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Ormond Beach Observer Tuesday, Apr. 27, 2021 1 year ago

4 letters: The Loop, the church and federal stimulus dollars

Also, former mayoral candidate voices concerns about submerged parcel.
by: Guest Writer

Saving the Loop

Dear Editor:

An environmental storm has been taking place in the past few years that has caused a lot of people to sit up and take notice. 

Called "Save the Loop," this powerful grassroots movement helped protect one of the most historic pieces of land in Ormond Beach. Joining the fight is an organization called "Defend the Loop." Together, these two organizations formed a coalition of environmentalists and other concerned citizens who have worked tirelessly with every tool they had to preserve the Loop and keep whatever land remains intact.

Churning the controversy on this hot topic is and was a local developer whose goal to build a 1,577 residential community that also included a golf course and 76 homes, the latter which would have been located in a 36-acre section fronting the Loop. This land has remained virtually untouched for hundreds of years. The section in question was owned by the developer himself, who in 2002, secured approval from the Volusia County Council to develop a large swath of this scenic, one-of-a-kind treasure in Ormond Beach

In an odd twist of fate, the Ormond Beach City Commission opted to defer the final decision to the County, where upon the developer's "dream village" — Plantation Oaks — became a reality.

Ostensibly, this in-the-middle-of-nowhere development was approved partly because it would provide additional tax revenue, thereby benefiting both the County and the City of Ormond.  Thus a green light to go forward.

In the years following that lame decision, a group of environmentally-conscious individuals and concerned citizens began an arduous uphill battle to save the Loop.  The effort turned out to be worthwhile. 

In January 2021, the owner-developer offered to sell his 36 acres to the county of Volusia, giving the Council 90 days to respond. The price: $988,000. 

On April 20, the Volusia County Council, in a unanimous 6-0 decision, voted to uphold the integrity of the beautiful landscape we call "The Loop." Their decisive vote sent a strong message to other would-be developers who may have an eye on this fragile pristine part of old Florida.

Many congratulations are due to the County Council for honoring their commitment and standing with the people in this critical decision to help preserve an irreplaceable piece of local history.  

Kudos to the County Council!

Cathy Wharton

Ormond Beach

How to use stimulus dollars

Dear Editor:

Regarding the $18 million in federal stimulus money that Ormond Beach receives, any joy in celebrating this economic windfall must be tempered with concern about how our city government will proceed in allocating these funds. Will our citizens have opportunities for input in the spending decisions?

Clearly our small businesses could benefit from grant programs to help them survive. Perhaps a bonus program could be created to boost the hiring of first responders, filling positions that have been vacant for months. And new money could strengthen our city programs for seniors. A significant donation to the local food bank would create exponential benefits for struggling families and individuals.

Strong citizen mandates still exist, as they have for decades, to preserve city history, environment, and trees. Funds could be invested in the few historic buildings we have left and to respond to current public petitions to purchase and preserve environmentally sensitive lands. Stormwater and infrastructure projects could be accelerated. And the city employees who serve and protect us would certainly appreciate a bonus check.

The city could purchase and restore the Tomoka Oaks Golf Course to compensate for the lost Riverbend Golf Course. Such an acquisition would preserve the aesthetic and environmental integrity of our beautiful Tomoka Oaks subdivision. The clubhouse could serve as an adjunct center for seniors or for the leisure services department. Leaseholders are out there to form a public-private partnership to operate the course.

Lastly, we need more beachfront parking. We’re the only city that had to vote to tax ourselves to build Andy Romano Park. The lot at Seminole approach has been vacant 15 years.

Ken and Julie Sipes

Ormond Beach

Preserving 56 N. Beach St.

This letter concerns the article in this weeks’ Observer entitled, “MainStreet seeks to save church building.” I am both a longtime member of the Ormond Beach MainStreet Board and the president of the Board of Directors of the Ormond Beach Arts District. At its meeting this week, the Arts District Board unanimously voted to support Ormond MainStreet’s request that the city pause any plans for demolition of 56 N. Beach St. for at least the next six months and spend a minimal amount to render the building water-tight and de-humidified, allowing for alternative uses for the property to be explored.

The mission of the Ormond Beach Arts District is to enhance arts and culture in Historic Ormond Beach. This extends to preserving buildings of architectural significance. In addition to occupying an historic property, the church, which dates from 1960 according to the cornerstone, is a fine example of Mid-Century Modern architecture. Mid-Century Modern is a significant design movement recognized worldwide that is worth preserving for future generations. Due to its age and architectural style, the building is potentially eligible for historic designation and possible funding opportunities for renovation. Preservation and re-purposing of this building is an important opportunity for our burgeoning downtown. 

It would add a new architectural style to the Ormond Beach collection of notable buildings such as the Casements, the Anderson-Price Building, and the MacDonald House — all of which were saved from the wrecking ball by community action. It is the kind of project that makes small cities like ours interesting and attractive to visitors as well as lively for residents.  

Anyone who is interested in saving the building from demolition is encouraged to contact the Ormond Beach City Commissioners and or write to us at [email protected]. This issue is expected to come before the City Commission at their next meeting on May 4, so time is of the essence.

Judith Stein

Ormond Beach

I have an ocean-front lot in Montana to sell you

Dear Editor:

It was a shock to learn in the Observer’s March 23 edition that developers have purchased 0.87 acres of submerged land in the Halifax River adjacent to Cassen Park, and that they now want to lease or sell it for a ten-fold profit for commercial development. Selling submerged land rights... It reminds me of an old joke I heard as a kid: "I have an ocean-front lot in Montana to sell you."

But, to my Ormond Beach citizens, friends and neighbors I submit that this is no joke. What happened to the city of Ormond Beach’s Land Development Code requiring all land on the Halifax River to be single family homes or public park with access to the river? This code prevailed when a restaurant was proposed for Fortunato Park in 1996, and a dozen years later when the City Commission came close to approving a restaurant and retail-office building for Bailey Riverbridge Gardens, with the historic church moved to make way for the commercial development.

Cassen Park has already been somewhat commercialized with the million-dollar floating boat dock and now plans for a $900,000 bait house. How much parking will be sacrificed? How could the submerged land ever be approved for development? Have the submerged land buyers already secured approval from the Florida state agencies having jurisdiction over the river? So many questions, but the overriding concern is for our small city quality of life.

During an Ormond Beach mayoral campaign, a locally prominent individual shared with me his analysis of what distinguishes Ormond Beach from other local cities. He said: “Ormond Beach has character, has class, and has history.”

And so, to my fellow citizens and elected City Commissioners, let’s not forget our history, our city code, and let’s not abdicate our small city character and class by subjecting our Halifax River waterfront submerged lands to commercial development.

Rob Bridger

Ormond Beach

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