While there are parcels of land still available for development along the Loop, the chances of development are low according to the county.
With a petition to "save the Loop from deforestation" still floating around and a City Commission meeting scheduled later this month to discuss amendments to the Plantation Oaks development order, should residents be concerned that the Loop — a coastal scenic highway road system spanning over 30 miles to the north — could lose its natural beauty due to more development in the near future?
The short answer is no. The chances of new development happening along Old Dixie Highway, Walter Boardman Lane, High Bridge Road or John Anderson Drive are low, said Clay Ervin, Volusia County director of growth and resource management. There are parcels of land along those roads, and some are privately owned, but the majority of the land belongs to the state.
“Some of these parcels have the capability of being developed, but the probability of them being developed is very, very slight because they do not have dedicated public access to Old Dixie Highway and they are basically within some conservation areas we would be looking at," Ervin said.
Many of the parcels, particularly the ones scattered along Old Dixie Highway before Plantation Oaks Boulevard, are not contiguous and are relatively small. If the owners of one of those parcels decided to build a house on that land, getting a building permit would not be an easy process, Ervin explained.
“They’re soaking wet," he said. "There’s no paved access. These really have an extremely, extremely low potential for development.”
The largest adjacent parcels are about 35 and 14 acres respectively, and are located between Plantation Oaks and Halifax Plantation. They are owned by John Collins, one of the original developers of Halifax Plantation. Ervin said there are no plans for that land.
Obtaining a designation
In the early 2000s, the "Save the Loop" group emerged due to concerns about the intensity of Halifax Plantation. The grassroots effort accomplished reduced development and a greater natural buffer along Old Dixie Highway, said Joe Jaynes, chairman of the Ormond Scenic Loop and Trail Scenic Byway corridor management entity board.
The group was also instrumental in the removal of 407 acres of land from the National Gardens Development of Regional Impact — approved by the county in 1986 and allowing for 3,930 residential units on 2,009 acres, from which both Ormond Lakes and Halifax Plantation were born. The land was donated to Tomoka State Park, said Jaynes, who also served on the Volusia County Council representing District 4 from 1999-2004.
In 2005, the group found out about the Department of Transportation's scenic highway program.
“What we saw was a better way to try and protect and preserve the Loop," Jaynes said.
The Loop obtained the state designation in 2007, and two years later in 2009, the highway system was declared a national scenic byway. This was a "springboard" to get comprehensive plan amendments adopted at both the city and county level to further protect the Loop, Jaynes said. A1A, North Beach Street, Pine Tree Drive and Granada Boulevard are also part of the Ormond Scenic Loop and Trail.
At the same time, he described it as a "double-edged sword." The designation also drew more visitors to see the Loop, increasing traffic. But ultimately, Jaynes said the designation was a good thing.
The last big development?
The first City Commission hearing on the three Plantation Oaks amendments will occur at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, July 28. The first two amendments are administrative changes to the development order and zoning as a result of the development's annexation into the city in October 2019. The third amendment seeks to delete the 55-and-older age restriction for phase 1 of the project, and allow for single-family dwellings rather than manufactured housing.
Many residents spoke out about this in the June 13 Planning Board meeting, citing concerns about increased traffic, destruction of the natural beauty of the Loop and overcrowding schools. In the end, the Planning Board unanimously recommended the commission approve the amendments, with members of the volunteer board saying they could not stop the development of Plantation Oaks since it was approved by the county in 2002.
Plantation Oaks will likely be the last new large-scale development on the Loop, Ervin said, though added that there have been conversations about more residential development within Halifax Plantation.
“The early lessons we learned with Halifax Plantation have been applied to Plantation Oaks to ensure that the development potential of that project had minimal impact on the actual corridor of Old Dixie Highway," Ervin said.
If not zoned for residential development, the remaining parcels are zoned for conservation or as an environmental system corridor.
Jaynes voted against the Plantation Oaks development when he was on the council, but said that the proposed amendments are a positive thing for the city. The new homes will pay a higher tax rate if the commission votes in favor of the amendments.
Jaynes and others involved in the Ormond Scenic Loop and Trail have been working to preserve the Loop for over a decade. If someone wants to truly save it, he said they should "get the facts" and get involved.
“Why not volunteer and join a group that’s already formed, that has a wealth of information and knowledge about the Ormond Scenic Loop and Trail, and take a look at the work that we’ve done for the last 15 years to try to understand what we’re doing to protect and preserve the Loop?” Jaynes said.