News / Events

Volusia, Farmton decision in 3 weeks

BY DINAH VOYLES PULVER, ENVIRONMENT WRITER

January 29, 2010

DELAND -- In just three weeks, the Volusia County Council must decide whether to OK a 50-year development plan being proposed by the county's largest private landowner, the Miami Corp.

During a four-hour meeting Thursday, council members heard a review of recent revisions to the plan and spelled out issues they still want addressed before the proposal comes before them for a vote.

The property owner, a Chicago-based family land trust, owns 59,000 acres straddling the Volusia/Brevard county line. Company officials want to change the property's land use to allow for the eventual construction of more than 25,000 homes and 4 million square feet of commercial space.

The council approved the plan once already, on a 6-1 vote, then sent it to the Florida Department of Community Affairs for review, as required by state law. The department sent back a long list of objections and recommended the county deny the proposal.

County staff and attorneys and consultants for the company are working to address concerns raised by the department and council members.

Greg Stubbs, director of the county's growth management division, said the plan has changed "significantly" for the better during the past year. For example, the number of proposed homes was cut by nearly 4,000 and the number of acres to be conserved increased by more than 5,000. In Volusia, only about 2,200 homes would be built before 2025. The rest would come later, but county staff members say the landowners would be required to prove one job had been provided for every house proposed, meet a needs assessment for the new homes and obtain individual development approvals.

Still, several speakers Thursday implored the county to "just say no" to the proposal, saying it's too much development in the wrong place and would be the ultimate example of urban sprawl.

Other speakers supported the plan, including C. Allen Watts, a local land use attorney and former president of 1000 Friends of Florida.

Councilman Andy Kelly said he too still thinks it's just too many houses and Councilman Carl Persis said he'd like to see the landowner preserve up to 80 percent of the land rather than the 75 percent now proposed.

But, most council members said they like the concept of a long-term plan and prefer it to the haphazard development that took place in the county during the previous 40 or 50 years. They like the idea of preserving more than 35,000 acres -- at no cost to taxpayers -- and the conservation of a wildlife corridor for Florida black bears, but had questions about how to ensure those promises become reality.

They also have concerns about how future councils will determine the need for new houses and want to make sure the landowner fulfills all the plan's requirements.

In response to questions about the supply of fresh groundwater discovered under the land, Glenn Storch, the landowner's local attorney, said the company is willing to work with local governments to help meet water deficits being projected by local utilities, as long as the plan is approved.

dinah.pulver@news-jrnl.com

 


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