This is an update on a previous article.
Concerned that the terms of a proposed contract with Volusia County would be too burdensome, the DeBary City Council on Nov. 2 decided to scrap the deal and go it alone to buy a choice chunk of riverfront land.
The plan had been for the county to pay $2.185 million of the $3.5 million purchase price, and for DeBary to pay the remainder.
“The terms are untenable,” Mayor Karen Chasez said.
DeBary’s leaders had planned to tap the county’s Volusia Forever program to buy 170 acres, known as Alexander Island, and make the land into a passive park. The environmentally sensitive land would be placed in a conservation easement to prevent development, especially in the upland 20-plus acres.
But the draft agreement between DeBary and the county would have empowered the county to enforce the easement. Should the city violate the easement, the county could fine DeBary, and the penalty could accumulate interest of as much as 1 percent per month.
Over time, City Manager Carmen Rosamonda warned, the fines could spiral into millions of dollars.
“To think that after 20 years, it could bankrupt the city,” Council Member Patricia Stevenson said.
Disenchantment with the county’s stance on the deal prompted City Council Member William Sell to propose that DeBary buy the land alone, and use its funds from the American Rescue Plan Act to pay for it.
“I want it to be our park. I don’t want the county involved,” Sell said. “I’m just totally disappointed in this process. … Personally, I’d say forget about trying to get money from the county.”
DeBary received $10.6 million from the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan stimulus bill passed last year by the Congress and signed by President Joe Biden.
Council Member James Pappalardo agreed with the idea of excluding the county from the purchase.
Another point of objection in the city/county partnership agreement was a limit of 5,000 square feet of rooftops on Alexander Island. City leaders want more than that for a building for the Aquatic Preserve, a private environmental group, as well as for restrooms and picnic pavilions.
In response to the City Council’s disdain for the county contract, Rosamonda said he will submit a formal proposal to tap DeBary’s ARPA funding to cover the purchase of Alexander Island. That proposal, he added, will likely be presented at the City Council’s Wednesday, Dec. 7, meeting.