Volusia County homeowners blame City of Deltona for sending Hurricane Ian floods right at them

'Deltona has never taken responsibility for damage caused by these actions,' a federal lawsuit claims.

Volusia County homeowners are accusing Deltona city government of opening a dam and flooding them to spare the rest of the community from rising waters from Hurricane Ian, according to a new lawsuit.

“We’ve alleged that Deltona’s actions made the flooding faster, worse, more intense than it would otherwise have been had it just been a storm,” said co-attorney Thomas Allison, who represents about 40 people in the lawsuit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court.

A majority of the 200 Stone Island neighborhood homes suffered damage ranging from exterior issues to total catastrophic loss, Allison said.

“They’ve never experienced anything like this before,” Allison said of the neighborhood’s first-ever serious flood. “They were devastated.”

What made matters worse, Allison said, was residents couldn’t immediately return home because of the flooding so the damage worsened.

“In bringing this suit, we are simply asking that the City compensate the residents of Stone Island for the losses that the residents have sustained based on the City’s action. And for some, those numbers may well be significant, but decisions have consequences, even for a municipality,” Allison and co-attorney Andrew Doyle said in a statement.

Deltona does not comment on pending litigation, city spokeswoman Catherine Barker said Friday.

Hurricane Ian made landfall in Florida in late September as a Category 4 hurricane.

On Oct. 1, “Deltona unilaterally opened the flood control structure,” which redirected “hundreds of millions of gallons of floodwaters“  from Deltona over to Stone Island,” the lawsuit said. “Deltona did not notify residents of Stone Island of this action. Deltona has never taken responsibility for damage caused by these actions.”

At an Oct. 3 City Commission meeting, a city engineer reported the city opened the flood control structure without permission from the St. Johns River Water Management District, the lawsuit said.

At that same meeting, “a representative of Deltona stated and asked whether Deltona would rather flood 100 houses or flood 1,000 houses,” the lawsuit said. “In other words, would Deltona rather redirect floodwaters to and through Stone Island or leave the floodwaters in Deltona?”

Some Stone Island residents have lived in the community for 40 years. Others were new homeowners, locating there over the last few years. The middle-to-upper-middle class neighborhood attracted “a mix of retirees, families, working professionals,” many of whom loved horses because the neighborhood is centrally located where people can ride, Allison said.

Months after the flooding, many homeowners refuse to abandon Stone Island, Allison said.

“My clients are attempting to rebuild and some have rebuilt already. Some are in the process of rebuilding,” Allison said. “They are dedicated to their community.”

Gabrielle Russon

Gabrielle Russon is an award-winning journalist based in Orlando. She covered the business of theme parks for the Orlando Sentinel. Her previous newspaper stops include the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Toledo Blade, Kalamazoo Gazette and Elkhart Truth as well as an internship covering the nation’s capital for the Chicago Tribune. For fun, she runs marathons. She gets her training from chasing a toddler around. Contact her at [email protected] or on Twitter @GabrielleRusson .


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