CHANGES ON THE WAY — Pictured above and below are two parcels whose recently approved rezoning would allow the construction of homes. If the maximum number of allowed homes are built on the parcels, North DeLand could see 238 new homes in mostly rural areas.

There will be more residential inventory for real estate agents and newcomers who are fond of the now less-developed north side of DeLand.

The Volusia County Council June 20 voted in favor of two new subdivisions whose combined total housing may be as many as 156 dwelling units.

County Chair Jeff Brower opposed both requests, but he was outnumbered by his colleagues.

“I’m not trying to stop growth. We all on this council want responsible growth,” Brower said.

Over the objections of neighbors, the council voted to rezone almost 32 acres at 1920 N. Woodland Blvd. from Transitional Agriculture A-3 and Urban Single Family Residential R-7 to Single Family Residential R-3. The property in question is on the west side of Woodland Boulevard, also known as U.S. Highway 17, just south of the intersection with State Road 11. The zoning change allows as many as 74 new homes, but Michael Woods, the attorney for the developer, indicated the final number may be fewer. Some of the new dwellings may be townhomes.

Some of the property is wetlands, according to county planners.

“What percentage of that land won’t be developed?” Council Member Jake Johansson asked Woods.

“Probably on the order of a third,” Woods replied.

A county memorandum on the rezoning request notes the property has 10.7 acres of wetlands.

Woods’ client, the developer, is Prestige Realty Partners 2 LLC.

Some people now living close by the tract urged the County Council to vote down any zoning change.

“I own 15 acres,” Rachel Sieg said. “This is a beautiful area. … In this area, you have a lot of animals, wild animals. … There are many children who live in that area.”

Sieg added she could not understand why anyone would want to rezone the acreage, “unless you want to create more business for Walmart.”

“We are a rural community,” Christiana Bunnell told the County Council. “We have flocks of turkeys, families of sandhill cranes and bears. … We’d like to remain that way.”

Throughout the deliberations, the theme of property rights emerged. Property rights were invoked by both sides in the debate over the request to rezone the land.

Council Member David Santiago noted the landowner has rights to develop the property, including the right to make development of the site legal.

“You have the right to appeal for a change,” he said.

Brower highlighted the property rights of neighbors involved, as well.

“The legitimate public purpose is to protect these people — they have property rights, too,” he said.

When decision time came, the motion to approve the rezoning passed on a 4-3 vote.

Vice Chair Danny Robins and Council Members Johansson, Santiago and Matt Reinhart formed the majority. Brower and Council Members Don Dempsey and Troy Kent were on the losing side.

Another one

Hours later, the County Council approved a land-use change that sets the stage for another urban neighborhood a few miles away.

The elected body voted to amend the county’s comprehensive plan, or state-mandated growth-management plan, by changing the land use of 29.11 acres at 1770 W. Plymouth Ave. from Rural to Urban Low Intensity. The ULI, if passed on second reading and approved by the Volusia Growth Management Commission and the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, would permit the developer to ask for a rezoning for a Residential Planned Unit Development of as many as 82 homes. By contrast, the rural land use would permit only one home per acre.

“The surrounding properties are generally rural in nature, except for one small lot urban subdivision immediately south of the subject parcel,” reads a memorandum on the rezoning request.

Woods, who represents the owner of the land, Sun State Ferneries Inc., said the property is within DeLand’s future urban-growth sphere.

“The City of DeLand has identified this area for development,” he said, referring to the city’s 2050 plan and arguing for the land-use change.

The county’s memo on the rezoning request also notes the land is within the city’s utilities service area.

Although the county’s old Plymouth Avenue landfill is north of the parcel, other adjacent and surrounding properties have the rural land use.

The county’s professional planners had recommended against changing land use, which would lead to a change in the zoning for the RPUD. In addition, the county’s Planning and Land Development Regulation Commission had voted against the change, warning that it would result in urban sprawl and more traffic congestion in the area.

Neighbors like Becky Mendez opposed the plan for more homes on fewer acres close by.

“It’s an urban development pattern out in the middle of nowhere,” she said.

Mendez is also Orange City’s chief planner.

Karen Clark, who lives in nearby Glenwood, voiced her sentiments against the land-use change and what may follow.

“The county should buy that property under ECHO,” she said, referring to the county’s voter-approved program of acquiring or developing environmental, cultural, historic or outdoor-recreational assets. “You could put cricket fields on there. … Having all those houses over there is not a good thing. … This is the wrong spot for this development.”

Noting the property is less than a mile from the SunRail Activity Center, Council Member David Santiago said more people in the area will provide more patronage for SunRail, the regional commuter-rail system that links West Volusia with Orlando.

“We have 10 million reasons for more people to be in that area, and that’s $10 million that we are going to be investing each year.”

Work is now underway to extend SunRail service to the DeLand Amtrak station. That service, long planned and anticipated by West Volusia’s civic and business leaders, may begin next year.

Council Member Don Dempsey agreed.

“We’ve got to pay for this,” he said. “Not everybody’s going to live in an apartment.”

Brower opposed the rezoning.

“This doesn’t fit into this neighborhood,” he said to his colleagues.

“An entire neighborhood is going to be changed,” Brower also said.

The County Council voted 5-2 for the West Plymouth Avenue land-use change. Kent joined Brower on the losing side. The prevailing faction included Dempsey, Johansson, Reinhart, Robins and Santiago.

Although the land-use change was approved and awaits approval from the VGMC and the Florida DEO, the council withheld approval of the rezoning of the property for a RPUD. The council will take up the resolution for the proposed zoning change at a later date.


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