From Williamson to Woodhaven; New $15M road opens, development soon

Article Courtesy of The Daytona Beach News-Journal

By Casmira Harrison   

Published January 11, 2017


PORT ORANGE - The $15.8 million extension of Williamson Boulevard from Port Orange to New Smyrna Beach is complete, opening access to what's expected to be one of Volusia County's largest master planned communities.

Mori Hosseini, president of ICI Homes, says his company intends to break ground within 60 days on the first phase of Woodhaven, part of a more-than 1,000-acre special district stretching to the city's southern border. And he's predicting enthusiasm for the latest design."  

"It'll blow you away," Hosseini said of the concept art for the massive, multiuse project. "It's very nice."

Plans call for some 1,300 homes and 400 apartment-townhouse units on 762 acres west of Interstate 95 and straddling 2.6 miles of Williamson between Airport Road and Pioneer Trail.

Those plans also include a five-mile long public walking trail that spans the development, a public park with access to Spruce Creek and an outdoor villagelike shopping district off Pioneer Trail that will feature a pharmacy, retail shops and, perhaps most notably, a grocery store - though Hosseini said he doesn't yet know which supermarket will find a home there.

Hosseini was among opponents of a rival developer's plan to bring a Publix Supermarket several years ago just down the road to the intersection of Pioneer Trail and Airport Road - across the road from competing developer Geosam's Venetian Bay community, where residents rallied in favor of the store. In the end, the Volusia County Council shot down a proposed zoning change which would have paved the way for the popular grocery chain.

Williamson extension open between Airport Road and Pioneer Trail, Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2016.



A little over a year ago, the county partnered with several agencies to lengthen Williamson. The road now officially extends from S.R. 40 in Ormond Beach to New Smyrna.

That partnership consisted of the county, the Florida Department of Transportation, Port Orange and a quasi-governmental agency called a community development district set up through ICI and landowner Hosseini.

More than a decade in the works, Williamson opened to traffic two weeks ago.

But Gerald Brinton, Volusia County's director of engineering, said the road's final construction punchlist is not yet complete.

"Sod is expected to go down in February and landscaping later while under traffic," Brinton said, adding the total cost for the project that started Sept. 1, 2015, is $15.8 million. Construction ended Dec. 16, he said.

South Williamson, Brinton said, will someday stretch to State Road 44, south to Edgewater and State Road 442 and then eventually curving west to Osteen and State Road 415.


The road's opening also adds to the possibility of another I-95 interchange at Pioneer Trail, an issue not without its own history of controversy. But for now, some locals are excited about the potential for growth in the area. Some are concerned about traffic and safety. And others, like New Smyrna Beach resident Robert Bachman, say it'll save travel time.

"I think it's a good thing," said Bachman, who used the new pavement to make a quick trip to the local Port Orange Citgo convenience store for gas recently. Bachman lives in Promenade Parke at Venetian Bay and says the route is slightly faster than the way he used to go - around Airport Road and past Creekside Middle School. The 67-year-old is particularly happy about it since he said he's been pulled over for going too fast in a school zone. "I prefer to avoid them when I can.

"It's just convenient that I can come up and avoid the school and the 20 mph speed limits," said Bachman, who noted he hopes it paves the way for a Publix grocery store closer to home.

Asked if he thought it was worth the $15 million price tag, Bachman said, "Well, probably not. But if they take it all the way down to (State Road) 44, that would be nice."

Councilman Scott Stiltner, whose Port Orange district contains the extension, said he'd like that, too. Stiltner said he took a trip down the four-lane road recently and was happy with what he saw.

"I'm interested to see how or when that thing can be extended all the way to 44 in New Smyrna. And then what type of east-west roadway improvements we can put in - not necessarily Port Orange, but from a county perspective," said Stiltner, who added he has been in talks with county leaders about traffic issues here.

While Stiltner said he doesn't believe the Williamson extension is the solid "answer to anything," he does believe it's a step in the right direction. "I think that any improvement in our roadway systems on the east side of the county that will help alleviate traffic off of Dunlawton will be beneficial. No doubt," Stiltner said.

But Louie Diaz, an 8-year resident of Ashton Point, is not as thrilled.

"I don't like it," Diaz said, "Because it's just more traffic."

He has a 13-year-old son who bikes to Creekside and said he's already concerned about the speed drivers are traveling on the roadway.

"I've seen them going 50, 55, 60," he said. The speed limit is 45 mph.

Asked if he still plans on using the connector, Diaz said, "Yeah, oh yeah. I'll use it."


Those who do use it will notice there are turning lanes already set up along the roadway for Woodhaven's entrance roads.

Brinton says the retail space planned for the special district should help alleviate any potential impact on Port Orange's main corridor.

Hosseini said his shopping district, which resembles that of the DeLand streetscape and developer Buddy LaCour's Riverwalk complex, promises to be a jaw-dropper. Others share high expectations.

"I'm confident that (Woodhaven) will be a very high-quality addition to the city," Stiltner said.

In the meantime, the city leader added that Williamson Boulevard sets up another massive roads project, the possible Interstate-95 and Pioneer Trail interchange just around the corner from Williamson.

"I believe that that interchange will come at some point. No question," he said.

"None of the developers were counting on the interchange, but most were planned with the interchange in mind," Brinton said who noted another Geosam planned community is on the drawing board for the area. And all the development, he said, will have an impact on Port Orange traffic.

Talk of that I-95 interchange at Pioneer Trail perks the ears of 76-year-old New Smyrna resident Bill Lenz. Although a previous effort to get the interchange built fizzled years ago, Lenz keeps a sign protesting the interchange in his yard.

What's the sign still doing there? Lenz responded: "Just to let the county know that we're still alive, and we still don't want it.