News / Events
Official: Farmton plan lacks specifics
BY DINAH VOYLES PULVER, ENVIRONMENT WRITER
September 16, 2010
DELAND -- As attorneys settled in for the second day of an expected two-week hearing on the Farmton Local Plan, the state emphasized its perceived flaws, including the remote rural location, impacts to bears and other wildlife and lack of specifics on future roads and other development.
Farmton is a long-term development plan proposed for 59,000 acres the Miami Corp. owns in southern Volusia and northern Brevard counties. It would conserve 40,000 acres and allow up to 25,000 homes and other development on the remainder. Both counties approved the plan earlier this year over the objections of the Florida Department of Community Affairs.
The department found the counties "not in compliance," triggering state administrative hearings in each county. The parties expect to present more than 120 documents into evidence and could call more than two dozen witnesses.
On Wednesday, Mike McDaniel, chief of comprehensive planning for the department, took the stand for the second day in a row.
McDaniel said the plan lacks specifics on how the county will ensure the plan's broad goals such as its jobs-to-housing ratio and environmentally friendly design goals -- become reality when development begins.
Also testifying Wednesday was Tom Hoctor, director of the center for landscape and conservation planning at the University of Florida. Hoctor spoke at length about the need to conserve broad swaths of land for environmental corridors and that the development proposed adjacent to Farmton's highly touted corridors would diminish their value for wildlife.
Hoctor said the corridors, which range from a half-mile to more than a mile wide, aren't wide enough. Virtually all of the property is important to the Florida black bear, he said, which needs large, unfragmented areas of habitat.
But, throughout the day, the county and Miami Corp. endeavored to point out the property owner is allowed under current rules to subdivide its property into more than 1,600 lots 5 to 20 acres in size.
For instance, Karen Brodeen, an attorney for Miami Corp., asked McDaniel to read portions of a letter from state wildlife officials stating the plan would result in less habitat fragmentation -- and result in fewer conflicts between humans and wildlife -- than could occur under the county's existing rules.
The department's two witnesses made it clear the property serves an important role as both habitat and corridor for a variety of wildlife.
However, under cross-examination, both witnesses also agreed the property owners had gone to some lengths to ensure the design was environmentally oriented and conserved wildlife corridors.
For example, McDaniel said he was certain the property owner's environmental consultant was asked to find and identify the least environmentally sensitive portions of the site.
Hoctor discussed his meeting with Miami Corp. officials last year, when the company solicited his recommendations.
The company incorporated some of his recommendations but not all of them, Hoctor said. Just before the county approved the Farmton plan in March, Hoctor sent a letter to the county voicing concerns about the plan. The hearing continues today in the Historic Volusia County Courthouse.