News / Events

Volusia County Council says yes; Farmton goes back to state


April 13, 2011

The Farmton Local Plan is on its way back to the state with the Volusia County Council's stamp of approval on it. Council members approved revisions to the plan suggested by the state Department of Community Affairs during a required second reading April 7. The council approved the remedial plan on a first reading March 17.

The April 7 discussion was short.

"We have talked about this over and over," Council Vice Chair Pat Northey said, as she made the motion to approve the amended plan.

Discussions have only improved the plan, she added, and land-use-plan amendments will hold Farmton to standards more stringent than those governing any other development in this county.

Council Members Andy Kelly and Carl Persis made no comments as they cast dissenting votes. They said "no" before.

Previously, the state Department of Community Affairs (DCA) rejected the council's approval of the Farmton plan twice, citing environmental concerns, planning for transportation and utilities, and lack of details in the plan. The matter went to a judicial hearing in September 2010.

Before the judge made a decision, new DCA Secretary Billy Buzzett began negotiating with Farmton-tract owner the Miami Corp., and with Volusia and Brevard counties.

The negotiations produced changes that include widening two wildlife corridors that will run through the tract, providing more protection for wildlife-crossing arterial roads, and protecting another 1,500 acres. The state also wanted revised water data and analysis.

The amended plan also sailed through a Volusia Growth Management Commission review March 23.

Farmton, bringing more than 23,000 homes and 4 million square feet of commercial space, is to be built in phases over a 50-year period. The Volusia County portion is 47,000 acres, and another 11,000 acres stretch into northeastern Brevard County.

Edgewater Citizens Alliance for Responsible Development (ECARD) President Barbara Herrin was unmoved in opposition to the Farmton plan.

ECARD has opposed Farmton from the beginning, and was a partner with the DCA in opposing the plans during the judicial hearing.

She said the fate of wetlands and a wetland-mitigation bank on the Farmton tract will be threatened by development.

Around three-fourths of the property is in a 100-year flood plain, and much of it is wet, including Deep Creek, which runs through the property.

Don Kanfer, chairman of the Volusia-Flagler Sierra Club, said the remedial plan is no remedy.

"It's so wrong on so many levels," he told council members, taking into account rising sea levels, other environmental concerns, and growth that will not pay for itself.

How much worse will it get if the county permits "a city in the swamp," he asked.

Miami Corp. attorney Glenn Storch said the plan already in existence doesn't require property to be maintained in a mitigation bank or put in conservation, where the new plan requires perpetual conservation, and another 13,000 acres are going into conservation covenants.

He told council members, "Don't forget this is an incredible risk on the part of my client."

Barbra Goering, a member of the Deering family that has owned the Farmton tract since the 1920s, sat in the audience. There's no guarantee Farmton will ever be developed, Storch said - that depends on market need - but after a year, conservation easements and covenants will go into effect.

Now, the amended plan will go back to the DCA for another review. The DCA will have 30 days to decide if the plan now complies with state land-use regulations.