A new development tentatively approved by DeLand officials could see suburbia stretch farther east in DeLand than ever before.
An applicant has asked the City Commission for permission to put some 450 single-family homes on a site north of Victoria Park, stretching from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Beltway to County Road 4139/Summit Avenue.
But traffic is a concern. The project, dubbed Park Lake Estates, along with new homes being built around Victoria Park and other neighborhoods in the pipeline, like the 500-plus-home Reserve at Victoria, could choke an already-congested road network in eastern DeLand.
DeLand Planning Director Mike Holmes gave an overview of the project at a recent DeLand City Commission meeting.
“They’re proposing a maximum of 450 lots out there, mixed between 40- and 50-foot-wide lots,” he said. “They are proposing some 65 [-foot-wide lots] along the shoreline of Lake Diamond up there, as well.”
Holmes said city staff is hoping for several changes to the proposal.
“What we’re asking for is, near Lake Moore, to add 65-foot-wide lots that front along that lake as well, for the same purposes, to kind of help protect the water quality of our water bodies around there,” he said. “We’re also looking for a slight reduction in the 40-foot-wide lots.”
Among other things, the city also said it wanted to make sure mass grading of the area would take place on a phase-by-phase basis, not all at once on the 198-acre parcel of land.
The land is currently zoned for a dormant planned-development known as Royal Oaks, proposed before the Great Recession hit.
The developers propose 164 lots at a 40-foot width, and 259 lots that are 50 feet wide.
The proposal as it was initially presented to city commissioners proved divisive when it went earlier to the DeLand Planning Board. The Planning Board had a 3-3 tie vote, with one member absent.
The Planning Board typically makes recommendations on new developments and requests for zoning and land-use changes before such requests make their way to the City Commission.
In this case, no recommendation was issued.
The Planning Board’s concerns stemmed from the number of small lots, and the fact that the project wouldn’t be clearly timed along with the Beresford Avenue extension.
A portion of the long-planned Beresford Avenue extension would run through Park Lake Estates, from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Beltway to County Road 4139, near Daytona State College’s DeLand campus and State Road 44.
Without that extension, much of the development’s traffic could spill north up the beltway and onto State Road 44, which is already often at a standstill during rush hour.
The Beresford extension was on the list of projects that a half-cent sales tax for infrastructure would have funded, but the new levy failed in a mail-in referendum earlier this year.
“What happens out there, I’m sure you’re aware of all the tie-ups you have up there with just regular traffic,” Holmes said. “If there’s an accident, there’s really no way to get people around the Kepler and 44 intersection.”
The entirety of the Beresford Avenue extension segment between MLK and County Road 4139 wouldn’t run through the project, but the plan shown to the City Commission pictured an internal road stretching between the two main roads, which Holmes said the city would want to see constructed “fairly early on” in the project.
Mark Watts, an attorney with Cobb Cole representing Cap 5 Development, along with planner Geoff McNeill of consulting firm AGMCi, said that the development makes sense in context.
“Basically, here we are at the center of the gateway of the City of DeLand under your 2050 plan,” McNeill said.
McNeill pointed out that the northern portion of Victoria Park already has 40-, 50- and 60-foot-wide lots.
“When you go into the big picture, this is flanked by a road network,” he said.
In fact, he said, some elements of the Park Lake Estates plan, such as built-in green spaces, “begin to mirror, in my view, what you’ve done in historic DeLand.”
The plan for the neighborhood includes four neighborhood parks, three of which would be lakefront, along with a central recreational facility.
McNeill also touted the neighborhood’s proposed connection between MLK and County Road 4139.
“This is the first project that really creates an east-west access — and I’ll say, it creates two east-west access opportunities with the Beresford Extension — that become parallel relievers to State Road 44,” McNeill said.
Meanwhile, Watts reminded commissioners what DeLand had previously planned for in its 2050 Vision Plan, which the city is currently in the process of updating.
“I know we always struggle with this discussion of density, but … we are planning for 22,000 additional residential units in the DeLand area by 2050. For every unit you move from one location, you have to put it in another location,” Watts said.
Since the project went before the Planning Board, Watts said, he and his team have addressed concerns about mass grading and the timing of the construction of the Beresford Avenue extension throughout the project.
He also said his client would agree to construct the internal east-west “spine” road that would connect MLK and 4139 within five years of any plat approval.
Timing the improvements
Former Vice Mayor Leigh Matusick was the sole public speaker at the hearing.
“My main concern is the traffic,” she said.
She said there had been several previous false starts when it came to Volusia County helping pay for improvements near Kepler Road and State Road 44, but the end result has been more and more development on DeLand’s east side, with no improvements actually being made.
Being a county road, Volusia County would need to construct much of the Beresford Avenue extension, but Matusick pointed out that the county has moved impact-fee money away from projects near DeLand and used them for other purposes.
“There’s nothing in there … that can actually make the county do that, and that is my main concern,” she said. “The county can say that they have the impact-fee money, that they’ll put it on their list, and then the money gets moved.”
City Attorney Darren Elkind said the city would be getting assurances from the county, through an agreement the County Council would have to approve, to pony up the money for necessary parts of the Beresford Avenue extension.
County Engineer Tadd Kasbeer said, at one point, the plan was for Volusia County to construct the Beresford Avenue extension segment between Blue Lake Avenue and MLK, while the Florida Department of Transportation would construct the eastern segment to provide an alternative to State Road 44.
The state instead decided to use its money to build a roundabout to improve traffic at the State Road 44/Kepler Road intersection, Kasbeer said.
Now, the county is working with the city and developers of projects like Park Lake Estates and The Reserve at Victoria to get the extension constructed.
Other proposed development in the vicinity that would add to the already-existing traffic issues would also have to contribute money to road improvements, Kasbeer said.
“With [State Road] 44 being the only road through there, all of the traffic has to use it, and since it basically fails with all the additional traffic on it, the developers have to pay to offset that,” he said.
But timing is key.
“The trouble that we’ve gotten into is that oftentimes, the impact comes before the improvements are built,” Kasbeer added.
Ultimately, despite concerns, Commissioner Chris Cloudman moved to approve the land-use change and rezoning needed for the Park Lake Estates project, subject to the developer addressing city staff and commissioners’ concerns before it comes up again. The motion passed unanimously.
Rezonings and land-use changes require two votes. The project, in a revised form, will come back before the DeLand City Commission at a yet-to-be-determined date.