Marriott won’t change, but DeLand’s rules might

​​​​​​​Point of controversy — The hubbub over the colors at the Courtyard by Marriott hotel on the corner of Woodland Boulevard and Wisconsin Avenue, shown here, may result in changes to DeLand’s development rules.

Point of controversy — The hubbub over the colors at the Courtyard by Marriott hotel on the corner of Woodland Boulevard and Wisconsin Avenue, shown here, may result in changes to DeLand’s development rules.

A citizenry disgruntled by what some call garish colors on a prominent new building could prompt major changes to DeLand’s development rules. 

A recent meeting at DeLand City Hall persuaded DeLandite Dagny Robertson that Courtyard by Marriott developer Avista Hotels & Resorts did use architect-approved colors to paint the five-story, 100-plus-room hotel nearing completion at the corner of Wisconsin Avenue and Woodland Boulevard in Downtown DeLand.

But that doesn’t mean Robertson and 605 other people who signed her petition about the colors have to like it. 

Even city officials aren’t wild about the result. 

The approved Sherwin-Williams colors — Convivial Yellow, Copper Harbor, Sequin and Dover White — sound less intense than they appear on the large building, according to many DeLandites who feel the structure looms obtrusively like a giant fruit salad over Woodland Boulevard, at the edge of the historic district.

But the city manager explained that the project and its colors met all of DeLand’s development-code requirements. 

“We have to follow the code, developed with a lot of citizen input,” City Manager Michael Pleus said, adding, “It probably didn’t turn out the way we thought it would. Acceptable doesn’t mean we like it.”

But, he said, for the city to hold up the building’s completion over color would be illegal.  

Robertson started the petition Jan. 8 and planned to speak before the City Commission this month. 

Instead, she sat down first with Pleus.

One solution suggested at the meeting, which was agreed to by the developer’s attorney, Mark Watts of Cobb Cole, was to ask Ajit Nana, senior vice president of Avista, to somehow tone down the color scheme by repainting at least part of the building. 

Avista said no.  

“We asked the developer to compromise and just change the orange to gray, to tone down the colors, and he refused to make any kind of compromise,” Robertson said.

“The current colors were approved and, at this point in the project, it was just too costly to go back and repaint,” Watts explained. “At the next cycle of painting, they’ll work with the city about painting it different colors, as long as they’re Marriott-approved.”

“The good news,” Robertson said, “is the city has already started to put into place new procedures to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

Because the Marriott is in a Downtown DeLand Support District, rather than the Historic District, design elements for the building were reviewed by an architect, not the Historic Preservation Board, Pleus explained. 

Robertson’s discontent extends beyond the new hotel.

“Every new building that has ever been built Downtown (except for City Hall) is inappropriate,” she said. “It’s about time we have something in place to stop that.”

She cited examples: the Bank of America building, formerly home to Barnett Bank, and the old First Federal/Empire of America bank building, which now belongs to Stetson University, which extensively redeveloped the structure to house Lynn Business Center, along with the Checkers restaurant farther south on Woodland Boulevard. 

Though Lynn Business Center was vastly improved by Stetson, Robertson said, both of the bank buildings were inspired by the era in which they were constructed. They didn’t fit in with DeLand’s historic character, she said, and quickly became outdated in an uncharming way.  

“We don’t have a great history of new buildings fitting in with Downtown … and they tore down historic homes to build them,” Robertson said. “There’s no reason it can’t be built to look like an old building. You go into other cities and there’s a McDonald’s, but it’s brick, with a McDonald’s sign.”

She added, “If Winter Garden can do it, DeLand can do it.”

Indeed, Pleus said, the city will be looking to other communities, including Winter Garden, to examine best practices for new construction.

“From there, we’ll decide whether we need to look at larger-scale code changes,” he explained. “We may want to change some standards.”

Though disappointed by the developer’s refusal to repaint, Robertson is encouraged by DeLand’s receptive, proactive response to complaints about the Marriott colors. 

At the meeting with Pleus, City Attorney Darren Elkind, Planning Director Mike Holmes and Community Development Director Rick Werbiskis, Robertson said, she found the wheels already in motion to find solutions.

“They were already working on it,” Robertson said. “Everybody’s on the same page, which is great.”

— Erika Webb, erika@beacononlinenews.com

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