SOON TO CHANGE — These cattle grazing contentedly on the north side of the Epic Theatres in Deltona may have to find other greener pastures, as their bucolic setting is about to become more urban, with apartments, stores, restaurants and offices — and traffic. Though it has limited the number of apartments on the Deltona Village property, the City Commission has already approved the Business Planned Unit Development that will create a business hub for the growing and sprawling city.

The Deltona City Commission has rebuffed a developer’s request to revise his plan to transform a largely vacant tract on the city’s north side into a commercial hub.

With a 4-3 vote, the commission April 3 turned down Frank DeMarsh’s proposal to add more land to his project area and to allow more multifamily housing.

“Right now I think it’s a bad idea,” Commissioner Jody Lee Storozuk said, as he moved to deny DeMarsh’s request.

Storozuk and his colleagues who formed a majority voiced concerns about traffic and possible school overcrowding.

DeMarsh had asked to add almost 26.6 acres to the 140 acres now set aside for Deltona Village, bringing the total size of the property to 166.57 acres at and around the intersection of North Normandy Boulevard and Graves Avenue. The 26.6 acres surrounds the Maschmeyer Concrete plant on the north side of Graves Avenue.

DeMarsh also had sought to raise the limit on apartments from the 414 now permitted to 652 — an increase of 238 units. The apartments already approved, known as Integra Myst, are already nearing completion. DeMarsh’s proposal calls for 900,000 square feet of retail space to meet the needs and wants of existing and future Deltonans in the area.

DeMarsh is president of Deltona Retail Holdings LLC, the firm that is guiding the creation of Deltona Village. He is also the owner of Epic Theatres, the 12-screen cinema that was a pioneer business in the development zone, as well as in the former Southwest Activity Center. Epic Theatres opened in 2011.

Deltona Village has been in the making for almost 20 years.

“Actually, it started in 2004,” Kim Booker, the attorney representing DeMarsh, said.

Deltona Village was part of the now-defunct Southwest Activity Center, which was supposed to be a model mixed-use development at and around the interchange of Interstate 4 and State Road 472. Volusia County was the lead agency in planning what was envisioned as a Heathrow-like showcase of retail centers, office parks, light industrial firms, hotels and a mix of residential development.

The Southwest Activity Center encompassed approximately 1,800 acres on both sides of I-4. The cities of DeLand and Deltona were also parties in the venture. Deltona, in fact, had the largest single share of the land, about 900 acres.

The planning for the SWAC began in the early 1990s, and it was refined through the decade — but no actual development occurred. The development of regional impact (DRI) expired in 2009, and Deltona began planning to attract investors and developers afterward.

Despite the seemingly slow start, the development of Deltona’s piece of the SWAC has accelerated in recent years, with the construction of a Halifax Health hospital and medical campus to the north of Deltona Village, the advent of the Amazon fulfillment center southward, and the addition of convenience stores and fast-food restaurants in the Deltona Village tract itself.

The apartments, as planned and proposed, prompted City Commissioner Dana McCool to oppose any increase in multifamily housing because of possible impacts on nearby schools. Information provided by the Volusia School District and the city’s planning staff estimated there would be 45 additional children going to the public schools. One of those schools, Timbercrest Elementary, is already over capacity, with a 123-percent enrollment of 793 students. Galaxy Middle School is now at 93 percent of its capacity, with 1,056 students, while Deltona High is currently at 98 percent of its capacity, with 1,852 students.

“They’re not taking into account the teacher shortage,” McCool said. “We’re over capacity in our education system.”

“I’m excited about Deltona Village, but I’m not excited about Deltona Apartments Village,” Mayor Santiago Avila Jr. said. Commissioner Maritza

Avila-Vazquez welcomed the apartments.

“Why doesn’t Deltona have more apartments?” she said, recalling she was often asked that question during her campaign for re-election. “This is something that the city residents have been asking for. … I think it’s a start.”

In calling for the higher number of apartments, Booker said the dwellings in the midst of businesses and workplaces such as Amazon and the planned restaurants would be a positive for Deltona.

“This multifamily project is going to create a walkable community … that will support a town-center environment,” she told the City Commission. “We’re trying to prevent urban sprawl.”

“Commercial is tax-generating,” McCool said. “I want to see commercial in that area.”

When the time came to vote on the motion to reject the ordinance to expand the Deltona Village property and to permit more apartments, Avila, Storozuk, McCool and Commissioner Stephen Colwell formed the majority. Avila-Vazquez, Commissioner Tom Burbank and Vice Mayor Anita Bradford were in the minority.

DeMarsh left the meeting before the City Commission voted. He could not be reached for comment.


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