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Farmton: The conversation continues

By Glenn Storch

December 2, 2009

I reviewed the letter headlined “Concerned about Farmton” in the weekend edition of Nov. 19-22. I was concerned about the misconceptions that the writer had in comparing the present comprehensive-plan vision – which requires rural sprawl, the destruction of wildlife corridors and the creation of thousands of large-acreage lots with individual wells and septic – versus the proposed Farmton Local Plan, that has been developed after years of unprecedented transparency including public involvement, peer review, and collaboration with environmental experts and government agencies.

The Farmton Local Plan transmittal was recently near unanimous approval by both the Volusia County Council and Brevard County Commission – and with good reason.

The 59,000 acre Farmton Tree Farm has been under the single ownership of Miami Corp. since the 1920’s, and has been managed as a forestry operation for more than 80 years. Were the land to be developed under current rules, this 94 square miles of contiguous property in Southeast Volusia and northern Brevard County could have thousands of ranchettes.

In the minds of those who truly care about the natural environment, wildlife, and water quality, this pattern of 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.

The Farmton Plan is now being reviewed by the Florida Department of Community Affairs and other state and regional agencies. We are encouraged by the positive feedback we’ve already received on sound improvements that can be made to the plan.

Sadly, efforts have been underway by a small but vocal minority who are misrepresenting the facts and believe that the status quo, coupled with a “just say no” philosophy, is considered good planning.

We hope that those who still have concerns about the plan, will work with us in a constructive, collaborative manner to make further improvements. Our goal is, and always has been, to create a vision and plan for Farmton that meets everyone’s needs – the landowner, the citizens, and the environment’s.

FARMTON PLANNING APPROACH AND BENEFITS

The Farmton Local Plan would implement a pioneering conservation design plan for Farmton. The plan is different from conventional land use planning methods in many ways:

Long-term planning

The Plan takes a 50-year, vision-based approach to comprehensive and sustainable planning. It eliminates ranchette rural sprawl and prevents incremental, haphazard, piece-meal development.

Greenprinting and Large-scale Conservation

The heart of the plan is the "greenprint" – a process that identifies, up-front, approximately two-thirds of the land which we call GreenKey. Ultimately, more than 75% of the 59,000 acres of Farmton will never be developed and will be conserved forever – at no cost to taxpayers.

These 40,000+ acres (more than 62 square miles) will be permanently protected through conservation easements and subject to a conservation management plan. All of the lands designated as Environmental Core Overlay or primary Florida black bear habitat will be protected. Farmton is, without a doubt, one of the largest conservation opportunities in Florida's history!

Sustainable Development

Areas identified as suitable for future development will adhere to very high standards for sustainability and will be planned with core values of Smart Growth, Traditional Neighborhood Design, Transit Oriented Development and walkability, and will support the regional vision created through myregion.org.

Jobs to Housing

Farmton ties the number of homes that may potentially be built to the creation of jobs. For each home built, one job must be created in Farmtonn.

Water

There is a sufficient, sustainable water supply available to more than meet the future needs of Farmton. There are also strict standards for water conservation and water neutrality.

Fiscal Neutrality

All infrastructure within Farmton, including roads, water and sewer will be privately funded and will not be paid for by taxpayers.

Need

The plan remains consistent with population projections for the next 15 years. There are no density increases allowed until after the year 2025. Any future development after 2025 must still go through a public review process and will only happen if there is a need, and a market, for it.

Creating a Legacy

The Farmton Plan sets a new benchmark for sustainable, conservation-oriented development and provides an unprecedented opportunity for Volusia and Brevard Counties to plan for the long-term future.

It is the legacy of the outstanding stewardship of the Miami Corporation, the family, and its descendents, who have owned this land since 1925. During those 80-plus years, they have grown trees, protected wetlands, and conserved habitat and natural resources from which we all benefit.

The easy thing for them to do would be to accept the many offers over the years that would forever fragment the land. Easy because it is their right and that has been the path most often traveled by others. The Farmton Plan is a courageous attempt to do what is best for everyone and we hope that the conversations and collaboration to improve it will continue over the months ahead.

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

 


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