News / Events

Farmton: Plan for a sustainable future


January 19, 2010

The News-Journal's Dec. 5 editorial "City in the wild?" describing the Farmton Local Plan is sadly off the mark and excluded important information about the many benefits that would result from the adoption of the Farmton Plan in Volusia County.

No one disputes that for more than 80 years Miami Corporation has been an outstanding steward of its 94 square miles of land in Volusia and Brevard counties. The land has stayed together because of the corporation's environmental ethic and desire to create a legacy for Farmton. However, under current growth management rules, these 59,000 contiguous acres can be developed into thousands of ranchettes. Even in today's economy there is pressure to break up this land. This is a key point to think about when planning for an alternative future.

Credible mainstream environmental advocates who are committed to protecting our natural environment agree that the current pattern of allowable ranchette development is the absolute worst example of rural sprawl -- permanently fragmenting the landscape, destroying ecosystem linkages and eliminating the opportunity to create much needed regional wildlife corridors. They see the Farmton Plan as a model for sustainability, and here's why.

First, the Farmton Plan is one of the largest conservation opportunities in Florida's history, permanently preserving more than 75 percent of the land -- more than 40,000 acres. These 62 square miles of natural habitat would be forever protected -- at no cost to taxpayers -- through conservation easements held by the county, water management district and others and subject to a conservation management plan. Currently, only wishful thinking would create this as a wildlife corridor, especially since no more money remains in Florida Forever, the state public land acquisition fund, and not enough in the Volusia Forever program.

Next, the Farmton Plan protects real wildlife habitat. All of the lands designated as Primary Black Bear Habitat are to be protected. That's also true of bald eagle nests and swallow-tail kite nesting areas and other listed species. According to the experts, this plan protects more wildlife habitat than any other private landowner has ever proposed.

Everyone is concerned about water and so are we. The difference is that we are doing something about it. The water management district says Volusia County will encounter serious groundwater deficits in the future. Our studies show there is a plentiful and sustainable water supply available onsite that will not only meet the needs of future development within Farmton but that can assist with meeting the needs of residents of the county and adjacent cities.

We fully believe that for all who want a sustainable future, there must be places to attract high quality jobs like corporate campuses or research centers. That's why this plan focuses on job growth first. No other plan has proposed that residential development be tied to job creation on a 1:1 ratio. No jobs, no houses.

Lastly, everyone needs to remember that this is not a development plan but a long-term legacy plan. It is a vision for 50 years that protects wildlife and habitat, secures water and promotes job growth. Most of us will never live long enough to see development along Maytown Road, and future generations will thank us for securing some of the most environmentally significant lands in our county in perpetual conservation.

It takes courage to do the right thing and our elected officials have exemplified this courage in working with the landowner to help make a better vision for the future a reality.

Storch, a Volusia County resident and partner in the law firm of Storch, Morris & Harris, has served as local counsel for Miami Corporation for nearly 20 years.