“The last frontier along that I-4 corridor,” was how Volusia County Council Member David Santiago described it.
The County Council has taken its next-to-final step to welcome more places to work, live and play along and around State Road 472.
The highway that now separates DeLand and Orange City may soon become an even more bustling urban corridor with warehouse distribution centers, a la Amazon, surrounded by businesses, offices, apartments and homes.
“You guys get accused of not planning. This has been planned,” Alex Ford, attorney and an owner of land within the affected area, told the County Council April 18.
The planning for the future of the area actually began decades ago.
In its latest action to make a model development, the council has voted 7-0 to amend the county’s zoning ordinance for the county’s portion of the now-defunct Southwest Activity Center to permit the development of warehouse-trucking facilities and to reduce the standard size of the lots for single-family homes.
The measure just passed on first reading adds warehouse distribution centers to the list of uses in the Commerce District zoning of the SWAC. The county’s state-mandated comprehensive plan includes such facilities as allowed uses, but the zoning ordinance does not.
If and when the ordinance passes on second and final reading, at a date not yet determined, new warehouses and trucking complexes may be forthcoming. County Growth and Resource Management Director Clay Ervin noted “light industrial” may include warehouses.
“Part of this property has already been zoned industrial,” Ford said.
Indeed, a building-materials company and a concrete plant are operating along S.R. 472 west of Kentucky Avenue/Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Beltway.
As the council considered the measure to fine-tune the future development in its jurisdiction, Stetson University professor Dr. Wendy Anderson cautioned against luring distribution centers into the area. She expressed concerns about mixing two types of traffic, that is, “residents in a hurry to get to work and truck drivers in a hurry to deliver their loads.”
“Big trucks are dangerous,” Council Member Don Dempsey agreed.
“Heathrow is not dominated by warehouse distribution centers,” Anderson said.
Anderson added she was speaking as chair of the Volusia Soil and Water Conservation District and for the board of directors of the Victoria Park Homeowners Association. She reminded the council that new neighborhoods with homes valued between $300,000 and $500,000 are being built.
“Those people need more retail,” Anderson said.
Because of the concerns raised by Anderson and others, the council proposed, and Ford agreed, to restrict the development of any future distribution centers to the south side of S.R. 472. Without the change, such intensive uses could have been built north of the highway along MLK Beltway.
“If they’re willing to limit warehouse distribution centers to the south side of 472, that’s awesome,” Dempsey said. “I’m in favor of this, and I’d like to add this.”
Not least, the new pending ordinance decreases the size of the lots for single-family homes from 7,500 square feet to 5,000 square feet.
The homes will be in the Residential District, as opposed to the Commerce District, of the county’s tract. As many as 220 detached dwellings may be built within the county’s share of the special zone. Ford said Pulte Homes wants to develop the new settlement.
Asked if he has any plans to sell property to companies wishing to set up distribution centers on his family’s property within the unincorporated area, Ford declined to comment.
A long time coming
The vision of the Southwest Activity Center goes back more than a third of a century, when county planners saw an opportunity to create an economic-development showcase on some 1,800 acres around the interchange of Interstate 4 and S.R. 472. The SWAC was supposed to be similar to Heathrow in Seminole County. Intensive planning went into the venture, and the cities of DeLand and Deltona were partners with the county in the effort.
Despite the time and money spent on planning the SWAC, it remained largely an idea on paper. The SWAC was classified as a development of regional impact (DRI), a project so large and so intense its effects would be felt over a wide area.
As the 1990s passed into the 2000s, the anticipated hotels, restaurants, shopping centers, office parks, clean light industries, and homes planned for the special zone never materialized.
The DRI expired in 2009, and still nothing happened on the SWAC properties. The county, however, did transfer the old SWAC zoning to the unincorporated portion of the land within its jurisdiction. All that remains of the county’s portion is now about 486 acres, bisected by S.R. 472. Orange City annexed part of the county’s share of the SWAC land.
After the DRI’s demise, Deltona began efforts to develop its share of the former SWAC tract. The pioneer projects were a Duke Energy substation west of North Normandy Boulevard and the Epic Theatres on the east side of the road. Since the opening of the cinema in 2011, Halifax Health has built and opened a 90-bed hospital, and Amazon has two huge warehouses on both sides of Normandy.
Apartments next to the Epic Theatres are nearly finished, and more commercial development is in the offing.
As for the county’s portion of the old DRI, the comprehensive plan — in effect a sort of constitution on how the land under its control will be developed — allows 1 million square feet of industrial space, 1,900 multifamily housing units, 220 single-family homes, 1.4 million square feet of office space, 700,000 square feet of retail space, and 269 hotel rooms.
Yes, Florida desperately needs more ugly warehouses, environmental destruction, and apartments cluttered around the landscape. No one needs wildlife & animals. Maybe just cut down every tree and start a fund to move mire idiots down from up north.
Just stop please the traffic is insane. We use to see deer over there now nothing. I even saw a white deer. You are destroying the area. Please stop the building
Your idea of progress sucks!!
This area used to be a real nature site. Now will be all concrete. So sad and sick. All due to money hungry idiots
Planned! Ha! Reduced lot sizes! Big business gets richer along with greedy politicians. Meanwhile the residents have to put up with it. Thanks for continuing to ruin the sunshine state – when will we learn??
What do we have to do to stop this destruction of our way of life in Volusia County? Is it too late to impeach and throw out our existing County council and resource manager Clay Ervin? Heck, I’d sign any petition and pay more taxes just to make all this nonsense stop……
Why is it that some politicians who take bribes can be found out about, weeded out, put in prison but our local leaders aren’t under any law enforcements’ radar…we all know that there is financial gain or favors to be had when developers from Anyplace, USA can come into town, clearcut any amount of wooded land that they can buy and build as many dwellings as legally possible. Our leaders suck and so many people complain about this over-develpment issue, yet they passed over two or three candidates last year who were adamantly against over-development, who could not be bought…just plain ignorance…just wish the voters had done their homework and read the write-ups on the candidates, or better yet, talked to them in person. Jake Johannsen said we needed development but it needed to be smart. He is a huge proponent of big development over in East Volusia and having this knowledge, and after having a conversation with him, I did not vote for him. He won the seat for whatever reason. I’m afraid that this town will be the next freaking Altamonte Springs, thanx to greed.