The Volusia County Council chair and District 4 races each have two candidates on the ballot in November, and during a Citizens for Ormond Beach forum on Wednesday, Sept. 23, the candidates got a chance to address their platforms on growth, finances and quality of life.
The virtual forum, held via Zoom, was moderated by CFOB Chair Liz Myers, who asked the candidates about the county's response to COVID-19, their stance regarding Avalon Park Daytona and Volusia Forever and ECHO's renewal.
Here is a summary of what each candidate had to say.
County Council Chair
Running for Volusia County Council Chair is current District 3 Councilwoman Deb Denys, who resigned her seat on the council to run for chair, and her opponent Jeff Brower, who ran unsuccessfully in 2018 to represent District 1 in the council but earned the most votes — 45% — in the August primary for the chair race.
Denys began serving on the council in 2013, and previously served on the Volusia County School Board from 1994-1998.
Brower owns a landscape company and a farm in DeLeon Springs. He serves on the Soil and Water Conservation District Board.
On Avalon Park Daytona, both candidates agreed that they were not in favor of the $75 million bond the developer proposed. Deny said that she had concerns regarding the project proposal, and that the fact that the council found out about the bond through the news was "not a good way to start a project."
Later on in the forum, she said that the county doesn't have the authority to tell cities what to do, an opinion Brower disagreed with.
Brower said that while he's a "firm believer" in private property rights, every deed of land shouldn't come with an automatic zoning change for developers. He also opposed the bond's proposal to build a Hand Avenue extension due to the wetlands it would impact.
“I’m not against responsible growth, but [Avalon Park Daytona] defies every possible meaning of those words," he said.
Both candidates also support Volusia Forever and ECHO. They differed when it came to how they viewed the First Step Shelter. Denys felt like the end of the Catholic Charities contract was a positive and that the shelter is on the right track, but still has some work to do to improve.
"Bottom line is we need them to be successful," she said. "Volusia County needs First Step to be successful."
Brower said that while there is a need to help the homeless population, the First Step Shelter wasn't the answer. He said he would favor the shelter being taken over by private entity.
Running to represent District 4 on the council are Heather Post, the incumbent, and her opponent Barbara Bonarrigo.
Post's first term in office began in 2017 and she serves on several local, state and national boards and committees, including chairing the National Association of Counties' Veterans and Military Services Committee.
Bonarrigo owns CJ Manufacturing in Daytona Beach and is a member of the Volusia Manufacturing Association, as well as a member of the Cultural and Arts Council of Volusia County.
Bonarrigo said she felt there was an "ineffective person" currently representing District 4 and that if she is elected, she aims to preserve citizens' quality of life and natural resources while creating high paying jobs.
In response, Post said that she's proven over the last four years that she "makes policy decisions based on people and not politics," earning the endorsement of all sectors of public protections, including fire, emergency medical services and sheriff's office.
“I have absolutely put the boots on the ground people that live, work and play in Volusia County as my number one priority," Post said.
On Avalon Park, both candidates pointed out that there hasn't been a formal bond request by the developer. Post however, stated that she wasn't in favor regardless as the development will impact Ormond Beach and Daytona Beach greatly.
Bonarrigo said the bond request would have to make sense for all the citizens and the county, and that would be something she would have to look at. She stated Avalon Park could build 3,000 homes without any extra approvals from the city of Daytona Beach; currently Avalon Park is seeking a comprehensive plan amendment and rezoning that would allow for 10,000 homes to be built west of I-95 and off State Road 40.
“We have to take that all into consideration and work together, and that’s one of my strengths that I have," Bonarrigo said.
Both candidates support Volusia Forever and Echo. On COVID-19, Post felt that the county has done a "fairly good job" in its response, and spoke about the $125 million in coronavirus relief dollars, some of which have been utilized for the county's mortgage and rental assistance program.
Bonarrigo said knows firsthand that it is critical for businesses to be able to operate, and that the county needs to follow science and data with safety in mind when responding to the pandemic. The rest of the decisions, such as attending Biketoberfest, should be up to the residents to decide for themselves, she said.