CONSIDERING THE FUTURE — Volusia County’s Planning and Land Development Regulation Commission weighs the requests to amend the zoning of the county’s portion of the Southwest Activity Center. The panel Feb. 16 voted 5-2 to recommend the County Council approve an ordinance permitting distribution centers and reducing the lot sizes for single-family homes. From left are Commissioner Jay Young, Secretary Edith Shelley, Chair Ronnie Mills, Vice Chair Jeff Bender, and Commissioners Frank Costa and Stony Sixma. Not shown at left is Commissioner Richard Feller.

What remains of a long-planned effort to create a model community and an economic-development showcase between DeLand and Orange City is morphing into something different.

Something with more warehouses and more densely packed housing, perhaps.

With a 5-2 vote Feb. 16, the Volusia County Planning and Land Development Regulation Commission voted to recommend that the County Council amend the old Southwest Activity Center blueprint.

One change would add warehouses and distribution centers — such as the Amazon facility in Deltona — as permitted commercial uses. The second change would set the residential density at four to eight units per acre and reduce the minimum lot sizes for single-family homes from 7,500 square feet to 5,000 square feet.

“Are these changes necessary to comply with the comprehensive plan? Yes,” Mark Watts, attorney for Pulte Homes, a developer, told the PLDRC.

The “comprehensive plan” Watts referred to is the state-mandated growth-management plan that sets forth the character and land uses — such as rural, urban, industrial, residential, public use, conservation, etc. — of each and every parcel of land within the unincorporated area of the county.

The proposed changes, if enacted by the County Council, would affect only the 486 acres of unincorporated area within the special zone.

Adding warehouses and distribution centers to the list of permitted uses makes sense, according to Alex Ford, whose family owns land in the zone.

OVER THE YEARS — This old graphic depicting the original plan for the Southwest Activity Center shows the shrinkage of the county’s portion, from more than 550 acres to the current 486 acres. Orange City annexed the portion of the land east of Kentucky Avenue and south of State Road 472, a tract of some 72 acres. Orange City is eyeing a mixed use development there of retail commercial, apartments and a hotel on its portion of the property. The red “X” on the map indicates it is no longer valid.

“I look at this as a no-brainer,” Ford said. “Where else do you put this but on a highway?”

Not everyone is pleased with the proposed changes.

“There are some serious issues they need to address,” PLDRC Chair Ronnie Mills said, as he voted against endorsing the ordinance.

Among the issues Mills cited are the increase in residential density and possible connections between new development and flooding, as filling more land with paved surfaces and rooftops may prevent stormwater from percolating into the aquifer.

Nearly five months after Hurricane Ian dumped almost 18 inches of rain on the area, high water still stands beside some roadways and on low-lying terrain.

But not everyone was ready to blame development.

“I think there’s a myth, an urban legend, that new development is causing this,” Ford said.

“It’s not just stormwater,” Mills said. “It’s reclaimed water being brought back, and it keeps the ground saturated.”

Many urban and suburban subdivisions developed in recent years have made it possible for homeowners to use treated wastewater for lawn irrigation, thus saving the clean, potable water for household uses and hygiene.

Flooding wasn’t the only concern.

Neighbors such as Kevin Pecot, who live just outside the SWAC, are upset about the possible increase in density.

“It was originally 1.2 homes per acre,” Pecot said, noting his home is on 3 acres.

Mills noted a lack of transition from low density to greater density.

“I think the comprehensive plan needs to be looked at because, if you’re transitioning from four to eight units per acre against a piece of property that is [one home on] 5 acres, that’s not much of a transition,” Mills said. “So the comp plan needs to be looked at.”

Assistant County Attorney Paolo Soria said the SWAC’s living areas provide a noticeable change from high to low density.

“SWR [Southwest Residential], which is the community, is the transition area. It is the transition from the actual high-density commerce … to separate that commercial core from the more suburban and urban areas,” Soria said.

Mark Jamil, who lives next to the SWAC, does not want the urban congestion and overcrowding he experienced in South Florida.

“In Miami, this is what we saw,” he said. “We’re hoping it doesn’t happen here.”

Wendy Anderson, who lives in Victoria Park, suggested the SWAC provide more business places for her and her neighbors.

“What we really need on the north side of 472 is more retail and office,” she told the PLDRC, also urging any distribution centers be developed south of the state highway. “We’re concerned that there will be a mix of truck traffic and residential traffic.”

PLDRC members voting for the changes were Vice Chair Jeff Bender, Secretary Edith Shelley, and Commissioners Frank Costa, Jay Young and Stony Sixma. Mills was joined in his dissent by Commissioner Richard Feller.

The ordinance to amend the SWAC now goes to the County Council for a final decision.

Senior Planning Manager Patricia Smith said anyone concerned about changes in the development plan are also welcome to attend the meetings of the county’s Development Review Committee.

“DRC meetings are open to the public. Site plans are open to the public,” she said.

History of the Activity Center

Originally a joint planning venture led by the county and joined by the cities of DeLand and Deltona, the Southwest Activity Center was about 1,821 acres.

Over the years and with no real development activity taking place, large chunks of the SWAC were annexed by the cities, including Orange City, leaving only 486 acres under the county’s jurisdiction.

LOOK QUICK — This 2015 aerial photo shows the area once planned as the Southwest Activity Center as mostly treetops. That has already changed, and more rooftops and paving will replace the greenery before long. The original planning project was disbanded; the county now controls only the portion outlined in yellow.

Thirty-plus years after it was first envisioned as a Heathrow-like mixed use development at and around the interchange of Interstate 4 and State Road 472, the SWAC is now taking shape, but not entirely as conceived.

While the portion east of I-4, now inside Deltona, is bustling with a Halifax Health hospital campus, an expanding industrial park, and retail businesses, the western side of the SWAC area has been slow to show signs of life. The pioneer project there is Integra Dunes (now known as Century Dunes), an apartment complex along Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Beltway.

The pace of development is poised to accelerate.

Besides the creation of Canopy Terrace and a high-technology industrial park in DeLand’s portion of the SWAC, Orange City awaits the North Kentucky Distribution Center just south of S.R. 472 and next to The Crossings, a mixed-use development of shopping, apartments, offices and a hotel.


  1. What do they care they don’t live there. Southwest Volusia is in need of improved building regulations, not the destruction of the current regulation. Building cheap housing on top of one another is no improvement as it is flooding is already a serious issue. The continued destruction of land and bringing thousands of people to relocate is unacceptable, not to mention more wildlife displacement. It is simply disgusting the lack of concern they have,

  2. Hi my name is Kathleen Mallon. I live in country village. I’m seeing a lot of road construction going on. We were told that the taxes that are being assessed for road improvement on Kentucky Ave is being put in our rent increase in the amount of about $5-$6. Our rent is being increased by $30. People are concerned about a possibility that this mobile home park which was affordable for seniors is not anymore, just might be bought out. All this talk of improvements in housing, retail, hotels and more distribution centers (AMAZON). What about the senior living developments that could be taken into consideration. I don’t mean Alzheimer’s developments. There has been no new nursing home’s development in this area. I live here since 1988. I owned two homes in Deltona, it was beautiful then. The flooding when riding through there is mid boggling. Orange city has its own issues with flooding. What a change. I’m no against improvement for the future of the cities or counties, it just seem like the senior are forgotten in this whole development planning.


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