1 – Maybe we can’t stop growth, but we can make thoughtful and meaningful changes in the ways we grow.

As 2022 dawned, West Volusia residents could be glad about innovative techniques that will be put to use in the development of Cresswind, a 600-home community for those age 55 and older planned on 318 acres of Lake Winnemissett’s eastern shore.

While there’s a lot to not like about Cresswind — including the planned destruction of tree cover — the development will make use of a “treatment train” of natural systems to naturally reduce the volume of nitrogen and phosphorus in the aquifer and waterways by passing runoff water through a number of roadblocks designed to reduce those nutrients. One part of the treatment train will be “bioswales,” for example.

These natural treatment systems exist, and they are doable. Our goal for 2023 is to make them a part of more large-scale developments, and for natural solutions like these to be made part of our land-development regulations.

2 – When citizens show up, they really can make a difference.

Several high-profile housing developments were approved this year in DeLand and Deltona and other parts of West Volusia, but not without pushback from the community. While that pushback didn’t stop the growth — much to the chagrin of some — it did make projects better.

A good example is Beresford Reserve, the housing development planned on the former Southridge Golf Course in DeLand. Changes in that development plan, which occurred because of public pressure, include, for example, increasing the size of a public park that will be built by the developer from 10 acres to more than 20 acres, a reduction in the number of homes from 800 to fewer than 600, and an increase in land left undeveloped from 27.65 acres to 50 acres.

It’s a big chore to attend city meetings, which sometimes last for hours, or to call or email your elected representatives. But it really works for good.

We salute everyone who did so this year.

3 – We’re not well enough equipped for the amount of growth we’re getting.

While there is some good news on the growth front, it’s not enough. The flooding West Volusia experienced in the aftermath of hurricanes Ian and Nicole, and the erosion of our communal quality of life caused by increased traffic, on top of continual increases in our property taxes, clearly demonstrate that we’re not really ready for the growth we’re getting.

While Deltona moved to slow growth with moratoriums, we have yet to see the meaningful proposals for changes in development laws that these slowdowns are supposed to give us time to produce.

4 – The City of DeLand doesn’t really need the taxes it’s collecting from us.

Two proposals for apartment complexes are in the City of DeLand growth pipeline, and city commissioners gave each project a break on its property taxes.

In the case of the Framework Group complex proposed on North Woodland Boulevard on land now occupied by the Bank of America, DeLand signaled its willingness to give the developer $9.5 million worth of tax breaks.

Either city leaders don’t think these nearly 500 new residences will cause additional demands on the city’s police or fire departments or emergency-medical services, or wear and tear on the parks or transportation infrastructure, or they don’t mind asking current DeLand taxpayers to subsidize these additional demands.

We hear city commissioners’ rationale loud and clear: The discounts are being given on tax income we don’t have now, so we can afford it. But if the city truly needs property-tax dollars at the rate it is collecting them, then we cannot afford it. They can’t have it both ways.

5 – As a corollary to No. 2, when citizens don’t show up, that really makes a difference, too.

Analysis of the 2022 local elections shows clearly that Republicans far outvoted Democrats in local races, and the results bear witness.

We can’t know in all cases how any individual voted and why, but what we do know is that the voices, opinions and preferences of thousands of people who were eligible to vote are not reflected in the makeup of our newly formed city commissions, School Board and County Council.

We believe in democracy; we understand that these election results are “the will of the people.” We only wish that more people — of all parties and philosophies — had taken part.

We don’t know why these voters stayed home. We do know that The Beacon will stay committed to informing local residents about local challenges and local elections, and encouraging those residents to help shape our community’s future.

6 – This community steps up to the plate.

When the founders of the ME STRONG 5K decided they had to give up the massively popular fundraising race that helps people suffering from cancer, it was only a few months before Florida Cancer Specialists and a coalition of local Rotary Clubs stepped in to take it over.

We’re reminded of when the Rotary Clubs also stepped up to take over the DeLand Christmas Parade when it needed leadership.

And, rather than taking advantage of the well-known race to turn it into a for-profit venture, Florida Cancer Specialists and the Rotary Clubs are honoring the mission of Linda Ryan and the other ME STRONG founders by continuing to support local cancer patients with the funds raised by the annual race.

Let’s don’t take our civic groups and civic-minded businesses for granted. They make our community a very special place.

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