The DeBary City Council Nov. 16 turned down a proposal to build single-family homes and town houses on the city’s east side along Interstate 4.
The council voted unanimously against allowing 130 new dwellings on approximately 24 acres in an area of homes on larger lots.
“It’s not a good fit,” City Council Member Patricia Stevenson said.
The council’s decision against the new subdivision came in the form of denying a change in the land use of the property, which is located along Palm Road, north of Dirksen Drive and west of I-4. Now owned by the N.O.W. Matters More Foundation, a private nonprofit organization that offers substance-abuse treatment, the property currently has a land use of Commercial Retail. The owner requested the council change the land use to Residential Low-Medium Intensity.
“It’s a reduction. It’s a substantial reduction in the intensity,” Mark Watts, attorney for the owner, told the City Council, noting any future development for shopping or dining would create more traffic than the proposed housing. “What we’re proposing is residential.”
The R/LMI land use would allow as many as eight homes per acre, but the owner and developer in waiting, D.R. Horton, were limiting the project to 130 dwellings.
As proposed, the homes would be clustered, or grouped together, to allow open space and room for stormwater-retention ponds, but those lots would be smaller than the parcels in the existing neighborhood. Homeowners close by the Palm Road tract do not want so many new settlers.
“The neighbors I have talked to are against residential there,” Peggy Wilson said. “Why not make it consistent with half acre homes?“
“My greatest concern is flooding. I don’t care what kind of stormwater system you put in there,” another speaker said. “You want to put 130 homes in there. I think it’s a terrible idea. …I hope you’re going to listen to us.”
DeBary’s professional planners highlighted the possibility of flooding, if the land use — and the zoning — are changed to permit the proposed development.
“A critical concern of this project is stormwater drainage,” the planning report reads. “Typically, stormwater running along I-4 and from Tropic Lagoon west abutting to the west drain to this tract of land, and eventually out to the St. Johns River. In the opinion of staff, a medium density residential development would likely create a disproportionate increase in costs in terms of time, money, and energy providing and maintaining for stormwater management.”
Watts noted the Florida Department of Transportation will have to plan for drainage with the construction of the Beyond the Ultimate I-4 project. Beyond the Ultimate calls for widening I-4 between State Road 434 in Longwood and State Road 472, including the addition of toll lanes and new interchanges.
“I’m not for this high density,” Vice Mayor Phyllis Butlien said.
“We don’t need to change this now,” Mayor Karen Chasez said. “I think the current land use is appropriate.”
Such was the will of the City Council, which voted 5-0 against changing the land use and thus amending DeBary’s state-mandated growth-management plan, also known as the comprehensive plan, or comp plan, for short.
Changes in the comp plans must also be reviewed by the Volusia Growth Management Commission and by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.