May 21, 2016 – Dinah Voyles Pulver
CONSERVATION LAND CONTROVERSY –
DeBary officials worked to keep details of their plans and negotiations for 102 acres of conservation land under wraps during meetings over the past year, despite their continued insistence the process was transparent.
A review of public records including meeting videos and emails shows city officials discussed people in meetings without mentioning names —names which they still haven’t supplied —and even told a consultant not to bring up the 102 acres at a public workshop on the city’s proposed transit plan last October.
A review of those meetings also may have linked the plan back to the forced resignations a year ago of several high-ranking officials at the St. Johns River Water Management District, the agency that owns the land.
Former Volusia County Councilwoman Pat Northey has been among the critics of the city’s plan to use the conservation land for a transit-oriented development around the SunRail station and about the city’s lack of communication.
“There’s a real lack of transparency by the appointed officials in DeBary and a real lack of interest by the city’s elected officials to question,” said Northey.
Mary Sue Scott, a DeBary resident organizing much of the opposition, has challenged city officials on their statements that their planning process has been transparent.
“Maybe someone who attends all of the city’s workshops and meetings might have caught on to it,” Scott said Friday. But, the snowballing opposition after an April 23 story in The News-Journal that first detailed the plan to use the 102 acres “”kind of tells the whole story,” she said.
“It’s obvious I wasn’t the only one unaware,” she said. “A lot of people were unaware.”
Originally the city had proposed using only about 20 acres of the 950-acre district conservation area known as the Gemini Springs Addition for storing stormwater for the transit development. But by a year ago, the city began exploring using more than 100 acres instead. That plan —to use the land as part of a 300-acre mixed use development near the SunRail station —has infuriated many city residents. [READ MORE]