Flooding fears in DeLand have homeowners on edge: 'The infrastructure is ruined'

Homeowners in Deland told FOX 35 News that they have been battling flood water since neighborhoods were built nearby at higher elevations.

JC Figueredo and his family bought over a dozen acres of Volusia County land in 2016 to build their dream home.

"It was flat," he said. "It was dry. This is what life has turned into for us."

A submerged driveway and several feet of water surrounded his property off Jackson Woods Road. In 2018, the homes behind his property started going up as part of the Victoria Park and Sawyer’s Landing neighborhood in the City of DeLand – all built at a higher elevation.

"As soon as construction started with a lot of the retention, we started having standing water issues," Figueredo said.

He provided FOX 35 with aerial images from a geographical consulting firm study that showed his land without flooding for decades before the construction. It’s not just affecting Figueredo’s home. Lisa Latham has a farm next door. She said her pasture hadn’t been dry in four years.

"I have cows in my front yard now because there’s no pasture and nowhere to put my cows," she said.


Just down the road lives Ronnie Mills, who built his home 15 years ago.

"What you’re looking at here is my pasture – this is not a lake," Mills laughed.

The homeowners live in flood zone X, which is known as the zone with the lowest risk of flooding in all of Florida.

"I’ve had this property since the ‘70s, and we’ve never seen this," Mills said.

Their neighbor’s home was destroyed because of the never-draining, knee-deep water. The homeowner, Jesus Salgado, told FOX 35 he did not have insurance on his home, which has been underwater for two years and is a total loss. Neighbors said they fear they’re just one bad storm away from catastrophe like that. However, John Joslin, owner of the Common Ground Farm on Taylor Road, said he’s already about to lose everything.

"We’ve been here over 15 years," Joslin said. "Last two years we’ve lost half of our production in the fall and the winter. At this point, this field is shot. We’re going to have to take it out. The infrastructure is ruined, so we’re looking at probably losing $40-50,000 in produce production this year as well as about $70,000 in material damage."

When asked how to survive that, he said, "You can’t."

All these homeowners own land that touches the property lines of the new subdivisions. FOX 35 took the concerns straight to Volusia County Chair Jeff Brower. He said the county and the city of DeLand have known about this problem for at least five years.

"It’s a lot worse now," Brower said.

He said he agrees with the homeowners that the development has resulted from the flooding.

To be clear, the Victoria Park and Sawyer’s Landing neighborhood developers followed county and city guidelines and did everything legal before putting in the development.

"The developers aren’t breaking the law," Brower said. "We’ve got to change our development pattern and stop approving every development that’s doing the exact same thing, paving over acreage and putting in a retention pond and thinking that we can hold all of that water in a retention pond that used to be dispersed over hundreds of acres."

FOX35 next took the concerns to the city of DeLand. The city acknowledges the flooding but attributes it to rain. The city provided FOX 35 with an aerial map from May 2005 showing some standing during a wet period.

"The development that’s causing this is in the city of DeLand," Brower said. "JC lives in Volusia County. We have to work together to come to a solution."

However, for now, the damage is done.

"It’s going to cost us a lot of money to fix this," Joslin said.

Some have the bills to prove it.

"Two-hundred to two-hundred-fifty thousand dollars," Figueredo said.

Between hiring environmental experts, engineers, and attorneys and paying for extra dirt and equipment, that’s how much Figueredo said it has already cost him to make repairs.

"The quality of life is just horrible," Figueredo said.

He filed a lawsuit against the city of DeLand, the two homeowner associations and Dewberry Engineers, but it was recently dismissed after the city filed for dismissal.

"Our request from day one is we want the issue fixed," Figueredo said.

Brower said he does not want to see this happen again.

"I am not willing to approve another single development in Volusia County until we know how to deal with this situation," Brower said.

It’s a flooding standstill to figure out the true cost of growth. Yet the question remains: when will local leaders provide a solution for those homeowners still surrounded by standing water?