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Volusia OKs its part of Farmton development plan

By Ludmilla Lelis Orlando Sentinel

February 19, 2010

Volusia County officials on Thursday approved their part of a plan for Farmton, the controversial development that could eventually bring more than 21,000 homes to land that is now a remote tree farm west of Interstate 95.

At the end of a public hearing, the County Council voted 5 to 2 to approve a 50-year plan setting up the future town center and villages and establishing conditions that would postpone most of the development for at least 15 years.

Miami Corp. owns 59,000 acres ranging from northern Brevard to central Volusia counties. The land is currently used as a tree farm, and the family-owned company wants to develop it over time.

However, state officials have criticized the project as urban sprawl, saying that such intense development isn't suitable for the environmentally sensitive, flood-prone land. Brevard officials have already approved their part of the Farmton plan, but state officials this week rejected it, setting up a dispute that could go before an administrative law judge.

The state Department of Community Affairs had similar objections to the Volusia plan, and the county staff revised it in response.

As part of the plan, 77 percent of the property – about 45,000 acres in the two counties – would be preserved, said Glenn Storch, attorney for the landowner.

Some speakers praised the amount of land to be saved, noting that the Florida and Volusia land conservation programs don't have the money to buy it outright.

The only section to be built in the next few years would be a "gateway" district of businesses and homes near Edgewater. It would be capped at 2,387 homes because the school district can't accommodate more development.

Several opponents urged council members to halt the vote. "If this is such a good plan, why the rush?" asked environmentalist Betty O'Laughlin.

The plan still has to be approved by the state.

Ludmilla Lelis can be reached at llelis@orlandosentinel.com or 386-253-0964.

 


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