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.”
“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.
“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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