4-0 vote by Port Orange City Council on first reading, but adjustments will be made to assuage residents.
On Aug. 20, Port Orange’s City Council heard the first reading of an ordinance to rezone commercial development property for the Palms at Ashton Lakes, a proposed assisted living facility, which brings up concerns for residents of the Ashton Lakes neighborhood off Williamson Boulevard.
Mark Watts of the Cobb Cole law firm spoke to the council and a full house of Ashton Lakes residents who came to voice their concerns of traffic and safety in their community.
The facility would have main entrances and exits from Williamson, but with one commercial driveway off Oakwater Lane, which connects with the Ashton Lakes neighborhood, according to Watts’ presentation.
Watts emphasized the developer’s continuous efforts to preserve the Ashton Lakes subdivision, but still faced strict scrutiny from residents concerning the entryway to their neighborhood essentially becoming a highway itself. They also were worried about pedestrian safety and overall traffic on Oakwater Lane and Williamson.
The assisted living facility contains a wing for memory care, space for amenities, and two separate wings for both assisted living and independent living. The facility will be able to be seen both from inside the neighborhood and from Williamson.
Councilman Scott Stiltner, who lives close to the area, said he has observed the traffic on the Williamson side of the development in the past few weeks and is concerned with the pedestrian traffic around the adjacent schools.
Residents such as Linda Bandwell, a three-year resident of Ashton Lakes, have concerns with the traffic on Williamson getting worse than it already has been with the new school year in progress. She noted that when traffic gets really bad, the intersection gets blocked, and residents are unable to exit off Oakwater Lane.
Mary Rhodes said she bought in Ashton Lakes because it was a residential area; however, she realizes the community has to accept progress and move on in communication with the developer to make sure other issues, such as the facilities’ parking lot lights and construction, are addressed.
“We don’t always see projects where there’s so much communication,” Stiltner said, commending the developer’s efforts to connect with Ashton Lakes’ homeowners association throughout the planning process.
Councilwoman Marilyn Ford emphasized other council members’ points about accepting the lesser of evils. Since the property is zoned as commercial land, any shopping center, grocery store, or apartment complex could have decided to purchase the land and develop, even without the council’s approval.
“The reality is that there has been a plan for that area, and what you’re confronting is change,” Ford said to the residents who spoke up about the proposed changes to their community.
Mayor Don Burnette told Watts that he and his team must have their I’s dotted and T’s crossed before they come back for a second reading. Modifications to be made to the plan were discussed, which aim to put Ashton Lakes residents’ minds at ease about future traffic patterns with the proposed driveway opening on Oakwater Lane.