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Volusia Council agrees to put ECHO, Forever tax questions on ballot

Daytona Beach News-Journal logo Daytona Beach News-Journal 6/2/2020 Casmira Harrison
a view of a city street: A look at a few of the local environmental and cultural projects that have benefitted from Volusia ECHO funds. From top left, the Volusia County Master Trails Program, DeLand's Athens Theatre, the Enterprise Heritage Center & Museum, the Yvonne Scarlett-Golden Cultural and Educational Center and the Museum of Arts & Sciences in Daytona Beach. © Picasa A look at a few of the local environmental and cultural projects that have benefitted from Volusia ECHO funds. From top left, the Volusia County Master Trails Program, DeLand's Athens Theatre, the Enterprise Heritage Center & Museum, the Yvonne Scarlett-Golden Cultural and Educational Center and the Museum of Arts & Sciences in Daytona Beach.

Voters this November will see two more questions on their ballots asking them if they want to renew the twin taxes of Volusia ECHO and Volusia Forever for another 20 years.

The Volusia County Council approved both ballot measures on Tuesday.

The questions will be largely the same as they were when voters approved the programs back in 2000, but with a few tweaks suggested in a memo to Volusia County Council members by the Trust for Public Land, a nonprofit that helps government agencies acquire land for preservation and conservation.

[READ MORE: Volusia council expected to decide ECHO, Forever fund for ballot, space industry enticements]

Here are the latest versions of the ballot questions, which basically add the requirement of an annual audit of both programs, adds $20 million to the bond limitation of Volusia Forever and adds language to include the improvement and protection of water resources, forests and farmlands to the Volusia Forever ballot question:

New version of Volusia Forever: "Shall Volusia County continue to fund the acquisition and improvement of environmentally sensitive water resource protection forests and farmlands and outdoor recreation lands and related property interests, for conservation and resource based recreation, including issuing bonds, not exceeding $60 million bearing interest not exceeding the maximum legal rate payable from continuation of an existing ad valorem tax not exceeding one fifth mill levied for 20 years, subject to full public disclosure through annual audits?"

New version of Volusia ECHO: "Shall Volusia County continue to fund the acquisition, restoration, construction and improvement of environmental, cultural, historic and outdoor recreation projects for public use, including issuing bonds not exceeding $40 million bearing interest, not exceeding the maximum legal rate payable from continuation of an existing ad valorem tax, not exceeding one fifth of a mill levied for 20 years, subject to full public disclosure disclosure through annual audits?"

Also on Tuesday, council members unanimously approved a proposal to create a Commercial Space Industry Overlay zone which would essentially condense the time frame of the development review process for commercial space development in specific areas within the county.

A single member of the public spoke against the overlay proposal, but many representatives from the local business community and local and national government representatives spoke on behalf of the zone's implementation, including Sen. Tom Wright and Rep. Michael Waltz.

Waltz said his understanding is that the overlay zone doesn't make changes to land use, but gets Volusia "ahead of the game" in terms of ongoing competition for the high paying jobs.

"We're not talking about smoke belching industries or factories," said Waltz via video screen from Washington, D.C.

Councilwoman Deb Denys said the overlay zone was not going to be influenced by the government actions.

"It's market driven. It's not government driven," said Denys. Volusia will put into place a path forward, so that when the market opportunity arises, we get out of the way and let the market take over."

Volusia County Growth and Resource Management Director Clay Ervin vowed that the changes to the county's comprehensive plan will not change the regulations in place that protect the area's natural resources.

"The whole point is to take what is normally a 60, 90, sometimes 120 day period (for the development review process) and condense it down to about a 30-day period," said Ervin. "The whole point is not to get rid of the information but to make sure that we rally the entire team. All the team is there. They're reviewing it, they're making sure it's compliant. ... There's multiple reviews going at the same time."

This story is breaking. Check back for updates.

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