News / Events

Farmton hearing wraps until 2011

BY DINAH VOYLES PULVER, ENVIRONMENT WRITER

September 25, 2010

The judge presiding over a state hearing in DeLand on Volusia County's Farmton proposal, David Maloney, was appointed as a judge for the Division of Administrative Hearings 17 years ago by Gov. Lawton Chiles.

Previously, Maloney had years of experience with environmental and land-use issues, serving during the administrations of Chiles and Gov. Bob Martinez.

That experience included:

• Chief Cabinet Aide for Chiles and executive director of Chiles' 1994 property rights study commission

• General counsel to the governor and Cabinet on environmental and land-use issues.

• Associate deputy administrator at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency under administrator Carol Browner, during the Clinton administration.

• Graduated from the Florida State University College of Law and was admitted to the Florida Bar in 1975.

— Dinah Voyles Pulver

DELAND -- A hearing ended Friday, but a decision on whether Volusia County can give final approval to Miami Corp.'s development proposal for its vast land holdings won't be handed down until next year.

A two-week-long state administrative hearing to decide whether the proposal complies with the county's comprehensive land-use plan has concluded, for the most part.

Judge David Maloney gave attorneys in the case a Dec. 1 deadline to submit their proposed recommended orders.

Maloney set the deadline two months out to give attorneys for the Florida Department of Community Affairs and Miami Corp. time to prepare proposed orders in a companion case in Brevard County. That hearing concluded in August, but the judge in that case set the deadline for orders 30 days after the conclusion of the Volusia hearing.

Once Maloney receives the briefs outlining how the various attorneys would propose he resolve the case, he has up to 90 days to issue a recommended order, attorneys said Friday. Maloney's recommendations will be forwarded to the governor and State Cabinet for final approval.

Maloney must decide whether the county's approval of the company's plan earlier this year violates policies in the county's long-term comprehensive land-use plan.

The company, which owns 59,000 acres in the two counties, wants to secure long-term development rights for up to 25,000 homes and 4 million square feet of non-residential space. The only development allowed before 2025 would be about 2,200 homes in a "gateway" area just west of Edgewater. In exchange, the company would set aside nearly 40,000 acres in permanent conservation.

The company's final witnesses Friday morning were Devo Seereeram, an engineer and groundwater expert, and Robert Metcalf, who is a former planning administrator for the Department of Community Affairs.
Responding to the department's concerns about the lack of water available for the proposed development, Seereeram testified that his tests show the underground water supply on the land is adequate.

When asked how sure he is about his projections on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being most accurate, Seereeram replied: "10."

Metcalf's testimony attempted to refute state claims that the company's proposal isn't suitable for the property, shouldn't stretch 50 years into the future and overestimates long-term population projections.

The attorneys and the judge will schedule a teleconference for one day next week for a brief rebuttal regarding a chart Metcalf used in his testimony.

David Jordan, an attorney for the department, said during his final rebuttal Friday that he was countering all the "wonderfulness" presented by Miami Corp. witnesses this week regarding further scrutiny required for the project down the road.

In much of the testimony, the company and county insisted the proposal would set aside more land for conservation than required by current development rules and would be better than subdividing the land into thousands of ranchette-style lots 5 to 20 acres in size.

On Friday, Jordan attempted to show that the county's current rules should force the company to cluster any proposed development and preserve green space without granting permission to build several times the number of homes now allowed.

 


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