2 DeBary projects offer boost worth $300 million

Two separate DeBary projects recently announced efforts worth millions. One is a subdivision on the St. Johns River. The other is a mixed-use project along U.S. Highway 17-92.

Riviera Bella grows

A recently announced expansion of Riviera Bella will add to the value of the 708-home riverfront subdivision over 20 years. The total value equates to about $300 million in sales.

Riviera Bella upgrades

The DeBary City Council approved a 66-acre expansion for Riviera Bella last year.

The property, located across Fort Florida Road near Konomac Lake, will accommodate an additional 293 single-family homes.

There are only 150 homesites remaining for new homes within the original 415-unit Riviera Bella development, Jerome Henin, president of the Winter Park-based Henin Group,  said in a statement.

“The logical next step is to expand on that success by adding adjacent homesites and more amenities,” he said.

The old and new sections of the subdivision will be joined by an advanced security system. It will have live 24-hour video surveillance and “interactive monitoring at all amenities and at every entrance. ”

A new amenities package includes a $300,000 state-of-the-art splash park with cabana, along with a nature park, nature trails and four playgrounds scattered throughout the new phases.

“In the original Riviera Bella, M/I Homes is currently selling and building new single-family homes on the remaining 150 homesites,” a statement said. “Priced from the high $200s and with some riverfront homes well over 1 million, those homes are expected to be sold out by mid-2019.”

D.R. Horton will build new single-family homes priced from the mid $200s in the new section. “The homebuilder will start its first models and sales will begin during the first quarter of next year in the new extension of Riviera Bella.  Build-out is projected to be complete between 2022 and 2023,” a statement said.

DeBary Town Center

Meanwhile, a nearly $4 million loan was recently announced for  Charles Wayne Properties for the DeBary Town Center, a roughly 68-acre mixed-use project at the southeast corner of Dirksen Drive and U.S. Highway 17-92.

The property, the largest undeveloped parcel within walking distance of any SunRail station in Central Florida, sits within a zone the DeBary City Council has targeted for high-end growth.

Apartments in Town Center

After years of debate and study, the DeBary City Council approved the first project within the DeBary Town Center in September.

Officials backed an incentive package worth $180,000 and a development plan for a 289-unit apartment complex with an estimated value of $25 million.

Construction on Hawthorne Landing (also called Integra 289 Exchange) could begin in spring 2018 with completion set for summer 2019, David McDaniel, president of Integra Land Development, told council members.

TOD zone

Hawthorne Landing (also called Integra 289 Exchange) is planned on 16 acres southeast of U.S. Highway 17-92 and Dirksen Drive on land commonly known as the Costa property.

The property is part of Steve Costa’s 68-acre parcel with frontage along U.S. 17-92. That is part of a 200-acre, SunRail-anchored Transit Oriented Development (TOD) zone.

In recent years, DeBary has laid the groundwork to encourage and manage development in the TOD with special rules designed to ensure high-end, consistent growth.

Development plans include the addition of more than 258,000 square feet of commercial space, according to a news release from Orlando-based First GREEN bank.

Easy-access connectors

“There will also be new, easy-access connection points between the SunRail System and neighboring nature trails,” the statement said. “These additions will help serve and grow DeBary’s population of roughly 20,000 residents by offering new housing, shopping and eco-friendly transportation options.

Plans call for 2,200 residential units of all types, mixed with senior-living facilities and stores, from coffee shops to small groceries, the statement added.

“We are excited to support this project, which will provide the community with a multi-functional area, built to serve both the urban and ecotourist industries,” said Ken LaRoe, founder and chairman of First GREEN Bank. “The area will facilitate more SunRail use, which equates to less carbon emissions, and the area will simultaneously encourage both business development and outdoor recreation. This aligns with our bank’s mission, which supports financially, environmentally and socially responsible initiatives.”

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Tori Otway killed: Teen dies in DeBary rollover crash

Friends and family members shared prayers, sympathy and sorrow after the death of 19-year-old Tori Otway in a single-vehicle rollover crash in DeBary on Sunday.

“Prayers go out to you and your family,” a Facebook user told Otway’s uncle.

The cause of the crash remains under investigation, said Laura Williams, a spokesman for the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office.

The crash investigation closed Shell Road for about nine hours, according to Williams. Orange City Fire Rescue pronounced her dead at the scene.

Otway was ejected from the 2003 Ford Escape SUV she was driving when it landed on its passenger side in parking area at 475. S. Shell Road. That’s in an industrial and commercial area south of the Springview subdivision.

“She was not wearing a seat belt,” Williams said in a statement. Otway was the only occupant.

She graduated from Deltona High School in 2016 and attended Daytona State College, according to her Facebook page.

Public records list her address as Deltona but she had recently been staying with a friend in DeBary.

Williams said Otway drove from the home at 1:10 a.m.

“Investigators said she drove west on Benson Junction, turned onto South Shell Road northbound, and the vehicle left the roadway, struck a curb and re-entered the roadway,” the statement said.

“The vehicle crossed the road and flipped onto its side, then rolled onto its roof in a parking area at 475 S. Shell Road.

 

DeBary eyes 7 acres on U.S. 17-92 for center or investment

DeBary Community Center report

City Council members may soon consider a “soft contract” for roughly 7 acres next to the DeBary SunRail station – an area under intense development pressure.

A majority of council members recently authorized Interim City Manager Ron McLemore to negotiate a contract for the property along U.S. Highway 17-92.

The land, northwest of Fort Florida and U.S. 17-92, has been envisioned as a home for a proposed multimillion-dollar community center.

A soft contract, if approved by the council, would take the property off the market while evaluations, including environmental assessments and appraisals, take place, McLemore said. That due diligence period would last about 120 days.

“You lose nothing by doing this at all,” McLemore told council members. “You’re in control through the whole process.”

The council would also make the final decision on whether to purchase the land, once home for the Lake Villa Estates mobile-home park.

The city also owns about 3.5 acres of adjacent land.

During a City Council meeting Nov. 15, McLemore said it was important for the city to buy the 7 acres because of mounting development pressure.

McLemore: Control Property

McLemore said a representative for the landowner has told the city in “no uncertain terms” that the property will be sold to the highest bidder and “they don’t care what goes on it.”

Ron McLemore
Ron McLemore

“We have the opportunity to buy the property, create what’s going to happen on that property to what we want, and turn around and sell the property if we don’t get approval… on the community center and probably make a half million dollars on it,” McLemore. “That is a key piece of property and what puts us in the power position is we will control the stormwater. Who controls the stormwater controls the development on that whole side of the road.”

The land sits inside a roughly 200-acre transit-oriented district (TOD) targeted for a mix of uses, including residential and commercial.

DeBary community center support

In June, the DeBary City Council blessed a task-force recommendation to put a roughly 43,500 square-foot, publicly financed community center on the land if approved by voters.

A date for voter approval has not been set.

Mike Brady
Mike Brady

“I’m still of the opinion that the [7 acres in the] TOD is the best choice in term of synergy for further development, for future development. I just think it’s a natural choice,” said City Council member Mike Brady.

“If we wait until after the results of the referendum and, assuming that they’re positive, you run the risk of inflated prices or not having any land adjacent or even at all near our existing three and a half acres,” he added.

The construction has been estimated to cost $11 million with another $1.5 million for the land.

Center supporters say the facility is needed to provide a common gathering space in DeBary.

The vision for the center calls for an indoor running track, workout room, kitchen, meeting rooms and other amenities.

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DeBary fireworks: Who will run Fourth of July festival?

Amid liability and other concerns, DeBary is entering the market for a big party planner – someone to run the city’s annual Fourth of July festival.

At a recent meeting, a majority of DeBary City Council members told staffers to solicit requests for qualifications from entities interested in running the show at Gemini Springs.

Since 2011, a nonprofit, Community Partnership Program Inc. (CPPI), has managed the daylong event, which draws 7,000 to 10,000 attendees from across Central Florida.

But an incident at the last party – a burst of profanity-laced music just before the fireworks display – prompted city officials to review their relationship with CPPI.

DeBary Fourth of July festival

They realized they had no official agreement with CPPI, even though DeBary contributes thousands for the cost of fireworks, security, and staffing.

Last year, for example, the city’s cost was about $35,000 but it lacks a written agreement with CCPI.

Interim City Manager Ron McLemore has described it as “handshake” agreement that left responsibilities unclear and exposed the city to certain liabilities.

As a result, the city council authorized  McLemore to work with CPPI president Phyllis Butlien to develop a proposal to run the show. The event funds a CCPI scholarship.

Recently, though, some city officials asked McLemore for other options, including seeking proposals from other entities. That’s what the City Council, in a 4-1 vote, agreed to do Wednesday, November 15.

CPPI still has the option of submitting a proposal through what is called the request for qualifications process.

‘F-bombs’ at DeBary Festival

City Council member Stephen Bacon cast the lone dissenting vote.

“I think Phyllis, as far as I understand, has done a good job,” Bacon said. “She loves the city, so why work so hard to try to replace her? I there’s a  real injustice in the overall idea.”

Council member Erika Benfield reiterated her concerns about the DJ playing briefly music with “f-bombs.”

“Thank goodness it didn’t cause an uproar,” she said. She also said a young lady got hurt in a golf-cart incident in 2015.

Erika Benfield
Erika Benfield

“She fell off the golf cart and she was dragged for several feet,” Benfield said, underscoring her liability concerns.

“At the end of the day, if someone gets hurt or something goes wrong, I feel very certain the city is going to responsible. They are going to be in a lawsuit,” Benfield said.

Butlien: ‘I don’t know what’s wrong…’

Butlien told council members the event has been growing in popularity and quality over the years and she didn’t understand why DeBary wants to explore other options.

“I don’t know what is wrong with the event,” Butlien said.  “So if I knew what was wrong, I could fix it. I don’t know what the city is looking for because, like I said, it’s only been a success every year.”

Mike Brady
Mike Brady

Council member Mike Brady said the city needs to have a more “definitive agreement” with the party planner and more control over and what those “deliverables” are. DeBary could just do it without an outside provider, but that would automatically exclude CPPI. So Brady said seeking requests for qualifications would allow the nonprofit to participate in the competition.

“I think that’s the best route for the city,” Brady said.

Handy-Peters: ‘Nothing against CCPI’

Vice Mayor Lita Handy-Peters also noted that CPPI could participate in the request for qualifications (RFQ) process and it’s important to have an agreement with defined responsibilities.

Lita Handy-Peters
Lita Handy-Peters

“It’s a written proposal. It’s the norm and it’s not an exception and I guess, to me, it just clarifies things,” she said. “So just for clarity, I am more comfortable with an RFQ process. Nothing against CCPI. Just — let’s just clean it up.”

McLemore said the city won’t know what kind of response it will get until it goes out to the marketplace. It might even find a party planner who might share the proceeds with the city, he said.

And specific responsibilities need to be spelled out in the contract, the manager said.

Resident:  ‘It’s not broke’

During public participation, resident Howard Gates encouraged council members to maintain their relationship with CCPI. After all, he noted, the city has eliminated citizen advisory roles in recent years.

“I’ve never heard one negative thing about the fireworks,” Gates said. “It’s not broke. Don’t fix it.”

Another DeBary resident, Mort Culligan, a frequent critic of local governments, reiterated his position the city shouldn’t be paying for fireworks.

“This fireworks event is a classic case of good taxpayer money going up in smoke. We don’t need this. We have 12 parks, we have an arts center we have splash pads. This city’s not a cruise ship. We don’t need this.”

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DeBary murder suspect Anton Sanders left hateful message, report said

The Sanford man accused of fatally stabbing a DeBary woman in her home left behind a profanity-laced message on his ex-girlfriend’s answering machine, a new document shows.

Anton Sanders, 45, is being held without bond in the Volusia County Branch Jail in Daytona Beach on a charge of first-degree murder.

The ex-boyfriend is accused of killing 51-year Lisa Bresie in her home on Lantana Drive.

In his arrest affidavit, released this week, deputies said they found her body and spotted multiple stab wounds while conducting a well-being check. They also found a message from Sanders on her answering machine, the affidavit said.

It was mostly profanity.

A family member and a friend told deputies Sanders had abused Bresie in the past and they broke up sometime this summer. They had not seen her since Nov. 1 and were concerned about her safety.

Sanders was with her vehicle when the Florida Highway Patrol responded to a report of an impaired man showing signs of distress along Interstate 275 in Pinellas County on Thursday, the Sheriff’s Office said.

He had her blood-spattered Hyundai and the keys to her vehicle.

Sanders, also wearing blood-stained clothing, tried to throw himself over a wall that separated the highway from the water below during questioning by the Florida Highway Patrol.

He was transported to a hospital in St. Petersburg as a precaution.

“Sanders was transported to a local hospital for medical evaluation and subsequently admitted to the hospital due to a high amount of cocaine in this body,” a report released this week said

During an interview with officers at the hospital on Nov. 6, he admitted they were no longer a couple but said she would let him drive her car on times.

The Volusia County Sheriff’s Office on Monday said a fingerprint found in blood inside the house came back as a match to Sanders.

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Christopher Langer’s dad in 2011: “My son is a drug addict”

Six years ago, when his son was facing a possible prison sentence for drug-trafficking charges, Scott Langer of DeBary appealed to a judge for leniency.

“My son is a drug addict,” the elder Langer said of then 24-year-old Christopher Langer. “He is a new father, and he has a good heart. He is not a violent person, and would not hurt a flea. But he is a drug addict.”

Christopher Langer, now 31, remains at the Volusia County Branch Jail in Daytona Beach as an investigation continues into the explosives and containers of bodily fluids found in the house he shares with his parents in Saxon Woods.

Mass Destruction

Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood told TV reporters that Langer was building a weapon of mass destruction and wanted to harm first responders.

Langer rigged a SpongeBob SquarePants lunch box as a booby trap in the backyard, Chitwood said.

Investigators also found a metal pineapple-style grenade with a paperclip in place to hold the lever and keep it from exploding.

They also found a booby-trap in the backyard covered by a toy.

Chitwood said Langer has been involuntarily committed four times under the state’s Baker Act. He described the suspect as an anti-government heroin addict.

Two weeks ago, deputies responded to the same home and administered two antidotes after Langer overdosed on heroin.

Domestic Disturbance

A domestic disturbance that started Sunday led to the discovery of an array of potentially explosive devices and substances, prompting a bomb squad response that lasted through the night and into Monday morning.

Volusia County sheriff’s deputies, detectives, Hazmat units from Volusia County and Deltona fire departments and members of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms responded.

Deputies arrived at 124 Bradwick Circle around 4:11 p.m. Sunday in response to an argument between Langer and his parents. During the argument, an intoxicated Langer told his parents he had put an explosive substance inside a grenade.

Langer initially denied the grenade existed. But then he acknowledged he had thrown it outside, showing it to the deputy. The deputy found a metal pineapple-style grenade with a paperclip in place to hold the lever and keep it from exploding.

Deputies evacuated the house and began an investigation and obtained a search warrant. About 200 containers were found in the house containing unknown powders, acids and other materials.

Many of them (about 79) have been placed into a containment area, and many have been determined not to be bomb-making materials but bodily fluids.

A bomb robot used to examine a hole in the back yard discovered a small explosive device, and a second possible explosive device was found in a lunchbox.

Some neighboring homes in the area were evacuated in the initial stages of the call, but those residents returned to their homes Sunday evening.

Back in Jail

Langer has been charged with making/possessing a destructive device and was transported to the Volusia County Branch Jail, where he was being held Sunday morning on $5,000 bail. (Note: that bail was later revoked by a judge.)

Two additional charges stemming from an August case involving Langer were added. He is accused of stealing a laptop and generator from his father and pawning the items for drug money. The additional pre-trial release charges are for grand theft and dealing in stolen property.

In April 2011, he entered no-contest pleas to charges of attempting to obtain controlled substance by fraud and possession of Scheduled II substance. Both are third-degree felonies.

He was placed on two years drug offender probation and ordered to complete a treatment diversion program. He was discharged from the program after two months for drinking alcohol.  He was also back into the program and completed it in October 2012.

A judge terminated his probation that month.

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Grenade, bodily fluids found, man arrested in DeBary’ Saxon Woods

A grenade, other explosive devices and containers of bodily fluids were found in a home in DeBary’s Saxon Woods subdivision, deputies said this morning.

Christopher S. Langer, 31, was arrested after a dispute with his parents at 124 Bradwick Circle, where responding deputies found a grenade in the backyard.

An intoxicated Langer told his parents he had put an explosive substance inside a grenade, according to Sheriff’s Office spokesman Andrew Gant.

“Langer initially denied the grenade existed when a responding deputy asked him about it. But then he acknowledged he had thrown it outside, and he offered to show the deputy where it was,”
“Upon searching the area, the deputy found a metal pineapple-style grenade with a paperclip in place to hold the lever and keep it from exploding.”

These agencies responded an remained on scene as of 5:30 a.m. Monday, 13 hours after the original call.

  • Volusia County sheriff’s deputies and detectives
  • Hazmat units from Volusia County and Deltona fire departments embers of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms

“Deputies evacuated the house and began an investigation that continues at this time. A search warrant resulted in the discovery of an estimated 200 containers inside the house containing unknown powders, acids and other materials,” Gant wrote.  “Many of them (about 79 as of this writing) have been placed into a containment area, and many have been determined not to be bomb-making materials but bodily fluids.”

A bomb robot found:

  • a small explosive device
  • a second possible explosive device was found in a SpongeBob SquarePants lunchbox.

“Some neighboring homes in the area were evacuated in the initial stages of the call, but those residents returned to their homes Sunday evening,” Gant said.

The suspect:

  • was charged with making/possessing a destructive device.
  • was transported to the Volusia County Branch Jail, where he was being held Sunday morning on $5,000 bail. ( A judge later revoked his bond)
  • faces additional charges pending the outcome of the investigation

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Bridge closure infuriates U.S. 17-92 motorists

Central Florida drivers were left furious and confused during rush hour on Friday after the northbound lanes of U.S. Highway 17-92 were closed in DeBary.

The closure, which ends Monday morning, is affecting the bridge over the St. Johns River and a section of the highway between Sanford and DeBary.

The $3 million project is preparation for a multi-use trail on the bridge and to resurface U.S. 17-92 between the river and Dirksen Drive.

Facebook complaints

Drivers took to Facebook on Friday, blasting everything from the project itself to detour signs providing bad directions.

“The signs are inaccurate, and I just spent an hour getting to a detour that spit me back to where I started,”  Tim Kearney said on DeBary Proud!’s Facebook page. “That’s just poor planning, and a failure. Whoever approved this execution plan should lose their job, or their office. I’d love to find out the details of how I can complain.”

The Florida Department of Transportation announced the project last month, then made adjustments, including delaying the start date from Oct. 31 to Nov. 10. It originally said both lanes were closed. Then it said only northbound lanes would be blocked.

Lane closures

The northbound lanes closed at 6 a.m. Friday, Nov. 10.

The lanes will reopen by 6 a.m. Monday, Nov. 13.

“The St. Johns River Bridge will have barrier wall removed to accommodate the future 10-foot wide multiuse Spring-to-Spring trail,” the Florida DOT said in an email.  “Electronic message boards have been installed to inform motorists about the road closure, and detour signs will direct traffic.”

‘Necessary Evil’

Some Volusia County drivers said they didn’t know about the closure before going to Seminole County on Friday.

Taco delivery

One DeBary woman ordered a taco delivered to her while she was stuck in traffic on State Road 46 in Sanford.

Returning to southwest Volusia took hours for some people Friday night.

One woman said it took her three hours to get home.

On the You Live in DeBary page, Prissy Cris said: “It is terrible that such a heavily used route is closed. I believe it’s a necessary evil. What they are doing is very important for the structure and postponing it or not doing it at all would be endangering those who use the bridge.”

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N.B. U.S. 17-92 closing for three days

DeBary residents: Get ready for some traffic hassles. The northbound lanes of U.S. Highway 17-92 are closing for three days starting at 6 a.m. Friday, Nov. 10.

The closure will keep traffic off U.S. 17-92 from the St. Johns River Bridge in Sanford to Dirksen Drive in DeBary.  The lanes will reopen by 6 a.m. Monday, Nov. 13.

  • Northbound traffic – from Sanford to DeBary  — will be detoured
  • Southbound traffic – from DeBary to Sanford — will be unaffected

Work will include:

  • U.S. 17-92 Dirksen Drive to the St. Johns River Bridge in DeBary will be resurfaced as part of regular maintenance and resurfacing schedules
  • The St. Johns River Bridge will have barrier wall removed to accommodate the future 10-foot wide multiuse Spring-to-Spring trail

Electronic message boards have been installed to inform motorists about the road closure, and detour signs will direct traffic.

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DeBary murder suspect Anton L. Sanders jailed in Volusia

A 45-year-old Sanford man returned to Volusia County today after being charged in the slaying of his ex-girlfriend, a DeBary woman.

Anton Sanders is being held without bond in the Volusia County Branch Jail in Daytona Beach on a charge of first-degree murder.

Sanders is accused of fatally stabbing Lisa Bresie in her home on Lantana Drive.

The Volusia County Sheriff’s Office on Monday said a fingerprint found in blood inside the house came back as a match to Sanders.

Blood in car

Sanders was with Bresie’s vehicle when the Florida Highway Patrol responded to a report of an impaired man showing signs of distress along Interstate 275 in Pinellas County on Thursday, the Sheriff’s Office said.

“A trooper noticed blood in the vehicle,” Sheriff’s Office spokesman Andrew Gant said in a statement. “Sanders’ clothing was later confirmed to have blood on it. While troopers and medical personnel were on scene, Sanders tried to throw himself over a wall that separated the highway from the water below. He was transported to a hospital in St. Petersburg.”

He was being held in the Pinellas County Jail before he was taken to Volusia’s lockup today.

Found dead

Bresie was found dead in her home on Lantana Drive on Sunday while deputies were conducting a well-being check.

She suffered multiple stab wounds and large amounts of blood were found in the home.

“She was found deceased when deputies entered the home using a key provided by a family member,” Gant said.

A Facebook page under Bresie’s name offered these details:

She was single, worked at 21st Century Auto Insurance, studied at Seminole State College of Florida and was from Tomahawk, Wisconsin.

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