Council Approves $988,000 Purchase Agreement for Ormond Loop Site.
Written by Kristen Schmutz
Belden Communication News
After months of deliberation between residents, the County Council, and the Owner of the parcel, the approximately 36-acre tract hugging the Ormond Scenic Loop and Trail cherished by area residents will be preserved for the public’s enjoyment.
The Volusia County Council’s decision on Tuesday to buy the property from local land developer Parker Mynchenberg had spectators, who had gathered in the council chambers to lobby for public acquisition of the site, leaving in delight.
Back in January, Mynchenberg was signing a contract to sell the property to a homebuilder; however, a local grass-roots organization, called Dream Green Volusia helped convince the owner to consider selling the property to the county.
According to a release, a petition drive in support of the public acquisition of the site has generated more than 71,000 signatures. At the council’s direction, county staff has been evaluating the property and ways to finance the acquisition. On Tuesday, the council was presented with a proposal to buy the land for $988,000 – well below the original asking price of $1.37 million.
The site is part of a much larger residential development that has been in the planning stages for years. The portion of the parcel the County is planning to buy fronts the west side of Old Dixie Highway in Ormond Beach, just north of the entrance to the Plantation Oaks subdivision.
The Federal Highway Administration has designated the Ormond Scenic Loop and Trail Loop a National Scenic Byway and a Florida Scenic Highway because of its intrinsic historic, natural, recreational, and scenic qualities. The pine and palmetto trees and brush on the 36-acre tract slated for acquisition are largely undisturbed.
Structural remains and a scatter of artifacts indicate the presence of a late 18th or early 19th-century homestead on the property. And an archeological survey confirmed that the site also contains remnants of Old Kings Road, making the site attractive for historical preservation.
“I personally feel that this purchase is one of the best opportunities for land conservation on The Loop for years. The Loop is worthy of our protection,” Natalie Pilipczak, who started the online petition, told the County Council on Tuesday. “I urge you to assign your attention to conservation and utilize Volusia’s resources to the best of your ability.”
After listening to approximately 40 minutes of comments from the public, the council moved to approved the acquisition.
County Chair Jeff Brower, who helped usher the proposal through the council, acknowledged struggles in determining what were the best parts of The Loop to preserve. But ultimately, the county can’t control when or where properties worthy of preservation become available for purchase.
“This is the available one. And if we didn’t act now, it was going to be gone forever,” said Brower.
Under the plan approved Tuesday, up to $738,353 of the purchase price will come from the county’s ECHO program, with another $234,647 coming from an agreement with a developer who gave the money to the county to be used for parks and park maintenance in the area. Initially, the remaining $15,000 was going to come from donations raised by the North Florida Land Trust and Dream Green Volusia. The council learned on Tuesday that the two organizations have now raised $26,250, reducing the county’s share.
None of the money is coming from the county’s general fund.
Initial plans call for a small park on the site with minimal amenities and approximately ¾-mile passive walking trails. The trail would extend north to the Ormond Tomb Park and onward to the Bulow Creek State Park, creating a 2.4 walkable path.
Other amenities would include a pavilion, picnic tables, and interpretive panels.
The purchase still needs to jump through a few final hurdles before becoming final.
Tuesday’s approval of a purchase agreement with Mynchenberg now gives the county 90 days to complete a survey, review the title and buy a title commitment, with the closing of the deal scheduled to take place no more than 30 days later.
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