BY GENE RODDENBERRY
I read with great interest the recent article in The Beacon regarding the new apartment complex to be built Downtown.
A comment by City Commissioner Dan Reed caught my eye. Reed, in reference to the required 383 motor-vehicle parking spaces being miraculously converted to 262 motor-vehicle parking spaces and 121 bicycle parking spaces, 81 of which would be inside individual apartment units, said, “I think 121 bike parking spaces is almost laughable. Look, we’ve magically created 121 bike parking spots. I get that it’s in the code, I understand it, but I don’t agree with it.”
What sorcery can possibly transform an outdoor motor-vehicle parking space into a space for a bicycle parked in an apartment? Is it the same witchcraft that contains toothless historic preservation regulations that protect nothing historical? Is it the same wizardry that claims to protect trees while promoting the total destruction of the city’s urban forests?
Why indeed it is. It is Chapter 33-Land Development Regulations of the Code of Ordinances, City of DeLand, Florida, also known as the Code. Other provisions of this same code regulate, among many other things, sexual offenses, plumbing and milk — in other words, it contains all of the laws of the City of DeLand.
All cities of any size have land development regulations. Most cities also have historic preservation ordinances and tree protection ordinances. The objective of land development ordinances is to protect the local citizens and their environment from the schemes of overreaching developers. The problem faced by the City of DeLand is that the land development ordinances turn this concept totally on its head. Rather than protecting the citizens from the developers, the ordinances actually protect the developers from the citizens.
It works like this: Your friendly developer leaves his stately home in a gated community on Orlando’s Chain of Lakes and drives to a naive and unsuspecting DeLand. There he spots an opportunity to develop some new abomination which, though unsightly, is profitable. His sole objective is to create a project at the least cost and highest profit for him.
He then has his staff create a development plan that cleverly utilizes the idiosyncrasies of the Code. The plan is then taken to the planning department. The planning department then works with the developer’s staff to tweak the plan so that it conforms in all respects to the Code.
After a series of meetings, reviews and arrangements, the plan is finally submitted to the City Commission for approval. This is the point at which the local citizens usually become aware of another ill-conceived project being dropped in their laps. The denizens of DeLand, the hoi polloi, can attend all the City Commission meetings they want, they can write letters to the editor, they can sign petitions, they can object, but the reaction of the City Commission is to throw up their hands and say, “There is nothing we can do, it conforms to Code; we have to approve it.” So you see, by the time the development reaches this stage, the land development ordinances, rather than protecting the people from the developers, are actually protecting the developers from the citizens.
When an individual or group protests a particular development they must come to the realization that it is not just the development they are protesting but also the Code provisions that permit the project in the first place.
Thus, Commissioner Reed is correct; the Code produces laughable results. The trouble is that the laughter is that of the developer. He is laughing because another inexpensive, unimaginative project has been approved for the City of DeLand. He is also laughing at the people of DeLand because there is apparently nothing they can do to stop him.
It is patently obvious that our land development ordinances are antiquated, illogical, poorly drafted and ill-equipped to handle the developments swamping the city of DeLand. If the Code is not substantially revised to conform to the wishes of the citizens of DeLand, they can wave goodbye to their charming little city and prepare to become nothing more than another piece of sprawling Orlando urban blight.
— Roddenberry is a retired mediator who graduated from both the University of Florida and the University of Miami. He had the misfortune to witness the destruction of the Treasure Coast by rampant overdevelopment and thoughtless planning. He now lives in DeLand.