By Erika Webb
There is a good chance Southwest Volusia will get its first Tractor Supply Co. store this year.
The City of Deltona has gotten a request to change the zoning on five wooded acres near the intersection of State Road 415 and Fort Smith Boulevard, along the west side of S.R. 415.
The store is expected to be modeled after one recently constructed in Mims, according to the city.
The property was annexed into the city in 2004 and, in 2006, a county future land use designation of Urban Low Intensity was changed to a City Commercial designation with some conditions.
"The proposed conditions will be adhered to by the applicant with this development," Deltona City Manager Dave Denny stated in the agenda item prepared for the Jan. 6 commission meeting. The request was tabled to the next meeting on Jan. 21.
At the Dec. 18 planning and zoning board meeting, board members voted unanimously to recommend the City Commission approve the zoning change to green light the project.
Deltona resident Leon Jones asked the board to deny the request.
The property on which Mr. Jones lives is owned by Laurent Leclerc and Jan Galloway-Leclerc, according to the property appraiser, and is at the intersection of Sandlor Drive and Tabb Drive, roughly 1,000 feet west of the proposed Tractor Supply Co. site, according to the city.
Mr. Jones asked the board -- in the event the zoning-change request was not denied -- to disallow access to the commercial site from Sandlor Drive. He also asked for a wide buffer of natural vegetation along Sandlor and for the company to install the latest technology for security lighting and signage to reduce light pollution.
Chris Bowley, Deltona's planning and development services director, affirmed there would not be any vehicular traffic between the Tractor Supply and properties to the south.
Tractor Supply is working with the city and adjacent property owner, Albert Pell, to create a 50-foot-wide, cross-access easement along the proposed Tractor Supply site's southern boundary.
Ultimately the board recommended approval of the ordinance by the commission with the conditions there will be no access to Sandlor to the north and there will be additional screening along the north side of the site to provide a transition between commercial and residential land.
Tractor Supply agreed to the board's conditions and will provide additional land for a landscape buffer that exceeds the minimum code requirements, according to the city.
No other residents have commented to the city on the proposed Tractor Supply store, according to Deltona's public information officer Lee Lopez.
Save Osteen Now! President Sheryl Manche said she doesn't have anything against Tractor Supply and has patronized the DeLand store, but she does have questions for the city.
"Ask Deltona why they are granting Tractor Supply the right to build if Osteen Feed applied before Tractor Supply, and Osteen Feed said they would not annex into Deltona, but wanted to build?" Ms. Manche said.
"If they wanted the water, which is required by state law, they would have to annex," she added.
Plans for an "upscale country village," including a splash park for dogs, were drawn up more than a year ago. The feed store would be the epicenter of a community gathering spot featuring nature trails and "small-sized commerce."
Deltona's "water language" prevented the feed store from moving forward with those plans, Ms. Manche explained.
"State law says if you have municipal water and sewer next to you, you have to use that," Ms. Manche said. "It doesn't say you have to be annexed. It just says you have to use it. The commission wrote it that you have to be annexed (to tie into the city's water and sewer lines) so if not, you're violating state law."
She said she feels confident in speaking for her fellow Osteeners.
"Just about everybody in Osteen wants the Osteen Feed Store because they love the idea of the way it's going to be built," Ms. Manche said. "But you can't have two feed stores next to each other. It's just not economically feasible."
Ron Paradise, Deltona's assistant director of planning and development services, said city policy, "as a condition for hooking up to city utilities" states the city has the ability to annex properties contiguous to city boundaries.
"That doesn't mean the city will," Mr. Paradise said.
Ali Rabah has owned Osteen Feed for 20 years. He owns five other feed stores in Central Florida and two pet stores in Winter park.
A little over a year ago Mr. Rabah bought an eight-acre parcel on S.R. 415 across from Walmart.
He intends to move forward with his plans for a new feed store, dog splash park, walking trails and spaces for 15 shops.
"We're waiting for the engineers to finish ... the plans are 98 percent finished," Mr. Rabah said in a phone interview.
The proposed concept has been submitted to and approved by Volusia County, he said, adding he is trying to access Deltona's water and sewer lines without annexing.
"If there is no choice, I will probably have to," Mr. Rabah said.
Mr. Paradise said there are big differences between the two properties.
The Tractor Supply site is inside Deltona city limits and has been since around 2006, he said, adding the site is not located within Osteen or the Osteen local plan area.
Mr. Rabah's property is in the unincorporated area and falls under County jurisdiction.
"Obviously he's gonna come to us when he needs utilities," Mr. Paradise said.
But Mr. Rabah's property is not contiguous.
"All over this great county of ours we've got people being served by municipalities that do not reside within the city limits," Mr. Paradise said. "DeLand is a great example."
Tractor Supply's presence does not daunt Mr. Rabah. He accepts he already has lost some business to the corporation, which he said, always builds near smaller feed stores.
One exists about a mile and a half from his Orlando store and the new one in Mims is not far away, either.
There is a Tractor Supply store about six miles away from Mr. Rabah's business in Eustis as well.
"They do sell things like lawn mowers and equipment. We don't sell those things," Mr. Rabah said. "No matter what, they're going to take some business away from me."
What he and several of his adult children -- all of whom have advanced education degrees but choose to work in the family business -- purvey is goodwill and exceptional customer service.
"In my Geneva store a customer wants hay. We have to truck hay from Georgia," he said. "It was delayed three or four hours and the customer said I came special to buy hay. I told her I would deliver it to her, but she said what about my gas? I asked her how much she thought she had spent in gas to make the trip and she said $5 so I gave her $5. She never left us."
The customer was touched by his gesture and she apologized. Mr. Rabah assured her there was no need to apologize. He wanted to make her happy. He understands he paid a very small price to do so.
Another loyal customer, whose animals needs came before her own, fell on hard times. Mr. Rabah gave her the supplies she needed for her horses. Once she got a job she tried to pay him back but Mr. Rabah refused repayment reminding her that she'd been a longtime customer and helping her was his way of expressing his appreciation.
That mentality, he said, is what separates his business from corporate commerce.
Osteen residents' loyalty has made a deep impression.
"I purchased the land to supply the community because they overwhelmingly supported the plan," he said.
Mr. Rabah's son, Ahmad, runs Osteen Feed on New Smyrna Boulevard off of S.R. 415.
"Customers bring him a cake," Mr. Rabah said. "Osteen residents are very, very, very sweet people."
North Carolina-based Primax Properties will build the new Tractor Supply store.
The company handles site selection, permitting and construction for Tractor Supply and other retailers, Project Director Frank Alexander told Hometown News in a phone interview.
Primax Construction specializes in food- anchored shopping centers, free standing retail stores and restaurants, according to its website, which states clients number over 30 major retailers including Food Lion, Advance Auto Parts, Tractor Supply Company, Nobel Schools, Goddard Schools, West Marine, Fuddruckers, Copeland's of New Orleans, Monro Muffler & Brake, Blockbuster, Hollywood Video, Movie Gallery, Bojangles' Restaurants, Starbucks, Dollar General, and Rite-Aid.
"We hope to have the store ready to hand the keys over to Tractor Supply by about October," Mr. Alexander said.