A county advisory board has gone on record opposing an urban-style subdivision on land now designated as rural on DeLand’s southeast edge.
The Volusia County Planning and Land Development Regulation Commission on Jan. 19 voted down the landowner’s request to change the land use and zoning of 26 undeveloped acres at the intersection of South Blue Lake Avenue and Taylor Road.
The county planning staff had recommended approval.
“The project is urban infill development,” planner Stephen Shams said.
But the board voted 4-3 to recommend that the County Council keep the current land use of Rural, instead of the requested Urban Low Intensity. Changing the land use would have set the stage for the zoning to be changed from Rural Agriculture (A-2) to Residential Planned Unit Development (RPUD).
Under the A-2 zoning, development would be limited to one home per 5 acres, or a maximum of about five homes.
But the property owner, Stewart Properties LLC, wanted to carve the 26 acres into 71 lots for single-family homes, as well as green spaces, a community park and stormwater ponds, in a community that would be called Taylor Ridge.
Taylor Ridge would be close to other upscale neighborhoods, such as Saddlebrook and Victoria Park. Both Saddlebrook and Victoria Park were developed as planned-unit developments, or PUDs. PUD zoning allows more creativity and control than straight zoning, for both the developer and the governing jurisdiction.
Though now in the unincorporated area, the Taylor Ridge land and the envisioned improvements would probably be annexed into DeLand, as the city is listed as the likely provider of water and sewer utilities.
“This is a pocket of Volusia County surrounded by DeLand,” Michael Woods, attorney for Stewart Properties, told the PLDRC.
The requested land-use change would change the county’s state-mandated growth-management plan.
“What we’re doing is making a comprehensive-plan amendment,” PLDRC Chair Ronnie Mills said. “We get hamstrung. … Once that goes through, we really give up control over density.”
Mills also said he was “very concerned” about traffic on Blue Lake Avenue and especially stormwater control.
“I’ve lived in that area. We’ve had issues,” Mills said. “The water level in the area is keeping that area saturated. … That needs to be addressed.”
A nearby property owner, Shawna Everett, spoke against the Taylor Ridge plan. Everett owns Bridle Oaks, a wooded parcel with a wedding barn.
“I want to talk about responsible growth,” she said.
Everett said visitors often ask her, “What is happening around you? All the land used to be rural. … We want the rural look.”
She noted, too, that an increasing number of wildlife refugees have converged upon her land from other areas now cleared and developed.
“I work on my farm all the day,” she said. “The foxes, the coyotes and the hawks are now feeding on my chickens. … Why? Because I have this isolated pocket now.”
The PLDRC cast two identical split votes against Taylor Ridge. The first vote was a recommendation to reject the request to change the land use, and the second was against rezoning the tract for a RPUD.
Four members of the PLDRC — Mills, Vice Chair Jeff Bender, Richard Feller and Stony Sixma — opposed the project. On the losing side of the Taylor Ridge proposal were Commissioners Frank Costa, Edith Shelley and Jay Young.
Now the development plan will go to the County Council, with the PLDRC’s recommendation for denial.
The PLDRC’s actions on comprehensive-plan amendments and zoning changes are not binding on the County Council. The council may accept or turn down the advisory body’s recommendations.
DeLand also said no to Taylor Ridge, a year ago
Volusia County’s PLDRC isn’t the first board to turn down Taylor Ridge. That honor goes to the DeLand City Commission, which turned down the development in February 2022 by a 4-1 vote.
The DeLand City Commission worried that, if the city annexed the land and then, for whatever reason, if the neighborhood didn’t develop as a planned unit development, having the land annexed into the city limits would have entitled the developer to more homes than would have been allowed by Volusia County.
“If they come into the city, we annex them, they are entitled to our lowest zoning, and, unfortunately, our lowest zoning allows four units per acre,” City Commissioner Charles Paiva told The Beacon at the time. “If we annexed it, we would have to, by law, allow them a fallback of four homes per acre.”
The current county zoning of the property allows no more than one home per 5 acres.
Taylor Ridge’s denial by the City of DeLand sparked a wider conversation about the city’s land-use designations. This led to the creation of a new, transitional land use that serves as a midpoint between the City of DeLand’s least-dense zoning category, and what Volusia County currently allows in its Rural zoning.
When it was denied by the City Commission, the lone yes vote came from then-Mayor Bob Apgar. He worried that if it was denied by the city, the developer would leave DeLand out of the equation and pursue a similar project through the county — which is now what the Taylor Ridge developers are doing.
Land-use changes require several approvals
Under state law, any changes in the land uses in comprehensive plans must be approved by the elected local governing body.
The Volusia Growth Management Commission must also review the proposed land-use amendment to determine if it is consistent with the comprehensive plans, and the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity must also approve any change.
Just as the comprehensive plan itself was enacted by an ordinance, so any change in the overall plan must be in the form of an ordinance. Any rezoning of the property must also be done by an ordinance.
Ordinances require hearings at two meetings of the County Council.
— The Beacon’s Noah Hertz contributed to this story