from the Volusia Forever program, the voter-approved effort to purchase environmentally critical acreage. The Volusia Forever program is funded by a special ad valorem tax of 1/5 of a mill, or 20 cents per $1,000 worth of taxable value.
“We’re scheduled to go to the county for the interlocal agreement,” Rosamonda said.
Under that proposed agreement, DeBary will own the land, but the county will manage it. The land will be placed in a conservation easement. Alexander Island is destined to become “a one-of-a-kind passive nature park,” a city memorandum noted.
“There will not be a swimming beach,” Rosamonda said.
He added, however, there will likely be places for launching boats and kayaks, and “probably a fishing pier.”
One likely addition to the property is the planned Aquatic Preserve Research & Educational Center.
DeBary will probably hire a consultant to guide the addition of recreational amenities to the land.
“Once we own the property, we’ll do a management plan,” Rosamonda concluded.