Division Lane draws crime, code violations
BY ANDREAS BUTLER
Of the 169 miles of existing neighborhood streets the City of Daytona Beach hopes to improve if the half-cent sales tax proposal passes, the overgrown Division Street and Division Lane area between Orange Avenue and Live Oak Street – essentially a dirt road – is an area of the city that needs improvement fast.
Along with International Speedway Boulevard and George W. Engram Boulevard, Orange Avenue is a key gateway to the beachside that runs through a substantial portion of Daytona Beach’s Black community.
Just one block east of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, the 300 block of Division Street runs south just of Orange Avenue into a short dirt road known as Division Lane, where a dead end sits.
On the other side of that dead end is another section of Division Street, which runs south to Live Oak Street.
Sales tax could help
The proposed countywide sales tax increase being endorsed by the city could help such an area by resurfacing the street. The tax is designed to raise funds for improvement to roads, sidewalks, stormwater projects, bridges and other infrastructure
The half-cent sales tax will not apply to purchases of gas, groceries or medicine. For example, tt would add about two cents a McDonald’s Happy Meal. For large purchases such as automobiles and boats, the tax would only be applied to the first $5,000 of the purchase because the tax is capped at $25 per purchase.
It remains to be seen if the tax is passed – and if the money will be spent in and used to improve these areas especially in the Black community.
Trust but verify
Supporters say there will be a local citizen oversight committee to ensure the money is spent as approved, with four layers of protection to ensure funds can only be used as outlined in the proposal: A local citizen oversight committee; Florida law ensures the money can only be used for projects listed on the ballot; a local ordinance that clearly defines where the money will go and how it will be spent; and locally elected officials, will be making decisions on when and where projects are completed.
Right now, the circular dirt road area in front of Division Lane is an eyesore and is a reminder of the time when Black Daytonans lived in wooden shacks built on dirt roads. There are deteriorating homes, homelessness and squatting. There is also known drug activity.
Residents in that area and others familiar with that area declined to speak to the Daytona Times directly; however, one person did refer to Division Lane as a “danger zone.”
Another person who wished to remain anonymous told the Times, “I wish that they would come and do something. There is one homeowner in that area that owns their home and property; they are OK. There is squatting going on inside the other homes. Many of the houses are unlivable. Drug activity is also rampant.”
Shiloh Baptist Church has held community meetings entitled Neighborhood Upkeep: “Elevation” to address issues such as upkeep, code enforcement, crime and more, including a meeting held on March 24. Patricia Heard is a member of that church and one of the meeting organizers.
“In the past, we had some church members that lived in that area. I was riding with a city commissioner one day and we came upon that area of Division Lane. It was shocking!
“There is a home with a tarp on it from the hurricane three years ago. There are some run-down homes and a homeless camp. How can the police, code enforcement and the city not know that this area has gotten this way?” exclaimed Heard.
City officials are aware of the problems.
On the city’s list
The half-cent sales tax requires Volusia County cities to identify the improvements the tax revenue will pay for. Streets are selected due to a Pavement Condition Index (PCI) developed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to determine the condition of roads.
A score of 100 is the best road condition; a score of zero is the worst. The Division Lane area’s score ranges from 42 to 48. According to city statistics, about 90 percent of Daytona’s roads are in better condition than the Division Lane area.
“As for the code issues, people need to know that there is a process. Code Enforcement has put a dumpster in the area and giv-en citations. In one of the homes, there is a homeowner actually living there,” responded Zone 6 City Commissioner Paula Reed. The area is in her zone.
Law enforcement calls in the Division St. and Division Lane area over the past two years include one for arson, and multiple calls for disturbances, narcotics, domestic disturbances, suspicious incidents, outstanding warrants, assaults and batteries, animal complaints, vandalism, burglaries of residences, and more.
“In the past it used to be a drug haven, but it’s died down. On the other hand, there are some code issues in that area,” said Daytona Beach Police Chief Craig Capri.
Code enforcement violations in that area over the same span include multiple violations of a having a building unfit for human occupancy, owning a dangerous structure or premises, junk vehicles, and poor maintenance, among others.
‘Use the money’
Meanwhile residents have their own take on the half-cent sales tax.
That same anonymous person added, “Yes, I am for it if they use it to fix up these areas which desperately need it. Division Lane could benefit. If it does pass, I hope they do use the money to do what they say they will do.”
City officials say sales tax money could help Division Lane and similar areas, but so can the community.
Reed explained, “The sales tax is for roads, bridges, sidewalks and stormwater projects. We don’t have to wait on the city. We have churches and other organizations. We can clean up the community ourselves and go help homeowners like they do in other areas.”