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Site lists Deltona among top places to live


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By Kevin P. Connolly | Sentinel Staff Writer

Posted April 5, 2005

DELTONA -- This city endured more than its share of bad news last year, from a massive sinkhole on Howland Boulevard to the massacre of six people on Telford Lane.

But now it is savoring a bit of good press that even some residents and elected officials find surprising.

Deltona, a decade-old city known for its winding roads and burgeoning population of roughly 80,000 people, beat out thousands of other places across the country to land a spot on a real-estate industry Web site's 2005 Top 100 Places to Live list.

The Web site, Relocate-America, released the relatively obscure ranking Monday. It put Deltona on the same list as Celebration, a high-end Disney community known for its white-picket fences and pedestrian-friendly design.

Relocate-America acknowledges its ranking depends on such "non-scientific" factors as the nomination ballots and the number of consumer inquiries about a particular area. The Web site says the "list is for fun and educational purposes only."

Deltona's popularity is no surprise to real-estate agent Sunnie Discipio, who said negative news stories have not cooled the impact from the nation's real-estate boom. Some houses in Volusia's most populous city are selling in a matter of days.

"They are going really fast," Discipio, an agent with RE/MAX Associates Inc., said Monday while giving a tour of a house for sale on Montecito Avenue. "You have bidding wars going on. It's crazy."

Deltona has never made Money Magazine's more widely recognized ranking of the best places to live, last released in 2003. But Monday marked the city's third consecutive appearance on Relocate-America's Top 100 list. The Web site is owned by Howell, Mich.-based HomeRoute, which offers marketing services for such real-estate professionals as Carol Lawrence, co-owner of Deltona-based RE/MAX Associates Inc.

Lawrence pays to subscribe to Relocate-America. When people use the Web site and want more information about a particular area, they are directed to a specific subscriber. All inquiries about Deltona, DeBary and Orange City are directed to Lawrence's company.

Nominations for Relocate-America's list are accepted from any current or former resident of a particular community, and more than 3,000 communities were nominated last year for the 2005 list, said Steve Nickerson, president and chief executive officer of HomeRoute.

Information about crime, schools, housing and the economy -- as well as the nominations themselves -- are used to narrow the field and come up with the Top 100 cities, Nickerson said.

In an e-mail, he said Deltona is "a highly requested area on our program year in and year out."

He said the cities with the best nominations make the Top 10 list, which this year includes Yuma, Ariz.; Long Beach, N.Y.; Asheville, N.C.; and two Florida cities -- Venice and Bonita Springs.

The remaining 90 communities include such Central Florida locations as Sanford, the Hunter's Creek community near Orlando, Melbourne, Titusville, Winter Haven and Lakeland.

Some residents were surprised Deltona ranked so high.

"I love Deltona because it's my home, but I find it hard to believe" because residents struggle with such growth pressures as congested roads, said Gigi Del Valle, manager of Deltona Trophy on Saxon Boulevard.

Deltona community leaders welcomed the good news.

"I'm real proud that we're finally being recognized for some of the good we do," Mayor John Masiarcyzk said. "Normally, we're in the media only for the bad things that happen in Deltona."

Masiarcyzk said that despite hurricanes, floods, sinkholes and murders, Deltona is a very family-friendly place to live.

"We've had a lot of things thrown at us in ten years so I think we've done an excellent job," he said.

Commissioner David Santiago, a real-estate agent, said he would take advantage of the ranking as he sold homes in the area, and also in politics.

"When I'm in discussion with someone regarding Deltona and whether it's a good place to live, I can point to an independent study that agrees with me," he said.

Lisa Emmerich of the Sentinel staff contributed to this report. Kevin P. Connolly can be reached

at [email protected] or

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Clearly the creators of this list are idiots, and they don't realize Deltona is a craphole. Seriously, how sad is it for a city of 80,000 people to have to drive all the way to Sanford for its "big-city" needs, like movies, shopping, restaurants... It's disgusting sprawl, but without the conviences that normally come with disgusting sprawl.

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There's absolutely nothing special about Deltona. There's nothing there, except subdivisions. It's the largest city in Volusia county, and as I said before, they have to drive to Sanford to do most of their shopping. The road system is the most disjointed that I've seen in Florida and doesn't even resemble a grid. Not to flame on Atlanta, but Deltona really feels more like an Atlanta exurb than a Florida exurb.

Here's some select quotes from an Orlando Sentinel article posted on the Deltona thread:

"Central Florida's second-largest city has no town square, no malls, no movie theaters, no nightclubs and few restaurants beyond the kind with drive-through windows. There isn't even a bowling alley."

"When the city incorporated 10 years ago, local leaders and residents complained that they were stuck with more than 50,000 acres of twisting residential streets and nearly no commercial development."

"But without centralized open land suitable for a typical downtown, Deltona has remained a city made up mostly of homes whose residents go someplace else to eat out, shop or find entertainment."

"City officials, however, think they might have found inspiration at a most unlikely place: a retirement community."

- They've recognized that the city sucks, so they've looked around for a growth model that they could follow. Of course, with all of the state's nice urban places to choose from, they are choosing to model themselves after The Villages, the old folks home on steroids.

Here's a map, highlighting the city's "urban" road infrastructure.


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Preaching to the choir: having briefly crossed into Deltona, I saw no reason to go there again, let alone live there. But then for some, I guess that's paradise. Topher, I can see the Atlanta-ness in that map now that you point it out. :)

Here's the website with all the supposed "winners": click here

P.S. I supposed they could use eminent domain to buy the land within that triangle marked by Fieldstone Lake and create a mini town center out of that...

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I think this has more to do with Cheap Housing and not Quality of Life issues. Certainly you wouldn't want to relocate to Deltona to commute an hour + to Orlando, unless you couldn't afford Seminole County. It's a bedroom community and not much more.

And certainly other place on the list - Vacaville, California comes to mind - are not the most ideal places to live. These places are mostly commuter slums which have good businesses for mortage brokers - the primary audience of this website.

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To those of you who have never driven through Deltona, I highly recommend you take a quick tour the next time you're up that way on I-4. It's not everyday that you get to see municipal planning at its worst.

To be fair, Deltona wasn't incorporated as an actual city until about 7 years ago. So you can't quite blame the-powers-that-be for the roads that make no sense, the truly strange placement of grocery stores, drug stores and the occasional McDonalds and - let me repeat this for emphasis - the roads that make no sense.

It's the only place I've ever been where you can be traveling on a road, hit its intersection with another street, keep going for a few miles and hit another intersection for the SAME street you just passed. Good times, indeed.

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