Pictured is a map showing where respondents live, with numbers indicating how many people live in those areas. Most of the survey’s respondents live in the city’s core gateway area, while a collection of others came from residents who live farther from the Downtown core.

A recent study conducted by the City of DeLand asked residents what they like about where they live, and their responses showed a few common themes: Residents want less development, less growth and more focus on maintaining a small-town feel.

The survey was conducted as part of the city’s update to its strategic plan, a document containing mission statements and goals that guide the city as it grows and changes. Originally adopted in 2000, the plan was updated in 2005 and 2015 and is undergoing another update now.

Of the 800 responses to the survey, a number of themes became clear. Chief among residents’ desires was one thing above all.

“Keeping DeLand the small, quiet residential city that we all moved here to enjoy,” one respondent said.

And that respondent was just one of many who shared a similar sentiment.

“Stop approving new residential communities! We have enough!” one person said.

“At this point, I think there are other cities that offer as much if not more than DeLand. The massive development, and lack of infrastructure to handle all of the development is a real drain to me,” another responded.

“Obviously, growth is inevitable in today’s climate so it cannot be eliminated, but why does it have to be happening so fast here in DeLand? What is the rush outside of monetary incentives?” one resident asked.

What do people want more of? They want bike access, more green and fewer cars on the road.

“[K]eep our greenspace! Without it we are just another overheated cluster on the highway,” one survey respondent said.

Other key takeaways city staff took from the survey include:

Residents love Downtown DeLand, and they want to ensure its fun, small-town character stays that way.

“I would love for Deland’s downtown to maintain that classic, wholesome, ‘Main Street’ charm and the many community activities that are always being put on,” one survey respondent said. “I would love to see the historic houses and buildings preserved.”

Residents are worried about growth and development.

“I’ve lived in DeLand all my life and I’ve watched it go from [a] perfect, relaxing, beautiful small town, to now you’re just trying to make another Orlando,” one respondent said. “It’s terrible and looks like it’s only for the money.”

Respondents said the number of people experiencing homelessness in the city — especially Downtown — is detracting from its charm.

“I understand that there are larger issues for folks that are down on their luck or need medical attention in one way or another,” one respondent said. “But the panhandling and sleeping in front of businesses and downtown benches, or yelling at people walking downtown is a detractor. It makes some feel unsafe walking and enjoying downtown.”

Respondents feared the pace of growth was outpacing the city’s infrastructure, especially its roads.

“Stop approving new residential communities,” one survey respondent said. “We have become too overgrown and we don’t have the roads and infrastructure to support it. My fear is that we are going to look like Kissimmee in no time.”

Who responded to the survey?

Of the 800 survey respondents:
— Around 150 have lived in DeLand for 20 years or more.
— Around 100 responses came from residents who have lived in DeLand 10-20 years.
— Some 80 responses came from people who have lived in DeLand five to 10 years.
— About 100 responses came from people who have lived in DeLand one to five years.
— Only around 25 respondents have lived in DeLand for less than one year.
— A little more than a quarter of all respondents who provided their age were 55 or older.
— Around another quarter of respondents who gave their age were 35-55.
— A little under 50 respondents, just 6 percent of people who took the survey, reported their age as 25-34.
— Even fewer respondents, fewer than 12, reported their age as 18-24.

WHO? WHERE? — DeLandites who took the city’s strategic plan survey were asked to provide identifying information so city officials could get a better idea of who was responding to their survey. Above is a breakdown of survey respondents’ ages and how long they’ve lived in DeLand.

The survey data was presented to the city’s strategic plan steering committee and will play a role in their suggestions for the strategic plan update that will be delivered to the City Commission later this year.


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