DeBary’s plans for a downtown by SunRail are about to become a reality

It’s no secret that when SunRail drops visitors off at DeBary, dining and entertainment options within walking distance, with the exception of the Gemini Springs West Trailhead, are limited to non-existent.

And with SunRail set to expand into DeLand, which already has an award-winning Main Street, “why would people stop here?”

The question posed by DeBary City Council member Patricia Stevenson at a meeting this month was fair in one sense but rhetorical in another.

That’s because the board during that same meeting unanimously approved a sixth amendment to its joint marketing agreement, supporting a developer’s letter of intent to purchase and develop just under 20 acres of property under DeBary’s Main Street project.

The proposed purchase price is $6.25 million, which equates to approximately $320,500 per acre.

City officials expect the purchase and sale agreement to be presented to council at its first meeting in March.

Stevenson said she’s thrilled to finally have a developer on board who shares the city’s vision for a downtown.

“We tried to do something good there,” Stevenson said at the Feb. 2 board meeting. “He’s been preparing for a decade; there’s been a lot of baby steps, a lot of misfires.”

“We want to create an environment”

Mosaic Development, LLC’s Letter of Intent proposes to construct approximately 500 apartments with commercial/retail space on the ground floor. The project would be built in two phases and in accordance with DeBary’s main street plans.

The developer is not affiliated with the Mosaic community of Daytona Beach.

Roxanne Amoroso, Mosaic’s senior manager, said they were proposing to build in two phases and one year apart to give the first property time to stabilize and become successful.

Another reason is that lenders generally don’t want to take a chance on more than 300 units at a time, Amoroso said.

Read:Letter of Intent from Mosaic Development LLC to DeBary

Amoroso assured the board that there would be no financial problem.

She said Texas-based Marble Capital has been a funder and joint venture partner with Mosaic on challenging projects, even amid the pandemic.

Amoroso also said that when Mosaic obtains a bank loan, members personally guarantee their own assets.

“Your vision is very compelling to us because you want to create a place where people want to play, they want to live and they want to stay, and I think we could actually be the vehicle to make that happen,” Amoroso says. to the council. “We want to create an environment, not just build apartments.”

The construction of the first phase could potentially start in September and create around 700 jobs.

Over the past eight-plus years, Mosaic has developed about $349 million worth of multi-family, mixed-use projects, Amoroso said.

Board concerns

Council member Bill Sell was the first to share his thoughts on Mosaic and development in the region.

He shared stories of attending meetings before being elected and pushing back development that didn’t fit DeBary’s character.

“I don’t even know what responsible growth is anymore,” Sell said.

He referred to the city’s recent efforts to invest in a sewer system as well as a new fire station.

“We pay for growth,” Sell said. “We’re also going to have more traffic than we ever imagined.”

Amoroso said she and her Mosaic partners would be happy to include clauses in the agreement that they would not buy the property just to resell it.

Vice Mayor Phyllis Butlien and Council Member Jim Pappalardo both expressed hope for the plans and the partnership with Mosaic.

Mayor Karen Chasez said she understands some are cringing at the idea of ​​more people and therefore more traffic, but she feels DeBary is moving forward with plans that make sense.

“This approach to what building around SunRail would be started 12 years ago, and the rights were granted over time,” Chasez said.

Develop a neighborhood

Getting to this point – as several city officials have pointed out – has taken more than a decade.

City Manager Carmen Rosamonda gave council a breakdown of the schedule, which also served as a reminder of items that are not under their control.

In 2010, the Florida Department of Transportation approved SunRail’s transfer to DeBary. Shortly thereafter, the city created the Transit Oriented Development Overlay District, commonly known as TOD.

The TOD includes approximately 216 acres in the Southeast DeBary Future Mixed Use Land Use category. According to the city’s website.

It was around the same time that rights were approved for zoning and future land use and mixed-use development.

“Florida is a property rights state, and once you give rights, they can’t be taken away,” Rosamonda said. “You can try, but you will lose and you will have a big legal bill.”

In May 2016, some transition and concept plans for the area were completed. The city also participated in a property swap of approximately 3 acres to move an industrial business out of TOD and into another part of DeBary.

Around this time, city officials also began to consider developing a community center.

In October 2017, the council approved a development agreement for DeBary’s first major project in the SunRail area, a 289-unit apartment complex dubbed the Integra 289 Exchange.

In September 2018, the city purchased 6 acres at the northwest corner of Fort Florida Road and US 17-92 for $1.1 million.

The following month, council approved the master plan for The Junction – a development contiguous to Integra 289 Exchange – which aims to bring single-family homes, shops and trail connections to the area.

Objection overruled:Volusia Judge Denies Developer’s Request for Action Regarding DeBary’s Development Process

DeBary residents in November 2018 voted in a referendum on a $12.5 million bond for the center. It failed by 70% of the vote.

The city has seen significant leadership changes in the first part of 2019. Three newly elected council members, including Chasez, began their terms in January. Rosamonda arrived as manager in April.

At that time, the concept of the zone was outdated. There were also several landowners without a common vision or master plan.

“Given all of these particular factors, we decided to become more proactive,” Rosamonda said.

The director spent the first few months in his new role working with staff to develop a vision for downtown DeBary. This included the creation of a joint marketing agreement between the owners which was approved in September 2019.

“We wanted to make sure there was quality and consistent development there,” Rosamonda said.

In February 2020, the city established a master plan for the area. City Council that month also issued a six-month moratorium on multi-family developments within TOD to allow staff time to “enforce development standards and minimum mixed-use requirements” and also to ensure the area offers a variety of developments and not just apartment complexes. , according to municipal documents.

In October, council approved an overall development plan for the Main Street vision.

“It’s our obligation as city council and city staff to make sure we’re handling it properly,” Rosamonda said at the Feb. 2 meeting.

A grant of $250,000 will be used to connect the trails as the area continues to develop.

Rosamonda said about 290 townhouses and a few commercial plots are planned for the 32-acre site in the northern part of TOD that is not part of the joint marketing agreement. Construction could start in September.

He said while the aforementioned site owner liked what the joint marketing deal demanded, he wanted to stay independent.

The city manager also pointed out that when DeBary residents can begin driving golf carts on select city roads starting March 1, as long as they have the proper license, they will likely use them to commute. in local restaurants and stores as a TOD. matures.

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