News / Events

Volusia County Council hears update in preparation for vote on Farmton

By Pat Hatfield BEACON STAFF WRITER

February 3, 2010

Council will vote during its Thursday, Feb 18 meeting

The Farmton Local Plan, now calling for up to 23,100 residential units in Volusia County, has moved a step closer to final approval from the Volusia County Council.

At a special meeting Jan. 28, County Council members learned the number of housing units has been reduced, and the number of conservation acres increased, in response to objections from the state growth-management agency.

Council members will vote Feb. 18 on whether to approve the plan.

The 59,000-acre Farmton property, owned by the Miami Corp., stretches from the south side of Edgewater down into Brevard County, where a couple of thousand more homes are planned. Most of the property, 47,000 acres, is in Volusia County. The massive parcel is composed of wetlands, agricultural lands and forestry resource lands.

Miami Corp. came up with a plan for developing the tract that would stretch 50 years into the future. In October, County Council members approved sending the plan to the Department of Community Affairs (DCA). The Farmton plan requires a change to the county's comprehensive land-use plan, which dictates how land can be developed. The DCA oversees all such land-use-plan changes.

On Dec. 24, the DCA said "no" to the Farmton plan. The state agency's report listed 12 objections, all ending with the comment "Recommendation: Do not approve."

Miami Corp. went back to the drawing board. County Director of Growth and Resource Management Greg Stubbs and Miami Corp. attorney Glenn Storch explained the modifications to the County Council Jan. 28.

The modifications include:

  • Increasing conservation and open lands from 66 percent to 75 percent of the tract.
     
  • A mile-wide Southwest Wildlife Corridor will provide travel space for black bears and habitat for other flora and fauna.
     
  • Acreage for workplace and town-center areas has been increased by 203 acres and 420 acres, respectively.
     
  • Continued talks with the School Board, whose staff has been unhappy that the Farmton plan is for development in an area not designated for development, where no schools are planned. No agreement with the School Board on how Farmton will provide additional school capacity has been reached.

Storch again told County Council members the Farmton plan would prevent the tract from being divided up into 10-acre ranchettes, which would cause trees to be bulldozed and make it hard for wildlife to migrate.

"This is a mechanism to preserve 64 square miles of land," Storch said

The County Council gave Storch and Stubbs a list of concerns, including:

  • Perpetual-conservation easements. Council members would like these to be defined in more detail, with clarification about to whom the easements will be deeded. While there's talk of involving the St. Johns Water Management District, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the Florida Audubon Society and others as partners with the county to oversee the conservation lands, there's nothing specific in the Farmton plan.
     
  • Public-trust areas. Council members would like a better idea of which areas the public will be able to access. For example, while human visitors and bears should be kept separate, Council Member Pat Northey wants public access to Deep Creek and other areas. Certain areas, such as Deep Creek, should be put into public trust, fee simple, Northey said. Fee simple is the highest form of ownership, conferring all rights and full use of the land.
     
  • Population projections and housing. More information is needed, the council said, on population projections and the future need for housing to accommodate the population. Council Member Andy Kelly, who voted against Farmton in October, said the sheer numbers of residential units planned is worrisome. Northey expressed concern about the number of homes now sitting empty in Deltona.
     
  • Water. The council asked for a description of the best use of water resources and how Farmton would collaborate with the county on that. Council Member Jack Hayman noted Farmton has an OK from the state to operate a public utility. County Attorney Jamie Seaman said the county has no legal right to water on the property. A joint-planning agreement with the private entity would be required.
     
  • Transportation. More detail is needed about what roads Miami Corp. will build, and other elements of the transportation element of the Farmton plan, council members said. While Miami Corp. said its plan won't cost the county any money, and that Miami Corp. will pay for all roadways into and inside Farmton, Council Member Kelly noted connecting roadways will be needed. He described "a massive spider web" of roads that will become necessary, from the Restoration project and through unincorporated areas into Farmton.

Important dates:

Jan. 28 — The County Council took a look at changes made to the Farmton plan in response to objections from the state Department of Community Affairs.

Wednesday, Feb. 10 — The Volusia Growth Management Commission (VGMC) will consider the Farmton plan in a special meeting set for 6 p.m. in County Council Chambers in the administration building at 123 W. Indiana Ave. in DeLand. The VGMC reviews changes to land-use plans.

Friday, Feb. 12 — Representatives of Farmton owner the Miami Corp. will meet with Department of Community Affairs Director Tom Pelham.

Thursday, Feb. 18 — The Volusia County Council votes on whether to approve the Farmton plan, during its regular meeting, which begins at 9 a.m. in County Council Chambers.

The public weighs in

Comments from the public at the Jan. 28 session were mixed.

Pat Card, who lives in Edgewater, said he strongly supports the plan, which he said is much better than the one that allowed development of the large Florida Shores development where he lives. He also said, "Florida had better be ready for the next land boom."

Mike Thompson of Edgewater, on the other hand, wanted to talk water. "We've got a water shortage," he noted, while Farmton has the largest untapped source of water in the county. "We need to refuse this project," he said.

Betty O'Laughlin of the Volusia Environmental Council said, "It's sprawl," requiring massive infrastructure in wetlands in the middle of the county. "We expect the county to do the right thing and deny Farmton."

Allen Watts of DeLand, a land-use attorney for Cobb and Cole, said the plan provides a viable future for Farmton.

Robert Hart of Samsula said Miami Corp. is looking ahead. He favored the plan.

Michele Moen of the Osteen area is a member of the Environmental Council of Volusia-Flagler and the Edgewater Citizens' Alliance. Those groups began an online petition drive at www.thepetitionsite.com/1/stopmiamicorp, where, she said, "529 voters had spoken." Moen said, if the County Council supports the plan, they will face the displeasure of the voters.

B.J. Camarota of the Volusia-Flagler Sierra Club said the voters had already spoken in 2004, when they voted for growth boundaries to keep development out of the environmental corridor in the center of the county.

Lisa Ford Williams of DeLand called using 75 percent of the tract for preservation "just phenomenal for our county, our state, and our country." She said council members would get her vote for approving the Farmton plan.

— pat@beacononlinenewscom

 


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