DeBary center task force backs $42K for ‘due diligence’

The DeBary City Council will soon consider shelling out more than $40,000 as plans move forward for a multimillion-dollar community center.

A council-appointed task force recently backed a request to spend an estimated  $42,500 for studies and a deposit on roughly 7 acres next to the DeBary SunRail station.

The council must approve the expenditures for the costs of “due diligence” on the property, which is being considered for a proposed $12.5 million community center.

The land was once the home of Lake Villa Estates. The mobile-home park was cleared after residents were told to leave in 2015.

It has since been considered as a possible home for a proposed taxpayer funded community center because of its location within a key growth zone along U.S. Highway 17-92.

Support expressed

DeBary City Council has expressed support for a center to residents a variety of services, including exercise and gathering opportunities.  But it has not yet scheduled a referendum for voter approval.

Voter approval is needed for the city to issue bonds to raise revenue for the project.

The city estimates the project would cost $1.5 million for the land and an additional $11 million for construction.

The council appointed nine residents to a task force to study the proposal.

In June, the DeBary City Council endorsed a recommendation from the task force to pursue the project, saying the panel should work with city staffers on details and develop a public-education campaign for voters.

DeBary City Council: Sell $12M center to public

On Oct. 11, the Community Center Task Force gathered to consider recommendations from city staffers about initial costs to evaluate the 7-acre property, an alternative parcel near Rob Sullivan Park off Highbanks Road or both.

Task Force Support

The task force stuck with its top pick, the 7-acre parcel, endorsing a recommendation from staff to spend an estimated  $42,500  for standard “due diligence” costs.

“It’s a normal part of doing this,” Interim City Manager Ron McLemore told task force members.  He also noted that if the city won’t lose money if it put money into the land even if voters reject the bond measure. That’s because the value of the land is expected to increase, he said.

The city already owns about 3 acres nearby, another factor cited as a reason to support the 7-acre property.

The expenditures, which must be approved by the City Council, calls for spending:

  • $12,000 for two environmental studies
  • $5,500 for a real estate appraisal and title search
  • $25,000 for a “soft contract” deposit

The City Council is expected to consider the expenditures before the holidays, but an exact date wasn’t immediately available.

Center Vision

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

As proposed, the two-story building would have more than 40,000 square feet of space and 150 parking spaces.

The center’s operation and maintenance cost are estimated at $561,000. Room rental fees and other charges would generate about $250,000, leaving a deficit of about $311,000.

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

TOD’s First Project

The DeBary City Council recently approved the first project since the TOD was approved.

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

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.

That’s north of the SunRail station and the 7-acre parcel.

Construction on Hawthorne Landing could begin in spring 2018 with completion set for summer 2019.

DeBary Community Center

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DeBary gears up to celebrate on Oct. 26.

Sure, you live in DeBary. But does that mean you’re ready to celebrate DeBary? Well, you have a few days to think about it.

The party is 6 p.m. 9 p.m. Thursday,  Oct. 26 at City Hall, Florence K. Little Hall, the old fire station and the new fire station off U.S. Highway 17-92.

“Meet your neighbors and City staff, discover new community organizations, see your City facilities, and learn about the many services provided by the City of DeBary,” a city flier says.

Participants can expect:

  • Fire vs police competitions
  • Police and fire demonstrations
  • Tour city facilities
  • Best kids police/fire costume contest

This is about DeBary taking part in Florida City Government Week 2017, which runs from October 23-29.

“Join Florida’s cities this year in celebrating, showcasing and engaging citizens in the work of municipal government,” the Florida League of Cities said online. “The Florida City Government Week is a time for municipalities to provide and foster civic education, collaboration, volunteerism and more. All cities are encouraged to participate, and the League is here to help you celebrate what makes your city great.”

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Duke Energy slammed by otherwise thankful DeBary Mayor Bob Garcia

DeBary Diner got a shout out for providing free meals to city workers during Hurricane Irma.  Walmart and Winn-Dixie were praised.

Walgreens got attaboys for filling prescriptions during the emergency. Gas stations received thanks for calling DeBary Mayor Bob Garcia about fuel shipments.

But Duke Energy got a failing grade from Garcia.

“I have issues with Duke Energy and how they went about it, ” Garcia said during Wednesday’s council meeting. “Yes, they need a lot of fixing. Yes, they need to turn around and hire more people.”

Florida Power & Light responded within 48 hours and had 98 percent of customers’ power restored after Hurricane Irma, Garcia said.

“Duke Energy took almost nine to 10 days before they turned around and addressed the issue of power in the city of DeBary,” Garcia said.

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DeBary Hurricane Irma debris cleanup at halfway point

Roughly half of the debris from Hurricane Irma has been picked up since the storm hit Florida, DeBary City Council members learned Wednesday.

City contractors have cleared about 30,000 cubic yards of debris — about twice as much as originally expected for the entire job,  Alan Williamson, the city’s director of public works, told city council members.

The debris pickup is expected to continue for another two weeks.

Williamson said the cleanup will cost more than originally expected, though how much more wasn’t immediately clear.

Two weeks ago, the City Council approved a rapid-pickup plan for $540,000, hiring two contractors – Waste Pro and DRC – to pick up from public roads,  as well as from private roads in gated subdivisions.

That plan was approved when the city estimated it had about 15,000 cubic yards to pick up.

The council praised Williamson and other staffers for their hard work before, during and after the storm.

Williamson said the city provided more than 8,000 sandbags to residents before the storm.

Nearly 30 large trees fell and were removed by staffers during Irma, Williamson noted.

He said nearly 12 inches of rain fell during Irma and no homes flooded.

Homes in the River City flooded in 2004 and 2008.

Since then, the city installed $30 million worth of stormwater upgrades.

“Zero flooding, Mr. McLemore,” an appreciative Mayor Bob Garcia told interim City Manager Ron McLemore. “Zero flooding. The system worked.”

Tropical Storm Fay in 2008 dumped close to 24 inches of rain in 24 hours on parts of West Volusia in 2008, overflowing lakes, putting streets underwater and flooding 130 homes in DeBary.

City staffers pledged to try for reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for costs associated with Hurricane Irma debris removal.

FEMA already owes DeBary nearly $400,000 for Hurricane Matthew, which hit Central Florida a year ago.

In other actions Wednesday:

The DeBary City Council gave initial approval to a zoning change for an assisted-living facility.

The 40-foot, three-story Canterwood Manor Assisted Living Facility is planned on nearly 8 acres northeast of U.S. Highway 17-92 and Dirksen Drive.

The 120-bed facility will replace two existing single-family rental homes on property owned by Charles and Saundra Grey of DeBary.

Council members also gave second approval to a 289-unit apartment complex planned on the other side of Dirksen Drive.

Construction on Hawthorne Landing could begin in spring 2018 with completion set for summer 2019.

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.

DeBary assisted-living facility proposed on Dirksen Drive


Another multi-story development – this one an assisted-living facility -is being proposed in DeBary.

The 40-foot, three-story Canterwood Manor Assisted Living Facility is planned on nearly 8 acres northeast of U.S. Highway 17-92 and Dirksen Drive.

That’s across the street from Gemini Springs.

The 120-bed facility would replace two existing single-family rental homes on property owned by Charles and Saundra Grey of DeBary.

Staff support

The DeBary City Council is scheduled to consider the request for the 122,000-square-foot ALF on Wednesday.

Staff planners are recommending approval of the plan, which calls for changing the zoning from residential to commercial.

That makes sense, according to a staff report, because the rentals are currently “isolated from other similar housing stock by surrounding commercial, utilities, or public land uses.”

Using the land for commercial uses “is more compatible than the existing, residential low density,” the report said.

Growth plan

Putting an ALF on that land also fits in with the city’s growth plan, staffers said.

“The proposed ALF meets the intent of the Comprehensive Plan, Commercial/Retail land use classification allowing for higher density housing on the edge of retail areas as a transition to residential uses,” the staff report said.

Nearly two weeks ago, council members approved plans for a larger project south of the proposed ALF.

$25M apartments

That project is a 289-unit apartment complex with an estimated value of $25 million.

Construction on Hawthorne Landing could begin in spring 2018 with completion set for summer 2019.

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 developer is proposing five, 4-story buildings and four, 2-story “carriage” homes.

Costa property

The second reading of an ordinance for the apartment complex is also on Wednesday’s agenda.

The Costa property spans about 68 acres. The apartments are the first phase. Details about the rest of property have not been determined. Though commercial and other non-residential uses have been discussed.

 The 68-acre parcel is part of a roughly 200-acre SunRail-anchored Transit Oriented Development (TOD) district along U.S. Highway 17-92.

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DeBary’s Bret Douglas: ‘We just need more manpower’

A DeBary activist is turning to Facebook to rally support for another community cleanup — this time in Seminole County.

Bret Douglas is trying to get helpers to clean up a woman’s home in Lake Mary at 9 a.m. Saturday.

Douglas, 50, said the woman has had health and other problems and code enforcement is poised to place liens on her property on Washington Avenue.

“Once that happens, man, you could lose your property because you can’t afford to pay their stuff,” Douglas said in a Facebook video.

He is disappointed because not enough people have signed up to help the Lake Mary woman. Her home has been vandalized and burglarized, he said.

“How do you look at suffering and turn your eyes away from it?” Douglas asked. “We just need more manpower.”

The Lake Mary cleanup comes a week after a successful workday in DeBary a property occupied by the mother of Vietnam War hero Charles Richard Beall.

About 40 people showed up to help 88-year-old Arbutus Beall, whose son was killed in Vietnam nearly 50 years ago.

U.S.  Highway 17-92 in DeBary was renamed in her son’s honor in 1996.

“We were blessed for the Charles Richard Beall Day, one of the largest turnouts I’ve ever seen, which was awesome,” Douglas said.

Douglas, who owns a DeBary landscaping firm called Ironclad Landscape Management, has earned a reputation for helping others.

He removes trees, trims limbs and fixes fences. He focuses on helping the elderly, disabled and low-income residents. Volunteers can sign up for Saturday’s cleanup on Facebook.

“We can get this job done in a single day,” he said. “We do this every day.”

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Bears busy bulking up for winter, FWC says

Florida wildlife officers Wednesday confirmed what some DeBary residents already know: Bears are busier than normal these days. Bears are busy bulking up for winter, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. That means your garbage could become a furry intruder’s next meal.

Bears need to pound 20,000 calories a day to prepare for the season.

“As bears become more active in the fall, they take the path of least resistance to find food,” said Dave Telesco, who leads the FWC’s Bear Management Program. “This draws them into neighborhoods and areas with convenient food sources, which can be dangerous for people. While the FWC continues to work with local communities to reduce human-bear conflicts, it is important for Floridians to understand the steps they can take to keep themselves safe.”

The FWC on Wednesday also revealed a new public-service video. The search for food often leads bears across busy roads. The latest installment of the Living with Florida Black Bears reminds drivers to use caution while driving through areas prone to have bears.

“Bears are most active around dusk and dawn, and therefore most vehicle-bear collisions happen during these times of day,” a news release said.

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DeBary Eagle Scout project to honor fallen firefighters

Firefighters who died in the line of duty will be honored at 11 a.m. Saturday during the dedication of a young man’s Eagle Scout project at DeBary’s Memorial Park, 76 Dirksen Drive.

The park, which features an F-15 fighter jet, also honors a DeBary serviceman. DeBary Mayor Bob Garcia urged resident to attend the dedication. The City of DeBary, Orange City Fire Department, and Eagle Scouts want to make sure there is an excellent turnout.

Bob Garcia
Bob Garcia

Brian W. McVeigh was killed June 25, 1996 in a terrorist attack on an apartment building in Saudi Arabia where his squadron was stationed.

McVeigh worked on jets like the one on display in DeBary.

McVeigh, 21, was among the 19 airmen killed in a terrorist bombing of their housing complex in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.

Former U.S. Rep. John Mica secured the plane from the Air Force, and the Saudi Arabian government donated $50,000 to help transport the jet from Arizona.

The plane was recently refurbished. There was a rededication ceremony at 9 a.m. June 14 (Flag Day).

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DeBary approves $25M complex on Costa property


After years of debate and study, a mixed-use development proposed on empty ranch land in southwest DeBary cleared a major hurdle last week.

The DeBary City Council on Wednesday approved 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 could begin in spring 2018 with completion set for summer 2019,  David McDaniel, president of Integra Land Development, told council members.

“I think it will be a first-class project,” City Council member Mike Brady said before the unanimous vote Wednesday.

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 growth in the TOD with special rules designed to ensure high-end, consistent growth.

DeBary Growth Management Director Matt Boerger told City Council members on Wednesday the incentive package was offered because of the potential risk for being the first TOD project.

Vice Mayor Lita Handy-Peters said “all or most of the other SunRail areas have provided either some kind public facilities or financial incentives to encourage development of their TOD areas.”

Boerger said the project would generate $55,000 annually in tax revenue once completed.  Amenities will include a clubhouse, pool,  recreational trails and a water fountain.

Incentives offered

In a report, Boerger said the complex would spark additional development in the zone.  Under the  plan approved by the City Council:

  • $93,000 in park-impact fees are waived for providing such recreational space as trails, a trailhead and other  improvements
  • $30,000 worth of building permit fees are waived
  • $57,000 from the City’s Economic Opportunities Fund will be given to the developer when the  certificate of occupancy for the final building is issued

In response to a question from City Council member Erika Benfield about traffic, Boerger said the Florida Department of Transportation plans to install a traffic light on U.S. 17-92 at Fort Florida Road this time next year.

Timing the light correctly will be important to managing traffic on that section of U.S. 17-92, which will provide access to the complex, she said.

“As far as this project and what we are being asked to approve I think that this is a very positive thing for DeBary. I think that we are in desperate need of homes,” Benfield added.

Bigger plan

The apartments are part of a bigger plan for that area of DeBary.

Earlier this year, DeBary City Council members endorsed a $12.5 million community center proposed for property in the TOD next to the Sunrail station.  Voters must approve the funding and a date for a referendum has not been set.

The TOD has a projected buildout of 25 years.

In all, 2,000 residential units and 400,000 square feet of non-residential space (office, retail, restaurant and general commercial) are planned along U.S. 17-92.

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DeBary OK’s $540K for rapid Hurricane Irma cleanup

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that a $400,000 debris cleanup option would exclude certain roads.

DeBary’s cleanup from Hurricane Irma will get underway today after City Council members approved a rapid-pickup plan for $540,000.

The plan, approved by a unanimous vote, authorizes two contractors –Waste Pro and DRC –to pick up from public roads,  as well as from private roads in gated subdivisions.

“First and foremost,  our job is to secure the health, safety, and welfare of our citizens. That’s our job,” said Vice Mayor Lita Handy- Peters.

Interim City Manager Ron McLemore offered two options for City Council members.

City Council member Stephen Bacon voiced support for a less expensive plan estimated to cost $400,000. But that would take longer to complete.

Handy- Peters said the more expensive option was a “no brainer” because it would remove the potential public safety threat of brush piles faster and more comprehensively.

“You get it done and you get it done quickly and then you figure out how to make it work,” she said.

City staffers pledged to try for reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. But since FEMA already owes DeBary nearly $400,000 for Hurricane Matthew, there isn’t much hope that DeBary will get back its costs for that storm.

Still, McLemore said they would try.

Check out the city’s storm-debris guidelines here.

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