Final action on a controversial development proposal came Nov. 7 from a divided Deltona City Commission, after being postponed in the aftermath of Hurricane Ian, which flooded the northeast area of Deltona, where the development is planned.
The approval came about 48 hours before Hurricane/Tropical Storm Nicole hit Florida and dropped several more inches of rain.
With a split vote of 4-3, the City Commission OK’d the final plat for Island Walk South, a 57-home neighborhood planned on 16 acres along Lake Helen Osteen Road.
“The city staff has gone out and taken a look at this property,” Community Development Director Ron Paradise told commissioners. “Members of Planning and Development Services and the city manager’s office have reviewed this. … This plat meets all the technical requirements.”
The project is to include four stormwater ponds, buffers, conservation and green spaces and a dog park. The developer, Starlight Homes, has paid the city a performance bond of almost $2.6 million.
Paradise explained the other reasons the City Commission had little real choice about whether to approve the plat.
“The property has been cleared and graded. Infrastructure installation, including utilities and stormwater, have been initiated. This activity took place before the Hurricane Ian event,” a city memorandum reads. “As part of normal site development and construction practices, property grading resulted in the property topography being balanced. No fill material has been imported or exported from the site. After grading, slopes on the property are basically flat.”
Commissioner Loren King represented Deltona’s District 1, where
many roads, streets and homes were flooded following Hurricane Ian. King voiced strong opposition to more development in poorly
“Let’s just bow down to the developer so that they can do what they want to at the expense of our citizens,” he said. “We build new homes and say they’re not going to flood. And they’re not going to flood. The neighbors around them are going to flood.”
King opted not to run for re-election to the City Commission in the Nov. 8 vote. Brandy White, who ran to replace King in District 1 but lost to former Deltona City Planner Tom Burbank, spoke out against the project at the Nov. 7 meeting.
“It’s undisputed there is water around this land,” White said. “What do you think is going to happen when you cover this land with homes?”
“I don’t know how you guys can approve this and go home and sleep at night,” Adam Vazquez told the City Commission.
Commissioner Anita Bradford moved for approval of the Island Walk South plat.
“We had a 100-year storm. We had high water,” she said.
The plat was passed even though Deltona has a moratorium on new planned-unit developments (PUDs) for single-family homes.
The moratorium went into effect July 1 — after Island Walk was already in progress — and is set to expire March 31, 2023.
The City Commission imposed the freeze on applications for new residential projects to give elected officials and planners a timeout to review regulations and consider changes or additions to Deltona’s development code.
Tina Lee, the director of land entitlements of Starlight Homes, the developer, said the Island Walk South proposal has been “in progress for two years.”
When the roll was called, Mayor Heidi Herzberg, Vice Mayor Maritza Avila-Vazquez and Commissioners Bradford and Victor Ramos voted in favor of Island Walk South. Commissioners King, Dana McCool and David Sosa were on the losing side.
“We’re telling the residents out there, ‘We don’t care about you,’” King said. “I live out there, and I do care.