Managing our coming growth is going to be vital so that the new growth does not degrade our standard of living, and the public safety. We already have about 1200 new homes approved, and many more are in the planning stages. We need to work with the county to change the impact fee structure to make sure the new development pays a larger share of the costs for expanding essential services.
We need to ramp up efforts to complete all of the pending storm water projects that will prevent homes and roads from flooding during the rainy season. We are currently renting pumps and have spent $30,000 so far this summer to pump down lakes in order to be prepared for a potential hurricane or tropical storm. We need the permanent solution in place now.
We need the county to revamp the impact fees for new homes and development. Our current tax rate is low thanks to two power plants here in town, and a pending addition to one will increase their contribution to our revenue. I want to keep our tax rate the lowest in the county, but if impact fees are not changed, we will not be able to do that. Growth is coming to our area, there is no stopping that. We need to be diligent in making developments follow our Land Development Code and strengthen that code to our advantage. If we develop the right way, then the tax revenue from this growth will add more to the base than existing homes will need to.
The existing "downtown" area is a mix of many older and a few newer buildings. Revitalizing this area will prove to be difficult unless property becomes much more valuable, giving people the incentive to spend the money to remodel. If the county were to pass the 1/2 cent sales tax they were discussing, then the city could afford to take on some projects such as moving some power lines below ground, and adding some median planters to create a better feel through this strip of downtown. The only other way this gets any traction is if the city creates a CRA to fund the improvements, and I do not see much in the way of support for a venture like that.
I do not think there are many residents that want to transition from a well and septic tank system to having city water and sewer, including the bill that it will bring each month. All of the benefits of getting rid of the septic tanks to the long term health of our environment and water supply is well documented, and a worthwhile endeavor. The problem is the cost. Early estimates were put at about $27,000 per house to make this switch, about $50 Million total. Many residents will struggle to afford the $100 or more additional bill each month for service, much less the cost of construction. The state will have to provide the bulk if not all the construction funding to make this switch to sewer something the residents of DeBary can afford.
I believe the most growth to come is going to be in the southwest corner of the city along Ft Florida rd., and also along the highway in the TOD area. Dirksen Dr., which is a county road, will need to be widened to 4 lanes, and I believe the county is looking at maps to determine the land needed to make this happen. Lengthening of the turn lanes to and from Dirksen onto 17-92 will help also.
The addition of a traffic light at Ft Florida is already in the works, due to be installed within a year, will help get traffic onto the highway going either north or south from this area.
The two most important issues facing DeBary are our infrastructure, and the upcoming developments around the train station. Regarding Infrastructure, I would make funding a priority for essentials like roads and storm water management over unnecessary “wants”. As to the upcoming development, I would like to see us maintain our green space and small town feel while attracting business and commercial investments around the train station to give us a recognizable town center.
Our City relies heavily on the power plants for our tax base, but also impact fees from the county. We will need to request the school board to provide new schools, and file for state grants to meet the “clean water” mandate.
Approval has already been granted for new homes near the train station, and business I expect will be interested on moving in the area shortly after. Connecting the new development with our trails, parks, and the train station will also support ecotourism to attract additional commercial and business investment. Incentives for businesses to remodel existing vacant buildings could also be considered.
We will need to apply for grants and state funding sources to make any potential “clean water” conversion more affordable.
The highway (17/92) is managed by FDOT, but the city has the option to use impact fees and traffic studies to improve the flow on side streets. Additional monitoring of 17/92 and traffic impacts should be regularly reported to FDOT for evaluating the addition of any traffic calming devices