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New Smyrna Beach halts new development to look into flooding in Venetian Bay

Resident Stephen Gunther speaks at the New Smyrna Beach City Commission meeting on Tuesday, April 8, 2024.
Lillian Hernández Caraballo
Resident Stephen Gunther speaks at the New Smyrna Beach City Commission meeting on Tuesday, April 8, 2024.

The city of New Smyrna Beach formally adopted an ordinance Tuesday to put a halt to most new developments in the Portofino Gardens area of Venetian Bay.

According to the city, this will buy them time to figure out what’s causing stormwater flooding in that part of the neighborhood, known as Phase II. The city has determined the issue is limited to this area, which has its own stormwater system that discharges into a drainage canal that flows north along Airport Road before entering Spruce Creek.

However, some residents have said the restrictions don’t go far enough. Speaking at Tuesday’s meeting, Stephen Gunther said fixing only the problems on Airport Road will pour more stormwater onto his property.

"They're trying to put 1,000 homes in there, an open air shopping mall in, that's another dam — 50 acres of elevated property. If you raise the property, you're going to deflect stormwater, then, where's it going to go? Look at this picture fully, not just say, ‘Well, Venetian Bay's flooding, and we need to fix it.’ It's a bigger problem," he said.

Gunther is not alone. Other residents have expressed concerns for their own neighborhoods in other flood-affected areas of New Smyrna Beach, asking that the moratorium be extended to them as well, fearing more development will bring more frequent and intense flooding.

But City Manager Ron Neibert said there’s more to it than what people perceive.

"They believe that any development is going to cause flooding and a lot of people don't understand how stormwater regulations work. Our regulations are some of the strictest in Volusia County in regards to what we require developers to do,” Neibert said.

The New Smyrna Beach mayor said Venetian Bay is only the beginning, and that the City Commission is committed to resolving their flooding issues.

“We've heard your voices before, and we know that we know that this is a serious item that needs our full attention and you have it,” he said.

The city has until June 25 to either address the issue or extend the moratorium.

Lillian Hernández Caraballo is a Report for America corps member. 

Lillian (Lilly) Hernández Caraballo is a bilingual, multimedia journalist covering housing and homelessness for Central Florida Public Media, as a Report for America corps member.
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