'How should we grow?'
The Volusia County Council aims to explore the idea of "smart growth" within the county, with the input from municipalities and other community stakeholders.
Spurred by a presentation by Clay Ervin, county director of Growth and Resource Management, at the council's meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 4, the conversation will be brought to the Roundtable of Volusia County Elected Officials meeting next Monday, in the hopes of forming a joint mission statement to formulate a plan of action. This could include the creation of a committee.
Ervin spoke to the council about the county's comprehensive plan, which was done in 1990 and has been amended several times since then. County staff is currently working on an update to the plan, he said.
“The comprehensive plan is a living, breathing document," Ervin said. "It does not sit there on the shelf.”
He walked the council through the changes on growth management laws and planning processes that have occurred since 1972. The presentation was a result of the council identifying growth as a critical issue to address at its workshop in early April.
Ervin said that the "buzzword of smart growth" has been around for at least a decade, as the county held smart growth summits in 2003-2004.
County Councilman Ben Johnson said that it's time the council starts thinking about growth, and that they should involve all partners, stakeholders, developers and state legislators in the county's conversation on the topic. The county can't tell cities what to do, Johnson said, so they have to work together.
“What we need is meaningful growth," Councilwoman Deb Denys said. "We all think we’re smart — we’ve used that word, like you said Clay [Ervin], over and over again.”
Ervin said the county has about 40,000 acres available for development in its unincorporated areas. Denys said because of this, the county's ability to "leave a footprint" is minimized. She agreed with Johnson on having all stakeholders participate in the conversation, and said sustainable growth can only be achieved if they change the comprehensive plan. Transportation will also play a part, she added, as miles driven per capita is growing quicker than population.
County Councilwoman Heather Post said she wasn't a fan of creating committees, but understood why the council would like one for growth. However, she said the goal should be meeting a level of service, and advocated for speaking about working toward a mission statement in the upcoming roundtable meeting.
County Council Chair Ed Kelley agreed.
“It’s going to take a concerted effort by everyone with an understanding of what we’re trying to accomplish," Kelley said.
He said the council realizes it needs to do something about growth, but it just needs to figure out what that is.
“I’m hopeful that we will be more cohesive than divisive," Kelley said. "I don’t believe that we will be divisive. I think that the divisiveness that was there will disappear from the half-cent sales tax, which is what kind of divided some of the ones.”